Archive for the ‘Northwest Travel’ Category

Of all the structures spread across our little spot on the globe that someone long ago euphemistically labelled “The Inland Empire”, there is one building that towers above the rest in the landscape of my life. Other buildings perhaps were more significant like the Baptist church at 8th and Pines that Elaine’s and my parents religiously attended during our youth.
Significant also is Sacred Heart Hospital where we were born and where I have gone to visit many loved ones through the years from my grandfather who passed there when I was 5 to my youngest child who had an appendectomy there not long ago.
But the building I am most fond of by far is the Coeur D’ Alene Resort. We are here now for our anniversary and I am sitting in room 342 as I begin this story while Elaine is in the bathroom mid-way through her tedious task of prepping for public presentation. Sometimes it seems I could write an entire novel while she wades through this job.
Less than 100 feet away is the room we slept in the night we eloped. Thirty years ago I got down on one knee after dinner in the small house she and her sister rented from their grandfather. After an 8-month courtship and a life-long friendship, I knew it was time to live together. Both being Baptists, that meant matrimony not shacking up. She said yes and after a 21-hour engagement, we wed at the Wedding Chapel on a warm and sunny afternoon.
Even though it was only a moderate-sized hotel called the North Shore back then, it was the perfect spot to spend the most important night of our young lives.
It was the first night either one of us had spent at the hotel but The North Shore was a familiar and favorite place for both of us. Though we did not know it growing up, the North Shore, like Pines Baptist Church was a place our families were serviced on Sunday. Throughout our childhoods on special occasions we gathered with our grand folks at the hotel’s penthouse restaurant, The Cloud Nine, and partook in a Sunday-only, family style repast of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans. While I miss nothing as much as the grandparents we ate there with, the food comes as close as any I have ever had.
The North Shore was great and still remains hidden right where it has always been, but it was a mere a shadow of its present self. Three years after our nuptials night, Duane Hagadon and company transformed the place into The Coeur D’Alene Resort in 1986. It was a bold and breathtakingly area-changing move that gave the world a classy new destination to discover and it gave us Inland Empirates a world-class destination in our backyard. Amazingly, they replaced the old Sunday best-meal-for-miles with a new improved version that has easily retained the title to this day.
Being a rather classless fellow who took the recent closing of The Old Country Buffet like a death in the family, I have been head over heals since that first I time I pillaged my way through the Dockside’s ultimate Sunday brunch, swelling like a tick on a hound dog as I gorged like it was my first meal in days. Through the years it has been that place for me that Jesus talked about here on Earth with acres of delicious meats and salads and desserts gloriously laid out each Sabbath. If I did not know better, I would think the Son of Man himself was back there in the kitchen performing culinary miracles.
Then there has been our annual Thanksgiving getaway since back in the days when all four of the kids could strap onto me like barnacles on a whale as I slogged through the pool like a mighty behemoth with the aid of water’s buoyancy magic. For them it was a trip of wonder with the parade and fireworks and pageantry of Christmas trees. There was always breakfast with Dad while Mom did what she never got to do at home, sleep in. We never had to leave the hotel if we did not want to, though we always did to catch a holiday movie which too often for me was Harry Potter.
Those days are behind us now and it is back to just Mom and I but the Resort is still here for us. Just like our marriage, the old place is better than ever. If you have not seen The Resort since the remodel last year then you are missing something amazing. They put in a huge aquarium with beautiful coy fish bobbing boredly back and forth with the sun shimmering down through a massive new skylight on their confined but very eye-catching existence.
A little further down the lobby a new water feature cascades at the entrance of the elegantly opened up and transformed Whispers Lounge. Like everything about this heaven away from home, the new trappings of the lounge are suave and comfortable with its bank of windows to the south dramatically letting in the marina and then the lake with the mountains filling up the background. To the west Hagadone’s office hovers over the lake, propped up on all four corners by massive log pilings.
For years I have pictured him in there working away and I have dreamt of walking in and introducing myself. I picture shaking his hand and thanking him from the bottom of my heart for giving me and my wife and our children a wonderful place to accrue memory after memory. It will never happen but I can content myself by going down to his lounge and tipping my glass to the man with my bride who has just now finished making herself beautiful. As always it was worth the wait and as always I found something to keep myself busy with.

