Fall Tour 2018 – Day 3: Orofino, ID to Whitefish, MT

Overlook near Dworshak Dam, Idaho

Day 3:  Orofino, ID to Whitefish, MT – 305 miles

Men traveling together without the presence of women is a unique experience   There’s a different ambiance, and I’m not talking about being able to make the air thick with expletives and trashy locker room talk.  I think it’s true that a male bonding ‘thing’ can often happen.  It is just a different kind of social process that takes place, and an interesting one to contemplate.

With Terry, there’s just a sense of relaxation and ease.  While we are first cousins (Terry’s dad and my dad were brothers), he and I are more like brothers, having grown up around the corner from each other’s houses in Toronto.  This trip gets to be our ‘man talk’ time – we talk about life in retirement, pursuing various hobbies and passions, family politics, travel, and of course, we get to talk about cars without the ‘stink eye’ from our wives and their unspoken but clear-as-hell, “You’re talkiing about cars, again?” look.

At the start of Day 3, we’re still giddy from last night’s outrageously large BBQ steak dinner at the Konkolville Motel in Orofino.  We’re ‘guys’, and as Alberta guys, we love our beef.  The 16 oz steaks Konkolville Motel owners Ray and Lisa served up is only one reason for making the trek from Alberta to Orofino.

U.S. 12 – The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway/Lolo Pass

It’s a cool morning with on-and-off again light rain.  We fill up the Porsche with a fresh tank of premium unleaded, and I tell Terry he has to take the wheel this morning.  Today, we’re driving U.S. Route 12, aka The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway.  This beautiful road runs from Lewiston, ID (the Idaho/Washington border) some 280 glorious kilometres to the Montana State line at Lolo Pass.

(This section of U.S. 12, aka The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, aka Lolo Pass regularly makes “Best Drives/Most Scenic Drives in America” lists, and is popular among sports car enthusiasts and motorcyclists in the summer.)

Orofino’s one (?) gas station is within eyeshot of Hwy 12, and Terry turns east on 2-lane road, we flip on the Porsche’s seat warmers and settle into a comfy touring mode.

Even though this 911 Turbo is 16 years old, it’s a superbly luxurious ‘sports car.’  It has all the goods to qualify as a grand touring car, but the Porsche’s signature flat-6 cylinder engine’s growl reminds me this is a world-class sports car with German engineering credentials and performance envelope that is still competitive with today’s high performance cars.

Our conversation focuses on the 3 very spirited and memorable back-to-back runs we did on Hwy P1 yesterday.   Fun, fun, fun, and we promise to do it again sometime next year.

Lowell, ID

Between Orofino and and Lolo Pass, there is only one place located right on Hwy 12 to stop for coffee, and that’s Lowell, a tiny, unincorporated community whose claim to fame is it’s cafe.  Located at the left (north) side of the highway, it’s the only cafe you can see while driving on this expanse of highway.

Lowell is only about 1 hour from Orofino, and the cafe at Ryan’s Wilderness Inn is a longtime favourite coffee stop for the throngs of motorcyclists that travel on U.S. 12.  On our annual motorcycle trips to Orofino, we always stop at Lowell for a second, early morning breakfast.

“How was business this sumer?” I ask our server (it was October when we drove the Porsche there), and she said it was a terrible due to the road construction on Hwy 12.  Word travels fast in the motorcycle community, and apparently touring riders stayed away in droves in 2018.

From Lowell continuing eastbound along U.S. 12, the road continues to snake and wind to the Idaho/Montana state line.

“Terry”, I say, “watch for a sign coming up, and you’ll get the gist of this road.”  A yellow sign eventually appears, and I just smile, “Winding Road for 99 Miles.”

Two hours later, U.S. 12 “T’s” into I-93 at Lolo, Montana.  There’s a large, multi-island gas station at the intersection; it’s a good place to stretch our legs.

North on I-93 to Missoula and we veer east and join up with U.S. 93, which our AAA/CAA roadmap shows as a scenic highway.  Lolo to Whitefish is about 150 miles and we push northwards in the cool weather and sporadic rain.

Whitefish, MT

Arriving in Whitefish, Terry recalls a ski trip decades ago, and we’re immediately struck by the feeling of wealth this ski town exudes.  The houses are well maintained and tidy, and there are plenty of expensive luxury vehicles parked and roaming the streets.

Craggy Range Bar & Grill, Whitefish, MT Clam Strips appetizer

In Whitefish, we make a beeline for the Craggy Range Bar & Grill for supper.  I’ve dined here years ago during a motorcycle tour, and the food was terrific.  I’m hoping to impress Terry again with my uncanny ability to find outstanding eateries.

I had remembered the Craggy Range as a steakhouse, but that was a few years ago.  Perhaps I remembered incorrectly, but today it’s more of a sports bar.

We ordered up a Clam Strips appetizer ($7) and I followed up with a Craggy Burger ($13), supposedly made of “American Kobe beef” with Cottage Bacon, American Cheese, Spinach & Honey Chipotle Vinaigrette.  It was outstanding.

Similarly, Terry ordered the Bison Burger ($13) with Mozzarella, Chopped Onions, Cheddar, Swiss & Sage Mayonnaise, and he was a happy camper.

Day 3 of our short tour in the Porsche has been another good one.  We’ve driven some 305 miles starting in Orofino, ID, traveling to Lolo, MT, then north to Whitefish, MT.

The 2003 Porsche Turbo has run flawlessly, and today’s run has been relaxing, yet supremely enjoyable.  Great roads, fabulous scenery, and memorable dining, along with good company is unquestionably the perfect recipe for an outstanding road trip.

Next:  Conclusion, Fall Tour 2018 – Day 4.  Whitefish, MT to Calgary, AB

 

 

 

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