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back above the 49th, part two

September 21, 2014

The second part of our trip started on an odd note.  I was going to our car to move it next to our motel room for easy loading.  A homeless man began walking and talking with me.  Most of what he said was incomprehensible, but he kept pointing to my eye patch, then to his eye, which also had been injured.  When we got to the car, he said “I hope you get to feeling better, sir.  I love you.”

It was a pleasant way to start the day.

Jude and I headed out on I-5 South, planning to circumvent downtown Seattle as we aimed at southeastern Washington state.  A sign flashing over several lanes warned us off I-405 due to a massive pile-up, so we got to see the Space Needle up close again.  Soon we were on I-90 East en route to the Cascade Mountains in general and Snoqualmie Pass in particular.

We weren’t worried about snow slowing us down as we peaked at 3022 feet, but there was plenty of road construction to frustrate us.  I did, however, finally found out why long stretches of interstate are blocked off with no work crews to be seen.  The pavement needs its rest to cure.  That’s probably obvious to the inquiring mind, but it has baffled me for decades.

We drove through some interesting country: rolling hills covered with acres of corn, grapes and other crops.  Much of it had been recently plowed.  Many of the secondary roads looked new.  There were numerous wind turbines about.

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And just how big are one of those suckers?  I’m glad you asked.

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With abundant energy and the massive Columbia and Snake Rivers near, the area seems poised to become a major agricultural player.

We had a wonderful visit with our friends in Clarkston, just across the state line from Lewiston, Idaho.  Not at all coincidentally, both towns are on the Lewis and Clark Trail.  We headed back to the Seattle area on Sunday, a huge mistake because much of the metro area’s 3.6 residents were doing the same at the end of a lovely summer weekend.

We got an early start and were doing well until we neared Snoqualmie Pass.  We didn’t know if it was just some minor congestion from the aforementioned construction, but we were almost gridlocked when we decided to get off the interstate.

We took the Roslyn exit and briefly entertained the thought of cruising through town.  Roslyn was Cicely, Alaska, in the classic CBS series Northern Exposure.  I thoroughly loved that show, but we thought it was more prudent to go the other way to Leavenworth to catch U.S. 2 to Everett, where we were spending one more night.

Leavenworth is a tourist town with a Bavarian theme, and throws a mighty fine Oktoberfest.  Our concern that day, however, was merely to gas up and head west.  The area is gorgeous.

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We knew that the highway would be busy and full of R.V.’s, but with its many pull-outs and passing lanes, plus an occasional expansion to four-lanes, we actually did 60 miles in 60 minutes.

And then . . . about 40 miles out of Everett, the traffic started an accordion pattern: stretching out for a decent gain, then wheezing to a stop.  It took us 90 minutes to go ten miles.  At first we thought it was caused by a wreck, but we never saw one or any signs of one.  It eventually unknotted.  We got to our motel at a decent hour and had one more really nice night with my son.

When we headed home the next morning, we got one more (unnecessary) reminder why we love the rural life.  I-5 was backed up for ten miles because a cement truck had overturned.  Fortunately we were going the other way.  We were so eager to get back to Canada that we bypassed one of my favourite stops, a place that I feel makes America great.

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We were more apprehensive than usual about the border crossing.  When we were sworn in as Canadian citizens the week before the trip, we had to surrender our Permanent Resident cards.  They’re as good as a passport.  Because we didn’t have time to apply for that, we were issued a letter stating that we were indeed legitimate Canucks.

However, in very prominent letters across the top, it also said “Not a travel document”.

Now.  More often than not, our crossings have been without significant incident.  However, every now and again, we have faced off with a guard straight from that cauldron that produced Orks in Lord of the Rings.  We rolled up to the kiosk with barely-controlled dread.

We lucked out.  We got a human — a nice young fellow who smiled and said “Oh, you have dual citizenship.  I’d like to do that.”  We smiled back and got the hell outta there, taking in deep gulps of British Columbia air.

We couldn’t get home soon enough.  We were greeted happily by our dog Slinkee and cat Ollie.  Ollie shows his joy more abstractly than Slinkee,

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One Comment
  1. Judith Sears permalink
    September 22, 2014 8:38 am

    I thought you would say Trader Joes was your favorite thing about America not Popeyes. I stopped loving Seattle in the 80s I was lucky in 2005 when immigrating to get through there but I was shocked at the traffic. We are now 20 miles south of Courtenay in Mud Bay. We can’t tolerate the traffic in Courtenay so only go in once a week. We hit some major traffic jams around Nanaimo twice coming up from Victoria. Usually to go to the States we take the Coho to Port Angeles. We used to take the Sea to Sky around Vancouver but now they say it is crowded since they improved it for the Olympics. The air is good here isn’t it?

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