Trip Diary: Northwest US, 2021

August 4: Today is the first day of my first “retirement” trip: a solo road trip to Seattle. Once there (this coming Monday night) I will pick Jie up at the airport and we will travel around Washington and Oregon for a week. She will fly home from Portland, and I will travel solo back to Illinois. Tonight I am in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, enjoying enough rain to soak my shirt as I wandered around the waterfalls after dinner. Best food of the day: the two BLT sandwiches I made at home and took with me (using tomatoes from my own garden.) Miles driven: 630. Scenery: flatness turned to small hills west of Peoria. As I drove west through Iowa, trees thinned out. And by western Iowa, hills got interesting and climate more arid. Unexpected stop: the Interstate 80 Truck Museum. Free. Well done. Well worth the 45 minute stop. Photo: the falls tonight here in Sioux Falls.

The Falls, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

August 5: In Pierre, South Dakota tonight. The receptionist at the South Dakota History Museum told me to pronounce it “PEER” (one syllable) if I wanted to sound like a local, rather than “PEE AIR.” So, I’ve been trying to sound like a local all day. Drove 230 miles today. Best food today: the piece of rhubarb pie I bought back in Illinois at the Busy Bee Restaurant and put in the cooler. Visits: George McGovern Museum in Mitchell (Having seen the Corn Palace 5 times already, I altered the pilgrimage this time.) Also saw the state capitol building (self guided tour), and the State History Museum. Exercised (brought my exercise equipment with me) in a city park with temperatures in high nineties. Lots of people staring. EMT truck drove by twice, real slow…I think they were looking at me. Saw the Pierre Trappers team (of the Expedition League (collegiate baseball) play Spearfish. Rain downpoured in the 8th inning and I headed back to the motel.

Sioux Falls Trappers, summer league for college players
Grasslands south of Pierre, South Dakota

August 6: In Billings, Montana tonight watching a minor league baseball game, getting rain on my nachos. Drove 530 miles today and saw more than a thousand motorcycles on the road. The Sturgis rally started today and they are expecting more than 800,000 to attend. Less than half the cyclists I saw were wearing helmets while going the 80 mph speed limit on the interstate. They don’t seem the type to get vaccinated. I’m thinking super spreader. As I travel I’m being very cautious about where I go and staying masked and being relatively anti-social…a joy of being a RETIRED pastor. Highlight of the day was a 40 mile loop through the Badlands with Handal’s Water Music Suite on the car stereo.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Motorcyclists on the way to the Sturgis Festival

August 7: In Helena, Montana tonight, my first time here. Saw the state capitol building (grand) and the state history museum (they need some pointers from the North Dakota folks.). Climbed Mt. Helena. More or less. I huffed and shuffled my way up the first 700 feet of elevation. (about 3/4 of a mile) and met two teenagers coming down. They told me that the final route was not too long but real steep and rocky. They pumped me up and told me I could do it! Then they hiked back down and left me on my own. I trudged on. And when they were out of sight (homage to my pride) I checked my smart phone and saw that I had just climbed the equivalent of 65 stories. And I thought about the loose rocks, the promise of a steeper path… and assured they would never see me, headed back down (homage to my wisdom.) stayed last night in the “Dude Rancher Lodge” in Billings. A little leary because of the name. See photo below of the bathroom: bright orange walls and mustard colored sink. Different. Other photo is looking down on Helena from my hike today. 250 miles driven.

My colorful bathroom at the Dude Rancher Inn (Billings, Montana)
From atop Mt. Helena, looking down on St. Helena’s Cathedral

August 8: Was planning on attending the worship service at the Cathedral of Saint Helena this morning. Set my alarm in plenty of time to wake up, pack, and make it to the service. When the alarm went off, I was still tired so I thought I would rest an extra few minutes. Fell back to sleep and dreamed that I was having a conversation with a woman who told me her husband wanted to give me $10 million. She said I should go outside and meet him. As I was going outside, I woke up. Sad to say, I Not only missed out on the $10 million, but the worship at Saint Helena’s Cathedral as well. It was a day of mountains, rivers, and rain. There are few highways in America as beautiful as interstate 90 through western Montana and the Idaho panhandle. It rained off and on all day, and when I got into Spokane this evening, the ball game was rained out I had planned to attend. Photos below include a shot of the Saint Regis River in Montana, highway and mountain shots from the travel today, and the Spokane River in Spokane, Washington. Enjoyed walking once the rain stopped on the riverfront development in Spokane tonight. 314 miles traveled.

