Recreation and tourism concerns here say they're adapting to the lingering economic sluggishness by catering to locally focused vacationers in the mood for shorter holidays with activities closer to home.
Samples of minivacation options include a day or two on a motorcycle cruise, a "staycation" at a campground in a rented vehicle, a houseboat adventure on an expansive lake, a bike ride in the mountains, and a regional getaway golf outing.
R.J. Sarber, owner of Classic Rides Inc., of Spokane, says the BMW motorcycle rental business has seen a surge in interest from local riders who just want to tour the Inland Northwest for a day or two. That's a welcome addition to Classic Rides' clientele who come from all over the U.S. and the world for week-long or longer motorcycle tours, he says.
The Inland Northwest, Glacier National Park area, and the Canadian Rockies have a lot of curving roads and relatively light traffic that make them ideal for motorcycle touring during summer months, Sarber says. Part of U.S. 12, for instance, which winds across north central Idaho, is on many riders' "bucket lists," he says.
Classic Rides motorcycle rental rates are $150 to $180 a day, plus insurance, which costs $25 to $30 a day. Renters are required to have a motorcycle endorsement on their drivers' licenses. Fuel prices aren't of great concern, as the bikes get 40 to 50 miles per gallon, Sarber says.
The business is based at Westside Motorsports, at 4201 S. Grove Road, just south of Interstate 90. It also works through hotels here, including Red Lion Inns, the Coeur d'Alene Resort and Red Lion Hotels and the Hilton Garden Inn here.
On the other end of the rental vehicle spectrum, Matt Rounsley, manager at Brumback RV Rentals & Sales, in Spokane Valley, says motorhome and travel-trailer rentals have been picking up over the last three years, although people aren't traveling as far as they might have a few years ago.
He says many customers are staying at places within a day's drive, such as the Coeur d'Alene and Lewiston areas.
"We're seeing more of a trend toward travel trailers," he says. "A lot of people have SUVs and half-ton pickups that can tow anything we have."
Brumback rents RVs for a minimum of three days, although the average rental time is seven days, Rounsley says.
Brumback's fleet includes Class C motorhomes ranging from 26 to 31 feet long. Daily rental rates range from $159 to $250. Its towable rentals include tent trailers and 17- to 26-foot travel trailers with three-night rentals ranging from $275 to $400.
The company offers online educational videos and provides a one-hour orientation to customers new to using recreational vehicles, he says.
For those who don't have a towing rig and who don't want to drive a motorhome, Brumback offers a service in which it will set up a travel trailer at a customer's campsite so it's ready when the customer's family arrives there.
Lyle Parker, co-owner of Dakota Columbia Rentals LLC, a houseboat rental concern at Lake Roosevelt, says rentals have been slower to book this year, leaving room for more late-notice and shorter-term rentals.
Traditionally, most customers who come from the West Coast rent houseboats for at least a week. Short-term rentals tend to be locals from Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, Parker says.
"People come here because they don't have a houseboat%u2014not like we have," he says.
Dakota Columbia's fleet includes eight boats that each are 60 to 62 feet long and sleep 14 people, and two 35-foot boats that sleep six people.
The larger boats have room for two or three families that often share costs for the rental, Parker says. The smaller boats are ideal for two couples or a single family, he says.
Rates for three-night trips on the large boats range start at $2,995 in the early and late seasons, and peak at $4,395 in the busy summer season.
Three-day trips on the 35-foot houseboats start at $1,095 and peak at $1,795.
The boats come with full fuel tanks, and customers pay for the fuel that they use.
For those who like a bit of leisurely exercise in their adventure, the Route of the Hiawatha Trail is a not-too-distant option, says Bill Jennings, marketing director for Lookout Pass Ski Area, the concessionaire for the trail.
The Hiawatha, a former railroad grade that straddles the Idaho-Montana border, has grown in popularity every year since it opened for bicycling and hiking in 1998, Jennings says.
In addition to the rugged scenery, the 15-mile trail, now administered by the U.S. Forest Service, features seven high trestles and nine tunnels, including the 1.8-mile Taft tunnel.
The attraction could be enjoyed as a day trip or could be combined with an overnight stay nearby, such as in the historic mining town of Wallace, Jennings says.
"The Wallace area gets a lot of business from the trail," Jennings says. "It's actually a great getaway to stay in Wallace and ride the Hiawatha."
The town is about 20 miles west of the Hiawatha's upper trailhead. Trail passes can be purchased from a trail marshal along the trail or at Lookout Pass Ski Area for $9 for adults and $6 for children 13 and younger.
Bike rentals also are available at Lookout. Helmets and lights are required on the trail and also can be rented at the ski area.
Most people ride the trail one way, and a shuttle carries riders and their bikes back to the upper or lower trailhead, Jennings says. Shuttle tickets are $9 for adults, $6 for children 13 and younger, and free for children younger than 5 years old.
Many Inland Northwest golf courses team up with hotels and motels to offer discounts and packages to encourage stay-and-play mini vacations.
One getaway is the Chewelah Golf & Country Club, a few miles northwest of Chewelah, about an hour drive north downtown Spokane.
The semi-private course, about four miles northwest of the Chewelah city center, is larger than most rural golf courses with 27 holes.
Jason Pitt, the club's head pro, says half of the rounds there are played by members, and "about 80 percent of our outside play comes from Spokane."
Summer daily green fees are $50 for 18 holes and $60 for 27 holes on Friday through Sunday, $45 for 18 holes and $55 for 27 holes on Monday through Thursday.
Green fees include the use of a cart and a bucket of balls at the driving range. Walking rates are about $15 lower, but most people use carts because of the rolling terrain of the course, Pitt says.
The golf course works with some Chewelah-area lodging establishments to offer discounts to people who stay and play there, he says.
One such inn is the Nordlig Motel, in Chewelah, which currently offers customers discount vouchers toward green fees.
"We get lots of golfers," says Andrea Trudeau, who co-owns the motel with her husband, Paul.
The standard nightly rate there is $56 for a two person room, which includes a continental breakfast, Trudeau says.
Chewelah Golf & Country Club also has an RV park with 27 full hookups, Pitt says. Hook-up rates are $24 or $26, depending on the spot.
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