After I left Logan on Monday afternoon, my drive north through southern Idaho engaged me in a good many bouts with icy precipitation and snow.  It was a beautiful drive, but ended up being pretty tiring with all the inclement weather.  I decided to overnight at a cute little 50s era motor court called the Sacajawea Inn in Salmon, Idaho.  It had a charm that's often lacking in budget motels, unusual flourishes like hand painted mountain scenery on the walls and a revolver lamp by the bedside.  The impish decor inspired me to leave my second magnet - it seemed such an obvious match!  I placed it on the refrigerator right underneath an ad so it'd be a little less obvious even though it literally sat right smack dab in the middle of the room.

One of the privileges afforded customers of the Sacajawea Inn was a fresh hot breakfast cooked by the same twenty-something fellow that had checked me in the night before. He was devilishly handsome with a neatly trimmed goatee and the slightly saucy air of someone still interested in taking on the world.  While I was waiting for my scrambled eggs (and shudder turkey bacon!) I started talking with a local fellow named Daryl, who had retired from selling cars and come to reside there is Salmon with his son.  I had a grand time just engaging in the genuine old fashion pleasure of a good conversation.

I rolled out of Salmon with a feeling of affection for the place, but a notion of getting to Wallace, Idaho in time to take a tour the Oasis Bordello Museum.  I'd be travelling north into Montana and then heading west to the far northern end of the panhandle of Idaho where I'd find Wallace.  As I initially approached Montana from Idaho, I climbed through a mountain pass and was once again besieged by heavy snow.  I parked the car at the closed gate of a rest area located at the height of the pass, right on the border between the two states.  When I walked over to the abandoned visitors center, I spotted three large industrial sized trash cans, almost entirely covered over with snow.  It was fun in a Shining sort of way to wander around all by myself in the deep snow and quiet.

A quick dash through Montana yielded a stop at the World Famous $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar in Haugan.  Started in 1952, the bar displays over 55 thousand silver dollars left by visitors from all over the world.  The sole customer on this particular Tuesday afternoon was a middle aged black leather clad biker, talked to someone named "Tiger" on his cell phone as I wandered by admiring the cowboy and Indian mannequins.  Dude, it was so Wild Wild West.

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?

What came next was a reminder lesson in not getting too attached.  When I started across the street toward the door of the museum, I knew something was amiss.  Closed.  No reason, just closed.  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!  Dang, I was disappointed.  I had to call Mark and talk it off.  I'm such a spoiled brat, really - how dare I be so passionate about not getting my way.  But we're talking a Madame mannequin in a dashiki and afro wig playing Atari!  Let me in!!!  All I could do was press my nose against the glass and gaze longingly at the lonesome cowboy in the window.

After my internal two year old had finished having her tantrum, I learned from the very friendly gal running the antique store across the street that the reason the Oasis was closed was they were having trouble keeping the place open.  The fellow who had been inspired to set the museum up in the first place had died a couple of years back and his widow was too old and feeble to run the place herself and had been having trouble getting other folks to make the thing go.  The locked door became a sad reminder that these places are so often about a single person's passion.  At least the ones I tend to be attracted to are anyway.  Maybe I'm just trying to justify getting out and seeing them while the gettin's good, but every time I see a place close it just lights a little more fire under me. 

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.

1 comment:

Maggie said...

Mike and I have enjoyed discovering your pink hair blog and reading about your travels and adventures. Your photos are just amazing, talented lady. Shiree, please contact me when you get a chance. I would like to discuss something important with you. I apologize for contacting you this way and I wish I had your email or telephone number. Thanks.