St. Regis River, Montana
Spokane River, Washington
Interstate 90, Montana

August 9: Made it to Seattle today, 295 miles drive. Washington state, to put it simplistically, is desert in the east and mountains in the west. The mountains end abruptly as you approach the Pacific sea coast. Photos from today show both the desert and the mountains. There is also a photo overlooking the Columbia River. This is my first time back in Washington state in 24 years. Jie was due in at 10 pm (midnight central time) but her plane has been delayed and she is now scheduled to arrive at 12:15 am. pacific time. Hope there are no more delays. Meanwhile I am on my good behavior as I prepare to give her an accounting for my six days on the road. In other words, she will check me over to see whether I’ve overeaten while I’ve been away. (I haven’t 😜).

wheat field in central Washington
desert in eastern Washington
mountains moving toward western Washington
Along interstate 90 in central Washington
overlooking the Columbia River in central Washington

August 10: After 3 delays for weather, Jie’s plane finally made it to Seattle at 1:30 am local time in the middle of last night (3:30 Urbana time!). Today we drove to Olympic National Park, a feast of mountains and rainforests. Eating tonight in Port Angelos at LD’s Woodfire Grill. Will take the ferry back to Seattle and spend the night. Photos include shots from Hurricane Ridge, Crescent Lake, and the 90 foot Marymere Falls.

Rainforest at Olympic National Park, Washington
Jie at Olympic National Park
Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park
Crescent Lake, Olympic National Park, Washington
Marymere Falls, Olympic National Park, Washington

August 11: We spent the day at the North Cascades national Park. It is the fifth least visited national Park in the United States, a pity. You can see the photos below. At the end of the day we drove to Tacoma and ate dinner at a Thai restaurant. After dinner we talked for almost an hour with the owner about Thailand Cambodia and southeast Asia in general. Fascinating conversation. Drove about 300 miles today. The blue green waters in the Cascades are caused by glacial rocks rubbing against each other, then the rock powder floats in the water and when the sun strikes it you get that color.

North Cascades National Park, Washington
Diablos Lake, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Jie waving, on the trail at North Cascades National Park

August 12: We are in Seattle today: city folks instead of mountaineers. 90 degrees plus here. The day included strolling along the waterfront, oyster chowder at the Pike’s Place market, rhubarb yogurt, the Seattle Art Museum (with a special Monet exhibit), and dinner on the waterfront at the Fisherman’s Restaurant (really expensive…plus, I could have cooked it all better…but I guess you have to pay for the location!). Food photo includes the crab boil, crab cakes, and a bucket of clams. Tonight we drive to Longview Washington. Photos also include the original Starbucks…I think.

Jie, at the way overpriced Fisherman’s Restaurant on the waterfront, Seattle
From the special Monet exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum: view from Étretat off the Normandy coast
The one of a kind: Pike’s Place Market, Seattle. Crowds were heavy and we didn’t feel comfortable (sadly) while we were there…or we might have spent the whole afternoon
The first Starbucks store, across from Pike’ Place Market, Seattle

August 13: This was a day of rivers, oceans, and the funky town of Eugene, Oregon. Staying tonight in the International Hostel in Eugene…like visiting your hippie aunt in a commune. Not your normal Motel 6. This morning we picked a quart of blackberries which we discovered when we pulled off on a countryside road to change drivers. Got stuck in traffic on the 101 coastal highway in Oregon because it was 65 degrees there and everyone in Portland and Salem was trying to escape temperatures approaching triple digits. Ate ice cream at the creamery in Tillamook (on the 101), heart of dairy country. Walked the beach and ate more clam chowder in the seaside village of Cannon Beach. One photo is of the smoking porch at the hostel. One is of blackberries. A couple pictures include rock formations and swimmers at Cannon Beach. And one is from the coastal highway overlook. If the hippies leave me alone tonight we’ll head for Crater Lake tomorrow and return here for a second night afterwards. Getting strange smells wafting up into my bedroom so will sign off for the night. Sweet dreams everyone.

Front porch at our hostel tonight, Eugene, Oregon
We found a huge patch of wild blackberries along the highway, alongside the Columbia River, Oregon
Cannon Beach, Oregon. Oceanside, swimmers, rock formations
Swimmers and sun bathers at the ocean, Cannon Beach, Oregon
Highway 101, ocean view, Oregon

August 14: Today’s trip was to Crater Lake National Park. We also experienced our first sense of the wildfires: the smoke and the odor. While not near any fires ourselves, the smoke travels hundreds of miles and lingers in mountain forests. We drove through more than two hours of it today. The smoke also left a thick haze over Crater Lake and the normally deep blue lake was a dark gray today. But everything is beautiful in its own way. And it was very much a day of taking in wonder and beauty. Back tonight in our delightfully funky hostel in Eugene. Pictures today are of the haze (from wildfires) on the way there, Crater Lake, some scenery around the National Park, and the breakfast patio at our hostel.

