11 years ago, Day 2: FDR, cat fur, and a waterfall

Nothing quite like being waked up just before sunrise by a seagull who wouldn’t shut up.  He was still going strong when I left the campground less than an hour later. 

I was on my way to Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, one of the largest concrete structures in the world.  I had planned to take a tour of the dam before I headed on east, but thanks to the seagull from heck, I arrived there before eight in the morning, and the tours didn’t start till ten.  So I took a look at the dam from the road, toured the little museum, and called it done.

The most surprising exhibit in the museum was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s wheelchairs, a wicker and wood model with small rubber tires.  It was one he used at the dedication of the dam, but I am darned sure FDR would not have appreciated having an artifact of his disability displayed for all the public to see. 

The road from Grand Coulee (the town as well as the dam) to Spokane is a two-lane highway that traverses mile after mile of wheat fields on the rolling land.  Newly shorn in September, they were about the color of my fawn-colored tabby cat Linnet

 and from the car it looked about as soft and pettable as he is.

In Spokane I picked up the Interstate again, briefly, until I crossed over into Idaho and encountered the first of many, many road construction sites I would bump over during the next three months.  So I escaped as soon as I could and headed north on a state highway, then east into Montana.

My destination that day was the small town of Libby, where I had once lived for a whole four months (the story behind that is almost as long as my sojourn there was) as Lincoln County’s first-ever degreed reference librarian, and where a friend I’d met there and kept had offered me his spare bed for a few nights. 

Libby, population 2500, is one of several small towns that has advertised itself on occasion as the Last, Best Place, and it certainly is out in the boonies.  The easiest way to describe it is that it’s thirty miles east of Idaho and seventy miles south of Canada.  The nearest big city is Spokane, Washington, a three hour drive and time zone away.  The nearest mall, not that I was all that interested in malls, was in Kalispell, an hour and a half to the east.  For someone who grew up in suburban Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco, it was quite the culture shock when I moved there, which wasn’t helped by my father’s death two days after I arrived and a mad dash to the Spokane airport on Easter Sunday morning to get to Texas for the funeral.  This day’s journey brought back some odd memories.  Thinking about it still does.

Just west of Libby is Kootenai Falls.

It’s more of a steep rapids, but it’s a lovely place for a stroll or a picnic, right along the highway with a pedestrian bridge high over the railroad tracks to get you to it.  It was one of the shooting locations for the movie The River Wild the summer I lived in Libby, which makes me two degrees from Kevin Bacon, as my hospitable friend once stood in line behind him in the grocery store.