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2004 Spokane GNRHS Convention Warm up

Tuesday, May 25, 2004 (2000 hours)

Hi guys...

Work brought me to Spokane for an overnighter.
Since I got a very early start (0500 hours), I finished
my chores over here with lots of afternoon and evening
light to explore. Here is what I found.

First stop: The Ridpath (convention hotel)
515 W. Sprague Avenue
3 blocks west from Amtrak station
4 blocks from the Spokane River.

Approach by car from I-90 - take Exit 281
(US2/US395) go north (east) on US2 (Division St.) and
get in the left lanes. Turn left on
Sprague (passing the ex-NP, now Amtrak depot) 
and go 5 blocks to the Ridpath which will be 
on your left.

Ridpath Layout and Services:

The Ridpath was built in 1904 and takes up most
of the city block comprising Sprague Avenue, 1st Avenue,
Howard and Stevens in downtown Spokane. There
is also an annex of additional rooms (rooms 261 to 570
to be exact) across 1st Avenue. The small swimming pool
is located in the annex...and the entire pool patio is carpeted 
with Astroturf! The annex is connected to the main hotel
with a pedestrian sky bridge.

Sprague runs westbound only past the hotel on north side.
1st Avenue runs eastbound only past the hotel on south side.
Howard Avenue is two way on west side of hotel.
Stevens is southbound only on east side of hotel.

The main entrance of the Ridpath is on Sprague (north
side of the building). Right next to the main entrance 
is the hotel parking garage. The following are the
parking rates:

For non-guests: Valet parking is $15 per day. Self-parking
at hotel garage is $7 per day. Self-parking in nearby
Diamond lot is $6 per day.

For Ridpath registered guests: Valet parking is $6 per day.
Self-parking at hotel garage is $4 per day. Self-parking
in nearby Diamond lot is $6 per day.

As you walk in the main entrance (Sprague side), the
"Silver Grill" bar/lounge is on your right. This 
appears to double as a morning buffet or coffee shop.
Past the Silver Grill is the reception desk and the
elevators. There is an ATM in the lobby, but it was
out of order when I was there.

Across Stevens is a large, historic city ramp parking
garage with a Dollar rental car office (so, if you arrive by
plane or train, you can rent a car if you like).

Good news for you caffeine slaves...there is a full
service coffee/barista place in the hotel just 
inside the 1st Avenue street entrance. They serve
Starbucks coffee, make espresso, have all the bottles
of coffee flavoring, but it is NOT a proper Starbucks.

In fact, driving around downtown Spokane I couldn't
see any Starbucks (at least none were visible from
the street). 

UPDATE: There is ONE proper Starbucks in downtown
Spokane. It is two blocks north and two blocks west from 

the hotel at 721 W. Main (corner of Main and Post).

The hotel's big, fancy restaurant is called Ankeny's
and is located at the top of the building with a view
of downtown Spokane. I didn't go up there myself, but
I picked up a brochure. It appears everything is 
a la carte with entrees ranging from $20-$25.
Appetizers are in the $7-$10 range.

Summary: The Ridpath seems to be a decent hotel
with good amenities at first glance. For a 100
year old hotel, not bad at all. 

Ridpath Surroundings:

Nice though the Ridpath is inside, its location is
not the greatest. Street people abound outside.
There is a State Liquor store just outside the
Sprague street entrance which draws its share
of characters sleeping in doorways and pushing
shopping carts.

Just outside the 1st Avenue entrance is a tatoo
parlor (no, I am not making this up). Much of
the Ridpath block and surrounding blocks consist
of rather seedy bars and shops. 

The Ridpath annex (rooms 261 to 570) is right
next to the busy BNSF mainline and trains were
continuously rolling past when I was there
on the elevated right-of-way. (I know, most
GNRHS members consider that a plus.)

The nicer sections of Spokane and downtown seem
to be closer to the river. In daylight, you'll
probably be OK walking outside. After 6 pm,
I would recommend you not walk around outside
the hotel. Be safe and take a taxi after dark.

Summary: Hotel is located in a rundown section
of downtown Spokane. Be careful outside the hotel. 
Be aware of your surroundings and travel in pairs
or groups, if possible.

Mini GN Exploring trip:

After checking out the Ridpath and the downtown,
it was time to head north and visit some ex-GN
sites. First stop was Hillyard, northeast of
the city. The X-176 caboose is still there
as well as the Davenport Switcher with the
GN paint scheme (starting to fade).

http://www.gngoat.org/geg_x176.jpg

Just to the west on North Haven Street is a house 
which, according to Ref Sheet 199 (GN Depots) 
is the old Hillyard depot.

http://www.gngoat.org/old_spokane_depot.JPG
http://www.gngoat.org/old_spokane_depot2.JPG

Further west of there is James J. Hill park,
founded in 1924 by Spokane parks and marked
by a simple sign. (E. Nebraska & N. Cook).

http://www.gngoat.org/geg_hill_park.jpg

I couldn't find the frikken BNSF "HILLYARD" sign
doggone it! Next visit... ;p

Anyway, it was getting late and I headed back to
East Spokane via "back roads" to avoid going through
congestion on US 2. With just enough daylight,
I stopped at Trent and Progress Roads to see the
"New" Hillyard depot. Once used as a restaurant,
it has long been for sale. Ironically, the company
selling the property is "Great Northern Realty, Inc.".

http://www.gngoat.org/hillyard_pass1.jpg

The next morning, on my way back to Seattle, I made
a side trip to try and locate the support foundations
for the old GN Fort Wright trestle over the Spokane
River. I THINK I saw them. It is hard to get in
there because the whole area is blocked off for
a future development. 35 years does change things.

The last stop on my GN finding trip: Great Northern
Elementary School! Yep, west of Spokane on Spotted
Road is GN Elementary, a brick building built in
1894! It is Spokane District #312 and features
an enrollment of 44! (according to their website).

http://www.gngoat.org/geg_school1.jpg
http://www.gngoat.org/geg_school2.jpg
http://www.gngoat.org/geg_school3.jpg

See you in Spokane in July! The End.