Can you think of any place that’s more famous for being mispronounced than Spokane?
Spokane is Salish for 'sun people,' named by Indians who first settled here. You probably have already been corrected by somebody who has been there, so you now know it’s Spo-KAN, like the Indian tribe, not Spo-KANE.
This mid-sized western city turned out to be a perfect choice for a mancation I took recently. I was after adventure, great food and beer, and the kinds of activities that I’d never forget. Spokane delivered in style!
More and more, these times away with the guys are the perfect remedy for the sensation that you and your wife don’t always have the same interests for every vacation. Sometimes you want to enjoy the things you love with your buddies.
Beginning with a Thrill
An example is a parking garage called the Parkade, with a Guggenheim-esque swirling ramp up the side and classic 1960s signage up top. It's an anchor of a downtown that has a network of walkways joining each building. So it's easy to walk from one end of the city to the other and not get wet!
Other buildings have gorgeous decorations and crenellations that add so much to the look of the city.
To get into the spirit of the mancation week, we began with a thrill. We joined Denny Reed up on top of a bluff outside the city for a little flying.
It's a motorcycle in the sky, a roaring rip-freakin amazing craft and to ride with him is to experience flight as if you had wings!
The little engine turns a propellor, and below that there’s a parachute. But it didn’t feel dangerous, just amazing. Like a motorcycle ride in the sky. George Jetson-esque!
In the distance is Medical Lake, all of this was formed by glaciers rolling their terrible selves through and creating these flat areas beside the hills.
Eastern Washington’s economy benefits from a large air force base, Fairchild AFB, that employs nearly 8000 people. There, ancient KC-135 refueling tankers practice take-offs and landings and are serviced. This is a stategic part of the US Army's might, since everything in the army needs gas to take off.
There’s a large casino owned by a local Indian tribe that gleams like Emerald City above the flat rolling plains of the region. I sat and had dinner next to the assistant GM of the Northern Quest Resort and Casino. Phil Haugen, a vigorous looking man who is enthusiastic about his job, was raised in the tribe and grew up poor, like most of his relatives.
Haugen told me at dinner about how bad things were for the tribe in 1965. “There were only 125 members of the Kalispel tribe, one telephone, and only three houses had running water,” he said.
Today while the 415 Kalispels receive annual checks, there is plenty of hot water, and the housing is all new. Phil is proud to be one of the few tribe members to go to college and someday he may end up running this big place.
As we toured the newly built hotel and looked at the open fields where the new buidlings would go, I sensed some serious optimism here, these guys are going to make this great! The sky is the limit if you get enough gaming revenues. The reservation is 60 miles north, on 4800 acres.
We compared the Kalispel’s trickle of a windfall to the gusher that comes to Connecticut’s Pequots from Foxwoods and Mohican Sun resorts.
“They get $12,000 a year apiece, but this year it may be going down,” he said. A tough thing that the two Native American tribes share is a scarily short life expectancy. People pass away in their 50s due to factors like diabetes, heart disease, liver problems and, for some, their hard-drinking ways.
He said that he spent time with tribal elders during the building of the restaurant and tries to incorporate some of the Native American traditions in the cooking. No, you don't see many Native American dishes on most restaurant menus... something intriguing and new!
Bison Rib Eye
The bison rib eye was cooked to perfection, just crispy enough and the right shade of red. He also fried brussel sprout leaves, a curious item that’s quite tasty.
A Big Land
Spokane has about 300,000 residents; suburbs outside the city give the area a population of about half a million. There’s a lot of land and not a lot of people.
These four-stroke Polaris vehicles are so much fun, and even the steepest ruts seem buttery and like rolling over a pillow.
We averaged about 25, but the thrill comes when you zzzzzzzoooom up to about 40, a burst of speed on the uphill incline that is just the rush the doctor ordered. Did I mention this was a mancation?
My friends who are long time Spokaners have recommended the following hotels in the city:
The Davenport Hotel
Breakfast and a beer
Amazing menu! Varied and local.
Masselow’s Restaurant at Northern Quest
Resort and Casino
Spokanites we talked to raved about Dave's Pizza, all over the city, and Jack and Dan's Tavern near Gonzaga University.
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