Category Archives: Idaho

Twin Falls to Cascade Locks – 527 miles

This was our longest journey of the trip, but certainly not the most arduous!  We picked up the I-84 a couple of miles down the road and just stayed on it, mile after mile until we turned off at Cascade Locks to find our hotel was less than a quarter of a mile away.  Let’s not confuse this journey with something similar in England; much of the time the traffic was light and our speed only varied when a change in the speed limit demanded we actually did something more than point the car in the right direction and adjust the steering occasionally.  Needless to say the scenery was spectacular and you just run out of superlatives. Forget the daft politics and politicians, the jaundiced opinions people utter about the American folks and all the negatives spoken from a basis of little knowledge…this is a spectacularly beautiful country!  Its vastness offers so many facets and today we experienced a few hours of genuine appreciation for the offerings we met. 

 

We began the day in Idaho and enjoyed a mixture of farming country with its pastures and arable lands and an odd Correction Centre in the middle of nowhere. We climbed the mountains into Oregon and two things happened; our watches shot back an hour and we were back on Pacific time and we crossed the 45th Parallel half way between the Equator and the North Pole.  We then watched in amazement as The Columbia River Gorge came into view and the road followed it for mile after mile. It was neither small nor meandering but bold and wide. There were dams at different points, so hydroelectricity, wind farms along the tops of the steep gorge and various industrial plants along the way.  But some spectacular camp sites and hiking trails were also much in evidence. Something for everyone!  Carolyn has the details of the size and distances of this beautiful State but for me it is all about the visuals. Watching the sides of the vast gorge change from volcanic basalt pillars to smooth contours and then to densely wooded hillsides was beautiful.

 

Our hotel is also lovely with views of Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods. How do places get their names?  In this case Native American folklore!  We went out for dinner this evening to a riverside hostelry offering beer brewed on the premises, excellent food, tables offering views of the sunset over the Locks and a very good country singer who played a mean guitar. People at the next table, from Seattle, were intrigued by our accents and fascinated by our road trip exploits, not the distances covered but more our choice of routes. They recommended Victoria rather than Seattle, which was interesting. We had to walk a little distance to find a tunnel under the train track and caught one of these seemingly endless monsters crossing above our heads as we returned. Only 130 carriages counted tonight, so not too long!!

 

Another great day and more tomorrow. Just a few miles away are the Multnomah Falls and from there we will take a look at the volcano Mt St Helens before going on to our next destination, which is Seattle. 

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

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We’re in Oregon. The drive from Idaho was beautiful. Varied, interesting and every bend had a new potential photograph. However, it was over 500 miles but completed by 3.00 pm aided by another Time Zone change. We are now setting our clocks to Pacific Time although our bodies aren’t sure what day of the week it is, let alone the Time Zone! 

Most of the journey was rural but I smiled at this industrial plant. Wonder what they make? The address may give a clue.

 

 The distance is challenging but it was always predicted to be. This one State, Oregon, has a bigger area than the whole of the UK! In fact, 11 of the 50 States have an area larger than the UK. Large size and good example…

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One of the interesting aspects of the journey today was to see the utilisation of renewable energy sources in Oregon. We drove past a hillside of solar panels, a skyline of wind turbines and three significant hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. I was surprised to see three on the same river. However, look how many this monster of a river has. 

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It’s basin is the size of France and it is the greatest flow of water in North America which goes into the Pacific. It is 1243 miles long and our ‘friend’ from yesterday, Snake River, is its most significant tributary. The gorge it has carved is up to (down to?!) 4000 feet. In perspective, it would hide almost eight Blackpool Towers stacked one on top of the other! 

Another, for me, interesting aspect of the journey today was a sign telling us we were half way between the Equator and the North Pole, i.e. crossing the 45th Parallel.1F4FC28A-FC8D-4448-8C9D-CAA3D61BEBFB

Spelling! I’ve come to terms with American (mis)spelling (just!) of ‘color’, ‘center’, ‘flavor’, ‘traveler’ etc. but today… ‘snowplow’?! Why, for goodness sake? (The signage is to remind us that almost everywhere we’ve been has had warnings of snow to come. Hard to believe in the warmth we’ve experienced this month but mental images of the wild winters round here are prompted frequently with snow poles and signage insisting on snow chains being fixed.) 

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And, another thing… which you may already have known but I came across it courtesy of Dan Brown’s ‘Origin’ (airport and plane reading). The FedEx sign has a subliminal arrow to illustrate speed and accuracy. We’ve seen so many trucks with this logo on and can’t, now, help but see the arrow every time. Subliminal messages are in a number of logos, of course. The Amazon A to Z arrow with a smile and dimple is another. 

 

A brief exploration of a ‘back road’ reminded us of our first Road Trip two years ago on the Historic Route 66 – this time we were on Historic Route 30,

 

Final quirk, this evening was when we were reminded of the Native American heritage with the street sign where we’re staying.

