Miles traveled today: 375.3
Total miles traveled: 375.3
Entry # 1 in the chronicle of my twelve-day trek across a good portion of America kicks off in an air-conditioned Howard Johnson’s Inn in Spokane, Washington. It’s late but I’m pretty wired, having just finished dinner (a roast beef sub from a local sandwich shop called Jimmy John’s). Today was a hectic day; I was on the go from the moment I woke up until…well, now. It feels good to relax.
As the first half of the day raced by, I quickly realized one thing: I should have started packing much sooner. With an hour to go before my departure, I had an empty suitcase, and I was still burning CDs, for crying out loud. Hey, with all this driving ahead of me, I cannot stress enough the importance of having plenty of good music to while away the hours. I googled “road trip music” and loaded a couple of CDs full of Steppenwolf (Born To Be Wild), Sammy Hagar (I Can’t Drive 55), Golden Earring (Radar Love), The B-52s (Roam), Johnny Cash (I’ve Been Everywhere), and – well, you get the picture. Really good driving music. I finally finished packing, loaded the car, and shuttled the kids to their mom’s house.
At 2:22 exactly, I hit the road, pointing my car east, the general direction I’ll be traveling for the next week. The first song I heard to kick off my journey was Holiday Road, Clark Griswold’s anthem from the original National Lampoon’s Vacation and, in my opinion, the ultimate road trip song. I immediately got into the spirit, singing along and enjoying the scenery. My journey began on the Washington side of the river, driving through the Columbia Gorge until I reached the Bridge of the Gods and crossed into Oregon. From there it was a few hours driving down I-84 before I crossed back into Washington. Mountain formations gave way to dry, arid steppes and eventually just a whole lot of empty farmland. While driving through this desolate stretch I was struck with an overwhelming disbelief that I am really doing this, and I felt proud of myself. Not everybody would hop in the car pretty much on a whim and take a solo trip through a wide swath of the country like this. I love the impulsive feel of the whole thing.
What I did not love were the scraggly-looking hitchhikers thumbing for rides in Oregon. I passed a few of them, and they all looked homeless. The last guy grabbed his crotch in a rude gesture as I went flying by. Considering that he resembled Charles Manson, I’m thinking my decision to continue without stopping was wise.
A little while after I passed through Ritzville, Washington the landscape began to change. Barren farmland gave way to pine trees and firs. My GPS unit told me Spokane was less than ten miles away, but I found that hard to believe – it still looked like I was in the middle of nowhere. And then, suddenly, there it was, looming on the horizon. Spokane is the second-largest city in Washington and the third-largest in the Pacific Northwest, behind Seattle and Portland. It’s much more impressive than I ever imagined – it’s got trees and hills and rivers and a funky downtown, and reminded me a lot of home. I arrived at my motel a few minutes past 8:00, and even though I was hungry, I wanted to get out and explore before the sun went down, so I checked into my room and got back into the car. I headed down to Riverfront Park, about a ten-minute drive from where I’m staying, on the advice of the friendly motel clerk. I parked the car and walked around this gorgeous park, site of the 1974 World’s Fair. I crossed a suspension bridge over the incredibly fast-flowing Spokane Falls and marveled over the beauty of the area as the sun sank below the horizon, finally heading back to my room – regretfully – as dusk descended.
Despite 5.5 hours on the road today, I easily could have gone farther, which bodes well for the rest of my trip as this will be the shortest travel day. And it’s weird; I’m still in my home state, so in a sense it feels like my trip hasn’t even really begun. However, the Idaho border is just twenty miles away, and tomorrow I will be traveling across Montana. Montana! Now, that sounds a little more exotic. My plan is to hit the road early – shortly after 6:00. Hope I can sleep tonight!
Here are some photos from today.