September 11, 2011
Great Adventure, Part 2: Bend to Spokane
Farewell to Oregon
I enjoyed my morning breakfast with Sherry, the owner, the next morning. I had a bowl full of fresh raspberries, stuffed french toast, sausage, and hashbrowns. It was so much food and all so good! She was asking about San Francisco and told me about the last time she was there in the heart of the 60s. I noticed the state plates that decorated the kitchen/dining area. My grandma was a collector of those same plates so I recognized a few. It was such a tiny coincidence but made me feel like I knew her. I really enjoyed our chat. She directed me to check out Pilot Butte on my way out of town. It was a huge hill with a road that spiraled to the top, offering a 360-degree view of the city and surrounding mountains.
Then came the low-point of my trip: Oregon gas stations. Dear Oregon, if you have weird laws that other states don’t, you should post them at the state line. I pulled up to the gas station and started going about my business of filling up. Two people came up offering to help and I politely declined. The third guy showed up and explained that it’s against the law for me to pump my own gas. I thought he must be joking. He wasn’t. It was awkward. I’d already entered my card and pushed the necessary buttons, so all that was left for him to do was put the hose in the tank. It was silly. What a weird and unhelpful way to provide jobs. They are self-service pumps my friends. It’s like having a bank teller at ATM’s. They were nice about it, but really, it should be posted. I no idea. In protest, I vowed to never buy gas in Oregon for the rest of the trip.
My moment of redemption came on the road as I was leaving town. I met another Mini on the road and gave a friendly wave. The woman looked at me confused but waved back anyway. I’ll take it!
As I headed north, I saw miles of nothing. Just grasslands as far as I could see. I’d always imagined Oregon as consisting entirely of coniferous forests, which I guess is descriptive of the west side I’ve never seen. If someone had blindfolded me and dropped me in this place, Oregon is the last place I would have guessed as my location. I randomly came upon a sign for a “Mountain Marker” and pulled over to check it out. I was in the middle of nowhere and yet, there was this place pointing to all the different mountains viewable from that point. It was a neat discovery. Mount Hood was the only one I could actually see.
Outside Shaniko, I finally encountered the 45th Parallel Marker, halfway point between the equator and the north pole. It was a major downer, which in retrospect, I should have photographed the full sad scene. Across the street from the sign was a broken down semi. Thirty feet beyond the sign was a deer carcass. Rigor mortis had set in. I debated not stopping, half out of respect for the dead animal and half out of fear of that a crazy truck driver would jump out and kidnap me. I took my chances but felt like I was taking pictures at a funeral, so I didn’t stay long.
It was smalltown after smalltown for the rest of Oregon. These towns were more ghost towns. The buildings were completely dilapidated but I saw signs in the window noting they were “open”. In between these towns were huge fields. The tractors working the ground were kicking up huge clouds of dust. They looked like mini tornadoes. I was curious what would grow somewhere that’s so dry. They keep all their straw bales under side-less sheds with no concerns of them getting wet, whereas in Indiana, we had to postpone bailing until the forecast called for enough days to let the bails dry in the sun before storing.
Near the Washington border, I noticed a semi that might need to change lanes soon so I backed off a bit and sure enough, he flipped on his turn signal. As soon as he was able to get back in the right lane and let me pass, he flashed all his truck lights and gave me a big friendly wave. I wish I’d had one of those happy sounding horns to signal in return. I do my best to keep Holiday’s road reputation positive. Good motoring karma.
I stopped in Biggs Junction for gas and a Dr. Pepper (my drug of choice for the trip). Just as I was about to pull out of my parking spot, a lady got out of the truck that just pulled in next to me and tapped on my driver’s window. I rolled down my window, instantly fearing I’d done something wrong. All she wanted to say was, “I love your car!”. I’d forgotten that Mini’s were such a novelty outside of SF. We were becoming celebrities.
I continued along the Columbia River and passed the John Day Dam. Over on the Washington side were rows of wind turbines lining the river. I stopped in Umatilla to check out a large cowboy sign listed as a roadside attraction. Not only was it underwhelming but full of awkward. Turns out it was part of a grocery store sign and as I pulled into the parking lot, 3 small unaccompanied children ran across the highway and through the lot. The little girl fell and started crying. All this happened as I was trying to find a place to park. I was so distracted by wondering where their parents were to really focus on the task at hand. I ended up parking right under the sign. Roadside America sort of let me down on this one.
Welcome to Washington
As I crossed the river into Washington, the scene changed again. It looked like green cornfields as far as I could see. I never associated corn with Washington. Maybe it was just a similar looking crop. Once I got further from the river, it changed to vineyards and finally back to the dry grasslands I’d seen in Oregon.
My B&B in Spokane was coincidentally located on Indiana Ave. The Marianna Stoltz House was beautifully decorated in a Victorian theme and had a lovely wrap-around porch. The only other people staying in the house were leaving for South Africa at the crack of dawn the next morning. I think they were afraid of being robbed because they moved all of their several pieces of huge luggage out of the car and up the stairs to their room. They weren’t very social. The lady running the B&B in the owner’s absence (they were in SF, oddly enough) was very friendly. She basically tried setting me up with both of her sons while I stood in the yard taking pictures of the place.
It was so hot that I had to change into cooler clothes before venturing out to explore Spokane. Gonzaga University was only a few blocks away, so I walked there in search of food. It was Sunday and everything was closed. And in all my travels, I’d forgotten what day it was…the 10th anniversary of Sept 11. It seems it would have been a day impossible to overlook had I been anywhere but the open road. My meandering for food led me through campus and by some old industrial buildings that gained intrigue in the evening sun. A Jimmy John’s provided sustenance and a pink sky entertained my walk back to the B&B.
I had an amazing sleep because my bed was so comfortable. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I actually told the woman the next morning at breakfast that it felt like the bed was giving me a hug. I took off the sheets to discover the source of such comfort. It was a 5” foam topper. Heaven.
Morning in Spokane
Breakfast was a little awkward. I was the only guest and the lady overseeing the place decided to sit and talk to me while I ate. It started out pleasant enough but talk of God & politics made me feel a little upset. Luckily, I had an excuse to hit the road and leave the tension of the moment. She had at least advised me on an alternate route to Montana, so our conversations weren’t a complete wash.
I did a quick stop at one of the two milk bottle buildings in Spokane before ending up lost in my attempt to find the Riverfront park. At last I found it. It was quite pretty with a bell tower, sculptures, and amusements (not open for me to partake). I bet it’s lovely to work downtown and have that as a lunchtime escape.
The main reason I stopped at the park was to check out The Childhood Express, a 12-foot, 26-ton Radio Flyer wagon/slide. I waited until I didn’t see anyone around and climbed to the top. My attempts to film myself failed, so I had to go for the first-person angle.
And with that public humiliation, I headed back for the car, but not before stopping for a bathroom break. The bathroom happened to be under an outdoor auditorium where a random group of men were jamming. I basically got a free concert while I peed. That was cool. And with that, I was finally on my way to Montana.