Monday, March 13, 2017

REMINISCING: A Grand Adventure Part 2

When last we saw our intrepid heroes, they were coming to Montana, where maybe they would find a dental floss farm. They had already seen most of the Wisconsin countryside, the Badlands, of South Dakota, and 800 miles of “Free Water” signs. While they were still over halfway to their destination, there was still a long way to go.

Montana. The state goes on and on and on. It never seems to stop. But I can tell you a couple things about that state. First, they are not exactly enamoured with outsiders. Bob and I stopped at a grocery store to get some travel food. We were definitely stared at by the locals as we roamed the aisles for something to snack on while on the road.

Secondly, the stars were amazing. I’ve been to places in rural New York where there was not a lot of light bleed from cities, but I still never saw as many stars as I did in Montana. Even through the windows of the car, we could see so many stars. Going through the Continental Divide, we were pretty high in the Rockies. Maybe that, combined with the lack of lights, gave us such a spectacular view of the night skies.

  We did learn one thing that we were completely unaware of before we left. While it may be nice in Buffalo in mid-November, the Rockies are a different story. It snowed so hard in some places in Montana, that I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to keep driving. Thankfully, we were in a convoy of big trucks. We stayed right in the middle of them. The trucker in front of us would flash a light on the back of his truck to let us know where the drifts were. Add to that the trucks ahead of us clearing the road, we were in good company. They were a big help.

The strangest part of the snowstorm was how often we would drive in and out of it. While we were in the valleys, it was snowing so hard, you could barely see. Once we rose out of the valleys to the summits of the mountains, we rose above the storm and were in the clear. The one drawback was that at the top of the mountains, it was extremely icy.

Washington may have been the strangest state we drove through. I mean that in a good way. There was so much difference in climate from one part of the state to the next. The whole eastern part of the state was brown, without a lot of trees, and about 50 degrees. Once we got to the Cascades, everything changed.

Driving through the Snoqualmie Pass was an adventure all unto itself. After driving through a veritable desert in the eastern part of the state, suddenly we were in the midst of another monster snowstorm. There were signs heading into the pass that said vehicles without chains were prohibited. That was a bit worrisome. The temperatures dropped into the low 20s and the snow was heavy.

Once we got through the pass into western Washington, it was like were were in an entirely different state. Everything was a lush, deep green. The temperature was hovering around 70. It was spectacularly beautiful. In the span of twenty minutes, we had gone from dry and in the 50s, to snowing and 20, and finally to sunshine, green and 70. It was like we had never even left Buffalo.

An acquaintance of mine recently told me about growing up in Seattle. She said, “If you can see Mount Rainier, it’s going to rain. If you can’t see Mount Rainier, it’s already raining.” I can tell you that until we flew over it on the plane ride home, I never saw Mount Rainier while I was there. I did not rain the entire time. In fact, it only rained all day once during the entire week I was there. That was the day Dan and I drove to the Pacific Ocean. It did rain each morning and in the afternoon, but the middle part of the day was just fine.

I had no idea that Seattle was so far from the ocean. In my mind, I thought it was just a quick jaunt over the coast. In the broad scheme of things, it is. I drove over 3,000 miles to get there. What was another three hours to the ocean? Yes, you read that right. It took another three hours from Seattle to get to Ocean City. It poured the whole ride. Instead of getting out of the car at the beach, we drove into the ocean.

There was a storm off shore and the surf was high. The road we were on literally disappeared beneath the waves. We drove into it, did a kind of donut and drove back out of it. Then we went to the local greasy spoon near the beach for burgers. Just like in Montana, the locals definitely picked us out as outsiders. We got those same sidelong glances we got at the grocery store three states previous.

Back in Seattle, we had to do a little tour of the city before I had to fly home. Of course, we went to Pike’s Place to see them toss the fish. We went to the Space Needle, too. It was pretty windy when we went to the top of the tower. It was just a bit unnerving to feel the seemingly solid Space Needle sway so much in the wind. I think I can understand why some people get seasick. It definitely just little queasy. Apparently, they can close the power if the winds get too high, and we were right at the cusp.

Driving across the country was definitely a bonding experience for Bob and I. We are probably closer now than we’ve ever been, and I attribute most of that to the trip we took. We still laugh about the actual tumbleweed we saw rolling across the road in South Dakota, and that Bob desperately wanted to see buffalo or bison out West. Every time we saw a cow, he’s ask if that was a buffalo. Alas, they never were.

Someday soon, I’m going to rent an RV and take the girls on a long vacation across the country. There are many, many great places that we could stop before we get to Uncle Bob’s house. A week in a motorhome with four kids may be a little crazy, but it’s something they’ll be able to talk about for the rest of their lives.

Craig Bacon gets big ideas for vacations, but mostly they are tempered by Wendy. Someday, he will get his Grand Tour of the US completed. Stay tuned next week when we head to Key West for St Patrick’s Day.