Highway to Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Haze from wildfires wafting from more than 100 miles away. Could smell the burning of those fires, a little hard on the lungs.
Jie and I with Crater Lake in the background.
Crater Lake, National Park, Oregon
On the ridge above Crater Lake. This tree hosted a mockingbird that entertained us.
The outdoor breakfast patio at the funky Eugene Whiteaker International Hostel that was our home in Eugene, Oregon.

August 15: Portland, Oregon greeted us today with the side Of the downtown building decorated with the delightful phrase, “Keep Portland Weird.” We had lunch with a middle school friend of Jie’s Who has lived here for 25 years. She had a lot of interesting context to share about Portland’s more recent history with politics and protests. It was hot here, 95°, but not unbearable. We visited the Japanese gardens, the international Rose garden, and Powell’s bookstore. The rose garden was started at the beginning of World War I to try and preserve roses from around the world so that they wouldn’t be destroyed as armies were ruining each other’s country sides in that war. The garden has continued, expanded, and sponsored research into rose growing. Powell’s bookstore it’s probably the best independent bookstore in the country, taking up a whole city block. Jie is out to supper with her friend tonight, and I am downtown experimenting with a Mexican restaurant. Photos today are from the Japanese garden and the Rose garden. There is also a photo of Powell‘s bookstore. Finally, there was a photo of my supper, to prove that I am eating healthy. Enchiladas Verde.

Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon
Jie and her middle school friend, Shirley, now living in Portland. Jie was able to spend several hours catching up with her.
Portland International Rose Garden
Portland International Rose Garden
Portland International Rose Garden
Powell’s Books, a whole city block in downtown Portland
Eating green: Enchiladas verde and guacamole, at Verde Cocina en la Perla, NW 12th and Hoyt, Portland

Today’s jaunt was up the Columbia River to see the gorge and the waterfalls…and to do some hiking in the mountains. We travelled along the picturesque old US highway 30. Back in Portland tonight. The hike took us up above the Latourell Falls. First photos are from there. We also stopped at the Horsetail Falls and enjoyed watching some children splash around in the pool below it. Later photos are from there.

The Columbia River, from the Oregon side, looking at the cliffs on the Washington side
The Columbia River, creating a meandering boundary between the states of Oregon (left) and Washington (right)
View of the Columbia River from the Oregon mountains
Latourell Falls, Oregon, water cascading from the mountains and eventually making its way into the Columbia River
Jie taking a picture of a feeder falls, eventually making its way to the Latourell Falls
children playing at the pool below the Horsetail Falls, another of the many Oregon Falls on scenic Route 30 running alongside the Columbia River (Oregon)

August 17: Today is the last day before Jie flies home. I will continue to post narrative and photos until my road trip is completed…next Monday. We decided to head back to the ocean today to Cannon Beach, Oregon. Jie shopped and I busied myself with beach walking and finishing an excellent novel, “God Spare the Girls.” The first recorded humans in this place were folks from the Tillamook tribe. William Clark, as in Lewis and Clark, meandered down here in 1805 because he heard rumors of a beached whale. He bartered with the Native Americans to obtain 300 pounds of the blubber. Looking out upon the ocean, he remarked, “the grandest and most pleasing prospects my eyes have ever seen. In 2013, National Geographic magazine called Cannon Beach one of the 100 most beautiful places in the world. It is well known for Haystack Rock, which juts more than 200 feet up out of the Pacific ocean. I have a photo of it below. Clark called the place, “Ecoli” which is the Chinook word for “whale.” The name still perseveres in the area, appearing as part of the name of several businesses. Of course, this is a problem for the restaurant by that name, as it made me wonder whether it was safe to eat the clam chowder. In 1846 there was a shipwreck and a cannon on board the ship ended up beached in the area. Evidently a cannon was more impressive than a beached whale, and so the town changed its name to Cannon Beach. Enjoy today’s photos.

Proof that I made it to the Pacific Ocean
Proof I actually made it into the ocean
A man cradling a baby on the shore while walking the beach and reading his smartphone… multitasking!
Haystack Rock, rising 235 feet out of the Pacific at Cannon Beach, Oregon
Beachfront home, Cannon Beach, Oregon, different colored hydrangeas
Couldn’t get enough of these beautiful hydrangeas
What I just wrote in the photo caption above

August 18: I am in Weiser, Idaho tonight at the Weiser Motel and RV Park, a pleasant room with character, extra touches of hospitality, a nice break from Motel 6 the past three nights. Dropped Jie off at the Portland airport at 11 a.m. and she has landed in Chicago and is now driving home to Urbana. My trip after dropping her off was along the Columbia River (the border between Washington and Oregon). At the very end I drove next to the Snake River to get to the motel. I got a good sample of Oregon’s northern geography today, cruising along Interstate 84 from the west edge of the state to the east. I went from forest and snow covered mountains to desert mountains, through rolling hills, and into the stark mountains along the eastern side of the state. At the restaurant next to the motel I got some Kuchen for dessert. Don’t know exactly what it is, but the restaurant owner (Miss Judy) told me it was really good, so I ordered a takeout. Will do my exercises first, then nibble at it to see whether I like it. I’ll give you a report tomorrow. Didn’t want the whipped cream on it, but Miss Judy scowled and said she wouldn’t sell it to me if I tried to eat it without whipped cream.

