2000 White Crosses on the Side of the Road – Day 104

2000 White Crosses on the Side of the Road

Day 104 – July 13, 2003 – Sunday

It was a pretty drive from Spokane Washington, across Idaho, and 120 miles into Montana. Mountain driving in Idaho and Montana, but the roads thus far are situated in valleys, so the driving hasn’t been at all tense.

We met Gene at the hotel in Spokane. We met Dan, Linda and Don, and Peggy and Herman from Libby, Montana at a late lunch. Linda said she would have 201 pies for us if we come back again. Then we met Freddie at dinner in Kalispell, Montana.

We saw the Bing Crosby Room at Gonzaga University in Spokane as well as the truly beautiful Davenport Hotel. The Bing Crosby buildings at Gonzaga are interesting as Bing was a dropout there. I know there must be a lot of parents out there hoping the universities their kids dropped out of will name buildings after them!

Gene suggested that we see the historic Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane. It is a really beautiful old hotel. We passed through a town named Athol. We may have pronounced it incorrectly. We laughed for miles. Sometimes the silliest of things can be fun. We wondered what the people from Athol are called…Athols?

Bonners Ferry, Idaho had a very special spot on today’s agenda. It had been over 50 days since my last haircut, and I planned to get my hair cut at the Barber Ship in Bonners Ferry. The Barber Ship is a houseboat that has been turned into a barber shop. Sadly, the ship/shop was closed on Sunday. Boz and I probably didn’t even realize this was a Sunday. We don’t watch or listen to the news, and we don;t read the paper. That way, we don’t see or hear all the bad news. The one downside is that we often do not know the day of the week.

The highlight of the day, and one of the highlights of the trip for Boz, was seeing the Kootenai Falls just outside Libby. It’s a beautiful spot that many miss as it was not marked along Highway 2. Fortunately, we used several reference books, and one of the books reported the mile marker.

The Falls go down several different ledges and levels and then the whitewater sprays everywhere. We saw guys in kayaks trying to stay in the river against the current, and we saw kayakers coming down the river. We walked over through beautiful wooded area with trails, and a lot of other people were doing the same. We went to see the swinging bridge, which we chose not to walk across. We understand “The River Wild” was filmed here.

To the Kootenai Tribe, the Falls is a sacred site – the center of the world, a place where tribal members can commune with spiritual forces. Kootenai Falls on the Kootenai River, adjacent to U.S. Highway 2 between Libby and Troy, is a scenic attraction not to be missed.

Another highlight was Huckleberry Pie for dinner at Bojangles Diner in Kalispell. Neither of us had ever eaten a huckleberry before. It’s a little round berry about half the size of a blueberry, and it has a completely different taste from anything we’d ever eaten. As our waitress said, it tastes “very huckley.” Delicious.

We saw a muffler man with a flag in Algoma, Idaho.

We notice that the mountains in Idaho tended to have rounded tops.

We passed through the infamous Hayden Lake and Ruby Ridge areas. From the 1970’s until 2001, the headquarters of the Aryan Nations was in a 20 acre compound at Hayden Lake. In September 2000, the Southern Poverty Law Center won a $6.3 million judgment against the Aryan Nations from an Idaho jury who awarded punitive and compensatory damages to Victoria Keenan and her son, Jason, who were attacked by Aryan Nations guards in 1999. Bullets struck the Keenan’s car several times and the car crashed. Aryan member held the Keenans at gunpoint. As a result of the judgment, Richard Butler turned over the 20-acre compound to the Keenans who then sold the property to a philanthropist who subsequently donated it to North Idaho College, which designated the land as a “peace park.” Ruby Ridge refers to a violent confrontation and siege involving Randy Weaver, his family, Weaver’s friend Kevin Harris, federal agents from the United States Marshals Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The events took place on August 21, 1992 on the Weaver family property, located on a hillside between Caribou Ridge and Ruby Creek near Naples in northern Idaho.

We crossed the Moyie River and stopped at the Moyie Springs Bridge Overlook.

Idaho is state #27, and Montana is state #28. I forgot to get an Idaho license plate photo for my virtual license plate collection — realized it about 12 miles into Montana — so we turned back and got one at the border. We have, of course, seen Idaho license plates at every stop since. BUT, if we hadn’t gone back to get the photo in Idaho, we’d have probably never seen another Idaho license plate for the rest of our lives.

We saw the World’s Largest Eagle in Libby.

The Yaak River was very pretty, so we stopped at a spot where the river was flowing through the mountains. The water was an interesting shade of blue.

Across Highway 2 in Montana, we have seen many white crosses indicating traffic fatalities at that location. There are way too many of these. It’s very sobering, but the American Legion-sponsored program seems like a great way to remember those who died and warn the rest of us about the hazards of the roads.

The Montana American Legion White Cross Highway Fatality Marker Program began in 1953. The unique idea of marking fatal traffic accident sites with a white cross was the brain child of Floyd Eaheart, a member of the American Legion Hellgate Post #27, Missoula, Montana; after six lives were lost in the Missoula area over the 1952 Labor Day Holiday. The safety program started out as a county and later district project for the Missoula American Legion Post. However, the idea was so good that it was soon adopted as a statewide program. The American Legion’s White Crosses can be found within the borders of Montana, along state and federal highways, secondary and forest service roads, and even city streets. One white cross is erected for each traffic fatality. Not all highway fatalities are marked. Due to a federal ruling, white crosses are not allowed along interstate highways. Only about half of the 132 American Legion Posts in Montana currently participate in the program. Since the White Cross Program’s inception, 50 years ago, it is estimated that over 2,000 white crosses have been erected along Montana’s highways.

The lesson of the day was to drive especially carefully in Montana so the American Legion wouldn’t be erecting any crosses with our names.

Random Comments:

We will see Glacier National Park tomorrow. Then on Tuesday, we will drive across the rest of the state. This will put us in South Dakota at Mount Rushmore on Wednesday. Two nights there, and then we spend a few days in North Dakota where we expect to meet up with some of our email friends. We have received hundreds of emails from really nice folks in North Dakota because several of the newspapers across the state ran stories about our trip. We are REALLY looking forward to North Dakota.

A phone call yesterday advised us that a story about our trip ran in the Memphis, Tennessee newspaper travel section. The article was written by John Garrett — http://www.gomemphis.com/mca/online_traveler/article/0,1426,MCA_533_2095132,00.html.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this web site. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
Bing Crosby Room at Gonzaga University — Davenport Hotel — Barber Ship — Kootenai Falls — Bojangles Diner — Hayden Lake and Ruby Ridge — World’s Largest Eagle — American Legion White Cross Highway Fatality Marker Program