Last week, Bruce and I picked up our second oldest grandchild, Autumn, and began the nearly 1300 miles back to our cute house in the Pacific Northwest. We and her parents had supplied her with coloring books, an iPod, chapter books, activity books, snacks galore and a pink water bottle.
Autumn is a slender six-year-old, but nevertheless, almost from the minute we set out, she said, “I’m hungry.”
We told her we couldn’t stop until we got to Wyoming, so she contented herself with one of her prepackaged snacks.
Throughout Wyoming, we looked for two treasures: pronghorn antelope and…rest-stops. the need for rest stops—at regular and closely spaced intervals—helped us come up with a jingle of sorts: “Rest stop, rest stop, we need a rest stop,” to the tune of that old childish mocking tune, “nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah.”
By Montana, we had counted 244 antelope, and four rest stops, two of which we missed because the driver—who wasn’t me— was always in the left lane, passing slower cars. (note: every car is slower, except for the ones who get pulled over.)
In Montana, we eagerly watched the faint, purple haze of mountain silhouette grow larger and more distinct. Looking for a Taco Bell in Butte, Montana, our trusty GPS betrayed us and led us way, way up a hill overlooking the scenic mining town.
We swam that night in a nice heated pool and tried to teach Autumn how to float on her back. She’s almost there.
At Spokane, we walked the Riverfront Mall, which is kind of different. Not that it has tons of shops. But it provides some sheltered overhead walkways that connect the mall to other city shops and businesses. Downtown Spokane is scenic.
A block north is the scenic Riverfront Park that parallels the Spokane River. If you’re into bicycling or jogging, this is a lovely spot. Lots of tall shade trees, and the Spokane Falls provide a kind of muted white noise.
Eastern Washington, west of Spokane has its own kind of remote, treeless beauty. Autumn eagerly waited for the Cascades to come into view. We stopped at an overlook by the Columbia River, took lots of pictures of Autumn, and I watched her like a mother-hen, due to the jagged un-fenced cliffs.
In Bellingham we walked the pier, collected interesting sea shells, watched tiny crabs in a tide pool, and took a picture of a maroon-colored se stars.
Anyone planning a northwest trip has simply got to take a ferry ride through the San Juan Islands. Just as the Space Needle is iconic for Seattle, the San Juans are the iconic collections of cedar-covered earth, scattered throughout the Sound. It’s possible to spot a whale or sea lion or eagle along the route. Don’t miss this. (Autumn says this was her favorite part of the trip.)
Friday Harbor has a number of cute places to stay for a day or two, some interesting shops, a play place for kids (this was one of Autumn’s favorite stops), and some interesting museums. We visited the Whale Museum and the Historical Society’s farm house and barn and school and jail (once called the worse jail in the country). I love these visits. Reminds me how blessed I am to live in modern times.
if you’re looking for an uncrowded little zoo, the Greater Vancouver Zoo (just a few miles north of the Lynden, Abbotsford border crossing is a nice place. The walkways are mostly shaded, even though there aren’t as many animal exhibits as a larger zoo, obviously. (And don’t forget that you need a passport to get into Canada.) But the raptor show is fascinating, and the little train ride around the exhibits is a nice set-down-and-rest respite.
I hope you get a chance to visit this part of the country. And when you do, give me a heads-up on social media.