Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stoppin' in Spokane

After our fairly fast-paced tour through Montana, we decided to head for the Spokane area and catch up on household chores and take a break. We checked into the family campground (Famcamp) at Fairchild Air Force Base, a medium-sized installation 12 miles west of town. The Famcamp is one we've stayed at before, on our first trip to the area in the spring of 2006. It's a nice place to stay, and since our last visit they've constructed an earthen wall around the area to give it some privacy from the base housing area. Fairchild AFB is a KC-135 tanker base, and has a fairly large population and nice commissary that we took advantage of to stock up on groceries. The area around the base is pretty grim; mostly industrial, with the usual collection of convenience stores and Chinese all-you-can-eat buffets. We spent a few days exploring Spokane, a city of slightly over 200,000 that mixes a blue-collar appearance with a west-coast approach to the environment. The city is a sprawling area of older shopping areas and industrial parks, intermingled with bicycle paths, green belts, and parks. The downtown area, not especially picturesque, was the home of the 1974 environmentally-themed World's Fair. After the event, the area was turned into the Riverfront Park, with a small amusement park, IMAX theater, and a gondola ride over the Spokane River falls. We walked the park area and watched an IMAX movie (Amazon - quite good), but were disappointed in the worn out look of the area; it could use some cleaning, paint, and updating to once again be a quality location to visit. The downtown area has a small mall area, large Macy's, and a number of restaurants, which of course we always enjoy. We were pleased to find an "Old Spaghetti Factory", which although a chain restaurant, offers a pretty good meal for a fair price. When we were stationed in Tokyo, we discovered one while exploring the city one day. It was a real treat to find an exact duplicate of an American restaurant in the midst of a huge Japanese city. Everything was the same, down to the red trolley car - the only difference was in the menu; "spaghetti with mushrooms" translated to "spaghetti with fungus" - not quite as appetizing.
As we drove around the Spokane area, we noticed that Spokane is all about function over form; the two large malls are fortress-looking structures with huge indoor parking garages, a testimony to the cold, snowy winters that are common here.
We took a drive along the Spokane River Park, a nice drive along the river and gorge that runs through the center of the city. One area that was interesting was the "bowl and pitcher", a lava rock formation viewed after a climb to an overlook. Just up from the river is the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, a beautiful facility that provided a visual record of Spokane's interesting history. Surprisingly, there was an exhibit featuring the actual costumes worn during some of our favorite movies. The Batman suit worn by George Clooney, the leather jack worn by Arnold in the Terminator, and many of the Star Wars costumes including Darth Vader, Obi Wan, and others. My favorite was the spandex suit worn by "Seven of Nine" in the "Star Trek - Voyager" TV series. There's just something about a beautiful young woman in a skin-tight outfit that brings out the artistic appreciation in me.
Refreshed and restocked, we're off the Roslyn, WA, the filming location for one of our favorite TV series "Northern Exposure". Be sure and visit to see what we've found!

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