Interstate Decisions: Which Road to Ride, Where to Stay

west pass vert (480x640)SPOKANE VALLEY, WASHINGTON—Return trips are essentially restarts of a trip because you have to make all the same directions, only going in the other direction. With a business call in Spokane Valley, I spend Saturday trying to decide whether to abandon my original plan of US 2 for an expedient run on Interstate 90. Besides, taking that route on Sunday would get me out of Seattle’s Monday morning traffic and Spokane’s afternoon rush hour. When I awoke his morning to sunshine and blue skies, deciding to stick to my original  plan took a second, and I’m glad I did.

Ed gave me directions to I405 North, which would lead me to WA 522 and then US 2. At 0900 on Sunday there was little traffic, and I made good time. There was a fair amount of construction on the 405, but with no traffic, it was not an inconvenience. Rolling up to the 522 exit, a flashing sign said was would close on Monday, August 12, and would remain that way until this coming Thursday. Dealing with that on Monday would have been more than an inconvenience.

Had I taken I-90, I would have missed the spectacular ride through Stevens Pass on US 2. On the approach the Cascade Mountains were deep green and wreathed in ephemeral garlands of clouds. It was cool, but not wet, and there was traffic, but most of it was heading west. Blue and I quickly got into the road’s left-right-left rhythm and traffic was moving at a perfect speed for fifth gear, so Blue was neither racing nor lugging along.

At the rest area just after the pass I learned that it is named for John F. Stevens, the Great Northern surveyor who discovered it, and routed track through it. When the track was finished in 1893, the tote road that supported its three-year construction continued to connect that communities that sprang up along it. While I was reading, a member of the Apple Valley Kiwanis of Wenatchee, who were supplying weary travelers with coffee and popcorn, told me about a nature area they had build in partnership with the forest service. It sounded interesting but, unfortunately, I’d already passed it.

east 2 sign (640x480)Coasting down the east face of the Cascades, the sky turned blue and the ground started to turn brown. Most of the towns I passed through, like Gold Bar and Skykomish, were worn but tidy. Then progressed crawled through Leavenworth. An art show was clogging the streets of the town that had reinvented itself as a Bavarian Village. In walking Blue through town, I did not see a building that didn’t display a Bavarian façade and gothic lettering. Finally picking speed east of town, the line of traffic going in the other direction equaled that behind the Yellowstone bison. It was not a good day to be going west.

Around Wenatchee the foothills leveled out to plains of short sheared and amber waves of grain awaiting harvest. Ruler straight roads ran for nearly 10 miles before they snuck in curve, just to if drivers were paying attention. The towns were roughly 10-mile whistle-stops, and the country roads were exactly a mile apart and named in alphabetical order, T NE, U NE, V NE, and so on. The driveways were named, I’m assuming, for the families that live at the end of them.

almira (640x480)In the ocean of grain and seas just harvested or recently plowed, groves of trees were widely dispersed islands. The small green isles were homeplaces, with one situated in a  square mile or so. Larger atolls were cities, where grain elevators rose above the trees along the train tracks. Interestingly, only one, Almira, had a water tower. I wonder why?

As the map promised, US 2 runs with I-90 for awhile, and I stuck with it because it offered the best chance of food and lodging and beer close to tomorrow’s appointment. I scored at the Super 8, with a Longhorn Barbecue across the street, the exit two miles short of tomorrow morning’s interview and photography session.

Promising myself to eat healthy, before this adventure started I promised myself only two burgers. I ate both of them on the way west. The Barbecue Rib Tips probably aren’t much better, but they were not a burger, so I’m keeping to my word. Ad I did pick salad and veggies as my side. Now I feel the need to walk some more. Maybe they have a good single bottle of beer at the gas station convenience store across the street to go with my cigar.


About smspangler

Freelance writer, editor, and photographer of myriad aviation topics and the exploration of America's small towns.
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