This guest post has been a long time coming (sorry Ellen!) But a couple of factors made this difficult: (1) it turns out that grad school is a ton of hard work that really doesn’t begin or end during the day—especially when you’re teaching two classes at a time; and (2) when I found myself on “break” it was pretty difficult for me to actually organize a post saying how I feel about Idaho. (Many feelings, you see.) So I (finally!) took inspiration from Ellen’s way of breaking things down on her morning posts. I’m beginning my report by explaining how I would show Moscow/the Palouse to a friend and ending with a summary of the best/worst of northern Idaho.
A Good Day in Moscow, ID:
Breakfast at my apartment, including Tillamook dairy products and Washington potatoes (among other things.) Tillamook is kind of like the Jilbert’s of the Northwest. Like Jilbert’s, it’s a bit more expensive, but it’s well worth it—I use Tillamook brand if I’m cooking something to impress somebody. Potatoes are kind of a given. Why Washington? Fun fact: while Idaho is a large producer of potatoes, lots of potatoes sold in Moscow are from Washington. Because we’re right next door?
A morning tour of the University of Idaho. This is why potatoes (carbs) were included in breakfast. The campus isn’t too big, but it’s built on some steep hills. If you walk to campus (like me), you have to get used to the hills. Getting used to them can be hard if you’ve spent three days in a car getting out here (like I did last summer), but the neat thing about the hilly campus is that it gives you a great view of the mountains outside of town. The campus includes the Arboretum (a park that swoops from one of the higher points on campus down into a valley with a bunch of plants from around the world); old, neat architecture (an old chapel with stained glass, neat clock towers, a HUGE library); my office (in one of those old, beautiful buildings with dodgy A.C.); and probably my favorite place on campus, if not in Moscow as a whole: right outside of Ridenbaugh Hall. It’s relatively high up, so if you stand outside the Hall you can see the mountains. There are old, beautiful trees near the building. And to top it off: Ridenbaugh Hall is filled with practice rooms for music students. Basically, when you walk beside the building you can hear a bunch of different music and see the mountains at the same time. It’s an amazing feeling. Even on the worst of days, I could enjoy walking past Ridenbaugh Hall on the way to or back from classes.
Also: bring sunglasses when you’re out walking. For some reason the sun seems brighter here.
A morning meandering downtown. The downtown isn’t far from the end of campus, so I’d head down there next. There are music stores, record stores, cafes, a book store—basically a great down town, reminiscent of Marquette in some ways. (The two cities are pretty similar in size.)
Lunch options: Either downtown in Moscow at one of the cafes, or at a restaurant in Pullman. If you need coffee on the way to Pullman, there are a bunch of little drive-thru coffee trailers with espresso. They are everywhere around here.
Either way, afternoon in Pullman, WA. Pullman is only seven miles away, a beautiful drive through the Palouse hills, and is home to my favorite used book store: Bruised Books. I could spend hours there.
Believe it or not, I’d also drive up to the Walmart. Not for shopping, though. The Walmart in Pullman is at the top of a pretty big hill. You can see the mountains around Moscow from the parking lot. The view is actually worth standing around in a parking lot like an idiot.
Dinner at my favorite restaurant in Moscow, ID. Cour d’Alene Brewing Company. Great microbrews—Hefeweizen that will make you smile. It’s also the best food I’ve had in Moscow—so far. (I’ll admit that I haven’t gone to many places.)
Evening meandering around downtown. Depending on the time of year—and where you’re from—I’d suggest bringing a light jacket or a sweater. One of my favorite things about Idaho is that no matter how hot it gets during the day, you can count on a pleasant evening. If you aren’t used to U.P. weather, you’d probably need a heavier jacket at the beginning and end of summer.
Night spent on my stoop, looking at stars. The stars here are not as bright as in Grand Marais—but in some areas around my apartment they’re better than in Marquette. And since we’re almost the same latitude (I have to admit here that Moscow is further north, even if it doesn’t feel that way weather-wise), I can see the same stuff.
The best of northern Idaho: I’d have to say the hills. The hills of the Palouse were the first part of Idaho I really loved. Michigan certainly isn’t flat all the way through—but I’ve never seen hills like these. They look alive, especially when the crops turn gold near the end of summer. Wherever the road goes, it winds through them. There isn’t a way to take a picture of how driving through the hills feels and looks.
And the way the air smells. This place is drier than the U.P., but the air is incredibly fresh and smells like water. Almost like being home.
The worst of northern Idaho: The snow melts too soon. This past winter the weather had its moments—at times the snow almost reminded me of the U.P.—but it always melted before it could actually build up. The only place the snow seemed to stay was the mountains.
Northern Idaho is beautiful, unique, grand–and it’s not my home.
I get homesick sometimes. I miss my friends and family and the lake and sky. I miss NMU and the people I met there. I miss the slow burn of trees in autumn on 77, between Seney and Grand Marais. I miss old 58, even though they renovated it beyond recognition. I miss a good snow that doesn’t melt like it’s afraid of something. I miss that huge stupid white pile of it that used to block the driveway every couple of weeks beginning in November. I miss hearing the church bells count the summer hours out. I miss the diner–blues radio in the stuffy noon or Old Crow Medicine Show after hours, when sweeping’s all that’s left for the day. I miss those crazy stars on a clear night—I miss what it feels like to lie in the bay and not bother to imagine where the silky ink water ends and the rest of the universe begins.
What an incredible feeling, this homesickness. I must have a rich life.
And sometimes when I drive through the golden Palouse hills or walk through the campus and hear the music outside Ridenbaugh Hall mix together like burning leaves or feel the cool night air at the end of a blue day, I realize how incredibly grateful I am to be spending a small part of that life here: in northern Idaho, of all places—a beautiful, unique, grand place that reminds me of how special that homesick feeling is.
–Amelia Brubaker, guest blogger