Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fan-O-Montana! (Kill me for the joke later) Washington Files Part THREE (after brief hiatus)

(Note: Your blogger (moi) had a really intensely *special* week...and made some silly errors...hence the delay in the story.  You may now sit back, relax...and see pictures of things with WORDS!)

This is Honey Badger, aka Fluffy. He was our mascot from the Montana Night Death Drive.  A furball who toughs it through cones, travel, and trucks as if he don't care.  Cuz he don't. He's Honey Badger. He did way better than the humans did on the night death driving.

By morning, and after a great sleep on a giant, fluffy king sized bed. (God Bless the Best Western in Bozeman. Seriously.), my knuckles were less white and my nerves had gone back towards steel from putty.  We were ready to hit the road again.

Tim had gone out to do something earlier that morning and come back to tell me I wouldn't believe what we'd come through and what we'd missed seeing the night before.  I'd had some inkling of the types of passes we'd been going through, but I admit, I really hadn't expected to see this out the hotel's front doors.

There were some wildfires in the area making our view hazy...but there was something great about this moment.  When I was 16, I got my first glimpse of real mountains in the parking lot of a Walmart. While this is NOT the ideal location to see such things, I'll always remember it.  My friend Joe and I, who'd both never been faced with that sort of immensity, gawked from the sidewalk while everyone else went in to shop.

A man in a ten gallon hat (or y'know, perhaps a 2 liter hat?) came out of the store.  Noticing our gawking, he walked over to us and joked "Not from around here, are ya?"

Not much you can do to blend in at that point, so we copped to being Illinoisans who'd never been out of the flatlands enough to see what we were now seeing.  I know he must have been talking to both of us, but the way I remember it, it felt like he was speaking straight to me. He told us too often people that are from CO take the mountains for granted, and don't realize just how awe-inspiring and incredible they are.  He told us not to forget the feeling we had that day, and not to take things like that for granted.

It stuck with me.  It's strange how strangers can impact your lives or impart sudden doses of wisdom, isn't it?
Anyway, that view in Bozeman that morning from the parking lot....reminded me of that.  I wouldn't know for years what it's like to know the faces of the different peaks, or what it was like to curl up inside a kiva carved out of a cliff...but I knew I had something.

This was our third day on the road. I was starting to feel more in charge of Ol' Bumpy, rather than the other way around.

I thought the third day would be the hardest, but it turned out to be the easiest, when all things were considered.

That was in large part due to the AMAZING sights.  I don't have too many pictures from this portion of the trip, since I was doing a lot of driving....but it plays like an HD video in my head still.

All day, we wound through the mountains.  Montana might be sparsely populated, but I find that to be a good thing, because so much of the land is way too amazing to not be preserved.  I think the first four or five hours of our day were all spent weaving through the mountains, alongside sparkling rivers and pine forests.  Just when we thought it couldn't get prettier, the road would open up or we'd be up on a bridge over the Clark Fork River (which we had to have crossed no less than 10 times, I swear) and there'd be absolutely stunning things ahead of us to explore.  I'll never stop loving exploring places like this.  We couldn't get out and run until our legs fell off, but I think the excitement made both of us want to.  I never thought I'd push Montana so high up on the "places I'd like to vacation" list until this particular day.

That was all going to pale in comparison to Idaho though.   Idaho was a little bit scary.  When we'd stopped at a gas station

 (that didn't accept out of state chicks, by the way...since apparently my reading skills had gone out the window by that time...), we'd found out from Patty and her mom that it was going to be an uphill battle, so to speak.    Uphill and full 20 foot moving truck aren't really the BEST combination, dontchaknow.

We did a lot better, nervewise and I think every other way too, without the whole "shroud of darkness" thing going on.  And while we weren't in Idaho was pretty amazing.

We wound up an amazing mountain pass- probably the biggest one we were ever hit, though it was dark through Washington later that night, so I could be wrong...and came down the other side to find C'ouer D'Alene.

