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The Insider’s Guide to the Panhandles — Next Week.. Episode #1, Idaho

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Trivia question:

What is the CT’s favorite panhandle? Hint: For the geographically challenged, there are four American panhandles to choose from… Oklahoma, Texas, Florida or Idaho?

Answer:   We love them all.  Seriously.  We can’t decide.  Too hard. In fact, the word “Panhandle” sends any Contrarian into a state of thrall. Why?

The Panhandles are perhaps the most overlooked, most frequently ridiculed, most culturally unique, most culinarily under-rated places in the United States.  The Panhandles: home to some of our favorite American towns — Lubbock, Tallahassee,  Destin, Coueur d’ Alene, Pensacola, Amarillo – our favorite beaches (St. Joseph Peninsula State Park), our favorite badlands (Oklahoma’s Black Mesa State Park), our favorite mountains (the Selkirks), and, perhaps most important, our favorite steak place (Amarillo’s The Big Texan State Ranch).

The Panhandles… virtually un-stained by the rank stench of tourism.  Sure, in the Panhandles, you might occassionally encounter a hostile Matt Kenseth supporter with a pre-1965 mindset on certain social issues, but…  it’s worth it. 

We’re deploying several of our crew to the Panhandles this year, to uncover some Panhandle secrets for the CT Members Only section.  (I mean, come on,  we have to be a little discreet about our Panhandle enthusiasms. And please, please — if you’re not a member –  do not tell the New York Times Escape section about this Panhandle stuff…  If you’re already a member, please send us some tips on Panhandle places/faves to check out. We will go. And we will cite your tip in our Panhandles Guide)




Meantime, our first Panhandle Report is from Lael Powell Rushing, who just returned from a car-camping trip to the northernmost reaches of the Idaho panhandle. He lefty us a scratchy,  nearly breathless message about his stay/ski-trip in Sandpoint, Idaho. 

The cell coverage was bad on Tuesday night, but we thought we could discern Lael saying something about Canada. Making a favorable comparison between Idaho’s Panhandle and some of the ski towns in south eastern British Columbia we dig, outside of Fernie.  Due to the unfavorable US dollar-to-Loonie exchange rate, we advise against travel in Canada this year. 

Lael send us a clarification:  

“As I said in my voice mail about Sandpoint, if you were a movie producer, and you couldn’t afford to do your movie in the U.S., so you looked for a Canadian venue, but then realized that the Canadian dollar is quite high, so instead looked again at the U.S., you might choose the Panhandle.  Especially if your movie was set in Wilkes-Barre, PA,  or Ithaca, NY.”

We’ll post Lael’s full Sandpoint report next week.  And for those of you who want up-to-date, insider Panhandle information, and promise not to contact the New York Times, please subscribe to The Quarterly Contrarian. 

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