It’s true, there’s no place like home. I can attest to that coming off a 7,000-mile loop that took Ms. Sunshine and me west to Kingman, Ariz., then northward to Lake Meade, to Las Vegas and ever onward via Highway 95, one of the stretchest two-lane desert roads of the American west, to Reno, Nev., and again west across Donner Summit to the upper reaches of the great Sacramento Valley and Highway 99 North.
A five-day layover in my old hometown of Red Bluff, Calif., then a two-day jaunt up to Mt. Vernon, Wash., by way of Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash. Thank God we were able to skirt Seattle to the northside coming back and forego all the down town stop and go traffic in town, the congestion made worse one suspects by the political visits of one’s Hillary and Bernie.
Homeward bound from Mt. Vernon and the Skagit Valley, the first overnight stop would be Missoula, Mont., the day before Easter. Time of arrival at Missoula is 5 p.m. Next day we look to lose four hours driving time when my fellow traveler advocates attending Mass on Easter Sunday. A Saturday evening mass televised from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New york City puts us back on track and, though oversleeping an hour next morning, we remain on a three day schedule to reach the home of friends and kin at Kansas City, Mo.
My guide over these uncharted roadways sez we can make it from Missoula, Mont., to somewhere near Spearfish, S.D., in the day’s drive but late into the afternoon my bones denounce and I announce a certain weariness creeping into the old chassis and a desire to stop, drop our gear on the spot and escape the constant road noise and hassle of the highway.
My suggestion is met with certain negativity but protests I mightily, well, mightily as I dared in the face of cold hard determination and eventually prevailed. The dissenting opinion eventually diminished and we settled for lodging in a little town called Gillette, over in the state of Wyoming nearly 200 miles short of the evening’s suggested destination.
Weather had been our concern when we began this little foray March 13. The Northwestern states can become downright blizzardy right on up into the month of April but, catching a short window of time filled with blue sky and sunshine, we lays down our chips and rolls the die.
The sky was cloudy and lowering when we departed, but by time we reached the Texas Panhandle the intermittent showers that followed us across Oklahoma ceased altogether, albeit replaced by strong crosswinds that persisted through several states.
With the helloes and goodbyes at Red Bluff said and done, the aging wayfarers bade farewell to family and friends and began the trip northward to Mt. Vernon Wash., the point in our travels which took us the farthermost distance from home. The trail ahead would prove not so agreeable as the trail behind and for the first time weather would become a major annoyance. Upon leaving California and the upper Sacramento, we left behind the blue sky and sunshine that had followed us through the last several days of our travels.
Downpours followed us up the Sacramento River Canyon and on into Oregon, sharply reducing visibility, while spray thrown up and out by commercial haulers charging down the highway undiminished by it all was near blinding. This carried on into the congested roadways of Portland, Ore., and northward to the south of Seattle, where, tiring of it all we sought refuge for the night in Longview, Wash.
In ordinary times there seemed lodging enough in Longview for Patton’s army but construction workers swarmed the hotels, and one supposes a host of travelers as we, weary of a long and frustrating day on the road. That interprets as "no room at the inn."
A quick hamburger at a fast food drive through and back to the road, this time calling ahead for reservations at a motel 60 miles up the road at Centralia. Call it a peaceful nights sleep and 60 miles less driving to our final destination next morning. What can I say about negotiating the streets of Seattle, Wash., as we make our way (hopefully) to Mt. Vernon. Don’t go there if ya can hep’ it, especially if you’re an old(er) country boy.
Three days of visiting family exploring the Skagit Valley, the grove of Giant red cedar and conifers at a local state park, the historic settlements along the Skagit River, the tulip fields and tourist traps, the weather gives us a window of opportunity to head for home ere it extends our vacation days beyond the planned stay. Up early on a Saturday morning, the GPS set for Kansas City we head south again toward Seattle where Interstate 90 points to the direction of home. Not wanting more hours of stop and go of rush hour traffic down at the big city, we skirts Seattle by way of 405 at Kirkland and heads for the first nights lodging at Missoula, Mont.
After Missoula there’s good weather alll the way to Gillette, Wyo., where we shelter on the second night of the trip home.
Yet, things aren’t looking so good weather wise when we arise on Monday morning, day after Easter Sunday. Storms had closed the high mountain passes east of Seattle the day after our departure, now blizzard conditions are forecast for Gillette and all surrounding territory with possibility of 24 inches of snow at the higher elevation, and to the west the sky is filled with dark lowering clouds. Still, off to the east a ribbon of dawn along the entire horizon, colored bright orange by the rising sun.
There, some 800 miles to the east lay Kansas City, our determination of the day. With the storm biting at our butts, we head the Jeep Patriot into the rising sun. I glance over at the speedometer as my cohort herds the charging contraption down the road toward the thin ribbon of light beyond the storms leading edge. Cruise was set at 80 miles an hour.
Pedal to the metal, whatever was to the back of us, snow, wind, rain hail, whatever, stayed to the back of us; smooth sailing the entire day, and Kansas City by seven.
Two days later we’re nearing the Hopper tunnel heading south on 540; I’m here to testify it can rain buckets between Winslow and Chester but what the heck, onto the backs of each of us a little rain must fall.
Question is, what are two people of "age" doing out poking around the Pacific Northwest in the middle of March? Hey, a nice little excursion, old scenes recalled, old acquaintances renewed, new friends acquired, families reunited, new places explored. All well and swell but gee, like the old song sez: There’s no place like home.