I don't know if you'd heard anything about it.   For me, I'd been seeing signs for a while and had been wracking my brain trying to figure out what exactly made the name stick out to me.   It wasn't going to matter once we hit it though.   I wish I had pictures from this part, but if I'd have stopped in Coeur D'Alene or anywhere near it, I think neither of us would ever have gotten back in the car.

Coeur D'Alene kind of pops out of nowhere. You're still in the mountains on the approach, but you've been in the same type of environment for some time by the time you come around that all important corner.  I love the way the road is there.  You can't tell at all what you're about to see.  Then the veil just drops...and you're in what I think could be the prettiest place I've ever seen.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  I think I may honestly have gasped a little bit just out of shock.  I looked for pictures on the internet, but some things just have to be experienced in person.  It's magical, and I don't say that lightly.  You come at it from a pretty decent height, on a bridge.  To your left is a huge, sparkling blue lake. On a sunny day like the one we were's like a sea of diamonds.  The mountains surround it on every side and you can see sailboats and canoes and all sorts of things dotting it.   It's expansive, and dramatic....and the kind of place you immediately want to get lost in.  I remember saying to Tim that he could drop me off there and I'll figure out how to get home.  It wasn't THAT far from my mind.  We both agreed NOT to stop at the exit near there...and I really think it was just because that place has such a draw.   I never wanted to leave.  I remember thinking "This is the kind of place I just want to live in before I die."

I barely remember anything directly after that.  The drive continued to be nice, and very scenic, but that place was hard to erase from our minds.   Idaho being the shape it is, we weren't there for too long.   It did feel kind of amazing to finally cross into Washington.  Aside from Tim being excited about moving in, I felt good about making it that far, and the drive having an end in sight.  Later that night, instead of yet another gas station and more Doritos/beef jerky/gatorade/sandwiches...we stopped for ACTUAL FOOD.

We'd been looking for a Taco Bell (hey, the road does weird things to you) for some time when we found a place with a drive-in.  When we got there, we were kind of done, driving wise. Despite our amazing day of sightseeing, the buttlegs were SEVERE, and the sun had been searing into our eyes since we'd been headed due west for some time at this point.   We took an hour break to get a burger, relax in the car, refuel, and rehydrate.  I can't believe we actually took that long, because both of us were excited for the end of the road...but sometimes, you've been on the road too long to even realize how much rest you need.

When we got back on the road, we were in the flats for a long time.  It started to get dusky, and we both started to get tired. I think the adrenaline had finally worn off.  There were still some thing of note...including the town of George.  (George, Washington...get it?) and Purdy. (Couldn't make it up if I tried).  There were some epic bridges, some winding ascents, and some major bridges.  I was fantasizing about beds, and about not having anywhere to drive the next day. And beds. Majorly majorly beds.

I think we really missed some epic sights just before we got into the Seattle/Bremerton area, and I'm a little sad for that.  It was almost a full moon so you could make out hints of what had to be the biggest mountains I'd seen on the trip, and the ascents were pretty long, though not as steep as some we'd come across.  As per usual, the more you want to get somewhere, the longer it will take you.  When we saw the Seattle sign that said we were 40 miles out, we were so happy. Seemed like no time.  We played some celebratory Nirvana and chattered and generally thought about people or beds. Or not driving.

But we had to go to Bremerton. Somehow after the 40 was 20 to Bremerton. Then it'd be another 8. Another 7.  I swear to you it was some sort of trick and it was actually 100 miles.  We pulled into Bremerton around midnight, and we got lost on the way to the house.  Worse still, when we got lost, we ended up coming around the corner only to face a little ski jump followed by a freaking SLOPE up.  Neither of us were in the mood for this, and I had to gun it to get the momentum just to get up.

After shuffling around in the house and trying to figure out sleeping arrangements, then having to recover my was FINALLY time for bed. Time for bed in Bremerton, man.

And how I got to Washington.

Of course, it didn't end there.   But I needed to snooze then, and I need to snooze now.  Most of all...this is long enough.  I guess I'll catch you on the flip side for more Washington files, then. :P

Beds, man.  They're pretty excellent. (You'll never know this in a more profound way than when you're done with a road trip.)

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