End of my journey?

After a great visit with my cousin in Seattle; after checking out the view of the city from Queen Anne Hill and the Space Needle; after seeing Jimi Hendrix’s gravesite and Snoqualmie Falls; after crossing Seattle’s I-90 “floating bridge”; and after taking the ferry to Whidbey Island then crossing the bridge at Deception Pass, I left Seattle last Saturday heading to Utah. I figured it would only take a couple of days, three at the most, but I arrived Friday, one day short of a week but what a great drive it was!

I pulled off the highway several times to photograph the beauty of Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 and Stevens Pass on US-2. I was driving at high elevation and even though the roads were clear, there was snow all over the Cascade Mountain range; I even saw a frozen lake for the first time. What an incredible sight that was!

Although I left Seattle around 1:30, I didn’t reach Leavenworth, WA, a Bavarian village only 140 miles from Seattle, until 5 pm. I stopped at the Bavarian Bakery and had striezel and coffee while hearing about the town’s history from Inga and Amanda.

I then stopped in Lake Chelan to enjoy the view of the snow-capped mountain range across the lake, took a few pictures, and decided to have lunch there. I dined at The Bamboo Shoot, a Thai restaurant, and ordered stir-fried veggies that were served with plain rice and a choice of chicken or tofu. Since I’d never eaten tofu, I decided to give it a try. The chef prepared it with both chicken and tofu since I wasn’t sure I’d like it. After lunch, I roamed around Chelan and discovered Beebe Bridge and Beebe Bridge Park in Chelan Falls. I drove across the bridge (of course), and spent a few minutes in the park before moving on.

During the two hour drive to Ephrata, WA is when I saw the most dramatic change in Washington’s landscape. West Washington is lush and green from all the rain but east Washington is more like the desert. I drove through miles of farm land, too, as well as fields scattered with lava rock. The land was relatively flat but as I approached Ephrata, I saw a few tumbleweeds and passed through canyon streaked with shades of orange, green, blue and red.

The hotel clerk in Ephrata mentioned the town of Soap Lake and since I’m curious about all things lake, I stopped to check it out. While at the lake, I discovered that the town is known for its mineral lake, creamy black mud, and spas. Within minutes I was at Healing Waters Spa and as I stepped in the mineral mud bath, it actually felt as though the water were embracing me. Amazing!

After the bath, Bridget, the spa’s owner, showed me pictures she’d taken at nearby Palouse Falls and suggested Mom’s European Food & Deli, a Ukrainian grocery store across the street, for lunch. I had Pelmeni, tortellini-like pockets stuffed with chicken and served with melted butter and sour cream. I also sampled the Halba, a dessert of crushed and sweetened sunflower seeds.

I then drove through miles and miles of wheat fields to Palouse Falls State Park. The last twelve miles to the park consisted of nine miles of winding road then another three miles of dirt road but the beauty of the falls and the cows I saw along the way made the drive worthwhile. By this point–and after that relaxing bath–I was feeling tired so I drove the 45 or so miles to Kennewick, WA. After doing my chores, I spent time at the lovely Columbia Park.

I stopped in Ontario, OR for the night then crossed the border into Idaho the next morning. In Boise, I snapped a shot of the capital building and walked along the Boise River as it ran along University Plaza in downtown Boise.

A few hours later, I crossed Snake River again but this time on the Perrine Bridge into Twin Falls where Evil Knevil attempted his jump across Snake River Canyon. I engaged too long in a conversation with a retired gentleman at the jump site so I didn’t get to see Shoshone Falls before leaving the next morning.

Back on the road, I made stops along the Oregon Trail at Bonneville Point, Three Island Crossing and Farewell Bend. I’m in Utah now and am continually in awe of the Wasatch Mountain range and Mount Timpanogos that I see each time I step outside. I have yet to see Salt Lake and the Salt Flats but they’re on my list. I spent today writing, seeing ‘Think Like a Man’, and sitting by the river in Riverside Park.

It’s been over three months now since I left Atlanta to see the country and become who I am. After an afternoon of sightseeing Sunday, Ronda took me to her meditation class and I was amazed at how comfortable I was interacting with the group. It’s true that I felt a little anxious when she first mentioned going but unlike in the past when I wouldn’t have gone, I went, interacted, met some great folks, and even picked up a helpful meditation tip. Ronda was indeed right when she said that the class was an important stop on my journey.

I’d been thinking for the past week or so that I was ready to stop for a while–and by a while, I mean for several months–but it occurred to me as I typed this that I’m not ready to do that yet. I notice, too, that when I think of going home, I no longer feel that resistance I’ve felt since leaving. So, as my journey continues to unfold, I’ll keep following it to see where it takes me!

Memories and Mt. Hood

It was a rainy day in Portland but we headed to Mt. Hood anyway. If I’d kept waiting for another sunny day, we wouldn’t have gone. My friend Star Waters was joining Bonnie Johnson and me on the day’s adventure so we headed north across the Columbia River, crossing the two-mile long Glenn L. Jackson Memorial Bridge to Vancouver, WA to pick her up. I loved the idea of that because it gave me the opportunity for a Facebook check-in in the state of Washington.

As you know, I’ve traveled solo for most of my “adventures” on this road trip and while it’s been great, it was wonderful having friends along with whom I could share the experience.

Mt. Hood is 60 miles from Portland so we had plenty of time to talk and even though Star now resides in Atlanta, she and Bonnie are both native Portlanders and familiar with the city’s history as well as the towns between Portland and Mt. Hood. Plus, Bonnie was able to photograph everything that I couldn’t.

So, we arrive at Mt. Hood and somehow miss the turn that would take us to Timberline Lodge on the south side of Mt. Hood. That was fine, though, because it gave us the opportunity to see and photograph the beauty of the mountain along the Oregon Scenic Byway–the snow banks on both sides of the road, the trees and road signs almost completely buried in snow, and the occasional crow.

We finally made a U-turn about 45 minutes later and got directions to the Lodge. On the way there, we oohed and aahed the waterfalls as I envisioned us traipsing through the snow for hot-buttered rum by the lodge fireplace.

After driving to an elevation of 5,960 feet, we finally made it to the lodge. The entire area was covered in snow, Mt. Hood’s summit was shrouded in fog and the lodge was covered in snow. Disappointing but beautiful!

As I made my way to a parking space, though, I got stuck on the ice. Instantly, I flashed back to that night in January 2011 when the ice on that Hiram, GA road made driving the 40 miles back to Riverdale virtually impossible. There I was on a dark rural road driving on ice for the first time in my life, cars ahead and behind and a ditch on my right. My nerves were shot by the time I made it to the first hotel only five miles away two hours later. I was safe from the ice but there wasn’t a drop of Gentleman Jack in sight, or anything else for that matter!

So, there I was at Mt. Hood spinning on ice, and whatever visions I had of traipsing through the snow for hot-buttered rum were replaced by visions of being stuck on the mountain in snow and ice. I decided at that moment to get the heck off the mountain, and that’s what I did. We didn’t even get out of the car. The mountain was shrouded in fog so we couldn’t see it but I could’ve at least taken pictures of the snow-covered lodge. Sad.

I don’t recall how it started but we laughed ’til we cried about our almost trip toMt.Hood; about how our snow boots didn’t touch the snow; about how while I was looking for the exit, they were looking for a parking space. It really was hilarious, and we laughed all the way back to Portland. I may not have walked in the snow or taken any pictures of the lodge, I have my memories of flipping out and laughter with friends. I suspect, too, that what Star said is true: “When we both get back to Atlanta, every time the words Portland, mountain or snow come up, we will no doubt fall out laughing hysterically!!”