Outside the long gone Wedding Chappel. Our other alternative was the Hitching Post, which seemed like a name more fitting for people tying the knot for the third or fourth time. Elaine would have nothing to do with it and the Wedding Chapel turned out to be romantic.

Outside the long gone Wedding Chappel. Our other alternative was the Hitching Post, which seemed like a name more fitting for people tying the knot for the third or fourth time. Elaine would have nothing to do with it and the Wedding Chapel turned out to be romantic.

The drive to the hotel was even shorter than our engagement and one night honeymoon. We would later take that 76 Vega on a real honeymoon around the entire country, travelling 6200 miles and burning an entire case of oil.

The drive to the hotel was even shorter than our engagement and one night honeymoon. We would later take that 76 Vega on a real honeymoon around the entire country, travelling 6200 miles and burning an entire case of oil.

Here we are in our hotel room on the first night we went to sleep together as husband and wife. The only thing better than falling asleep next to her each night has waking up next to her and appreciating again and again that she is there for me whatever the day has in store.

Here we are in our hotel room on the first night we went to sleep together as husband and wife. The only thing better than falling asleep next to her each night has been waking up next to her and appreciating again and again that she is there for me whatever the day has in store.

Over the last 10 years or so that the Hurd Mercantile has been in business, I had never thought to stop in during the countless times I had driven through the quiet farm town of Rockford located about 18 miles south of Spokane Valley on Highway 27. It is nothing against the Hurd, it is just that I abhor shopping in general and gift shopping in particular. Furthermore, normally I am passing through Rockford by myself on business or passing through with Elaine for a day of pleasure on the lake. When I am by myself, the idea of stopping at a gift shop never even enters my head. When I am with Elaine, I have always been able to successfully object to her motion to have our vehicle come to rest in front of the Hurd.

But last Labor Day as Elaine and our daughter, Jacque, and I took a leisurely road trip down to St. Maries to check out the Lumberjack Festival, I finally lost the battle. In years past, Jacque would have been an ally as a child not interested in mozying around a big store, but now she was a young lady who was growing in the womanly arts her mother was constantly teaching her. Like the skills required to spend hours in front of a mirror each morning, Elaine has been teaching her daughters the love of loitering in leisurely luxury at gift shops. The Hurd Mercantile was the perfect setting to further Jacque’s education. I told them to have at it, I had brought reading material and would wait in the car.

But after nearly a half hour I began to worry. I knew they were safe but I wasn’t sure about our savings and so I headed into the Hurd to herd out my lost girls. In spite of myself, I was in awe as I opened the door and began to take in this amazing store with its abundant variety and creative, lively displays spread out over 8,000 square feet and 2 stories. I knew instantly that Elaine would never leave this place empty-handed.

Upon entering the Hurd I realized my girls were lost somewhere deep inside this monstrous building.

I wandered about the myriad of tasteful displays.

I had to begrudgingly admit that this was a creative and fun place to visit.

Finally I found Elaine, happy as a mouse in a cheese factory. But Jacque was nowhere in sight.

A scan of the incredible upstairs toy section did not turn her up.

Finally I found her in one of the Hurd's many tucked away little nooks and crannies with that same "Ain't I a stinker" look on her face.

Finally after what seemed like hours, Elaine showed her daughter how big girls cap off a visit to any good gift shop by putting her purse on the counter and whipping out the plastic. I knew it wouldn't be cheap. But secretly I was glad that this was a gift shop and that she was buying Christmas presents that needed to be bought anyway. It didn't seem to matter to her that she wasn't buying for herself. I think that for women, the purchase is the climax of the stimulating experience of shopping. At any rate, Elaine has been rather passionate about it over the years.

I was just glad to get out and down the road to the Lumberjack festival. But I did drive all the way there the next month to buy the watch that Elaine fell in love with but that I talked her out of buying that day. Being an uncreative and often impassive partner, gift-givingly speaking, I was more than happy to make the trip in order to get the perfect present for Elaine's birthday. Elaine has suffered over the years because of my weak shop drive , but this year The Hurd helped me come through with flying colors.

