Being number 9 of 10 kids growing up in my good Catholic home, I always knew I was part of something larger than life. Fast forward nearly 40 years of my married life, my siblings and I now live in three corners of the US (some were "left behind" in the "homeland" areas of Minnesota and North Dakota). This year, we decided to have an Ahmann family reunion in Spokane and explore the Inland Northwest.
When my family arrived, the first big meal was a famous lasagna followed by a “pie fest”, an Ahmann family tradition with at least one pie per two people, preferably one pie per person, and none being the same type of pie. Big meal, big table for 14 that night! Life is good. We opted to rent a vacation home just 15 minutes north of my home on Loon Lake. Between the lakefront rental and my “ranch” home, there was room for all - a little tight, but room enough. I wanted to make this a memorable visit by getting my siblings out of their comfort zones with four challenges.
Challenge one: The Spokane Party Trolley
I double pinky swore two of my sisters to secrecy before asking them to be the cheerleaders for the first event. The Spokane Party Trolley is a bicycle built for 14. What a great way to see Spokane by pedaling all together on a "Tour de Spokane". Concerns quickly arose, the double pinky-sworn cheerleaders chimed in to squash those concerns, and we all hopped up on those seats with a laugh and a box of Jimmy John sandwiches to go. We pedaled off to discover Spokane from a cyclist’s point of view. Highlights included River Park Square, historic Browne's Addition, and an awesome private tour of the Davenport Hotel.
Challenge two: The Sky Ride
A little easier challenge this time — a gondola ride over the Spokane River. No one leaped out, and we all bonded over the fear of the Falls. After touring around River Park Square, the downtown Spokane Library, and the Monroe Street Bridge, we spent the evening enjoying dinner at Anthony’s with a scenic view of the Falls and Spokane skyline.
Challenge three: The Dam Tour of the Northwest!
Loading 10 of us plus spouses, nieces, and nephews into three vehicles to tour the famous Boundary Dam near Canada was its own challenge! We caravanned across Northeast Washington, skirting the hills to come out near Metaline Falls. We ended up with a great dam tour guide named Jared. Burly man, bearded, plaid shirt, perfect for an Inland Northwest experience. We got the whole package to tour through and above the great Boundary Dam with a dam-side view of Canada too! Lunchtime was spent at a nearby Pend Oreille River park, enjoying another Northwest treasure: cold fried chicken from Yoke's! A staple of all Spokane natives.
Challenge four: Garner Caves
From the park we traversed hills and cliffs to wind up at Garner Caves. An amazing tour awaited us, and wait we did! We missed our 2:00PM tour and had to catch the 3:00PM tour instead. What to do? Hike half a mile to Canada through the woods! Without passports, off we went. We all shared in the ritual of picture-taking, sharing memories of our families and friends, and laughing. Gardner Caves greeted us when we arrived back in time for the tour. As far as caves go, Gardner Caves may not be the world’s best but hearing the history on its discovery and the world that exists below is an experience to share with your family and friends. We finished our cave tour, made a quick stop for photos at Box Canyon Dam along the Pend Oreille River, and traveled back to Spokane.
The remaining four days of the family reunion were filled with Loon Lake sunsets, meals, my grandson’s baptism, left-over pies, and more pies. Yes, it was a pie fest week and the best sibling reunion to remember together for long time!