The prospect of an impending road trip brought both trepidation and excitement. The trepidation came with the thought of how difficult life on the road was, whilst putting in 6 to 12 hours of straight driving per day. On the mind, on the body, and particularly on the hips and back. If sitting is the new smoking, we had our case of smokes in hand and the windows rolled up for the duration! It only took 4 hours on the first day before the seized hips reminded me of the last big trip that we had shared together….Coast to Coast. Yoga had to be in my pocket and taken out regularly if the body was to survive this onslaught.
The excitement that was rolling up, like a building wave, not sure of the undertow but wanting to ride it hard, looking at the magical fall scenery which we somehow found ourselves amid. Like centre pieces on the Thanksgiving table, marvelling at the colours. Thankful for the setting of the table and not even really concerned about the nourishment to come….for ANY would be welcomed and savoured.
The scenery did not disappoint. The stretch of highway on Hwy 20 between Sedro-Wooley and Winthrop, Washington was amazing. Alive with oranges and yellows, interspersed by the blues and greens of the Methow River.
Winthrop provided a much needed rest stop a la Wild West, complete with some Billiards at 3 Fingered Jack’s Saloon and a great overnight at the Rio Vista Hotel.
The following morning, and ready for some grub, we ventured into the Rocking Horse Bakery where a fabulous long Espresso was served with a smile and a story.
The Barista had just finished a 4 month trip on the Pacific Crest Trail (http://www.pcta.org/). I immediately became engaged and listened attentively as she told her story of a solo journey, from Winthrop’s Trail Head of the PCT, up North, during the Spring/Summer, emerging just West of Manning Park lodge. My jaw dropped as she told me about the 9 pounds, that was her pack. In disbelief, I asked, ‘with a tent and a sleeping bag too?’ She nodded. ‘What about a stove?’ I retorted, thinking that a small burner alone would be a pound or two. ‘Oh, I didn’t cook. Everything I ate was cold.’
Of course, we touched on one of my favourite all time books, albeit more for the emotional components than for the PCT hike itself, Wild. She rolled her eyes a bit, and told me what many had before, that for adventure travellers, it was somewhat lame (her recommendation instead: Carrot Quinn’s Blog). That’s okay. Onward.
Onward we were, toward Missoula, Montana. The West. The Wild Wild West. Destination, about 7 hours away. The scenery did not deteriorate as we wove our way through Hwy 97 and 174, alongside the Columbia River and the GREAT Grand Coulee Dam (wiki: Grand Coulee Dam).
A quick lunch in Spokane, Washington, before continuing along Southeasterly, through little wild west town, after little wild west town. We mused about the lack of population with every bend of the road, enveloped by foothills on each side, and mesmerized by the foliage, ripe in its autumn hues.
We rounded one of those last bends around sunset; seemingly when most of our driving days thus far, ceased, thankfully. And there she was, Missoula, Montana. A little nugget of a University Town (University of Montana), with cyclists everywhere and friendly smiles and boots, too. Elevation – 3200 feet, so not too much of a foothill either.
The next morning, coffee in hand, we walked the little one horse town that was, before giving way to its Walmart urban sprawl and again, marvelled at the folks that had to settle it, coming through the mountains and no doubt finding a nice flat patch next to the Clark Fork River which still flows through the heart of downtown.
Onward to Yellowstone and more desolated highways weaving through tiny one-horse town’s, usually with one gas station full of year old merchandise which few people stopped at, let alone, buy.
As the highway lowered and raised throughout the mountainous terrain, we zigzagged past various heights of Continental Divide signs three or four times. Of course, this led to research, when our cell signal was strong enough to find the Wiki (Continental Divide of the Americas). On the East side of the divide, the rivers drain into the Atlantic and on the West side, the rivers empty into the Pacific. One of many interesting pieces of learning activities upon our drive.
We listened to many, many podcasts – CBC ( (CBC Podcasts): Power and Politics, Powerplay, the Debaters, As it Happens, and The House), NPR (NPR Podcasts): Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, This American Life, Science Friday), and of course, Dan Savage, which had a great opening section on his last Tuesday’s edition asking Canada to do the right thing and kick Harper to the curb.
As we entered the West Entrance of Yellowstone Park, at noon on Saturday, we knew that this particular day would need a blog to itself. Until then, be curious and enjoy the ride! Namaste.