The farther south we went, the clearer and drier it became. We stopped in Salmo, the last town before the border, at a quaint roadside eatery, The Dragonfly Cafe. We weren’t in any kind of rush as the drive to Spokane – our intended target – was less than three hours. We each ordered a drink and sat down for a while – I finished writing postcards, Zach had a snack.
Salmo is home to some incredible stone mosaic murals. I’d noticed one as we drove in but wanted a closer look. On our walk through the village we found several, all paying homage to Salmo’s mining and logging past. They looked delicate despite the hardiness of the material.
The border crossing at Nelway was quiet when we drove up, and we assumed it would be an easy re-entry. We were wrong! Our border agent, whether by boredom or general angst, was combative and anything but welcoming. He inspected our backseat, trunk, and cooler, pulling items out of their jenga-like placements. I’m not sure what contraband he hoped to discover, but he eventually let us go.
We continued toward Spokane reveling in the sunny skies. Our plan was to camp at Riverside State Park, just north of the city along the Spokane River. Since it was less than 24 hours notice, I couldn’t reserve a site over the phone or online; we had to go in person. Of the three campgrounds, only Nine Mile Recreation Area had the possibility of an open site. Already frustrated by the time we arrived (due to what Zach calls my poor navigation skills), we were unsurprised to find nothing available.
Sitting in the car, Zach found an Airbnb slightly north of Spokane that had a room. We made the reservation, happy to have found a solution, and went into town to find dinner. Just as we parked, we received a message from our host – there’d been a glitch, that room was already booked! On the verge of a breakdown (only me obviously), we went ahead with our plan to eat. Over pizza in the Garland District, we considered our options. Since it was past 5pm, looking for a campsite in the National Forest 40 miles east felt like a gamble. Zach called hotels/motels in Spokane with no luck, so he moved onto places in Coeur d’Alene, just across the Idaho border. Thankfully, he found a room at Japan House Suites, a small motel on Sherman Avenue, the city’s main drag. With only an hour until their office closed, we quickly departed.
Only after we checked in, could we exhale. We left our bags in the room and ventured downtown to enjoy the evening. Coeur d’Alene sits on the northern end of Coeur d’Alene Lake, the source of the Spokane River and second largest lake in Idaho. The city has a nice developed waterfront with a couple of parks, a city beach, and a large resort. It was a pleasant evening to walk around thanks to a recent cool front.
Already satiated from our dinner in Spokane, we weren’t in need of food but were interested in having a beer or two and people-watching. We started at Crafted Tap House and Kitchen, an enormous space with an immense outdoor patio for both dining and drinking. We ordered beers at the bar and cozied up next to one of the outdoor fire pits. It was the perfect place to relax and eavesdrop. After Crafted we visited one other brewery (most others closed at 9), Slate Creek Brewing Company. We had a beer there and chatted with the bartender and two other late night patrons to close out the day.
In the morning, we had a delightful made-to-order breakfast at our motel. We never stay at motels anymore, but Japan House was such a great place! The owners have worked hard to elevate their property among other similarly-priced motels. We made a stop at our favorite north Idaho coffee purveyor, Evans Brothers and commenced on our way.