Wham Bam Thank You FAM Tour

Slideshow: FAM Tour of North Idaho
Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of retirees who volunteer for the downtown Coeur d'Alene Museum Visitor Center on a FAM (Familiarization) Tour of Sandpoint, Coeur d'Alene and surrounding areas. The group also did the Silver Valley one day, but I had to sit that one out due to a severe case of the Zips Ick. We piled in a rented Omnibus and trekked off Northward to Sandpoint on the first day. Our first major stop of the day was for a tour of the amazingly gorgeous Panida theatre. Our hostess was the lovely Karen Bowers, who has been managing the place for twenty years. She had some great stories about the historic movie house, which now hosts live music and dance along with a great selection of under-the radar films in it's Global Cinema series. Intriguingly, there are random elements of Coeur d'Alene's long-gone but beloved Wilma theatre that live on at the Panida, including a ticket box, an art deco mirror and giant gold silk curtains. Karen took us up into the balcony, which is possibly the most comfortable place ever to watch a flick, with it's overstuffed red velvet love seats, and let us see the place from the performer's vantage point of the stage. Next up was a tour of Pend O'Reille winery, which was quite interesting, but we were a little miffed that nobody broke out some bottles for a tasting. The owner took in back and showed us the humongous wine-making vats and pungent barrels in cold storage. It wasn't much of a tour, but our tour guide was the owner himself, and he was chatty enough to make the experience recommendable. Next we zhoozhed across town to the Laughing Dog Brewery, located in a modern industrial building near the Bonner Mall. The main lobby consists of a gift shop and tap room, and unlike the Winery, these guys were eager to pour out the free samples. The Huckleberry brew was yumm-o, but the "Devil Dog" was the stuff, light and sweet and full of hoppiness. A few of these made the rather dry nature of the brewery tour a little more bearable. It was back to downtown for lunch at the Coldwater Creek wine bar. They were certainly super to make us such a fantastic lunch - gourmet panini sandwiches, potato corn chowder, and a delicious salad with feta cheese and candied pecans. However, they weren't shy about urging us to spend, spend, spend. Beer? Wine? Don't forget to go downstairs and shop your heart out. Unfortunately for them, no one really did, but they were still nice enough to hand us a gift bag on the way out the door consisting of one of their verbally entertaining catalogs, a coupon, and a little keychain with a silver ladies shoe. Yes, us male types were thrilled about that, needless to say. Our bus took us down to Sandpoint city beach, but it was pouring rain, so we didn't get out to investigate. Instead, we opted for the indoor fun of the Bonner County Museum, which is quaint and a little bizarre, like the best small-town museums always are. I love when they use mannequins for their random displays, their hollow eyes eternally gazing permanently out at dusty displays and fusty museum-goers. On of the most notable displays here was a giant display case full of dozens of handmade, miniature dresses, each representing America's First Ladies from Martha Washington up to Nancy Reagan, which is probably when the creator of this project went to the big sewing machine in the sky. Also fun was the random collection of old fashioned (and really frightening) medical machines and devices that actually resemble instruments of torture. The Bonner County museum ain't so huge, and even those with the stretchiest attention spans could see everything in the place within twenty minutes. It was ta-ta to Sandpoint and Silverwood here we come. Sadly, it was still pouring out which put a bit of a damper on the idea of riding one of the coasters. I was rather looking forward to seeing which of my senior citizen lady tour mates was going to be ballsy enough to ride the Timber Terror with me, but we ended up running out of time anyway. We did, however, get a chance to preview the new section of the water park a few days before it's official debut to the the public. Our hostess, Silverwood marketing diva and eyebrow queen Nancy DiGiammarco, pushed umbrellas in our hands and we followed her for what seemed like miles until we reached the new attractions. It was only two days from opening, and workers were scrambling around in the mud trying to get things ready. The new waterslides were pretty neat-o, and I wished I was 12 again so that I really could have gotten revved up about it. However, standing in a downpour with tired legs and cottonmouth with a bunch of soggy seniors was making me want to make a run back to the bus and wait it out. Thankfully, Nancy decided to pull us inside Lindy's Restaurant, an amazing place that makes you feel like you just stepped back in time to 1873. Wild Elizabethan furnishings and floral arrangements bigger than myself make for a very surreal, yet somehow relaxing atmosphere. Everyone was thrilled when we were presented with free Silverwood tickets and stuffed Pookie dolls (Garfield's friend). We exhaustedly piled back on the Omnibus and headed homeward for the day. Day Two was the day I missed, Kellogg and Wallace. Apparently, I picked the right day to miss because lunch was hosted that day by Silver Mountain, whose make-your-own-sandwich-on-a-stale-roll concept paled next to Tuesday's chi-chi fixings at Coldwater Creek and what was still yet to come on Thursday at the Coeur d'Alene Inn. Day three of the FAM tour took in Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls, and