Not quirky but serendipitous as we noted that some live music was going to be played down the road. Good food, decent beer and a tremendous writer, guitarist, vocalist called Matt Coughlin! He reminded me of a young Ralph McTell and I told him so. He appreciated the compliment. He was so honest and real. He’d brought his wife and two children with him – they played with toy dinosaurs. After the first two songs, his moccasins were removed and his bare feet stood on outdoor paving as, I suspect they often do. 

 

Another good day.

Seattle tomorrow. 

From Ellensburg to Missoula – 369 miles

It doesn’t sound far when you say it quickly but by the time we had crossed state lines (Washington/Idaho/Montana) and lost an hour into the bargain by crossing into a new time zone, you appreciate the vastness of this country.

 

It was a brilliant morning and we appreciated the ‘big skies’ we encountered. As you take in the 360 degree vista, you quickly recognise that there can be numerous weather patterns as you turn in each direction.  Once again we saw that the warm days will not be here for much longer when fresh signs are being erected with ice warnings, stopping places for snow chains and miles of snow poles.  I don’t usually like the white stuff but a log cabin in the woods with lots of deep snow might be appealing, well it might for about five minutes!

 

So what did we see on the journey?  Mile after mile of agricultural land with names of crops on the fences so you at least know what you are looking at, lots of mountains, beautiful lakes with resort areas for campers, and some incredible roads that appear endless.  I was very excited to drive up and down some of the mountains at 80 mph – seriously, that was the speed limit.  I don’t think I have ever seen road signs in America with such a high speed limit before, so it would be rude to disobey.

We are actually heading for Yellowstone National Park but today have passed loads of national parks, and the great outdoors is very much on offer here.  Sadly, in a way, we didn’t have time to stop and explore and, fortunately, we had pushed ourselves to arrive at the hotel in good time. Less fortunate was the discovery there was no room at the Inn and Booking.com had mucked up.  It took some time and some persistence but we got a decent alternative and went to celebrate with a hot dog and a frozen custard.  That was after introducing Carolyn to Denny’s at lunch time. My goodness we know how to live!

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Today, as Kath indicated, we began the road part of our Road Trip in earnest. So,… my part of our blog today will be about the roads.

There is a scale about North American roads which impresses and disturbs. ‘Round the corner’ could be several miles and ‘down the road’ could be a hundred or so!

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Sally, our Sat Nav, gave us our first instructions and, as it was my turn to drive, I listened carefully. She told me, “Continue on the I90 for 174 miles”. Nothing else for over two hours! Obediently, on this occasion, I set cruise control at the speed limit of 70 mph and… 172 miles later had touched the brake once and accelerator twice. The road was long, straight, low traffic, relatively high speed and totally trouble free.

After stopping for lunch at Denny’s, Kath and I swapped seats and Sally’s instruction for her changed to “Continue on the I90 for 185 miles”. Simple so far but… within two miles we hit a traffic jam! This was followed by someone’s breakdown, bend after bend, hill after hill, numerous road works and a five lorry pile-up with one trailer on its side. (I tried not to smile when I saw the third truck involved had ‘Jesus saves’ on the cab and was plastered with Biblical quotes. Denny’s was next to Victory Church, a fundamentalist organisation who still believe that Creation took place in 4004 BC. I make no apology for saying they’re wrong… and dangerously so!)

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Kath’s bonus for the afternoon came when the speed limits changed and she could legally do 80 mph for the first time. ‘Legally’ do it, note! Needless to say, every road works we encountered after that increased her frustration (and verbal outbursts as she blamed the world for stopping her driving at 80!). She’s a frustrated F1 driver deep down!

 

And, on the road, we passed signs to the Grand Coulee Dam, which brought back memories for me of the Woody Guthrie song; in Idaho signs for the Purple Heart Trail; Road signs warning of Abrupt Lane Edges; the beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene and its eponymous feeder river. Snow poles and ice warnings reminded us that a pleasant Fall day heralded a much harsher winter to come. Idaho’s Panhandle National Forest echoed days gone by and the little town of Kellogg was named after a prospector not a Cornflakes salesman. Cristal Gold Mine in Silver Valley also mentioned something of the area’s history.

 

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I had one of my CTMQ (Chuckle To Myself Quietly) moments when a sign said, “Two Mile Road 1 Mile” which was followed some junctions later by the more confusing, “Nine Mile Road 1 Mile”. Regrettably, we passed both original signs at speed but I snapped the junction sign itself. 

 

 

 

Similarly, the “C’mon Inn” was a clever name for a business but I didn’t smile at the “Wildlife Crossing” sign in Montana which had been “Game Crossing” in Washington State. 

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And, when we arrived in Missoula, there was no room at the Inn!