Fall Tour 2018 – Day 1. Dining and driving in a Porsche 911 Turbo

Overlook near Dworshak Dam, Idaho

We managed to squeeze in a last minute, 4-day late fall tour in October before the first snowfall.  Cagey timing (and damn good luck) helped us avoid the all-too-possible risk of early snow at some of the high mountain passes in Idaho and Montana we were headed for.

Unlike last year (when travel buddy Paul C. and I got stranded in Great Falls, Montana for two days while touring on our motorcycles due to an early October snow storm), this year, we drove in 4-wheel exotica.

Last year, my cousin Terry acquired a 2003 Porsche 911 Turbo, and he was itching to explore some of the fabulous back roads just over the United States border in Idaho and Montana.

We departed Calgary, with me riding shotgun and navigating us to some of the best sports car and motorcycling roads that Idaho and Montana have to offer, and all within range of our 4-day travel window.

Four days of glorious driving in Terry’s superb 2003 Porsche 911 Turbo

Day 1 – Calgary, AB to Sandpoint, ID

From Calgary, it takes a good driving day to get to ‘the good stuff’, so chalk this up to the proverbial Transit Day.

We steered the Porsche on the back roads to nearby Bragg Creek, a picturesque, short drive from Calgary and via the twisty, scenic Hwy 762 to Black Diamond, connecting to Hwy 22 The Cowboy Trail.  Running through the heart of Alberta’s cattle country, Hwy 22 parallels the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and is undeniably one of Canada’s most scenic drives.

As a Transit Day, most of our time behind the wheel is occupied with simply getting there, wherever ‘there’ is.  But driving in the Porsche Turbo elevates the experience from mundane travel to near meditative enlightenment.

Like riding a motorcycle, driving a world-class sports car can become a Zen-like experience.  It helps that we’re ‘on vacation’ (even for those of us who are retired.)  Being on vacation means our minds are in a different space, somehow, even more relaxed and laid back than our ‘normal’, day-to-day mindset.

And cruising in the Porsche Turbo is truly a meditative experience, especially when driving along stretches of straight highway.  For us ‘car guys’,   the Porsche provides a rich, sensory experience, even when aimed straight at the distant horizon.  The Porsche is delightfully communicative, with hefty steering feel that allows the front tires to inform the driver precisely where they’re pointed and communicating the texture of the road surface passing underneath.  The chassis is sportingly firm, yet compliant, and gives the impression of riding in a 4-wheeled bank vault.

Despite it’s 16 year’s age, the 911 Turbo remains impressively tight, rattle free and solid.  Really, it feels more grand tourer than hard core sports car.

After a few hours of on-again, off-again rain through the Crowsnest Pass, we arrive in Cranbrook, B.C. and make a beeline for Frank’s Steak and Schnitzel Haus, one of my favourite restaurants in B.C.  It’s a late lunch; at 1:45 P.M. Friday, we squeak in just in time to make the last lunch sitting before the restaurant closes at 2:00 P.M. We order Frank’s famous schnitzel for lunch, and fully satisfied with our appropriately Teutonic lunch, point the 911’s nose to the U.S. border.

South from Cranbrook we reach the border crossing at Kingsgate.  The U.S. border agent is friendly, asking the typical questions:  “Where do you live?  What’s the purpose of your trip?  Where are you going?”  He wishes us an enjoyable drive and just as Terry fires up the Porsche, 4 wild turkeys saunter across the slant nose front of the Porsche.

“Hey”, I call out from the passenger seat through Terry’s open window to the U.S. border agent, “You must be getting ready for American Thanksgiving!  Are those things any good to eat?” I say pointing to the parade of 4 turkeys.

The border agent laughs and says he doesn’t know, and we continue to drive south on Hwy 95 to Sandpoint.

In Sandpoint, we stop for coffee at the Panhandler Pies and Bakery Restaurant, another favourite eatery we’ve found over the years.  I enjoy a very nice Sour Cream Lemon Pie and coffee, and later, for supper, we get referred to Second Avenue Pizza where we dine on one of the best pizzas I’ve had ever!  Highly recommended!

Having driven almost 600 km (Calgary to Cranbrook to Sandpoint), our transit day is over.

We spend the evening walking along Sandpoint’s main street, chock full of touristy shops, all mostly closed by 5:00 P.M. since it’s October and we’re now well out of tourist season.

Sandpoint is a pretty little town and a great destination, only a day’s travel from Calgary.  Terry is impressed enough with Sandpoint he vows to return with his wife for a touristy weekend.

Tomorrow, Day 2, takes us to Orofino where the twisty bits are, and Idaho’s famous, scenic Hwy 12 and Lolo Pass into Montana.

Next:  Fall Tour 2018 Day 2 – Sandpoint, ID to Orofino, ID

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