One of the best things about Spokane is Seattle. If Spokane were somewhere in the middle of Montana I could never live there. I love Spokane but living here requires the occassional escape to more beautiful and cultural and entertaining and diverse and tastier surroundings. At just 4.5 hours away, Seattle has been that place for me and my family since the days when me and my family meant us kids and the folks.
My very earliest memory in life is the 1962 Worlds Fair when I was only four years old. The rest of my youth was seasoned with occassional Seattle sojourns that led to an adult life requiring more of the same. In the early years before the arrival of my own kids it was always a trip filled with romance for Elaine and myself. Later, during the child-rearing years it was a trip of adventure for the whole family.
Finding good and affordable accommodations was easier for my dad back in the 60’s and 70’s. When I was a kid we always stayed at a hotel called the Cosmopolitan. It was right downtown and clean and inexpensive. The last time I stayed there was in 2001 on a trip I took with my two young boys, Jesse and Eli, and their cousin Trevor to see a ballgame which turned out to be a part of one of the most historical nights in all of baseball.
The game was a make-up for a game between the Mariners and Rangers that had been scheduled for Sept. 15th. Because of 9/11 our tickets were made good on Oct.5, the day that the Mariners would win their 116th game of the year, tying the 1906 Cubs for the most wins in a season. The game was perfect with Jamie Moyer on the mound and John Ohlerud and Brett Boone hitting homers. The record and the homers would have been enough but the night was made even more magical because the Giants-Angels game was broadcast on all the big screens each time Barry Bonds came to bat because he had recently tied Mark McGuire”s record of 70 home runs in a season.
Every pitch he took was a chance to see history and sure enough he hit his 71st that night and then upped the record by hitting his 72nd later in the game. As we left the stadium, the game was still going on in San Fran. After we finally made our way through the throngs and rode the bus downtown and then walked to the Cosmopolitan, I turned on the T.V. and the game was still on. It never went into extra innings but at 4 hours and 23 minutes it set the National League record for the longest 9-inning game. That made 4 records tied or broken in one night.
It was a historical night on a personal level because that was the last time I ever slept at the Cosmopolitan. It had gone to seed and was no longer fit for a family.I had pretty well given up on it a few years before when I took Elaine and she gave it her permanent seal of disapproval. But I gave it one more try for old time sake because it was just us guys. After that I was done with the old Cosmo after a lifetime of memories.
Through the years we have stayed at many great hotels throughout Seattle including the Roosevelt, the Mayflower, Silver Cloud, Red Lion, Embassy Suites, the Sorrento and others I can’t recall. The Westin, however, is one that no one could forget. The kids were little and so we were able to fit all six of us into one room which was 41 glorious stories up. It had a view and a location that only lots of money could buy, but back then it was worth it to give the kids something they will always remember.
Those flush days are long gone but the desire to create a few more memories before Crystal , our third child, goes off to college is as strong as ever. When she asked if she and Jacque, our youngest, and their cousin Natalie, Trevor’s little sister, could go on a road trip to Seattle by themselves I said no way. Then it dawned on me that they deserved a trip to Seattle with dear old dad. After all, The Mariners and all of Seattle had just celebrated the 10th anniversary of the year the team won 116 games, why shouldn’t I by going on a trip with the younger sisters of the three boys who shared history with me?
So they hit the internet and searched Expedia and Travelocity and Hotwire, trying to find a room we could afford in these tough times. They could find nothing under $180 and that was really hard to swallow and so I nosed around a bit. I had to check up on the Cosmo, now called Kings Inn, in the faint hope that it might have been updated. No such luck. One patron’s review said he had to clean the soles of his shoes after staying there because the carpet was so dirty. And that was the most favorable of the reviews. I knew that would not do for the girls.
Then I remembered a hotel that I had never stayed in but had always seen right there a block away from the old Cosmo and just to the east of the Westin. Given the gift of Google, I quickly discovered that it was called the 6th Avenue Inn. The worst customer review on it was that it had slow internet and was a bit old. But most gushed about the great location and great price which turned out to be just $131 with a AAA discount.
There it was waiting for me to find after all these years. It was just the ticket for me and the girls on this last trip. Our room didn’t have the view of the Westin but at $250 cheaper it was a steal considering it had just as good of a location. I’ll be back next year and that is where we will stay, be it a quick romantic getaway or an adventure with what is left of the family. I now know that I have to go because all of this reminiscing has reminded me that Seattle and I have another benchmark year to celebrate together in 2012. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair and the first of a lifetime of memorable getaways to the Emerald city for me.