Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On The Road Again

On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again,
And I can't wait to get on the road again.

--Willie Nelson

Need I say more?
Click on any image to enlarge it!

The Six Thousand Mile Sunday Drive (that’s the official name, you understand) has now begun. Well, at least the warm up lap. High noon yesterday (Tuesday, April 24th, 2007), having put new tires, a new windshield, new oil and filter, and fresh gas in the 900C, I put the top down and left Missoula on I-90 headed west. The outside temperature was hovering around 62, which frankly isn’t quite warm enough to drive top down at 75 mph, but that’s why we turn the heater up and turn on the heated seats. Actually, 62 is fine, IF the sun’s out. But there was a heavy cloud cover, and with the wind racing by, and me wearing only a tank top, my arms did get a bit chilled. Oh I know, I could have put on the sweat shirt I had stuffed in the footwell of the passenger’s side of the car, but that just wouldn’t have been very butch, don’t ya think?

I’ve been dreaming about this road trip for several years, and now it’s going to happen. I’m calling it the Six Thousand Mile Sunday Drive, but in actuality, I have no idea how long a drive it’s going to be. Aside from a few must sees—mostly family sites in West Virginia, and ancestral sites in Ohio, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and Maryland—I have no idea where I’m going. I’ll be making it up as I go along. And if you think it’s strange that I’m driving from Montana to West Virginia by heading west on I-90, well, as I said above, this is the warm-up lap.

Friday and Saturday of this week, I’ll be participating in a workshop at Humboldt State University, Arcata, California, called Positively Speaking—which has nothing to do with Dale Carnegie. It’s training to be peer counselors for people who are HIV positive or at risk of becoming so. Once the training is over, my friend Bear and I will head on south in the Saab to the city by the bay where we’ll attend Divas’ Revenge II, a concert by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. Then it’s back to the house in Smith River so I can participate in the Tall Masted Ships Festival at the Crescent City Harbor during the first week in May. You’ll be reading all about both events in the next week. Once the Festival is done, then the Sunday Drive begins in earnest.

Anyway, back to I-90 heading west. The first sixty miles passed uneventfully—and without any picture taking stops. Oh there were plenty of opportunities I passed by. But this is my home ground. I can, and will, get out to shoot the pictographs near Alberton, the gorge near Cyr, the Clark Fork of the Columbia almost anywhere. I did leave I-90 at St. Regis, however. Back when I-90 was being completed, the eleven miles between St. Regis and Henderson (exits 33 and 22 respectively) were the last part built in Montana. The highway follows the St. Regis river through a narrow, twisting canyon, and even on the new Interstate, trucks are advised to keep below 45 mph just to handle the curves. Back in 1976, when this section was under construction, traffic followed a detour over Camel’s Hump Road. I hadn’t been on the old road in the past thirty years, so this seemed like a great opportunity.

Leaving St. Regis, there was no signage to indicate where the road headed, but eventually I passed a sign indicating Camel’s Hump Road. Shortly after that I passed a sign indicating that I was now on my own. Well, it said that I had passed the end of the county maintained road. I began to worry a bit, but just a bit. My cabin, after all, is well past the end of the county maintained road. It’s also at the end of the road. Hmmm. It wasn’t long after passing the second sign that I passed the first tree down across the road. Fortunately, someone had taken a chain saw to the downed tree and cut out a section wide enough to drive through. This was the first of many downed trees. There was also the proverbial “rock on road” but no sign to warn of this danger. The road was paved for its entire length and had a worn but still visible yellow line down the center, but in many places there was only one lane’s width clear. Sometimes that one lane was on the right, sometimes the left, but most commonly we straddled the yellow line to avoid the debris on the roadbed. Fortunately, the Saab was the only vehicle on the road, and we made it back to I-90 in fine shape. I did start laughing out loud (LOL) when I passed the sign that said “Road Narrows.” I’d been driving on a one-lane road for the past five miles.

Historic Savenac Nursery, USFS
Haugen Montana (exit 16 from I-90)
Taken 4/24/07

Most people exiting Interstate 90 at Montana exit 16 turn left and stop at Lincoln's 10,000 Silver Dollar Bar. I know I do. The display of that many silver dollars is impressive, the pie is great, and the kitch for sale in the gift shop is sales tax free, since you're in Montana. But if you turn right instead, you find yourself at the historic Savenac Nursery, where the US Forest Service grew the trees to reforest the northwest after the disastrous fires of 1910. This view shows one of the ponds in front of the main buildings from the vantage point of old US Highway 10 (which parallels I-90). There’s a view of the main campus on Eyefetch (image 309995)*.

Lunch at the Silver Dollar Bar was a Smothered Burrito, which turned out to be chile poured over a flour tortilla wrapped glob of ground beef and served with a side of chopped tomatoes, onions and lettuce. It was pretty tasty, all things considered, and I refrained from having any Strawberry-Rhubarb or Apple Custard pie. I did ask the waitress what was available just so I’d know how virtuous I was being.

