After being bused from the Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, we boarded the American Empress in Clarkston, Washington on the afternoon of May 21.  Since the boat wasn’t scheduled to depart until the next afternoon, we had time the following morning to explore Clarkston and Lewiston via the hop-on, hop-off bus.  We had never been to Idaho before (one of eleven states we hadn’t visited), so I was excited to see at least a fraction of the state!

Clarkston was named after William Clark, of Lewis and Clark.  Across the river, Lewiston, Idaho was named after Meriwether Lewis.  Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson after the Louisiana Purchase, the two men joined up for the first American expedition to cross the western portion of the United States, from May, 1804 to September, 1806.  They were tasked with exploring and mapping the newly acquired territory, to find a practical route to the Pacific Ocean.  Along the way, they studied the area’s plants, animal life, and geography, in addition to establishing trade with the Native American tribes.  The “Corps of Discovery Expedition” began near St. Louis and passed through Lewiston, across the river from where the American Empress was set to begin our cruise west on the Snake and Columbia rivers.

Both Clarkston and Lewiston are small cities with a combined population of about 55,000.  Surprisingly, though, there was a Costco just down the road from the dock!  Once the reason was explained by the local guide on our hop on-hop off bus, it made good sense.

Located at the confluence of the Snake River and Clearwater River and thirty miles southeast of Lower Granite Dam, Lewiston is reachable by some ocean-going vessels because of the lock system on the Snake and Columbia River.  The Port of Lewiston is Idaho’s only seaport and has the distinction of being the farthest inland port east of the West Coast of the United States.

According to our guide, farmers and their families drive to Costco from hundreds of miles around to do their shopping.  (There are a lot of farmers in Idaho.  In addition to lentils, peas, garbanzo beans, and barley grown in the state, 49% of all wheat grown in the U.S.A. gets barged out of Lewiston.)   They will come in and spend a night, see a movie, and stock up before heading home.  One of the founders of Costco (based in Kirkland, Washington) was from Lewiston, so he convinced his partner to build a location in Clarkston.  Evidently, they do a very good business!

Clarkston is also the gateway to North America’s deepest gorge, Hells Canyon (8,000 feet!), a year-round recreation resort, thanks to its mild desert climate and only ten inches of average annual rainfall.  In addition, the area has a rich history of the Nez Perce Native American tribe who assisted Lewis and Clark with their expedition and still reside in the area today.

We were able to get a good look at the area on our way to the Nez Perce National Historical Park as well as the drive out to the First Territorial Capitol Interpretive Center where we hopped off for a visit.




The next stop was the Bridablik/Schroeder House where we were hosted by the Schroeders for an exclusive tour (for American Empress passengers only) of their fully restored 1906 home full of gorgeous antiques, and then homemade refreshments on their back patio.  The panoramic view of the river below was spectacular!



Finally, we hopped off to visit the Nez Perce County Historical Society Museum before heading back to the riverboat for our departure.  (There were other stops on the route; however, we didn’t have time to see them all.)


Fortunately, it was a beautiful and warm day, so the afternoon cruise towards Richland, our next stop, was delightful!





Entering a lock















Although we are not motorcycle enthusiasts because they are less safe than cars and cause a great deal of noise pollution, Trip Advisor reviewers rated the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Factory as an excellent tour. Our friend, David also insisted it was interesting even for non-motorcycle people like us, so we decided to check it out on our way to Frederick, Maryland.


Upon arrival, we knew we were in the right place when we were surrounded by visitors wearing various Harley Davidson t-shirts, vests, and hats. We sure looked out of place!

Harley Davidson does an excellent job of marketing. Name one other motorcycle manufacturer who markets their name anywhere near as well as they do. I sure don’t see much in the way of Yamaha or Honda t-shirts or belt buckles out there, that’s for sure. They have created an image and culture that American motorcycle enthusiasts have bought into. For that matter, so have the Aussies, Kiwis, and Japanese.

The factory we toured is 650,000 square feet and has 1,100 employees. On average, it takes 2-3 hours to assemble a Harley motorcycle; the tricycles take about five hours. It was fascinating watching the various steps required to roll one of those babies off the assembly line. (Photos were not permitted.)

The tour was indeed interesting. We are always fascinated by how things are created and produced. This tour did not disappoint.


We were surprised, though, when we looked at the specs. of the motorcycles on display in the lobby. How many miles per gallon would you estimate a motorcyle gets? I would have guessed at least 50; however, our Toyota Prius V actually gets more miles per gallon (46) than many of the bikes they produce. At 37-48 miles per gallon, I was proud to know that Scarlett (an SUV model Prius) is more of a gas sipper and MUCH quieter than those motorcyles. Good on ya, Scarlett!


Terrific tour number two was in Hanover at Utz, the makers of potato chips, pretzels, and other snack foods since 1921. I had never heard of Utz until coming to the east coast, because they are mostly distributed out here in thirteen northeastern states.

Although the tour at Utz was self-guided, it was terrific. After watching a film about their history and seeing all their products on dispaly, we continued on into a very long hallway on the top level of the factory. There were large glass windows lining the length of the entire hallway, and the action was happening right next to the windows. We were able to get a close-up look at the potato chip-making process, and see out over the entire factory from above. (Photos were not permitted.)

