Seattle, Quincy, Portland, Eugene and back. 892 mile loop. This has been my routine for several weeks in a row . 133 gallons of gas, over 50 of hours behind the wheel, countless suicidal bugs washed off the windshield and an oil change.
Monday finds me leaving Seattle’s busy metropolis along and racing to work in a little patch of farm land in eastern Washington known as Quincy. Posted 70 MPH, I90 is one of those interstates where you can set the cruise control somewhere above the speed limit and go. I pass through dense Ceders and Douglas Fur climbing up to the Snoqualmie Pass that divides the state into east and west. Descending from the 3,022 feet crack in the Cascade mountains, the thick rain forest gives way to stately Ponderosa Pines, eventually thinning out into groves of windmills towering a hundred feet over the scrub and sage brush. Olfactory senses that once enjoyed a hint of cool pine are now accosted by hot dusty dung. The smell of money to ranch owners everywhere in eastern Washington. The land becomes flatter and flatter until you can see for miles in any directions.
Temperatures race to the high 90s quickly with the summer sun filling a cloudless blue sky. The warm air lingers as the sun leaves and a lavender moon dominates the dark night. The little town of Quincy shuts down by 10:00pm with only one yellow blinking traffic light to remind you, you’re still in town.
By Friday the week’s work is done and it’s time to aim the car south for Portland (that’s Oregon, not Maine). The old state highway cuts through Washington’s cattle country, orchards and endless fruit stands. This is a much more relaxed journey. Seldom used gravel roads shoot off the highway every mile or two leading into the country side. The hills offer endless opportunities to explore if you choose to take any of the gravel spurs. The highway twists, turns and climbs the Cascades but the parade of RVs and trailers in front is going to keep it under 50 mph. There is little reason to rush.
Rest stops are the modern equivalent of desert watering holes. Scattered along a ribbon of pavement, rest stops offer views of geological wonders, picnic areas, a place to stretch your legs and the opportunity to relieve yourself of the 64oz gas station coffee concoction you grabbed an hour earlier.
While concrete and steel has replaced camels and sand, the modern day desert oasis remains a gathering place for travelers. Some folks are hurriedly driving from one place to the next. Others are slowly traveling across country taking in all the sights and sounds the country has to offer. And on any giving Saturday in fall you will find cars decked out in college colors and banners as travelers race to college campuses around the country to support their favorite NCAA gridiron team.
Dropping into Oregon I follow the Columbia River west down the gorge. The Dalles, Bonneville Locks, Multnomah Falls, Rooster Rock, the list of amazing sights goes on as the sun drops low on the horizon.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 24×7, the Original Hotcake House serves some of the best breakfasts and burgers anywhere. My mom would have referred to this as a greasy spoon… I call it chicken-fried-sausage-gravy-chedder-hash-brown love. This will kill you; but what a way to go… The eggs are healthy, right??!!
Anyone who know me, knows Oregon Duck football is a big deal. This brings us to the Eugene portion of the loop. There is something special about being at a college football game. Tailgating, rowdy student sections, ESPN trucks sending live broadcasts into the heavens, general fan mayhem and a chance to reconnect with with friends every fall makes the stand still traffic on I5 bearable.
If the calendar says Sunday it must be laundry night. This is after heading back up the I5 corridor to Seattle. Tonight my head will rest for the first time in seven days on my own pillow with all the familiar sounds of home. Monday starts it all over.
For anyone who loves the open road, this is the golden triangle. Dense forests, mountain passes, high plains desert, wide open gorge, beautiful sunsets and college football. Every time there is something different with new people to meet on the road that is more traveled.