Thursday, August 22, 2019

I Can Haz Some Of That Subway Samich?

During my lunch stop at Subway in Newport, WA, my co-pilot was very attentive!

WA Hwy 20: Success! (and a little sadness at the end)

Success! I was able to make the drive of WA Hwy 20 straight through to the end at the Idaho border!

The drive out of Kettle Falls this morning was a very entertaining two-lane track through tall, dense evergreen trees, punctuated only occasionally by tiny little towns and seasonal road work stoppages. It was pretty to look at, but not something that lends itself to being photographed.

That lack of photogeneity ended abruptly when I reached the Pend Orielle river at the tiny town of Tiger, WA.

There's something about driving along a beautiful river that always gives me joy. I think it's partly the peek-a-boo views that you get around every turn in the road, but it's also that sense of quiet power I get from a moving body of water.

Whatever the reason, it was a beautiful hour's drive down to Newport, WA, and quite possibly the highlight of the trip.

In truth, it took us about twice that long due to multiple stops along the way. Happy is also a big fan of river walks, so we dawdled at various places to enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, etc. She also frequently practiced her art of leaving p-mail for future visitors from the canine nation.

Those of you who know how I look forward to seeing "Begin" and "End" signs at the termini of my road trips will understand that I was a little sad not to see anything of the kind at the border of Idaho. The closest thing to it is this monstrosity, which denotes WA Hwy 20 cutting away from US Hwy 2.

Sad as that may be, I am delighted to finally have made the WA Hwy 20 trip from end to end! Once that was accomplished, I was a bit nostalgic about being back on my old friend US Hwy 2 for the stint down to Spokane. I've driven all of US Hwy 2, and many parts of it many times before. If you ever get the chance to drive it, do it. The "Hi-Line" is an epic drive.

I plan to be in Spokane for a couple of days to visit with friends, then will sprint east to Helena, MT, to visit with other friends. Look at me being all social! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

WA Hwy 20: So Far So Good!

Two thirds of the way across Washington State, it's looking like I'll finally be able to drive the entire length of WA Hwy 20! If all goes well, we will complete it at the border with Idaho tomorrow.

Heading east out of Burlington yesterday, Happy and I made several stops just for fun, including one to take the required photo of Diablo Lake. Even on a hazy day, it is a stunningly beautiful lake.

We stopped for the night in the small town of Omak. After her first full day on the road in quite a while, Happy was obviously pleased that I found her a nice shady spot in a grassy park to catch up on her sleep.

Happy is 14 years old now and definitely showing signs of age. Mostly deaf and partially blind, she's also got some arthritis and has small "tremors" and balance issues, which the vets say is the onset of a neurological degradation similar to Parkinson's in humans.

I'm pretty sure this will be her last road trip, and I am determined to make it a good one for her to wrap up her career.

We continued east this morning, crossing the typical rolling hills of Central Washington, then made our way over several passes.

This is the area that was badly burned several years ago when we were thwarted in a previous attempt to transit this highway end-to-end. It is remarkable to see how many of the trees have recovered.

So far, I am quite pleased with my new little road rig. Although it is has only a fraction the power and capabilities of my previous trucks, it is performing quite capably in the mountains. It is also far more nimble and economical to drive.

Having the large, open van so easily accessible, it is turning out to be more comfortable and convenient to get in and out of. Happy seems to be giving her new dog-truck a smile of approval!

We've stopped for the night in Kettle Falls, which is as far as I got coming from the east on my last WA Hwy 20 transit attempt. The town sits on the edge of Roosevelt Lake, which is a major body of water caused by the Grand Coulee Dam about a hundred miles to the southwest. You can just see a piece of the water from this roadside vantage point.

If all continues to go well, we will drive the final 100 mile stint on WA Hwy 20 to the Idaho border tomorrow. From there we will drop a short distance south to Spokane, to visit with friends and get ready to head east on the larger highways.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Time For Another Road Trip!

I have some family matters to attend to on the east coast next month, so I've decided to make a road trip out of it. Since I've already driven all of the long-distance US highways in the northern part of the country – (you may not believe my cumulative road trip map when you see it!) – I plan to stick mainly to the interstates on my way east. That said, if the weather holds I may try to drive WA 20 end-to-end from my home in Burlington to north of Spokane. Hopefully it will be after mudslide season, before fire season, and I can finally make it all the way end to end!

