( Beginning of this Adventure )
Monday, May 22nd - This day I was finally headed somewhere new (Spokane)! Unfortunately to get there I'd have to drive up the boring ole five a hundred or so miles to Portland, which I love, without having time to stop there, and then I'd be in new territory for the next several hours.
As mentioned last entry, I left my friends Garian and Charlie's house in the morning just as they were leaving for work. I didn't really describe Eugene last entry but as I drove through it both coming and going I was really struck by how nice it seems. I've never been to any downtown area it may or may not have but everything I saw was tree lined streets and cute houses surrounded by lush shrubbery, it seemed extremely nice.
Between Eugene and Portland the road is straight and boring. The kind of multi-lane highway that just steamrollers you through an environment, and even what you do see from it has been corrupted by it, as gas stations and businesses catering to the traffic crop up by the road and everything quaint wilts away from the concrete behemoth that breaths exhaust fumes and traffic noises.
Still though, the surroundings are mostly farmland, and any little corner of undeveloped land sprouts a thick forest of trees as if the blanket of woods that once covered this land can only barely be held back.
One shoots through the brief urban landscape of the state capitol, Salem, and then it's more of the same until you get to Portland, by far the biggest city in Oregon. Here you actually see highrises and overpasses and it took maybe half an hour to traverse the cityscape. Across the Columbia river, north of Portland, is "Vancouver," which is really just the northern suburbs of PDX (as locals call Portland), and this is confusing because of course if you were to follow the Five a few more hours north, you would arrive in Vancouver. Apparently Portland was founded by two very unimaginative men, one from Vancouver BC and one from Portland MN and they couldn't agree which of their home towns to name it after so they named one side of the river after one and the ther after the other (Oh if only they'd been a bit more imaginative and gone with Portcouver or Vancland or something). As it happens my travels took me off the Five here onto the 84, a somewhat smaller four lane highway that heads East from PDX following right along the southern bank of the Columbia river.
( Embedded map hates Coeur D'Alene for some reason, click here for whole map )
The Columbia river is so wide you can easily see how it can be navigated by ships, and I couldn't help but picture the tallship Lady Washington out in the middle. My time aboard said ship has already come up many times in this present travelogue and I'm assuming it'll continue to. I first joined the boat in the Vancouver that's across the river from Portland and we sailed down the river westward to the sea, but the boat does go as far east upriver as, well, at least Pasco I guess. There's a fun song which I can't find audio of on the internet but the lyrics are here (if you want to use google fu to try to find an actual recording, the version I've always heard is by William Pint, and I note he does have a CD for sale with it on it that you can buy. If you're into sea shanties, it is worth a buy), about a time the Lady Washington sailed way up the river to Pasco in Eastern Washington. The last stanza describes the area:
"Oh, Pasco is a dreadful place;
It's a land that's seldom green;
Where dust storms blow, trains do come and go,
And tall ships are seldom seen, brave boys,
Tall ships are seldom seen.
For the first several hours though the road continues surprisingly straight along the southern bank for the river. The Columbia gorge was apparently blasted through the countryside by a torrential prehistoric floods from glacial lakes, which might explain why its surprisingly straight for a river. On either side the countryside was once again alternating thick forest or, where flat enough, farmland.
Early on I passed a billboard for the "naked winery," in fact, I think I passed at least three billboards. At first I didn't even take note but by the third it had lodged in my brain and I was dying to know, what IS the naked winery?? Is it some swanky strip club with a winery theme? Is it an actual winery tasting room for nudists? Surely that sounds like a bad idea. When I stopped to eat and get gas in The Dalles, after I had googled what the heck the origin of the name of the Dalles was (apparently French for "the chutes," referring to the narrowing of the river here) I had to google the Naked Winery. Despite the innuendoes made on their billboards my very brief examination of their webpage seemed to indicate that it was just a winery. "Naked," is probably their chic way of saying they're organic like "naked juice," 'and other such "clever" hipster marketing ploys ::eyeroll::.
Now as I may have mentioned I like to seek out non-chain little restaurants as I travel, and here in the Dalles I found a place called Burgerville that, I dunno if it has any other locations but I for one had never heard of it and it was new to me. I had a delicious hickery bacon burger with a side of DEEP FRIED ASPARAGUS which I think every burger place should have as a side from now on. And I once again pulled a flagrant Australianism. At first I tried to order a small drink, and the cashier said "are you sure, this is the small," holding up a tiny cup, and without thinking I exclaimed "THAT'S TOINY!!" and then as she looked at me with a "you're not from around here are you look" I ashamedly realized I had TOTALLY inserted an O in a word in which it didn't belong. Ironic because I'd expect a toiny drink in Australia, but in 'Murica, come on!
Now getting gas in Oregon is something I find very tedious -- you cannot pump your own gas! The first gas station I pulled into in Oregon, remembering this, I waited for a minute or two at a pump but no one came up as I remembered happening. So I got out and looekd around and didn't see any obvious employees. Thinking maybe they had thank god changed the law I went to swipe my card in the reader but it wouldn't work. So I go inside, where I _did_ encounter an overweight man with a mullet and his overweight rat-tailed son filling up 64oz sodas ('Murica!), I asked the cashier how I pay for gas and he said I needed to bring him some sort of ticket or something, when I still looked confused he explained I needed to get it from an employee outside. So I go out and after some observation determined that there WERE employees pumping gas they just had no uniform or indication of their official status. Presently I was able to get one's attention, he wrote me up some kind of ticket thing that I went in and paid for and then I came out and he was pumping my gas finally .... altogether I found this to be a thoroughly tedious method of getting my gas paid for and into my car!!
