Fair Thee Well

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Westward Ho, Day 24:  Spokane, WA, to Ellensburg, WA

After spending last night in the suburbs, we started today with a visit to downtown Spokane (pop. 210,103).  A city which has experienced its ups and downs, Spokane first vaulted onto the national—and international—stage when it hosted the world's fair in 1974.  Expo '74 is credited with the transformation of Spokane's downtown from a railroad-centered industrial core to a modern urban center with retail, recreational and residential appeal.

Great Northern clock tower, Riverfront Park
The fairgrounds built for the Expo entered a new life after the fair as the 100-acre Riverfront Park, a center of activities in the city.  As features have been added to the park over the years, leaders continue reinventing the public space, attracting both locals and visitors.  Some favorite spots in the park today are the IMAX theater, a 1909 carousel, seasonal outdoor ice skating rink, and sky rides over the falls.

The Joy of Running Together
Numerous sculptures and other public art projects dot the park landscape.  One of the more noticeable is The Joy of Running Together, a sculpture that incorporates 40 individuals of varying ages and abilities, commemorating Spokane's annual Lilac Bloomsday Run, one of the nation's largest timed road races, involving more than 50,000 runners, joggers and walkers. 

Childhood Express
Even the play equipment for children incorporates a whimsy that Claes Oldenburg could love.  Unlike Oldenburg's work, however, sculptor Ken Spiering's Childhood Express serves both form and function.  Kids can climb a ladder in the back of the wagon and slide down the tongue.  Though the childhood fantasy sat unused on a cold and overcast weekday morning, it's easy to imagine it covered with children on a summer weekend.

Spokane skyways
Another feature designed to make Spokane's urban center more livable is the extensive use of skyways.  With harsh winter weather, the city has connected 16 blocks of downtown with covered, climate-controlled pedestrian walkways to attract shoppers from the suburban shopping malls.

Spokane River
Running through the heart of the city is the Spokane River, a tributary of the mighty Columbia.  A series of waterfalls and dams on the river in the downtown area have been producing hydroelectric power for the city since the late 19th century.

Is it a courthouse or is it a castle?
We can't leave Spokane without mentioning the remarkable Spokane County courthouse.  Built in 1895, the French Renaissance style was the creation of a 29-year old architect who entered a contest to design the county's new seat of government.  Sitting on a hill, this surprising castle-like structure definitely draws attention to itself, which may have helped it earn a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

From Spokane, we headed west on I-90 yet again, stopping occasionally to seek a letterbox.  We made a pilgrimage to the little town of George (pop. 528), thinking it might hold appeal as a good letterbox location.  Established in the 1950s, George was built as a planned town to support local agricultural businesses in the area.  The founder thought that naming the town George, Washington, would not only serve as a tribute to our first president but would offer the hamlet an allure to potential residents and businesses.  There's no indication that this has happened yet.  "If you build it, they will come" apparently only applies to movies and dreams.  George didn't even offer a good hiding place for a letterbox.

The uninhabited main street of George, Washington
Near the end of our journey today, we encountered some very thick fog, leaving us to grope our way blindly into Ellensburg for the night.  We're hoping clearer skies will prevail tomorrow so that we'll be able to catch a glimpse or two of the scenic route we plan to follow through the Cascade Mountains to the Seattle area.

Daily Stats:
  • Miles driven:  213
  • Letterboxes:  F 2, P 0
  • Weather:  32° to 38°, cloudy, rain, fog
  • States:  1 (WA)
  • Distance we could see in fog:  30 ft.
  • Towns bearing the identical name of U.S. Presidents (first and last):  1

More Photos from Today

Spokane Falls
Seen at a farm with sheep.  We suspect the sheep posted the sign.