After taking care of things in the east, I plan to drop down to Virginia Beach, VA, and begin a coast-to-end drive of US60 to the southwest corner of Arizona where the road now ends. If all goes well, I will drive a quick stint south to the Mexico border in Yuma, AZ, and drive US95 north to the Canada border at Eastport, ID. If you have a ridiculously good memory, you may recall that I planned to drive US95 back in 2014, but shifted to US191 instead.

Altogether, it should be about a 7,500 mile road trip, a proper expedition by any standards. I have no end date in mind, but I'm guessing I'll be back in the Pacific Northwest sometime in October, about two months from now. I'm honestly out of practice being Macgellan, so I don't know how much I'll post, but I will at least log enough to memorialize the voyage!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

US93: First & Last Chance At The Border

Happy and I had a leisurely morning in Whitefish, visiting with fellow human and canine travelers. After coffee and breakfast, we set out on US93 for the final stint to the border. The sky was heavily overcast so the photos are a bit lame, but the road was clear and we had a nice 60 mile drive.

After passing through a few small logging towns, we reached the border and took our requisite photos. It's a significant border crossing, open 24 hours, and there is a pretty steady stream of traffic.

Despite the large number of signs at the border crossing, one sign was not to be seen anywhere. You guessed it, once again there is no "End" sign!

I suppose I can cut them some slack because US93 continues across the border as Canada93, so it's almost like it hasn't ended. I think that's pretty lame, of course, but it is what it is.

One sign that is very prominent announces the presence of an epic establishment.

I had the place to myself while I had a burger and watched football on TV. The proprietor and I struck up a brief conversation, but I mostly sat and ate on my own.

After that, I took the "end of route" photo of my truck and we drove back to Whitefish.

US93 is a good highway and I'm glad to have driven its length. Although it doesn't pass through as many attractions as other highways -- such as its cousin to the east US191 -- driving from the desert of Arizona, through the Great Basin, onto the Idaho plateau and into the snow-capped peaks of Montana in just a few days has offered a remarkable sense of change in latitude and season.

This road trip has now run 2+ months and I'm ready to wrap it up. From here we will drive our old friend US2 to Spokane then on to the Pacific NW in Washington. Besides settling in for the winter, I have no plans after that... Stay tuned!

Friday, November 10, 2017

US93: NW Montana "Reveals"

A short drive on US93 today -- only 130 miles from Missoula to Whitefish, MT -- seemed like a series of scenic "reveals." First, about a half-hour northwest of Missoula, we were treated to the sight of lightly snow-dusted foothills. The sky was clear and the road was wet but otherwise excellent.

A half-hour further north, we got our first glimpse of majestic, snow-capped mountains ahead of us.

A half-hour after that, we topped a rise and saw beautiful Flathead Lake spread out before us.

Falthead Lake was worth a pit-stop to try and capture the view. The sky was pretty overcast and the lighting was flat, but you can probably tell it's a beautiful place.

Happy made the most of her time by reminding herself what snow is, romping around like a crazy dog and making a pit-stop of her own. Montana is already on the map of states she's peed in, but it never hurts to give it another go!

A half-hour later we approached Whitefish, MT, where we are in position to make a 60-mile run to the border tomorrow and cap off our US93 expedition... Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

US93: River - Pass - River

The sky was overcast in Salmon, ID, this morning, but the forecast was decent and the road was good, so we continued north on US93 along the Salmon River. The sun broke through in spots and gave at least a little highlight to the mountains and valley. A good day for driving, but not for photos.

Twenty miles north of Salmon, we left the main river and followed the much smaller North Fork up a valley. The route has several names in this area, due to its history as part of the Nez Perce trail and the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The deeper we went into the mountains, the more understandable it became why this has long been a major route through rough terrain. There aren't many alternatives.

After a long, steady climb we crested the 7,000 foot Lost Trail Pass, just skirting the Continental Divide that lies to the east. That put us into Montana and onto a steep, twisty descent. The road was mostly dry, but I took it easy anyway. It felt good to be back in the woods with a little snow cover.

We soon joined the Bitterroot River and followed it down the valley. This is an area that was heavily burned in the recent wildfires, and you can see very obvious evidence of it for many miles.

Considering the wet weather conditions, I was surprised to see active fires burning in the area. I stopped at the local Forest Service headquarters to inquire, and was told that they're taking advantage of the wet season to burn piles of detritus and reduce fire risks in the future.

Between the overcast, the woodsmoke and wet road spray on my windshield, photo opportunities had pretty much run out. So, we just cruised another 60 miles into Missoula. Right now, I am at the intersection of US12 and US93, exactly where I was exactly two months ago. The weather forecast remains good, so we plan to continue north in the morning... Stay tuned!