Road to Montana, day 2:

August 27, 2010

Left the small farming town of Madras, Oregon and headed north on U.S. 97.

Oh, I neglected to mention that on Day One, North of Redmond and Terra Bonne, I pointed out to my sister the crossing of what I call the “little Grand Canyon”. If you haven’t been on that route, it takes you by surprise — all the sudden you cross a bridge and it almost looks as if you are crossing the Grand Canyon.

Anyway, headed out into the dry hills and through Cow Canyon and across the high desert plateau and took a ever-so-slight detour down the main street of Shaniko where a magnificent and quite authentic Old West style hotel sits — it’s closed, but it’s for sale. The whole town looked empty. But it’s a fairly genuine-looking relic out of the Old West, with only a hint of an attempt at an amusement park.

Back out through the high desert on 97 we slowed down as the speed limit sign calls for us to do through the farm town of Grass Valley — some of the sagebrush lands give way to dry land grain fields there.

A man sitting contentedly in a lawn chair out front of his Airstream trailer was watching the traffic go by.

I convinced my sister that we should take 97 on over the Columbia River into Oregon, even though the quickest route to Spokane, our next rest-for-the-night stop, would be to hang a right on I-84.

Got back into the evergreen trees and climbed Satus Pass and then down into the dry desert again and into the Yakima Indian Nation Reservation. A flagman stopped us. I told my sister that the Indians sometimes asked for “tribute”. Okay it was road construction. Only a slight delay.

Dropped down some more into the irrigated farming country and through the town of Toppenish and hung a right on I-82 and took a slight detour through the town of Zillah — I like the name. Nice town — built on a hill.

Then back eastwardly bound on I-82 and we stopped where I wanted to go on this route, the Teapot Dome Service Station. The little building is built in the shape of a teapot, with shingled exterior walls and a roof that looks like the lid of a teapot, and there is a handle and a spout on either side. The service station is no longer in operation. I understand it was built in 1922 as a kind of spoof, if you will, on the Teapot Dome Scandal of the early 20th Century that involved illicit activity in the granting of federal government oil leases in the Harding administration. We did not have regular cameras, but tried to get shots with our cell phones. You know? When the outside sunlight is glaring it’s hard as heck to see what you’re shooting with those cell phone cameras.

Into Washington State, north of the Tri Cities, Pasco and Richland and Kennewick, we ran into a dust storm out of the rolling sagebrush and grasslands. Not bad enough in most places to really obscure vision to the extent that it prevented safe driving, but a lot of dust nonetheless. There was a fairly high wind, and I presume the dust was coming off of cultivated lands that I know are close by. Lots of farming in the area. I have hauled many a load of potatoes out of the region in my time.

Where U.S. 395 joins I-90 is the town of Ritzville. And I know I describe all towns as “farming towns”, but that’s what it is. We took a little detour through what is described by sign as the Historic downtown of Ritzville. If you never have and have a chance to do so, I would recommend you do. It’s still appears to be a going community and you will see what old towns with their main streets and businesses looked like years ago. I’d give you any number of modern shopping malls and big box stores for an old fashioned Main Street any day.

Reached the edge of Spokane by late afternoon (I‘m actually writing these words on 8-26-10), which we plan to take a little tour of tomorrow.

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ADD 1:

That dust I mentioned earlier seems to be smoke now — there are several wildfires in the region.

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I jumped on the free wi-fi, something I’ve just in the last day become accustomed to. It’s sure a lot faster than my AT&T mobile card or even my DSL hookup at home — and it’s free (with the motel room).

P.S.

This is not meant to be an exciting travelogue — just some musings by a somewhat lost soul who misses his dearly departed wife and best friend ever of 43 years and who is taking a trip with his sister.

P.s. P.s.

I highly recommend the Best Western Motel in Madras, Oregon.

I do not recommend the Best Western Motel in Spokane on Geiger — unless you like slamming doors. I haven’t gone to bed yet — but that can’t be good.

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The Road to Montana, day 1:

August 26, 2010

As a truck driver, I’m taking the proverbial busman’s holiday, helping my sister drive to Montana (in her car) for a family get together. I’ve never been to Montana.

Day one got off to a good enough start, leaving Redding, California, where I live, that is until we were many miles into the Sacramento River Canyon and too late to turn back and some chance remark I made to my sister reminded her to ask if I had brought my sleeping bag and some towels, things we were told we all needed to stay in a cabin in the woods — uh, no, I forgot.

I drive U.S. 97 frequently, but I’ve always wondered what that weird statue object in front of a place called the Chrome Shop, between Klamath Falls and Chemult, Oregon is. It’s kind of a cross between a dinosaur, and rhinoceros, and a, well I don’t know, some kind of wild creature.

Stopped and spent time at the High Desert Museum just south of Bend, Oregon. Lots of parents with little children were there and a bus load of school kids had just left. Quite an extensive display on prostitution in the old west — I guess a new emphasis on telling it like it is or was in history. But, honestly, if you’re ever up that way you should stop. Lots of interesting things on area history and native Americans, okay Indians. Also plant and wild creature exhibits, inside and outside. And also a play area for the kids, and even a temperature controlled place to leave pets. And one feature that was especially good was sound effects in some of the old west exhibits (but no sound effects for the first exhibit I mentioned). Also quite a display on card cheating apparatus used in the old west — and a pretty good replica of an old west saloon.

We’re not going long haul each day. We only got as far as Madras, Oregon (I think a five or six-hour drive out of Redding).

Stopped at a motel. I had been driving. Got out of the car. Later my sister asked if I had the keys. I thought I left them in the car (something I never do, but). I didn’t; they were in my pocket.

Probably the only real excitement of the day.

I’ll try to update as I go along.