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February 24, 2022

Everything you need to know about Spokane: Host of the 2022 USATF Indoor Championships

The 2022 USATF Indoor Championships are all set to take place in Spokane, Washington, on Saturday, February 26th through Sunday, February 27th, at the city’s brand new, state-of-the-art venue, The Podium.

If you’re heading out to eastern Washington to watch, you’re gonna be in hog heaven! Time to sit perfectly still with eyes unblinkingly focused on the action on the track, and take various athlete splits on the several stopwatches you brought with you for some reason — no need to even think about anything else, right? WRONG.

You’re visiting one of the oddest and most charming mid-sized cities in the country. You owe it to yourself to do more than be Ubered back and forth between the track and your Bing Crosby-themed Airbnb.

But what are you supposed to do with your free time? You’ve never been to Spokane. Hell, you aren’t even sure whether to pronounce it “spoh-KANE” or “spoh-KAN.” 

Lucky for you I have spent about 20 non-consecutive days in Spokane. It’s pronounced, “spoh-KAN.” And here’s what you need to know.

Where to run

According to a book he wrote from the perspective of his shadow, Spokane legend and eccentric rascal Gerry Lindgren would routinely run 300+ mile weeks, so clearly there are plenty of places to train around town. He’s alleged — alleged by himself, that is — to have regularly jogged the 80+ miles to the top of Mount Spokane and back. This is an option for you, too, of course. 

But if you’re looking for something more along the lines of rolling trails in a state park, or a flatter, paved bike path, many of Spokane’s powerhouse high school cross country teams log the bulk of their mileage alongside the roaring Spokane River. You might hear gunshots while running in this area — those are courtesy of the Spokane Rifle Club. You kind of get used to it, and running through a Ponderosa pine forest is very pleasant either way. If you felt inclined, you could go “Sicko/Lindgren Mode” and run all the way to Idaho because the path goes that far.

Another option is to run the course of the famed Bloomsday Run. Founded by Don Kardong — fourth-place finisher at the 1976 Olympic marathon — in 1977, it’s among the world’s most prestigious 12k races and gives you a good taste of the cityscape beyond downtown. 

And Fun fact! “Bloomsday” is not named for the Lilac City’s numerous purple, flowering lilac bushes, but rather for Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of James Joyce’s postmodernist magnum opus, Ulysses, a long and “challenging” book I don’t think I, nor you, will likely ever read.

Where to eat

Go to Atilano’s (725 West 3rd Avenue) for some incredible and economical “San Diego-style” Mexican cuisine. There might be better places to eat in Spokane, but there aren’t places to eat in Spokane that I have been to more often. Plus it’s open until 2 a.m. Anyone who is anyone will be nodding off in an Atilano’s booth at closing time — are you anyone?

The Washington burrito (a California burrito but with chicken instead of carne asada) is great. As is the regular California burrito. One day in 2014 I had an Atilano’s bean and cheese burrito for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and each was terrific. 

Don’t like burritos? That’s a bummer. But good news: there are also hamburgers. If you like those, check out Dick’s Hamburgers (10 East 3rd Avenue). For those familiar with the chain of burger joints in Seattle by the same name, confusingly, this place is unrelated. But the food is similarly good, and the prices similarly fair.

Please do not confuse Spokane Dick’s for any of the Seattle Dick’s locations. Especially not the one where that dork Macklemore shot part of a music video. If you mention that in line, buddy, you’re liable to get your ass kicked!

Where to drink

I’ve only had positive experiences while going out in Spokane. I even saw two-time NBA champion Adam Morrison at the club once! But if you’re coming to town clamoring for a “Wild Duck kind of night,” you’re not gonna find it. There is not a “track bar” in Spokane — or really anywhere else in America, for that matter.

But I have it on good authority that Jack and Dan’s (1226 N Hamilton Street) might just become “the spot” during USA Indoors. A Gonzaga-area bar and grill that boasts LANDMARK STATUS, folks, Jack and Dan’s was listed among Sports Illustrated’s 25 best sports bars in America at some point. (The graphic on their website doesn’t really say when they got that accolade, but a good sports bar is ultimately timeless and who are you to demand specifics, anyway?)

Go pay the fine folks at J&D’s a visit. It won’t be the Duck, but it should be a good time. This is the town that hosts Hoopfest, after all, the world’s largest outdoor 3-on-3 basketball tournament. During the last weekend in June each year, thousands of revelers descend on the sweltering, sun-scorched parking lots of downtown Spokane under the auspices of playing or watching generally medium- to low-quality basketball. People get sloshed and the occasional fistfight ensues, but ultimately it’s proof that in Spokane all it takes to start a party is some pals and the right attitude.

Wherever you wind up, tip well, be courteous to other, non-track nerd patrons, and have a nice time. 

Where to see the trash-eating goat sculpture

There are two things you need to know about Spokane:

  1. It hosted the 1974 world’s fair, an event that would forever alter the physical makeup of the city’s downtown neighborhood, which already felt incredibly distinct despite an outsized chunk of it formerly being occupied by a massive railyard. The Spokane River cuts through it and loudly cascades down a massive waterfall right in the center of town.
  2. David Lynch briefly lived in Spokane as a youngster in the 1950s and cited his time there as a major influence on Blue Velvet. This is to say there’s an underlying spookiness to the place, even if there’s not a concerted effort for it to feel that way. 

So of course, one of the most beloved physical legacies of the 1974 downtown transformation is a metallic sculpture of a goat that is hooked up to a subterranean vacuum so that if you put small pieces of garbage near its mouth it just sucks them up. It’s right by an enormous red wagon sculpture so you can’t miss it. You’re gonna want to check it out. And while there, poke around the rest of Riverfront Park, because it really is spectacular.

That’s it. That is everything you need to know before you descend on Spokane. Know that it will be a life-changing experience. After this weekend, wherever you go, you can say you’ve been to Spokane. 

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