Wild West Road Trip: Homeward Bound

We drive north from Buffalo on I-90. Our destination tonight is the town of Anaconda, about 20 miles west of Butte, Montana. The founder, copper king Marcus Daly, wanted to call the town “Copperopolis,” but another Montana mining town had already claimed the name. So the town became Anaconda instead, and the Anaconda Company operated a smelter nearby. All that remains is the smelter’s 585-foot smoke stack, built in 1919. It is the tallest free-standing masonry structure in the world.

We have booked a room at the Hickory House Inn, a B&B. It is a wonderful old house that used to be the rectory for St. Paul’s Catholic Church. The church was torn down and replaced with a nondescript office building that is now occupied by an insurance agency. We enter the Hickory House into a long entry hall. Just beyond the stairs, which bend in a right angle off the hallway, we find our room. It is charming and has a bay window. The décor is decidedly feminine with an overdose of artificial flowers.

Hickory House, Anaconda, Montana
Hickory House, Anaconda, Montana

The town of Anaconda has many old storefronts from the early 1900s. We talk about how these historic façades could be renovated to attract more tourists to the town. We have dinner at the Barclay II Supper Club. It seems as though everyone in town is dining here tonight, but we have made a reservation and are quickly seated. My porterhouse steak is huge, filling a large plate, and my wife’s New York steak is almost as big. There is no shortage of food for this meal and it is very good.

The following morning, although we would like to get on the road sooner, we decide to wait for the B&B’s breakfast, which is not served until nine in the morning. The breakfast, however, is not very good. The pancakes are not warm enough to melt butter, and the sausage patty is undercooked.

We leave Anaconda, staying on Highway 1, which is a scenic loop that leads back to I-90 at Drummond. I-90 crosses into Idaho at Lookout Pass. We gain an hour there as we enter the Pacific Time zone.

We stop for a short time in Coeur d’Alene. On an earlier version of our road trip itinerary, we would have stayed the night there, but our revised destination for the day is Ritzville, Washington, which is another 90 miles down the road. We are glad we are not staying in Coeur d’Alene. It is a bustling city, too yuppified for our taste.

Coeur d'Alene
Coeur d’Alene

We drive into Washington, realizing that we will reach Ritzville by mid-afternoon, a couple hours earlier than we had expected. We decide to cancel our motel reservation and get a few more miles behind us so that we will not have as many miles to travel on the last day of our road trip, tomorrow. The motel manager in Ritzville allows us to cancel our reservation without charge, and I book a room for the night in Hermiston, Oregon, at the Oxford Suites.

It feels good to cross the Columbia River and be back in our home state. We reach Hermiston around 5:30. We are tired, having driven 470 miles since leaving Anaconda that morning. We have Mexican food at the Ixtapa Restaurant.

I do not sleep well that night, but it is no fault of the motel. Perhaps I am only anxious to get home or maybe I ate too much pollo en mole. We are awake before five in the morning. We breakfast on leftover burrito and the hotel’s very good breakfast bar. Soon we are back on the road, heading west on I-84. We will be home tonight.

Columbia River
Columbia River

More Wild West

Part 1: The First 1,000

Part 2: Three National Parks

Part 3: The Railroad

Part 4: The Occidental Hotel


 

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