Monday, July 16, 2012

If it's Monday, this must be Montana . . .

Last week we drove across America.  Which means I am currently in the throes of Coke withdrawals as I kick the caffeine habit which kept me running while my van consumed $500 worth of fossil fuels. (cheapest gas = Montana)  Instead of giving you the whole week at once, I figured I'd post each day separately to give you a break.  (My Unintended Motto: Why say less when you can say more?)  Originally this trip would have been taken last week but we had to move it up a week when my Mom stood up from reading in her chair and broke her femur.  (Yet another example of how reading can be hazardous to your health.)  I come from a long line of weak Mayflower chicas with skinny white ladies disease, aka osteoporosis.  And being the oldest female in this generation, I'm next.  Some day I, too, will set aside my reading glasses, stand up from my Lazy Girl to do something innocuous like answer the phone, and my leg will fall off.  Like Barbie. Like the whole pile of Barbies with missing extremities which Bella recently declared unwanted.  So if you're feeling antsy and need an armchair adventure across America, read on.

Waking with the Monday loggers, we kissed a sleeping Waldport farewell in the wee half hour of 4:30 and headed east over Mary’s Peak to Corvallis to drop off Christiana’s rent, then north up the Willamette valley to Portland to drop Micah off at work, then pointed the GPS east again towards the Atlantic and squeezed through the Columbia Gorge into the rising sun.  Hood River was just waking up when we passed and I spotted the stern wheeler rolling out in the middle of the river, the same boat I’ve ridden on two Labor Days across to the WA shore singing "Roll On Columbia, Roll On," before jumping off and swimming back to Oregon, eyeballing Mt. Hood for guidance.  Carved by water, the gorge is splendid and I regaled the kids with tales of Lake Missoula which burst through its ice dam in events as difficult in magnitude to comprehend as Noah’s flood.  Next up, Celilo, where we can now only imagine the falls which once raged next to the oldest gathering place in America when Lewis and Clark stumbled in, calling it the Wall Street of the West. You know you’re out of the National Scenic Area when the wind turbines are spinning on every hilltop, their white blades bringing form to invisible wind currents in sharp relief against a blue sky.  Driving along the Columbia brings to mind the poem I will write some day about the towns in Oregon, places with names like Dufur, Ione, Deadwood, and Irrigon. 

Washington in June means one thing.  Cherries.  Rainiers, Bings, Royal Annes, and Chinooks, to name a few.  Cherries also worthy of poetry.  Cherries brought to you courtesy of the WPA and the likes of Grand Coulee Dam which transformed a high desert into one of our nation’s bread baskets thanks to irrigation water from the mighty Columbia.  So when we stopped for gas somewhere in the Evergreen State, we sidled on over to the typical fruit stand set up under a tent in a corner of the parking lot where I popped a pea pod and enjoyed the sweet green balls while perusing the cherry selection.  A rather bored senorita sat in front of the Bings and Rainiers while I sampled them both, deciding which was sweeter.  Her Papa, looking freshly pressed in spite of the heat, slid our way and spoke to her in Spanish.  So we chatted a little in his native tongue, a little being as far as I can usually get.  He asked Bella her name and she responded in between bites of her strawberry shortcake ice cream bar with proper pronunciation, which always amazes me when it spills from her lips.   I decided on the Bings and the chica listlessly bagged them for me while her Papa smiled and asked me if Bella was my granddaughter.  My fond Latino feelings evaporated with my smile like a drop of water on the sizzling pavement just beyond the shade of the tent.  “No hable Espanol,” I said.  We took our cherries and left.

Crossing Idaho at the panhandle, I gazed longingly at the sparkling waters of Lake Couer D’Alene, vowing to return some day and swim in them.  We traversed two mountain passes in the Bitterroots of the Rockies.  There was snow on the Fourth of July pass but the kids were sound asleep so I didn’t stop for a quick snowball fight, although now that sounds like fun.  My goal was to be in Missoula at the Jamaican Posse rum bar by around 6 and I was making good time when Andy called and reminded me I’d be crossing into Mountain Time.  Sure enough, the sign appeared around the next bend as we crossed the border at Lookout Pass and I lost an hour just like that.  The hills in Montana, known as mountains elsewhere, were blanketed in purple wildflowers which would have made a lovely photo if I’d stopped to take one.  But I didn’t.  I sped along the Clark Fork River, renewing my admiration for its Caribbean-colored waters.  The kids woke up and we finished listening to the adventures of “Ribsy,” our daily book on tape.   

At long last, our destination dropped from 14 hours on the GPS to less than one.  I could almost hear the Red Stripe caps popping and Gregory Isaacs singing "Night Nurse."  As were exiting the freeway, the phone rang. It was Hannah.  Calling from the hospital.  Biking home from Target in DC she'd had a bike accident and broke her hand.  I tried to pay attention to the rather alarming conversation while navigating my way to Steve and Heidi’s house where I hadn’t been in four years or so.  Naturally, GPS chose that moment to announce that she was suspending her route guidance, unable to find the local landmarks or too tired or sick of leading us or whatever.  Which happened again and again just as we neared our destinations each evening.  We’d follow GPS all day and then she’d drop us at the end like a hot potato with a “no hable Espanol.”  Sigh.  So Hannah, who is scheduled to swim across the bay with me in two weeks, is now wearing a pink cast.




  1. I have to say, Rainier cherries picked that morning and in my local market by the time I'm leaving work is probably the best part about living in Washington (great for digestion).
    - Allie

    1. Right? The next day in the car was all about the aftermath of eating fresh cherries!