Part eleven?  Yes, friends, we are up to part eleven on the coast to coast Mustang USA road trip and Margo and I are still trying to get our asses to Idaho.  We haven’t been lollygagging around, I promise.  We spent quality time in California eating like champs, nodding and idiotically smiling at wine tastings, and driving through (literally throughreally big trees.

Then, a staggeringly picturesque run up to the rim of Oregon’s Crater Lake followed by a sunset-painted rainstorm on the way back down had put me into a state of utter satisfaction that I previously thought could only be attained through the use of steak nachos.

Feeling pretty good about our achievements so far, we buckled in to knock out a big mileage day across the Beaver State.  Our goal is to position ourselves within a few easy hours of my parents house in Moscow, Idaho, where many comforts await.  Let’s get a move on.

puppyknuckles-california-11-4824For the first time on Mustang USA I took a whole afternoon to sit in the passenger seat to catch up on writing and photo editing.  Margo is an excellent long distance driver.  I’d like to specifically thank her for her ability to stay calm and focused when I have to “roll down the windows,” which is often.

puppyknuckles-california-11-4833As we stopped in Moro, Oregon to refuel I noticed a lot of cool stuff: that bitchin’ Ford hot rod above, a ton of antiques stores, some cool old vintage signs on Main Street.  So far, I’m impressed by Oregon’s eye for preserving their old town artifacts.  Another moment when I wished I had more time to explore.

puppyknuckles-california-11-4852Outside a farm near the very top of Oregon.  Our hotel tonight is just north of Enterprise, which is actually southwest from here, but the fastest way to get there from Bend is by going right up to the state border with Washington, then cutting across on 84.  Very little traffic, beautiful roads, great drive.

puppyknuckles-california-11-4866After a few more hours we pulled into the Rim Rock Inn.  This is a hotel/bar/restaurant where most of the “rooms” are actually outfitted teepees out in the back field.

puppyknuckles-california-11-4915A good looking teepee, if I do say so myself.  How was sleeping in it, you ask?  No idea.  We slept in the only actual hotel room inside the building, the Chief Joseph Suite.

puppyknuckles-california-11-4907This is how happy Margo was after discovering the thread count on the sheets in the Chief Joseph Suite.  And after seeing the view from our private deck…

puppyknuckles-california-11-4871…which looked like this.  August in the Northwest US was characterized by fires, and you can see the evidence in the haze.  Once night fell, flickering orange hot spots dotted the distant hillside.

puppyknuckles-california-11-4894Okay, almost done bragging about our night at the Rim Rock.  But it doesn’t get much better than home made dinner served on your own private deck watching the sun set on the mountains.  Seriously, if you’re in Oregon, check this place out.  It’s not even expensive.

puppyknuckles-california-11-4973The next day, we made the push into Idaho and I had no idea we were going to be treated to yet another incredible canyon drive.  Sorry there aren’t more photos depicting this (we were a little preoccupied with shooting video), but trust me, Oregon Highway 3 north into Idaho is one of the hidden driving gems in America.  The beautifully paved, twisty dive down into the river valley and back up again even has an awesome name: Rattlesnake Grade.

puppyknuckles-california-11-4996We pulled into Lewiston, Idaho hungry and we again leaned on Yelp for a recommendation.  And again, we weren’t disappointed.  The last thing I thought I would eat in northern Idaho is legit barbecue.

puppyknuckles-california-11-4997Marie is the owner of the Lunch Box and is the pitmaster for all the barbecue.  I had a brisket French Dip that was basically perfect.  Now I know where I can stop for food next time I fly into Lewiston to visit the folks.

puppyknuckles-california-11-5120And speaking of visiting the folks, we finally made it to my parents driveway in Moscow, Idaho.  It felt a little surreal parking my car in front of their house, having lived thousands of miles away in New York City for the last 17 years.  The last time a Mustang was in their driveway, it was 1987.

puppyknuckles-california-11-5005My folks live on the Arboretum in the campus of University of Idaho.  It’s about the best backyard you could have.  We saw rabbits, and frogs, and a snake, and a rabid bat.  Here’s my mom and Margo getting classy with a little midday snack.  The only way I could get them to pay attention to me was to stick my finger through my pants fly and wiggle it at them.  I don’t know why I always have to sabotage nice moments, but I do.

puppyknuckles-california-11-5079OK, if you’re reading Mustang USA for the cars and roads, bear with me.  I’m home, so it’s family time.  Here are my parents being adorable.

puppyknuckles-california-11-5020Me and my mom, Karen.  After Margo flew back to New York, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next.  I had to hit the road to have any hope of getting back to New York before my musical obligations kicked back in.   It looked like I might be driving it solo all the way from Idaho.  I was prepared for this scenario, but I was kinda bummed to lose my excellent co-pilot.

Then, in an unexpected move of bravery, my mom stepped up and took Margo’s place.  She didn’t want to watch the Mustang roll down the road just yet.  A buddy of mine was playing at the Targhee Bluegrass festival in Wyoming the next day, so a plan was hatched: if we left right now, we can make it to the festival by 5pm tomorrow.  My mom packed a bag, we waved goodbye to my dad, and we hit the road.

puppyknuckles-california-11-5177For the first part of the trip from Moscow to Targhee, I chose the scenic route along Highway 12 that took us through the Clearwater National Forest.  This is another must-drive, pacing the Lochsa river pretty much the whole time through incredible elevation changes and great places to stop and take in the views.  Epic.

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puppyknuckles-california-11-5173Speaking of stopping, here’s my mom doing a little hiking.  Let’s just say there aren’t many gas station restrooms to visit in the forest.  But we’re from Idaho, we can handle this type of thing.

puppyknuckles-california-11-5179As the sun set, we pulled into Missoula, Montana to grab some dinner.  I had been here as a kid, but hadn’t realized what a bustling city it is.  A nice mix of old Montana kitsch and modern college party vibe.

puppyknuckles-california-11-5186Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is an official donk prowling the streets of Missoula, Montana.  It’s not even a sad effort: it’s actually a Caprice, it’s tall as shit, and it’s got a nice paint job.  Are you sure we’re not in Atlanta?   Really?  Some folks called Missoula “Zootown”.  That took me a minute to figure out, also.  I am learning things!

Thanks for reading part eleven.  With my mom in the passenger seat, Mustang USA is now recharged for the trip back west towards New York City.  Stay tuned for the next installment where we’ll take in some bluegrass in the Wyoming mountains, check out Buffalo Bill Cody’s amazing town, and head towards the Badlands in South Dakota.