Day Six

June 4, 2007

Missoula, MT to Cottonwood, ID

We ate breakfast at a restaurant/casino named Paradise Falls. My wife had oatmeal, but I tried the "Island French Toast." It was dipped in a mixture of vanilla, Kahlua, orange juice, and a few other things I forgot, then rolled in sweet corn flakes. It was tasty but very sweet. Although I enjoyed it, I couldn't have eaten another bite. Sufficiently stuffed for the next few hours, we drove southwest toward Lolo Pass.

I got a call from a copywriting client while driving down U.S. 93. Although I was on vacation, I planned to take whatever work came up along the way. It was a short assignment that I could knock out in less than an hour. Though it wasn't much, for the first time I felt like I was living the "freelance lifestyle." The idea of being able to work two thousand miles from home (by our somewhat circuitous routing) was a freedom I could appreciate. Whatever good deal I got on cheap airline tickets, we were quite happy where we were without having to go home. The work was easy, and it was as if my client had paid for our meals for the day.

We had been told by several people that the visitor center at Lolo Pass was not to be missed. Alas, when we got there, it was closed for training. This would become a recurring theme for the rest of the week. I did a short but interesting walk around the area while my wife used the restroom.

Idaho lies west of the pass, and a sign on U.S. 12 said "winding road next 71 miles" or something like that. We stopped at Lochsa Lodge for lunch. The menu told the story of how the lodge burned down and was rebuilt several years ago. My meal was good, but for some reason I felt anxious and distracted, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have. Then we purchased T-shirts and books at the small but exceptional gift shop.

                           

The view from Lochsa Lodge: pine trees as far as one could see.

       

As I drove down U.S. 12 beside the Lochsa River, my wife read a book she bought about grizzly bears at the lodge. It was full of violent and gruesome stories about encounters between people and bears, and she shared them with me. I think she reads aloud in the car just so I can't play more of my CDs. Weather changed fast along this road. It was sunny and hot at Lolo Pass and Lochsa Lodge, but then it got cloudy and eventually poured on us for a short time. Then there was some fog, and then it was clear again.

       

We drove north through Greer to collect Clearwater County. Since there was no county sign, I climbed all the way out of the valley on a bunch of tight hairpin curves. My wife wished for Dramamine, but she didn't get sick. The county line was probably the Clearwater River, so the entire climb was unnecessary.

Our destination for the night was Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood. There was an entrance off U.S.95, but somehow I missed it and had to turn around. My wife was totally surprised when I pulled into Dog Bark Park Inn and told her we were sleeping in a beagle for the night! By the way, his name is Sweet Willy, and his little buddy is Toby.

       

My wife spent a small fortune in the gift shop as we talked to our hosts, Frances and Dennis. In addition to running the bed & breakfast, they carve dogs out of pine trunks with chainsaws. I sent Frances a picture of our dog beforehand, but unfortunately she said he "has some design problems in a technical sort of way that just wouldn't be possible to successfully replicate in our medium" (specifically, his curled-forward tail and his folded ears).

After we unloaded the car, I took a bunch of pictures. Here is the bed with its unique headboard.

A bookcase was filled with dog books and even a dog version of Monopoly.

For families with kids, the beagle's head contained a loft (reached by the ladder left of the bookcase).

The sign on the hind legs reads, "A noble & absurd undertaking."

The stairs are guarded by Seaman, the dog that accompanied Lewis & Clark. There was also a book about Seaman inside.

My wife looked out from the balcony.

It took me a few minutes to figure out that the noise we were hearing was the dog's ears flapping in the breeze!

       

The toilet facilities were rather primitive but well suited to dogs.

Actually, the bathroom inside the beagle was the most modern and spacious on our entire trip.

While these guys enjoyed a meal outside, we walked down the street to the Country Haus Restaurant for dinner. Service was painfully slow, partly because our waitress was new. Dinner itself was just okay, but they scored points by offering tater tots. Hey, you have to eat potatoes in Idaho!

We had a few hours to relax in the belly of the beagle before bedtime. I used my laptop to finish my writing assignment (I couldn't e-mail it because the dog had no telephone), and then I read a book. My wife started snacking on what was supposed to be our breakfast (since it was "continental," our hosts put it in our refrigerator before we arrived).

Later when I reached into my duffle bag for my toothbrush, I cut my finger on an uncovered disposable razor. I didn't think it was any big deal, but my wife started freaking out about the small amount of blood. This was the same woman who had been reading me stories all day about people being mauled by grizzlies -- having limbs chewed off, faces and scalps clawed off, etc.!

After I finished my work, I fell fast asleep and had strange dreams, including one where I was scraping dog crap off my shoe. Maybe Frances and Dennis need to make a pooper-scooper for their giant beagle.

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