Why Americans sing about Route 66, rather than Route 12, I cannot say. A song needs to be written and soon. Highway to Heaven might be a good title. Oh wait, that's already taken. Besides, it would set Montanans and Idahoans arguing about its direction.
My part of US 12 today ran through a wooded valley via a steep mountain pass formerly inhabited - together with a lot more of America than is now their lot - by the Nez Perce nation. Much of it is close to "the Nez Perce Historic Trail", which follows the route taken by the tribe in fleeing from the US Army. They fought rearguard actions the whole way in which 100 of each side (including women and children of the Nez Perce) were killed. They finally surrendered just short of the Canadian border in Montana (they were fleeing to join Sitting Bull under the protection of the Great White Mother) with the dignified words of the now-much-memorialised Chief Joseph;
Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.
I crossed from Montana into Idaho at the Lolo Pass, where I stopped at a "welcome center" prudently shared between the two states and doubling as a National Parks information station. It was unmanned when I was there, but was a charming place.
A local who had spotted me earlier at the welcome center came to speak to me later in the day as we waited to be allowed onto a section reduced to a single track by roadworks. When he told me he has a house at either end of US12 and drives it regularly, I said that he was living the life I had been fantasising as I drove. What a lucky guy. I swear if I were him, having changed his enormous 4x4 for something sportier, I would chuckle with delight every time I drove that route, particularly at the road sign that says "Sharp turns ahead - 99 miles".
I stopped for lunch at Lowell, ID, which has a population of 23. Until recently, as the town sign shows, it had 24. I hope the former inhabitant did not suffer the same fate as Nemesis, a black cat of the village which finally settled the question of whether they are lucky or not by running in front of a truck and dying while I was eating there. His poor owner was distraught and my waitress was planning to give her a hug once her shift was done. I hope it helped.
My hotel room in Lewiston has a back door onto a garden which overlooks the local State Park. It doesn't quite have any of the spectacular views from Speranza's windows today, but it comes pretty close. And it cost me a premium of $10 for the night. I am typing this with my "garden door" open, enjoying the late afternoon sun. A pleasant end to a thoroughly enjoyable day.
I expected a "check the box" crossing of the state of Idaho today. I have been surprised to find it the best run of the tour so far. To echo the compliment paid by a young man I photographed with his camera phone in Speranza's driving seat at a gas station, it was "righteous".
Amen, my Idahoan brother.