Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
On Wednesday, we left Grangeville for the last north-bound leg of our trip. The most direct route would be via Idaho 95 (locally called "I 95", confusing us with an Interstate Highway of the same name!). However, Carla's battery was full, so we decided on a more roundabout drive, north to the Clearwater River and following the river almost to Lewiston, before turning north again.
This turned out to be a great decision. We started through the high plains and hills of The Palouse, past prosperous farms and ranches. In addition to feed crops, we saw huge onion production and, of course, the famous Idaho potatoes.
We descended a couple thousand feet, down to the Clearwater River valley, where trees were a bit more abundant, some in their best fall colors. It's not New England, but pretty charming anyway.
Our drive passed along the route Lewis and Clark took, almost 220 years ago. In this area, they were aided by the Nez Perce Native Americans who had been in the region for thousands of years. Toward the mouth of the Clearwater Valley, the tribe and the National Park Service have teamed to create a small visitor's center, a worthwhile stop.
All along the river, we saw historical markers, but we could stop at only a few. From those, we got a snapshot lesson in local history. Native Americans were here for about 10,000 years. Lewis and Clark passed though in 1804 (or 05), a few wagon train settlers came in the 1830s and 1840s, but the big rush of outsiders occurred in an 1860 gold rush.
The gold disappeared quickly, but many stayed to farm the high plains and harvest fish from the Clearwater. Transportation improved, with a train line partly up the valley to the small town of Lenore, where cable-car buckets hauled grain from the high plains down to the river. Add in tourism and retirement homes, and that's what remains.
We left the Clearwater at Lewiston, and climbed back up to the Palouse plains. Soon enough, we were in Moscow, home of the University of Idaho (and not much else, it seemed.) We had hoped to just add one more night to our in-town hotel, but the place was already full. We searched online for other hotels, either in Moscow or, across the river in Pullman, another university town. No luck. Something about a job fair which had filled up all the hotels and motels. We were facing a night of homelessness!
Eventually, we found a listing for The Log Castle Inn, north of Moscow a few miles. Online reviews were complementary, and pictures were encouraging. Marianne called. Dan the owner answered and assured us he would have an available room. We drove halfway up Moscow Mountain, as directed, and found a very castle-like log cabin. In minutes, we were settled in.
On Thursday, we re-organized our suitcases and moved out of the Log Castle. This may have been the most spacious overnight place on our trip, but also a bit strange. It was like staying in a stranger's house, room without a connection.
The next stop was a meal back in town. Moscow seems to have just a single recommended breakfast spot: The Breakfast Club. Good enough.
Across the street was Moscow Contemporary, the gallery where Marianne's art instructor Pam Caughey wass having her one-person show. We visited to get a preview, although we avoided distracting Pam as she had a full day with set up, a Zoom meeting, phone calls, and all the other activities needed to kick off a big show.
After our quick art show preview, we needed to charge Carla. A local non-profit, the Palouse-Clearwater Environment Institute (PCEI) offers a charge station at their Nature Institute. "Free" charging, with a donation suggested. We donated. Moscow specifically, but Idaho in general, is not well served with public electric car charge options. Thanks PCEI.
After two or three hours charging, it was time to check into the Monarch Motel, chosen for its location near Moscow Contemporary and because it hosts the only other car chargers in Moscow. It's a vintage 50s or 60s, two-story motel, but clean and updated. Besides, there are not many Moscow choices.
After a rest, it was time for active socializing. Roger, the gallery manager, had volunteered to host the dozen or so of Pam's students who had made the pilgrimage to the opening of her show. The artists gathered around the dining table while Roger and we husbands ate and chatted out on the patio. The artist crowd was noisier.
The party broke up before 9pm. Everyone was still in a social mood, but our average age caught up to us. Time to turn in.
Friday was hang-around-with-artists day: breakfast, opening, and dinner.
The occasion was the start of Pam Caughey's one-person show at the Moscow Contemporary gallery. She and Roger, the gallery manager, had been working on the show for years through fire, pestilence, and extraordinary financial and organization challenges. About a dozen of Pam's most ardent students (and a few husbands) made the trek to Moscow to help her enjoy yet another accomplishment milestone.
We started the day with a groupies' breakfast at The Breakfast Club. About a dozen of us squeezed into the crowded establishment and enjoyed lots of chatting. Fans came from Canada, Seattle, Chicago, Fresno, and other centers of the art world. (Well, maybe not all were "centers", more like fringes.)
The crowds gathered again for the opening. I'm in a bit of a hurry writing this, so I'll let the pictures tell the story.
Two floors held a variety of work. The larger works made me think
we need a new house, one with big walls!
The looping video showed the artist in action.
"Snail Mail" was created from student contributions, mailed via ... snail mail.
Closeups of details show the intricacies of Pam's technique.
Each detail could serve as a painting on its own..
People. Lots of people, but pictures of just a few.
The day was finished with another groupie meal, with Pam, Roger, and their families.
Artists, families, and friends. As good as it gets.
Saturday was slow. I woke early, like usual, left the Monarch, drove past the old granary, and out to Starbucks. There, I culled the 121 pictures taken the day before down to the 38 that would make it into the diary. It's a process where I get to relive the day and that's a big benefit of this work.
For me, much of the rest of the day was super slow. I have come down with a sore-throat cold, at least that's what we think it is. In the Covid era, any sniffles makes one wonder. Marianne and I have dodged the scourge for two-and-a-half years and now would not be convenient to be hit. Come to think of it, when might be convenient?
While Marianne shopped and hung with artist friends, I did manage to make Pam Caughey's morning class for the public. Roger, Moscow Contemporary's manager, summarized the convoluted history of this particular show and then Pam explained her creative process in language even I could understand! Of course, I have overheard bits and pieces as Marianne has made it through the Art and Success course, but the horses' mouth summation was great.
Other than that, Saturday is mostly a blur for me. I manged to get in nap time to make up for my early morning, but the "cold" lingered. Dinner on the patio at Nectar Restaurant & Wine was good and we got a chance to chat a bit more with Pam and her family. A nice ending to a quiet day.
Back up early for my normal routine, distracted by my cold, or what I hope to be a cold. Breakfast was at a small diner I will not name because, according to website policy, we don't recommend it.
Our single tourism goal was a drive up to Steptoe Butte, about 45 minutes out of town. Most of the drive was through pleasant rolling hills, past country homes on large lots and prosperous farms. Carla's GPS did turn us off onto a dirt passage for a mile or two, smooth enough, but too narrow to encounter traffic. Fortunately, Sunday was not a busy day for this farm trail.
Eventually, the Carla led us to Steptoe Butte Washington State Park Heritage Site and the corkscrew road to the antennae-topped butte. On the drive up, my passenger was uncomfortable, looking out over the drop to the Palouse, hundreds of feet below. I was too busy worrying about oncoming cars to sneak a peak.
On top, the 360-view was spectacular, or would have been on a clearer day, ideally with "golden hour" lighting, low on the horizon. Nonetheless, we see what we see, when we see it. The 3,612-foot peak rises about one-thousand feet above the rolling Palouse. The quartzite "toe" protrudes through the younger volcanic flows and glacier-ground soil.
I do wish we could be here in better light, with dramatic clouds, and a storm or two flashing along the horizon. (I would NOT like to be on top of the butte in the middle of a lightning storm!)
We returned home to Moscow, with a detour through Pullman and the Washington State University campus. Big place. Moscow and the University of Idaho are much smaller communities.
For most of the rest of the day, I rested. I took an at-home Covid test, with negative results, so that was a good sign. However, even a simple cold would rearrange the next steps of our trip, but that's another story.
John and Marianne