The view of the Columbia River where I ate lunch
The state of Oregon gets drier as you drive east

Looking west along I-84 in Oregon, where I’d just driven
Traveling eastward in Oregon, the desert in the north central part of the state
One thing I love about the west is seeing trains snake along the railroads. As you are looking down in the valley or off in the distance, they are fascinating. Sorry I didn’t get a shot of a train on this one, but I at least wanted to capture the railroad. Tracks of the Union – Pacific Railroad
Kuchen: a very moist cake with fresh fruit, peaches and blueberries, baked into the middle of it

August 19: This was my day to delve into Idaho. Woke up in the quaint motel (see picture below) in Weiser, just across the parking lot from the restaurant called, “Judy’s Weiser In.” When asked why she didn’t spell it “inn” she responded that she just wanted people to stay for dinner, not all night. My breakfast was the kuchen I got there the night before: quite good…a very moist cake filled with fresh blueberries and peaches. Headed down from Weiser to spend about 5 hours in Boise. The Idaho State History Museum was excellent, even if a bit disorganized. Took a self-tour of the state capitol building and accidentally wandered down a legislative hallway that was off limits to visitors. Didn’t know it until someone in an office yelled at a guard to do a better job keeping visitors out. Ate lunch at the Basque Market, sampling the ethnic food of one of Boise’s most historic ethnic communities. As I drove through Idaho I kept looking for potato fields. But all I could see were corn fields and hay fields…and sagebrush and tumbleweeds. Being alone all day, this gave me time to obsess over whether we might be facing a potato shortage. Given that I could find no potatoes in Idaho, I recommend that you buy up all you can in the grocery store. I also found out that no one knows the origin of the name “Idaho.” They were going to call it “Colorado” but discovered that the name was already taken. The guy who proposed Idaho at first said that it was a Shoshone term, but that turned out to be fake. Then he said he met a cute girl named Ida…and she was the inspiration. It seems like “ho” is not a good complement to a woman’s name…but maybe I’m just bringing my 21st century wokeness to the matter. Made it across the Utah border to spend the night at the Best Western in Logan.

The Weiser Motel, Idaho. A nice break from the chain motels
Idaho State Museum, Boise
Idaho State Capitol building, Boise
The Basque Market. The Basque population came to Idaho from an area between France and Spain. They mostly worked with sheep when they got here.
The Boise Municipal Rose Garden

August 20: I am in Sidney Nebraska (in the far western panhandle of Nebraska )tonight after traveling most of the day through northern Utah and all the way across southern Wyoming. 545 miles in the car. I traveled US Highway 89 in Utah, a highway that goes on up into Yellowstone eventually. The picture of the sheep below is from that highway. The geological formations of the earth through Utah and Wyoming made me want to stop about every five minutes and take a photo. But obviously I wanted to get into the motel here before midnight. I did stop along the way to visit the museum at Fossil Butte National Monument in southwest Wyoming, take a tour of the old Wyoming State penitentiary in Rawlins, and eat chicken/mango enchiladas in Laramie.  Winds we’re heavy today gusts at 40 mph and temperatures were in the 50s and 60s all day.

US 89 east of Logan, Utah
Open grazing in northeastern Utah, sheep taking over the highway
Scenery northeast Utah, US 89
Scenery along I 80, southwest Wyoming
South central Wyoming
Southeastern Wyoming
First Wyoming State Penitentiary, now a tourist item

August 21: In Omaha tonight at a triple A minor league game between the Columbus Clippers and the Omaha Storm-chasers. A very pleasant evening after driving 400 miles across Nebraska today. The high plains of Nebraska are vast and beautiful in their own way, but I had no impulses to pull over and snap you a photo…because much of the scenery along I-80 is…what word am I looking for here?… the kind of vista that doesn’t overly distract the eye. It was junk-yard-ish scenery, human carelessness, that hit the eye today. This will be the last post of my trip. I’ll be spending the day with friends in Des Moines Iowa tomorrow and heading home to Urbana Monday. Thank you all very much for your virtual companionship along the way these past 18 days. Your comments and reactions have multiplied my joy. My next planned writing will be the revival of my weekly Sunday letter in September. Until then, see the beauty before your very eyes, each day.

Werner Park, Papillion, Nebraska, just outside Omaha

August 23: Grateful to be home and also grateful for this 20 day road trip and journey that took me 6400 miles and meandered through 10 states.

Home, Sweet Home