Along the hallway, there were signs posted about the process happening in front of that window, and there was a button we could push to start an audio explanation. When it ended, there was instruction to proceed to the next window.

We were able to watch the entire process beginning with the potatoes being off-loaded from trucks to conveyor belts, and ending with boxed bags of chips being forklifted out of the warehouse to the trucks.

Utz produces enough potato chips each day to fill 20 tractor trailers for daily delivery. Since it takes four pounds of potatoes to produce one pound of chips, try doing the math on the daily potato requirement to keep that factory humming!

The most interesting part of the process was watching the optical sorter. A light shines on the potato chips moving through the conveyor belt, and searches for potato chips that are too dark or spotted. When it “sees” one, it blows a puff of air on it that shoots the chip out to the side on another belt and sends it to potato chip hell never to be seen again. REJECT!

The good potato chips continue on to potato chip heaven getting bagged for eventual distribution. Before the bag is sealed, it is filled with nitrogen to ensure a longer shelf life. Nitrogen? Who knew? I’ll never think of a bag of potato chips quite the same way again.

Onward to Frederick. Today, we chose the road less traveled to get to our ultimate destination, so it was a pretty drive through farmland and small towns.


By the time we checked into our hotel and headed downtown, it was late and we were hungry (A few potato chip samples didn’t make much of a lunch), so we just took a quick look around for a preview of tomorrow.


Carrol Creek Linear Park is a beautiful area of downtown. They did a fabulous job with this mixed-use urban park that features an amazing mural on the Community Bridge.


The following is information I found online about the bridge at http://bridge.skyline.net/history/ :

The Community Bridge mural project transformed a plain concrete bridge in Frederick, Maryland, near Washington D.C., into the stunning illusion of an old stone bridge. Artist William Cochran and his assistants painted the entire structure by hand, using advanced trompe (“deceive the eye”) techniques. Many people walk by it and never realize they have been fooled. Once they grasp that the bridge is actually an artwork, visitors discover that there are mysterious carvings in the stones, images too numerous to count. They represent symbols and stories contributed by thousands of people from all over the community, across the country, and around the world. These co-creators have made Community Bridge an inspiring symbol of common ground.

In early 1993, artist William Cochran proposed the bridge project because of the structure’s strategic location at the urban center of the long-planned Carroll Creek Park, Frederick’s key economic development project. This linear park site is positioned along the symbolic racial and economic dividing line in the city. The park plan was stalled by controversy and disagreement until the bridge project engaged the participation of the community to build a symbol of common ground. It became a catalyst for revitalization and a symbol of connection and the spirit of community.

These are photos I shot of the bridge mural as well as the other bridges along the linear park:



















There’s a Costco very close to our hotel and downtown, so we opted for another (very) casual dinner. I just love their large $3.99 Caesar salads!

I’m sad I have nothing unusual to report about this Costco, because unlike the one in Lancaster, this Costco did not have a horse and buggy parking shed. Bummer. That was really cool.


When Bruce and I travel we enjoy seeing how the locals live, where they shop, and what they do during their leisure time. It’s that “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” thing that can give you a feel for the place and its people.

On Fridays, the locals head to the Green Dragon Market in Ephrata to shop for just about anything and everything you would need (or don’t need, for that matter). It’s a swap meet and farmer’s market all mixed together in a huge outdoor area and a couple of (non-airconditioned) buildings.

Amish and “English” alike sell their wares and shop there, and it’s a great place to people watch and eat the local foods.

There is even a special parking place just for the Amish:


Prices at this market were fantastic. Gorgeous hanging baskets of flowers were only $10, a bargain!


How about an entire shoo-fly pie for $3? This molasses pie is an Amish tradition. It gets its name because the sweet molasses odor attracts flies that must be “shooed” away.


Not wanting to indulge in an entire pie, we later bought ourselves a piece to share. It was good, but I’ll stick with my chocolate, thank you very much.

These pretzels were being handmade at a table directly behind this glass case:


Need some dog bones? How about some medium knuckles? YUM!


Next up on our market run was Central Market in downtown Lancaster. A Lancaster tradition since the late 1700’s, the building was beautiful brick, and its interior housed stalls with all sorts of foods. Prices were much higher, though, not the bargains that we saw at Green Dragon Market. That huge shoo-fly pie for $3 shrunk down to just six inches.



The Landcaster Visitor Center was located near Central Market.  This building also dates back to the late 1700’s.


This dapper fellow was reading the newspaper in front of the Press Building on King Street.  We were amazed at the incredible artistry in the detail, all the way down to his wing-tip shoes.


Here’s some interesting trivia about Lancaster: Did you know it was the capitol of the United States for one day? Yep! On September 27, 1777, Lancaster was our capitol. On each September 27 now, the city officials commemorate the day with a 15-minute ceremony.

Our final stop on the market run was… COSTCO! Well, shoot, why the heck not? I was due for a nice fresh salad after making a breakfast (and lunch) of Amish bakery, and we like to check out the Costco in other places if it’s convenient.

This Costco was very different, though. Does your Costco have one of these in the parking lot?


Yes, the Amish do shop at Costco, too!