Interesting note on comparative gas pumping: In 'Straya, though they don't trust you to post-pay your restaurant meals, fueling your car, where you could easily accidentally drive off without paying, they always trust you to pay afterwords. And of course even though there's dozens and dozens of types of petroleum product we use in our daily lives, the one called gasoline is the one they call generically "petrol," and propane, butane, natural gas, and several other petroleum products they DO call generically "gas" ...
Shortley after the Dalles, the landscape became more like the "dreadful place," described in the song. Clearly we were entering the priaries and the land around the river valley looked flat and grass covered. Then the highway splits, with the 84 itself veering away from the river and taking a south-easterly directly, and the 82 (which I took) turning north, crossing the Columbia, and then shortly crossing it again (at the infamous Pasco), because the Columbia also turns here and heads up north-west.
From here the road leaves the river behind and just strikes off through mostly empty prairies for two hours until finally arriving in Spokane! Even though it seemed early for rush hour traffic (I think it was just before 3?) the traffic through the center of town was gnarly (and my phone GPS of course tries to avoid the most trafficky routes) and I think it took forty minutes just to get from the edge of town to my friend Brittney's apartment. Spokane itself looked a little smaller than Portland, I don't recall there being any particularly tall highrises, and I vaguely recall a number of old looking brick buildings in the downtown area. Having grown up far from Spokane all my life I've been saying it the way it looks like it should be pronounced (spoh-kane) but apparently it's (spoh-kenn) and I have serious trouble remembering to say it right.
This bridge gets mentioned further down in the entry but I'm putting it here to break up the text ;)
My friend Brittney I met when I was on the boat (I told you the boats are really going to keep coming up on this trip. In this case the Hawaiian Chieftian -- the two boats generally hang out together but I started as a volunteer on the Lady for two weeks and then a few months later got a paid position on the Chieftain and was on for nearly seven months). They had actually let me off for once (we got a day off once every two weeks if we were really lucky) and I had been chilling for awhile in a coffee shop in the tiny town of Port Orchard in the Puget Sound and she had been working at the coffee shop. We've kept in touch in the intervening seven years, and though in fact one weekend I was going to fly up to see her in 2014 or 2015 but actually had fully booked my flight on the wrong weekend, which I discovered only when tried to check in to my flight, and the weekend I had actually booked I had something I had to do, so that was a few hundred dollars down the drain for nothing. So this was the first time I've seen her since she served me coffee in 2010.
I've always liked to just skip over describing people because its hard but I'm trying to force myself not to shirk this (since originally posting the entries I've gone back and added a brief description of my friend Ben on day 0 and Garian in last entry). So Brittney, she's kind of slight, tattoos, lip rings in the position described as a snake bite apparently. While this description might make her sound kind of punkish, she these days is a conscientious mother to her three year old, Lily, and studiously undertaking online classes for a teaching degree.
Lily is an adorable little blonde ball of energy. I had brought her a little stuffed animal kangaroo but then when I searched my bags to give it to her I couldn't find it anywhere, I don't know for the life a me where it got to. Searched my bags, the car, then my parents house when I returned, and even here, it has simply hopped off. In other news by this point I was starting to notice that all my friends I had visited had three year olds, this was turning in to Tour de Toddlers. Also I'd never seriously thought about it before but it also made me realize just about all my friends are either married with kids now or at least well on their way. I'm officially the man-spinster!
So anyway, what is there to do in Spok-enn? Apparently.. leave and go to Idaho! After discussing what to do with the rest of the day we decided to go to Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, a mere half-hour east along the Spokenn River. Here in the bright summer late afternoon and early evening we walked along the docks beside the sparkling Lake Coeur D'Alene and ate at the rather nice restaurant in the hotel right on the water there.
Tuesday, May 23rd - Brittney had work as a nanny at 2pm but in the morning we went to a local botanical garden in Spokane. I love botanical gardens. One thing that was super impressive was the amount of pollen coming out of the tall pines in and around the botanical garden -- it was literally billowing like mist. A thick layer had accumulated on Brittsy's car in the mere hour or two we were there.
The botanical garden was nice, there was a Japanese Garden there and I particularly love Japanese Gardens.
After Brittsy went to work I drove to a state park just out of town on the west (downriver) side, "Bowl and Pitcher State Park." The camping and trailheads are on the inside of a bend in the river and there's a fun suspension bridge over the river here. Looking down, the river is moving so fast it's almost in rapids, and I saw some kayakers come shooting through. On the far side there's fun hiking trails all about. I spent the entire rest of the day hiking about here on the forest trails. Shortly I watching the sun set amongst the trees (nice and late in the evening) Brittney called to let me know she was headed home so I came back, and we watched Moina, as one does when there's a three year old girl about (actually I quite rather liked it as far as Disney movies go. It's about sailing and actually doesn't have any mushy romance at all! and my dear ex Kori is Hawaiian).
Wednesday, May 24th -
Woke up on the couch with Brittney's two cats again (Bella and Nightmare), all I can remember doing that morning is that we went for a walk (Brittney lives only minutes from the river... so far my impression is that everything in this area is somehow minutes from the river) and fed some Canadian geese.
And then it was time for me to continue on north! Which is a tale for another day!
( Beginning of this Adventure )
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