The country between Pendleton and Spokane is open and sparsely settled. Tiny towns separate huge farms and ranches; most of the farm houses are at least 50 years old. Our road wound up and down rolling hills, and crossed the Snake Spokane River dam River, which has been tamed for power and irrigation. From the bottom of the vales we saw only bare hillsides with the occasional horse or cow; from the hilltops we saw a vast expanse of more hilltops. As we moved north we saw more patches of snow, but the ground was generally clear.
We didn't happen to enter the most beautiful areas of Spokane. In fact, we took the first downtown exit, and were dismayed by the evidences of poverty and lack of city services: run-down buildings, dirty streets, vagrants and drunks, cars that were falling apart. We selected a path that would take us past some motels, and saw none in the city we wanted. To be fair, there were some larger hotels downtown that looked nice, but we have learned that many motels offer free parking, laundry, free breakfast, possibly a fridge or microwave. So we headed out of town.
On the way we drove through many more blocks of residential Spokane, and Spokane County Courthouse we were dismayed by the small, old, badly-kept houses on tiny lots. Spokane proper is clearly not a wealthy city. In the suburbs we finally discovered an upscale neighborhood along the freeway to the east of the city. Here we found a comfortable new motel where we parked for a few days.
On two of these days, we visited malls, to get some exercise by mall-walking. The second one, new this year, offered enough space and complexity to give us a two-level figure-eight walk. Lots of malls have clubs for mallwalkers. As visiting mallwalkers we have an idea: we'll market a passport for mallwalkers, which can be stamped in various malls in various cities, rather like the National Park Service passports. We will probably make our fortune -- if only we'd follow through!
We also visited casinos. There are Indian casinos as well as card-club casinos. Washington law was quietly changed a few years ago to allow the card clubs to put in banked card games. One Spokane card club included blackjack, Caribbean Stud, Let er Ride, Spanish Blackjack, as well as a bowling alley and Courthouse details pool room. An Indian casino at the edge of town offered a full menu of slot machines from one penny to one dollar. Here you purchase a ticket which you insert into your slot machine. When you cash out you receive another ticket with the new (usually lower) total printed on it. You keep sliding the tickets into the machine until they're all gone.
Something called a Pull-Tab is popular, apparently a Spokane favorite. Two pieces of pasteboard are glued together, the top perforated so that you can pull some number of strips or tabs, revealing three pictures like a slot machine row of symbols. We tried one but lost our quarter.
The advertised Spokane tourist attractions are River Front Park, which has some of the Expo 74 buildings but was closed for the season; a series of covered pedestrian bridges hooking up some downtown hotels and stores; the falls of the Spokane River, which were disappointing due to the drought; the snow-covered and muddy arboretum; a Bing Crosby museum, and a museum of local industry. On the other hand there is a jim-dandy unadvertised tourist attraction, the Spokane County Courthouse, somewhat reminiscent of Castle Neuschwanstein!! See pictures.
We also took a short drive into Idaho. The story is that the name Coeur d'Alene came from the French trappers' who said the local Indians had "the heart of an awl". In nautical parlance this would be Slip-You-The-Fid City. The lady at the Welcome Center said that a good day's sightseeing would be to keep going Courthouse tower till we got to Montana, and swing north into British Columbia; then we could tell everyone in Spokane we'd been in three states and a foreign country in one day.
Coeur d'Alene has a small college and a large lake. On the edge of the lake is a resort with the world's only, or biggest, floating golf green. The resort is so ritzy it doesn't even have a sign. There was a marina with quite a few sizeable yachts tied up. Imagine our surprise then, when, just a block from the resort, we entered a dismal and dingy neighborhood of small, old, uncared-for homes and yards just as we had seen in Spokane. On the way home we saw a better class of homes in the town of Post Falls. We have decided that unlike the Eastern U.S., or even Texas, where cities typically contain neighborhoods of large, old, well-maintained homes, the cities we have visited in eastern Oregon and Washington are depressed while the surrounding area (suburbs or unincorporated county) are thriving.
Local newspapers carry stories about efforts to bring high-tech employment to this area. A University-sponsored consortium has been working on the problem for several years but without apparent success. One thing is sure: there's a world of difference between hi-tech Western Washington and lo-tech Eastern Washington.