After a year of staying close to home and seeing only a few friends, we were climbing the walls and ready to roll. So, after our second shots, we planned a looping drive that took us from the Oregon Coast to the Grand Coulee Dam and from rain and wind, to snow and fog, and to bright sunlight.
Almost every trip that finds us heading to the coast includes riding the ferry across the Columbia at Westport, Oregon.
It’s a 10-minute ride on a ferry that holds about 15 cars. It ends up in Cathlamet, Washington, where, in the interest of stimulating the economy, we chowed down at Patty Cakes Café. (Salmon Panini highly recommended).
Then it was on to Dismal Nitch.
Since it plays a small but crucial role in Mike's new book Angus McHaggis and the Bashful Sasquatch, he insisted on stopping there.
Lewis and Clark were pinned down there for five days, waiting out wind and high waves and dodging stones brought down by torrential rains. Was it a stroke of irony that the visitors’ center was closed and we couldn’t get to the actual nitch? We pondered that in our room overlooking the Astoria Bridge.
Heavy rain abated overnight, but showers continued, the temperature hovered in the high 40s and the wind picked up. Depoe Bay was packed with spring breakers in shorts and sandals. We strolled past them in our layers and waterproof jackets, eyeing the breaking waves and rising swells.Were we relieved to find our whale-watching excursion was cancelled? We’ll let you decide.
Mike also discovered some world-class crab cakes and potato salad. If you find yourself in Newport, treat yourself to a meal at Georgies.
In the morning, it was on to Bend. The storm that cancelled our boat trip had dropped snow in the mountains, but the sky was clear and the road was mostly plowed and slick in only a few spots. There were great views of the mountains including the Sisters and the peak below. Little did we know this was a training run for a later drive through another pass.
|Three Finger Jack|
The next day we headed for Baker City through the John Day Fossil Beds. Unless you prefer the canyons formed by tall buildings, this is fascinating terrain with rock formations in a range of colors that vary in intensity depending on the light.
At Baker City we visited the city’s impressive historical museum and then headed for the Snake River through amazing canyons. Unfortunately, snow squalls blew in and, after a review of the meaning of mortality, we turned back and checked in at the Geiser Grand Hotel. http://www.geisergrand.com/
If you’ve never been to Baker City, consider putting it on your bucket list. Where else can you find statues of baboons on roofs, an alligator crawling down a wall, ostriches and camels and a sculpture inspired by salt licks?
An inch of snow lay on the ground, but we told ourselves the storm would blow through and headed for Joseph and views of the Wallowa Mountains. The view mostly was obscured by snow and by the time we reached Joseph it was piling up, laying four inches on statues along the main street.
Again, we turned back, making a quick stop at a delightful small library in Wallowa. We were overjoyed to be allowed in and to be able to touch books not delivered curbside in a paper bag.
At Elgin, we decided to go for 204 to Weston and then on to Walla Walla. After about 15 miles we encountered snow but this time we forged on—partly because turning back would have added many miles to our trip, but mostly because looming snow banks hemmed us in and narrowed the road so that turning would require several moves and put us at risk of being slammed by traffic coming the other way. Near the top of the pass, fog closed in and visibility dropped so much that it was difficult to see more than 50 feet ahead.
It was nerve wracking, but you know we made it because Carolyn is writing this. Mike's note here. Carolyn has forever earned her title of "W.P. D. I. C."
For the uninitiated that's "Winter Pilot Directly In Charge."
If you love wine, Walla Walla is a good place to stay. If you’re not a wine lover, it’s still a fine small city and many of the shops and restaurants were open for business in some form.Plus there were some interesting sculptures. You can try to figure this one out. We couldn't.
Thriving was not a word we'd use to describe many of the small towns we passed through on our way to Dry Falls and Grand Coulee Dam. We saw clear evidence of the wreckage left by closures and economic hardship—businesses closed not just for the season but forever, and a general air of weariness, frustration, and futility. Few cafes were open and many restrooms were locked. When we reached the dam and found the visitors’ center shut down, the joy of road-tripping faded in a serious way. But still, the dam was something Mike vowed to see in his lifetime and he got his wish. He claims he could hear Woodie Guthrie singing This Land is Your Land as he peered out at the immense structure.
We headed for Wenatchee and, by accident because we don’t possess a GPS and were without a map, settled in a hotel with a great view of the river. And we reached the point where, even though there were miles to go and a few things we wanted to see, the trip was over.
Well, nearly over. Because there were still the rolling hills around Goldendale to see—hills where wind turbines stalked the crests, spinning with the steady current of air coming down the Columbia Gorge.
And there was still Stonehenge to admire.
Okay, it’s only a replica, but the setting at the edge of the drop to the Columbia is stunning. The shadows cast by a sun a week past the equinox were stark, and those shadows indicated it was time to be home again.