The state of Idaho is tilted, the panhandle’s sloped from east to west, it felt like we couldn’t have stopped before Coeur d’Alene if we’d tried.
We did manage a Gas stop in Haugan, Montana prior, and to see the ‘fifty thousand silver dollars’ for ourselves. As we stepped out of the car a kid of no more than twenty proposed to his girlfriend in the parking lot. Looking like they barely had a silver dollar between them, she said yes and they clambered back into their rusty two door Hyundai and hit the highway with a smile. Young love.
We were aiming for Spokane, Washington in the afternoon, a ten-acre apple orchard in time for the annual cider pressing. For a handful of days we lived there on the ten acres guarded by moose, right there in the barn. A barn more like an analogue fridge; it stays closed tightly throughout the day to keep the cold air in and is opened wide at night to let any warm air out. A loft shared with empty apple crates in the open air of fall, we were left sucking in the sweet smell of Jonagolds from the floor below.
Sandy and John. Elena’s auntie she hasn’t seen in almost twenty years and her crazy-in-a-good-way Vietnam war veteran partner. John boasts several lives, from Hawaiian Ironman to apple farmer to grower of the largest pumpkin in Washington, his grandfather’s brother was the only man to successfully escape Alcatraz and head home to Montana. Sandy, Sandy doesn’t stop, hopefully she never will.
After a few days of pressing cider and getting familiar with Spokane (I think I favoured Bowl and Pitcher), we grudgingly left. I’d been upgraded to Sandy’s souvenir coffee mug from Alaska, I was getting a little too comfortable.
I was surprised how sparse the landscape still was in the eastern part of Washington, whenever I’d thought of that state before all I could think was green upon green. We happened upon the ‘Tri Cities’ by the end of the driving day, I chose a lovely Motel 6 in Pasco, Mexico. Not actually Mexico, but coming into town in the evening it felt like we’d taken a wrong turn in the dark and slipped south across the border; EVERYTHING was in spanish ~ muebles, tortilleria, panaderia, lavanderia, carniceria and on and on and on. An ideal stopover, good food, good people. A couple of hours later and the waitress at the Mexican restaurant cottoned on that Elena spoke fluently, she hovered at every chance and must have told both her and her sister’s life stories including all hurdles of living as a fresh face in the free world.
We wound down the Columbia River Gorge, staying on the Washington side for the most part, eyeing Oregon across the expanse, knowing we’d be there for the next three weeks or so. We came across a poorly signposted ‘Stonehenge’, weird and empty, wild views down the gorge.
Next stop Hood River and it’s cross river counterpart, White Salmon. We housed up above White Salmon in a small 9′ x 12′ mostly unfurnished off grid cabin amongst the pines. It, ah, how do you say? Rained again. Mist and rain, the race to cook dinner before dark, a genuine introduction to the Pacific Northwest. Just a one night stop, but we lucked into an indoor farmers market by the railway station and sampled the delights of Dog River coffee.
In addition to the jammed film, I’ve accidentally sent a couple of rolls of un-scanned negatives of Oregon home to Australia, including the waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge. There’s enough photographs of Multnomah on the internet anyway; It felt stale to be taking photos, so I spent my time there mostly climbing to the top, breathing in the misty air and noticing how small the cars in the car park looked from above. I stole another postcard from the gift shop but don’t think I’ve sent it to anyone yet.
I’ll only mention Portland briefly. A city centre like any city centre, we did the must do’s like Saturday Market, Stumptown, became overwhelmed by unread books in Powells, window shopped for things we couldn’t afford, I ate a Voodoo Donut, but the best streets were the outskirts; I had the best food truck six-dollar indian special in Hawthorne and a coffee that made me more homesick than I’d ever been at ‘Blue Kangaroo’ in Sellwood.
The subtle noise we’d had under the car at the 1758 mile mark and for a thousand miles had become a squeal, a friend pointed us towards a mechanic a few minutes away and we spent a day in Boring, Oregon. Sister city of Dull, Scotland. Boring turned out to be more than met the eye, while waiting for our squeal prognosis we found a sweet trail along the river, views of Mt. Hood and near free coffee. Though by the time our mechanical pack-horse was fixed we really were ready to leave the city and head out to places more densely populated with trees rather than people.
Fast forward to Astoria, Oregon. The first stop as we came to the coast, last chance to thrift anything. I pre-empted more rain and subsequent mud and purchased a pair of secondhand gumboots, a decision I wouldn’t regret.