Potatoes, wide open fields and a big red truck plowing through the pastors: that’s always been my mind’s-eye view of Idaho. Before this week, I had never been, but the clarity in my mental picture almost told me I had.
Last year, the Epson Tour announced that we would be playing a new event in Worley, Idaho, 30 minutes south of Coeur D’ Alene. I quickly took to my computer and mapped out my travel, using Google as a tour guide for sights I’d like to see. When my search results appeared, I was quickly taken aback by my skewed mental image. Online I saw a big clear lake, beautiful pines, small towns and rolling hills of native grass, exactly opposite to the never-ending potato fields I once imagined.
Due to my schedule, rest, and travel, I opted to take the week off last year. However, this year it was stapled into my calendar. Last year, the beautiful pictures, cooler weather and varying scenery had me sitting at home with FOMO. Now, here I am.
I arrived Monday and kicked off the day by exploring Coeur D’ Alene. Accompanied by my dad, we hopped on a wave runner and took in the opportunity to be on such beautiful water. Those initial Idaho memories will last longer than the potatoes on my dinner plate.
On Tuesday morning, we woke up at the Coeur D’ Alene Casino in Worley. With an innate curiosity to explore the local culture and community, I googled local coffee shops. The closest one I could find was 15 minutes away in the town of Rockford. The name of the spot - Tom Sawyer's Country Coffee – caused flashbacks of high school and deep dives into the Mark Twain novel.
After a short drive through the tall pines and winding hills, Siri directed us to turn right into the parking lot. Surrounded by farm machinery, a few barns and two roosters singing “cock-a-doodle-do,” we wondered if we’d somehow gotten lost. It seemed like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer had turned into The Adventures of Brynn Walker.
After the roosters rocked our boat, we hopped back in the car and followed the directions for a drive-through. That’s when Hannah rolled down the window and told us the entrance was just on the corner of the barn. Not exactly the image I had in my head of a coffee shop, but I’d say the same thing about Idaho, too.
When we opened the door it was like a haven in the land of harvest. Coffee, cookies, pastries, clothes, gifts, and new knowledge that surpassed my initial search. Shortly after we ordered, the owner, Jeff, came out to introduce himself. Jeff was born and raised in this part of Idaho and grew up farming family land. Over a cup of coffee and bites of a breakfast burrito, I learned things about Idaho that I’d never known.
First, it’s not just a big potato fight out here. The southern part of the state takes care of our French fry cravings. Up here they harvest wheat, grain, garbanzo beans and fresh-picked huckleberries. Perhaps the healthier harvest is found in the north.
The ponderosa pines aren’t the only thing native to the land. The tournament site, Circling Raven Golf Club, is built on an Indian reservation. The course carves through some 700 acres of the sacred land of the Coeur d’ Alene Tribe. The tribe's original name was “Schitsu’umsh”, meaning “those who were found here.” Throughout the casino, course and countryside we get a true taste of the native culture, another part of Idaho that I didn’t know.
That’s the lesson I’ll walk away with this week. We never know until we go. Until we surround ourselves in the culture, the countryside and the course. It’s one of the greatest parts of this job. Learning about the land of others and creating a home away from home. Because now I can share all the things I once didn’t know about Idaho.