Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Day 14 - Missoula, MT to Ellensburg, WA

This photo is technically from Day 13 but I took this from our campsite in Missoula after I published my blog yesterday.  So I thought I would begin with the end of a nice day and go from there.  Day 14 was 361 miles to Ellensburg, WA.  Driving days seem to lend themselves to random thoughts and that's what I have for today. 

"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us" - Charles Bukowski

  • Don't drive with the door handle of the fifth wheel still extended.  If you aren't lucky you will snap your door handle off when you pass a trailer truck.  We were lucky.  Brett spotted the handle, we didn't scrape the truck and there was an exit ramp handy so that we could pull off and get everything tucked in. 
  • We noticed two towns that were pretty much right next to each other both had schools with Cougar mascots.  Wouldn't this be confusing if their teams played each other?  "Cougars score!!".
  • We have seen a lot of casinos in Montana.  Practically any corner with a gas station has a gas station/casino.  Okay, maybe not every corner but there are 68 casinos in Montana.
  • The Clark Fork River seems to be everywhere today.  It is 310 miles long and the largest river by volume in Montana.  I90 follows much of the upper course of the river.  Highway engineers are smart to follow those rivers.  Water seems to know the easiest way to get through the mountains.  Merriwether Lewis named the river for William Clark.  Don't confuse it with the Clark's Ford on the Yellowstone River!
  • File:Fall Clark Fork.jpg
  •  I wouldn't want to live on Petty Crime Road!
  • The motto of Montana is "Oro y Plata" (gold and silver)
  • Huckleberries are very popular in Montana.  They look like blueberries to me.  Every year lots of folks go out to pick them.  They have to get them fast because they are the grizzlies favorite food.  There is a 10 gallon limit by law.
  • The drivers in Montana are a hearty lot.  We saw an SUV do a u-turn on I90.  Nothing really unusually except there was no little cross road to turn on.  They just drove straight across a rather wide median.
  •  Rest areas are good places to meet new people.  At Lookout Pass we met a nice man who was walking his dachshund.  I love dachshund and dream of one day owning one.  His name would be Umlaut (like the punctuation).  Then we met a truck driver who does the route from Pennsylvania to Seattle every week.  He told us that this was bear country and that he often sees them.  We did not. 
  • The first part of the panhandle of Idaho seemed to be mostly downhill.  You'd think that with over 500 miles left to get to sea level they might have done it more gradually.  In truth, we haven't gotten to sea level yet.
  • One rest area had a marker praising the early road builders.  They were nice roads but it turns out the pioneers didn't use them because the route was too rough.  I can vouch for that.
  • 4th of July Pass is a nice name for a pass.  The road crew celebrated 4th of July 1861 on top of this mountain as they took a break from clearing a path for the road.  It is near Coeur d'Alene which is also a nice name.  It is named after the Coeur d'Alene people, a tribe of American Indians who lived in the region.  Translated from the French it means "heart of an awl", a reflection of the perception that the tribe's traders were tough businessmen.  
  • We spotted a cell phone tower trying to disguise itself as a lodgepole pine.  It was not successful.
 Lunch was a quiet, intimate affair at a Flying J truck stop in Spokane.  This was a very busy spot and all the places to park involved backing up the whale.  Brett executed the maneuver perfectly.

West of Spokane the terrain changed again.  We were on the Columbia Plateau aka the Columbia Basin.  The topography is called Channeled scablands and involves erosion of volcanic basalt. 

There are a lot of lakes in the area and we saw a lot of RV's on the highway today.  This is also range land and agricultural land.  There appeared to be wheat and corn grown here (quite a few large silos could be seen) as well as potatoes (they are harvesting now), grapes and apples.  I saw several big trucks full of crates marked Honey Crisp.

What we saw most of was hay.  Field and field of mown hay, trucks carrying very neatly stacked bales and then these long, plastic barns filled to the brim with hay.  Based upon the signs, I'd say the hay is raised to be sold elsewhere rather than to feed the rancher's own livestock.

People still surprise me.  I laughed out loud when we were passed by a new silver corvette with the top down driven by the requisite blond.  Said blond had her hair done up in very large pink hair curlers.

Not far from our destination we stopped at a scenic lookout to admire the Columbia River.  This also gave us a good close up of the basalt rocks and of sage brush.  Sage brush has quite a distinctive smell (not unlike creosote).

We arrived safely at our Ellensburg WA campground at about 3:30pm.  After a couple of whirls around the campground and a little more practice backing up the whale, we are ensconced in our lovely campsite on the Yakima River.  Brett has visited with just about everybody here and we are settled down for a relaxing evening.  Tomorrow it is over the Cascades and into Seattle. 

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