2010 USA Roadtrip Polson, MT to Sandpoint, ID

We left Polson at around 10:45 a.m. and had beautiful rolling countryside with mountains in the distance to accompany us on our drive. We took routes #93 to #28 to the #200 and our ride was  about 3 1/4 hours to Sandpoint (about 175 miles). It was cloudy with scattered showers along the way. When we got to Sandpoint, it poured briefly and then it became sunny and beautiful.

We had a nice time in Sandpoint. We got to do some biking on our new Giant bikes and we certainly ate well. Sandpoint is on Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced pond-ah-RAY) and it's encircled by lofty mountains. The lake is 43 miles long and is fringed by pines and fir trees. Sandpoint is one of the west’s great railroad towns. It’s known as the "funnel" for the major rail lines that converge here. More than 40 trains a day draw rail fans to the city. Audre loves to hear train whistles in the dead of night.

On Sunday, when we first came into town and we were stopping at different hotels to find the best accommodation at the best price, a couple leaving the Holiday Inn as we were entering exclaimed “You volunteered for the Taste of Vail!” when she saw the TOV vests that we were wearing. “Why, yes”, Audre said. It turns out that they are neighbors in the Vail Valley in Eagle Ranch, Colorado. They also volunteer for the TOV and recognized our volunteer vests immediately. They were in town visiting their daughter and her family. How cool is that?

After our survey of accommodations in Sandpoint, we decided to stay at the Super 8, where we were given a super king room (really a suite) at the price ($60.47) of an executive king room. It was a large room, with a sofa, a coffee table and a table with 2 chairs. We both used the table for our computers and went to the continental breakfast room to have our breakfast. In our room we had a refrigerator and a microwave, as well as an electric coffee maker (and hair dryer). The Super 8 Sandpoint had a Jacuzzi which we liked to use (before the drivers of the semis/bigrigs arrived and used it). The Super 8 had a washing machine and dryer which we also used. These are all of the amenities we have come to expect (and enjoy) at Super 8 hotels. We used to think of ourselves as Four Seasons Hotel types; after the financial meltdown we are glad that we can afford Super 8 Hotels!

There was a second co-incidence about Sandpoint. It is the very place a woman Audre met in 2009 at the American Woman’s Association in Hong Kong is from. She recommended that we ski Schweitzer, which is at Sandpoint. We never thought then that we’d actually get to Schweitzer but we drove up to the (closed) resort while we were in Sandpoint. The views down to Lake Pend Oreille were awesome. Unfortunately Pam and her husband were in Hong Kong so we couldn't get together with them in Sandpoint.

Sandpoint is on the
International Selkirk Loop another scenic byway we enjoyed. On our first night for dinner we drove to Hope, ID to The Floating Restaurant (Hwy. 200, Hope, ID (at the Hope Marine Services), tel 208-264-5311, web: hopefloatingrestaurant.com). We had a nice meal for $40. We ordered a bottle of Latah Creek Reisling ’08 from Spokane Valley, WA for $17 (it was a bit sweet—too fruity--for us but at a good price). We shared the day’s special of ahi tuna crusted in sesame seeds and served rare ($22.50). It was accompanied by roasted vegetables and rice. The starter that came with it was a red pepper soup and it was good. We had a plum and rhubarb crisp for dessert that was so huge we brought some home (to our room at the Super 8). The view was lovely and we saw the sun set over the Pend Oreille Lake. (Our server had to be reminded to bring us our wine and generally we didn’t take to her but the meal was nice nonetheless.)
The view from The Floating Restaurant in Hope, ID at about 9 p.m. in May.

We decided to stay in Sandpoint for three nights but knew that all hotels were fully booked for the next weekend. The Lost in the 50’s a vintage car jamboree was to begin May 13 (with curvy cars and gleaming chrome, poodle skirts--what's that?--and rock and roll music).

Monday was a nice day and we took out our new Giant bikes for a 20 mile spin around Sandpoint. There is lots of road construction going on and we didn't actually find a good route that day--it was more of an urban ride than we like to have. But our bikes performed beautifully and we were happy to be riding again.
Audre near our (kind of dirty) Subaru Outback before we took off our bikes (using a ladder) for our first outing with our new bikes in front of the Super 8 Sandpoint

We had lunch on Monday at Trinity Cafe at City Beach (58 Bridge St., Sandpoint, ID tel. 208-255-7558, e-mail: cafetrinity@aol.com, web: www.cafetrinitysandpoint.com). It has a great location at  the beach and we had a nice lunch there. We had one Soup du Jour ($5) which was a broccoli, asparagus cream soup with a little picante taste and one corn and crawfish chowder topped with "the trinity: bacon, sweet corn and crawfish" for $5. We're back in the land of sales taxes in Idaho so, with tax we spent $11.60 for lunch (a little pricey for us for lunch). 