Hayden. We spent the first few hours just driving around town and everyone pitched in commentary, pointing out places of curiosity and reknown, as well as the many new construction projects going up everywhere. Many of my tour mates had a lot of interesting history to tell, and a lot of them were recent transplants who were unfamiliar with their new town, but I think everyone managed to learn some new things, so that was fun. We went all the way around Hayden Lake to get a look at the majestic Clark House, the headed back down to Triple Play, where we were able to stretch our legs and have a look around. Our tour guide Jennifer was, by some cosmic coincidence, Nancy the Silverwood diva's sister and guess what - same hypnotic eyebrows. Triple Play is a ton of fun and all, but it's darn muggy in there, so it was nice when we were led through the arier confines of the adjoining Holiday Inn Express. The rooms here were surprisingly nice, and some even have bunk-beds and video game consoles. We were again gifted with free tickets to Triple Play, which will be great to re-gift since I know I'll never use them myself. I wasn't overly excited about free lunch at the Coeur d'Alene Inn. Not that Mulligans is that bad or anything, but that's the only place my grandmother will go to eat, so I was bored with the menu. However, general manager Steve Wilson had a clever trick up his sleeve and had the Bonzai Bistro and Beachouse restaurants provide sushi rolls and fresh Crab claws as appetizers along with croissant sandwiches and pasta salad. Yes! Of course, I was delighted that some of the ladies in our group were squeamish about the sushi because that meant more for me. Everyone scarfed out on the buttery crab which, according to the chef, was some type of rare specimen usually available only on the east coast. As if we weren't spoiled enough, they topped us off with fresh brownies. We moaned as we waddled back to the bus and squeezed back int0 our seats. Our trek through Hagadonia continued at the CDA Resort itself, where we tripped out on the new carpeting which with it's wavy blue lines over white negative space creates an effect somewhere between dramamine and LSD when walked upon. Seriously, the ladies were complaining of dizziness and hallucinations. We were led into the recently remodeled Spa, which is indeed gorgeous and ripe with trickling water, meditation zones and good aromas. However, all the smell-good salts in the world couldn't cover up the stench of money that oozed from the Spa patrons who glared at our tour group with eyes that said "Who are you and why are you interrupting my $800 foot scrub; Don't you know my designer bath robe is worth more than your house?" There was a shower stall with 18 full-force jets from every direction head-to-toe, which in itself is enough to make even me consider a membership. Supposedly, the Resort was full so we didn't get to see any of the new-look suites. I got over that heartbeak real quick when i found out we were hopping one of the cruise boats for a voyage to the Resort golf course. I soon realized this was just a trap, a way for the Hagadrone tour hostess to continue pushing his various restaurants on us - she even brought menus from all the different places and carried on and on. I wasn't having it - I went outside on the deck in the rain and snapped photos of the off-limits beaches and private castles that now line the lake shore. At the golf course, we "toured" the pro shop and hung out for a while in the clubhouse lounge, reveling in the fact that it was likely the only time poor locals such as we would find ourselves in that very place. Actually, they were nice enough to send us off with gift bags, including a golf bag tag actually engraved with our name! Nice touch. Somehow, our exhausted group managed to survive one more adventure - a trip to the Cd'A Casino. Unfortunately, they didn't cough up any free gambling money for us, but we were given a full tour of the place, and I was able to see parts of the place I'd never seen. We filed into the "Presidential Suite" of the hotel, and when our hostess mentioned that Merge Haggard stayed there, several ladies in our group gasped with delight. I have to admit, it was a gorgeous room and included the hugest jet whirlpool bathtub I've seen, a full kitchen, seperate bedrooms and was semi-affordable ($250-ish). It would be a blast to get a few friends to pitch in and get the suite for a wild night of Casino action. Our tour guide left out nothing, and it was past 5 by the time we dragged our spent bodies back on the bus. For the ride home, our bus driver, a man who just sort of comes with the rental of the bus, decided to put on some music for the first time and much to the glee of myself and a few others, the music he picked was Abba Gold. "Turn it up, man!" we said and began singing along: "Knowing me, knowing you, uh-huh..." All in all, the FAM tour was really fun, and I got a chance to undertake all those touristy things that we lucky residents take for granted and never actually do. Plus, I learned how much local businesses really roll out the red carpet when they know you have the power of tourist recommendation. Free lunch, free swag, fun times - no complaints here! Thanks to Raechelle for making it happen, and thanks to all the folks who put in their time and energy to make the tour so neato.

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That sounds like so much fun... there really is more to that area than Mik & Mac's... I still have all of LA to tour as well and I've been here for like 7 years.. I should get on that
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