Soon after I had crossed back over the border into the panhandle of Idaho, I reached the elaborate concrete entrance/exit ramps marking the gateway to Wallace. It was incredibly jarring to see those long, swooping concrete ramps in that lush tree lined area of rural Idaho. I'd be willing to bet it'd be an appropriate illustration beside the term "pork barrel spending" in the dictionary. Still, it was majestically beautiful and stately, even so.
I was really eager to get to Wallace (even going a fair bit out of the way) so I could see a place I'd read about called the Oasis Bordello Museum. From Roadside America's website:
"The Oasis became a museum by accident. Its women, convinced that the FBI was about to raid the place, fled in a panic and never came back. Its current owners have preserved it exactly as it was on that night -- so the museum is also a time machine, providing a view of the late 1980s through the unique prism of prostitutes in Wallace, Idaho, right down to the J.C. Penney catalogs on the coffee table and the video store rental list taped to the kitchen wall."
So, okay, according to the website, this place is populated by dime store mannequins and dripping with small town sarcasm - really sounds like my kind of place, doesn't it?
I wandered around town a few more minutes, trying to find something redeeming and lo and behold came upon a delightful flying saucer that made me feel much better. I could leave in peace, now.
After I got back on the interstate, it wasn't long at all before I found myself in Spokane, where I decided I'd spend the night. Since it was early, I figured I'd find someplace to get some big city dinner. I used Yelp (which I find to be a really great travel tool) to find a restaurant that several people claimed made the best fried chicken in Washington state. Downtown location, the kind of place frequented by locals.
From the moment I walked into Chicken-n-More, I knew I was home. After bantering with the two folks behind the counter, I ordered a whopping 4 piece fried chicken dinner with a side order of a single barbecued pork short rib, knowing all the while that most of it would end up as picnic fare for the next day or two. When it came to sides, I was able to pick turnip greens, one of my favorite soul foods of all time. "Hmmmm! Cheeky for these folks so far north of Dallas to claim they can cook turnip greens!" I thought to myself. This was going to be an interesting test for these poor folks - a girl raised on the best of southern comfort food visiting this outpost in the far, far north. What I didn't know was that the owner Bob (on the right in the photo below, Heather on the left) was born and raised in Fairfield, Texas, just northeast of Austin. It explained instantly why I'd felt so comfortable and why the meal was so absolutely out of this world delicious. The chicken could not have been more perfect or delectable. As far as I could tell, Bob had cut the pieces so that there was a coin sized knob of skin dangling from each, which when fried to golden perfection became a bonus chicharon of chicken fried goodness. The greens were expertly seasoned, perfected with the addition of some vinegary hot sauce from a bottle that was an obvious fixture on the table. The rib - where the harshest judgement would be made - was outSTANDING! Smoky, moist and minimally sauced, lean, pink and tan and darkest brown. The sauce was some of the tastiest I've had - perfectly balanced between sweet, salty, smoky, tangy and spicy.
I praised Bob with every word I could muster from my extensive food vocabulary. He told me his story as a bonus and so I got the gift of being inspired by Bob in addition to all that amazing food. He had hurt his back in the late 80s doing construction work and had to pick a new career. He didn't know a thing about cooking or restaurants when he started, but he taught himself everything he needed to know and has been doing it ever since and what's obvious is that he has a grandly intuitive sense of how to run a business. In the short time I was there, a steady stream of regulars came in laughing and joking and he greeted every one of them by name. The affection people feel for the place and its owner were palpable.
I left (as my east Texas ancestors hath said) full as a tick and overcome by the connectivity of this world. What great folks there are, everywhere. I have achieved roadside nirvana once more.