Audre and Dimitri back in the saddle again with Lake Pend Oreille in the background!

That night (after we got our car washed for $6) we went to a wine tasting at Pend d'Oreille Winery (220 Cedar St., Sandpoint, ID tel. 208-265-8545, web: powine.com). It was one of the things we were encouraged to do by the folks from Eagle Ranch that we met at the Holiday Inn. We tasted 5 wines (for free if you buy) and we bought the Pend d’Oreille (bottled in Sandpoint, ID) Pinot Gris ’08 grown in Willow Crest Vineyard for $15 plus tax (it's Idaho). We had fun talking to Travis, the pour-er. 

Then we went to dinner at Hydra Steakhouse (115 Lake St., Sandpoint, ID 83864, tel. 208-263-7123) and had the exact meal we had been craving for days, spending $41.29 (with tax, plus tip). We had one traditional 12 oz prime cut rib roast rare with baked potatoes and green beans. It came with a huge and very good salad bar and bread. It was delicious and too much for us to finish. It was $22.95. We ordered a bottle of 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon from Patterson WA for $16 that was good. The server, Trista (an elementary school teacher by day) was attentive and personable. The place is a series of smaller rooms with tables and booths. There were too many screaming babies but otherwise very good. (By the way, we stopped at Bangkok Cuisine, 202 N. 2nd Ave., Sandpoint, ID 208-265-4149 but they wouldn’t let us bring in our own wine (without corkage) so we didn’t stay. We didn't like their attitude, frankly.)

The next day we took a drive in the direction we had been biking the day before toward Bottom Bay and Garfield Bay. We stopped to look at freight train curling its way across the bridge and along the bay. It must have been a mile long.

Our hike in Garfield Bay was nice but short.
Dimitri on our hike in Garfield Bay at Lake Pend Oreille

 It was getting too late for lunch so we cut the hike and went back to Sandpoint for lunch on the terrace of Blue Moon Cafe (124 S. Ave., Sandpoint, ID, tel. 208-265-9953). We had seen it when we went to Hydra Steakhouse and it looked good. It was almost 3 p.m. closing time by the time we got there. We ordered one $8 salad to share. It was okay but a little skimpy (based on our past experience). We didn't like the server much frankly.

Across the street from the Blue Moon Cafe is the Litehouse Bleu Cheese Factory (125 S. 2nd Ave., Sandpoint, ID 83864, tel. 208-263-2030, web: www.litehousefoods.com) where we bought some cheese with a discount coupon we found in a newspaper. We spent $5.33 on their (good) blue cheese and some (really delicious) Nicole Crackers that were on sale. There was a cheddar cheese available for tasting that was awful and like rubber. Don't buy that!

Audre walked to a market to pick up fruit, vegetables and snacks. It was called Yoke's Fresh Market (Hwy. 95, Sandpoint, ID,  web: www.yokes.com). Audre was impressed by the variety of products and the sophistication of them in this smallish town.

For our last night's dinner in Sandpoint we had a wonderful meal at 41 South Waterfront Dining (41 Lakeshore Dr., Sagle, ID, tel. 208-265-2000, web: www.41southsandpoint.com (e-mail: sagle41south@aol.com) owned by Mel and Claudia Dick). It was a highlight of our stay in Sandpoint. Our server, Paul, was a delight, Claudia was accommodating and Mel sociable. The view of the lake was lovely and the high-ceilinged room comfortable. We shared everything, as usual and spent $33.87 plus tip. We ordered the Fresh diver scallops, perfectly pan seared, garnished with toasted coconut and served with a saffron and vanilla bean brandy cream sauce ($26). They were excellent!
The Diver Scallops at 41 South Waterfront Dining in Sagle, ID near Sandpoint


The entree was served with rice and asparagus and it was plenty of food for the two of us. There was a starter of potato, bacon and corn cream soup as well.  We had made prior (very special and unusual) arrangements (with Claudia) to bring an open bottle of wine that we didn't want to pack to take with us (at no corkage charge). So we had a glass each of wine with our dinner. For dessert we had Key lime white chocolate mousse cake ($5.95). We felt like we had found a gem of a restaurant!

After three nights in Sandpoint, off we went to Okanagan, Washington the next day.