Podunk Meets Paradise

Musings from Central Idaho

Archive for the tag “family travel”

Havre, Here We Come

Havre, Montana is an 830-mile round trip from Podunk, so I thought I would go there for the weekend.

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Besides, my kid was playing hockey there. So, aided by Snow-o-Rama 2014, I hit the road with two 9th grade boys — Odd and his buddy Goalie. Thanks to a technological mishap allegedly involving Her Royal Highness making off with my music infrastructure, I enjoyed listening to static on the radio and the chatter of adolescent boys. I won’t lie, some of what I heard was disturbing. For example:

“Wow, Idaho is 50th in the nation for the number of kids who go on to college!”
“I wonder who is 49th — Mexico?”
Sigh.

We had a layover in Great Falls.

Great Falls snow storm. www.startribune.com

Great Falls snow storm. http://www.startribune.com

When we arrived at the hotel, staff were unloading piles and piles of luggage from a gigantic bus. The bags were too small for hockey players, too many for a rock band. Mannheim Steamroller? I guessed. But no, the front desk informed me this was part of their steady supply of Canadian tour buses.

What are they doing here? I wondered aloud.

“They are getting a break from the cold,” front desker told me.

Criminy cripes, I thought — internally this time.

Perhaps the Siberian cold, chilled with an arctic wind we encountered was unusual, I considered.

photo(1)But no. So now I’m intrigued about what kind of deep freeze these poor Canadians escaped from. And if they think Great Falls is a nice getaway in the dead of winter, we just might have a new marketing angle for Podunk.

I’m not that great at ad copy, so these are early drafts, but I’m thinking….

“Podunk. 45 degrees north, but if you are in Canada, that’s really south, so you’re almost at the equator.”

“Visit the Salmon Riviera. Our winter temperatures are Fahrenheit.”

“Podunk. When your Canadian megaloads came through, we didn’t protest, just gawked. Tarsands are neat. See, we’re friendly, too.”

“Podunk. Take your tuque off and stay awhile.”

“Podunk. Warmer, on average, than Great Falls.”

He Said Beer, She Said Wine, and Then the Kids Started Yammering

When we headed to the Oregon Coast for a family drive-cation, I thought we might pay proper respects to Oregon’s fabulous wine industry. Pinot Noir country should almost require its own passport and I was hurtling towards its deep, smoky purple underbelly. Unbeknownst to me, the beer world had already made a deal with the Devil, and more specifically, the Devil’s agent — Iron Chef.

This is the part where you might fairly ask, “What in the hell are you talking about, Podunk?”

The answer is clear: beer vs. wine.

He said beer, she said wine.

He said beer, she said wine.

Divide by two and then multiply by FAMILY VALUES. That’s right, wine lovers. Beer enthusiasts have corked us. Big time. Let me tell you about it.

Our family shuttled towards the Oregon Coast in December.  Podunk to Oregon Coast Equation = Many miles of travel and — in a strange acknowledgement of geography and weird wilderness inconveniences — journeying through 4 Pacific Northwest states.

Our layover was in Hood River, Oregon, a highly calculated move by Iron Chef given the number of breweries within walking distance of our hotel. To be fair, there are many wineries in the Hood River area. To be clear, none of them care to see you in the winter, and if they do, they hope that you leave children and pets in the car. They don’t want to feed you, but if you beg, some of them, but not all, will give you oyster crackers. oyster_crackerMeanwhile, the breweries have discovered a magical elixir that includes homemade macaroni and cheese and artisan root beer. Under this guise, in one night, children in tow, we visited Hood River’s Big Horse Brew Pub, Double Mountain Brewery, and Full Sail.

In Portland, we found ourselves at the newly opened Ecliptic Brewery. In my opinion, Ecliptic had the appeal of a freshly hosed-down and modern airport lobby. Even so, their stainless steel and concrete hospitality out-competed any of the magnificent wineries in the area. Mediocre finger steaks and soda pop — advantage brewery.

With my heart heavy, we drove past vineyard after vineyard, finally to arrive on the Coast where expert sorcerers like the Pelican Brewing Company in Pacific City, Oregon and the infamous Rogue Brewery in Newport reminded children why McDonald’s PlayLand really was for chumps. The Pelican boasts not just beach front, but actual sand dunes, sand dollars AND world-class pizza. For years, the Rogue has served kids’ meals on frisbees, for god’s sake. We finished up what I believe was a family-friendly trip of 8 breweries back in Hood River at a fairly young establishment called Pfriem Brewery. It is called Pfriem not because that is the sound you make when clearing your throat but because people who work there and possibly own the brewery are actually named Pfriem. But this is not the remarkable thing.

So seriously, this child begged his parents to go have a pint at Pfriem Brewery, directly across the street, so he could enjoy his young life climbing rocks next to the Columbia River.

So seriously, this child begged his parents to go have a pint at Pfriem Brewery, directly across the street, so he could enjoy his young life climbing rocks next to the Columbia River.

The remarkable thing is: first, the beer; and second, the fact that as young parents themselves, the Pfriems recognized that being across the street from a totally groovy kids’ park might actually be really relaxing to the parent who would just like a frosty cold one, and oh by the way, an artisan root beer and homemade macaroni and cheese for the kids who are playing in the park kind of close to the Columbia River, but not really that close when you think of it. And especially when you think of how close to the river those oyster cracker-smacking wineries would let the kids play.

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