Having put the top up to protect my belongings while in the restaurant, I left it up for the climb up and over Lookout Pass. Coming down the Idaho side, I pulled off at Wallace for the wonderful photo ops that town affords. I posted one on Eyefetch (image 310005)* showing the beautiful old Northern Pacific Railway Station with the I-90 bridge in the background. For those of you not from this area, I should explain a bit about Wallace. If you saw the 1997 movie Dante’s Peak you saw the town being destroyed by a volcanic eruption. As much fun as watching people drive across molten lava can be, Wallace has several other things to recommend it. As you can see, if you enlarge this picture, it is, as the blue sign says, “The Center of the Universe.” It is also the home of the last stop light on the I-90 corridor. The only way that the highway could be built through this extremely narrow canyon was to put it on stilts and effectively run it as a bridge above the town.

Downtown Wallace, Idaho--The Center of the Universe
Taken 4/24/07

Wallace is also home of the last operating (though illegal) bordello in the Northwest. The “House” closed in the late 1980s, and today there is a bordello museum downtown. The reputation of Wallace’s bedroom industry was so widespread that you can even today buy shirts that read “Honest, I’ve never been to Wallace Idaho.” I have a couple of wonderful stories myself—and the only bordellos I’ve visited have been the museums in Wallace and Butte Montana. But if you’re interested…..

Finally, Wallace is more justifiably famous for the amount of silver ore that has been taken out of the mountains here. At one time, Idaho’s Silver Valley supplied the majority of America’s silver. Over one billion ounces of silver have been taken from this area, and one mine alone, the Sunshine Mine (odd name for something underground), has produced over 300 million ounces. Other minerals have also come from these mines, including the one the miner’s couldn’t pronounce. Well, how would you pronounce “molybdenum”?

Please note that the Moly b’Damn is practically right next door to the Church of God. You may have to enlarge the picture to read the signs.

'Nuff Said!
Taken 4/24/o7

Continuing west, again with the top down, I passed through Spokane well before rush hour, and for the first time ever, without seeing any construction zones. Will wonders never cease? Off the highway at the rest area mid-way between Spokane and Ritzville where I spoke to a Native American woman walking her MinPin. (Is there really any other breed of dog worth having?) It reminded me how lonesome the trip will be without Gypsy, who is staying with Daddy Gary in Missoula for the duration, but I wouldn’t be able to put the top down with her in the car. And photo stops are so much easier when you don’t have to corral the dog before opening the door. Most importantly, it wouldn’t be fair to her to travel that far by automobile in the late spring/early summer.

I took some pretty dramatic sky shots just north of Connell,Washington, and stopped for dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant north of Puerto Vallarta, Inca in Kennewick. Their Tostada de Ceviche de Pulpo (raw octopus salad) is great, and only $3.95. I followed that up with Adelitas, a huge ball of vanilla ice cream next to an equally huge ball of chocolate ice cream, stuffed into a fried flour tortilla, and covered with whipped cream, strawberry sauce and maraschino cherries. YUMM!!!

Before we leave Kennewick, I've posted a couple of shots of the two highway bridges spanning the Columbia on Eyefetch (images 309984 and 309960)*.

By the time I reached The Dalles, Oregon, I just couldn’t go any further, so I checked into the Comfort Inn and got myself a two queen bed room. (No, silly, I’m not that big. There were no singles left.) Normal room rate, according to the door sign in my room, is $134.95. I’m paying way too much at $86.95, but I wasn’t about to try and drive any further.

Now a couple of random thoughts before I let you go.

Why is it that I can barely keep my eyes open while driving, I drop the book while reading in bed, but once the light’s out, I can’t sleep? Would someone please answer that one for me?

Why do I write Saab? Shouldn’t it be SAAB? It is an acronym, after all. Just as FIAT is an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (no, not Fix It Again Tony), SAAB is an acronym for Svenska Aeroplan AktieBolaget, or Swedish Aeroplane Inc. Of course, the Swedes aren’t immune from the dumbing down of America, so the car company is now officially Saab AB, or Swedish Aeroplane Inc. Inc. I guess.

*Finally, all those asterixes when I mention Eyefetch? Well, Eyefetch is a community of photographers and digital artists who upload their work and do peer reviews of other folks work. To see any of the images I’ve mentioned above, just go to and put the image number in the Seach Images box on the upper left-hand side of the screen. You don’t have to be a member to look at/for images, just to upload them and to rate or comment on them. Basic membership is free, however, and if you want to share your own work and comment on the work of others, by all means join up. It’s a great site with terrific photographers. I feel like a rank amateur in comparison with some of the stuff I see on this site.

That’s all for now. I’ll upload this, shower, dress, and hit the road toward Portland and points south.

Miles traveled: 482

Time on the road: 10 hours, including meal and photo op time

Pictures taken: 58

1 comment:

Carl said...

Great photos and dialog, Bryan. As usual, I'll be eagerly awaiting the next chapter.