Chapter 2: Shakedown and Signage
The first day is always getting used to traveling, the shakedown what-did-I-forget phase? After about 200 miles I get used to driving and settle in to the adventure.
I love cruising along the Columbia River, some people think the drive is boring and Oregon is empty and dry but I beg to differ, with the river and the boats I am always entertained. The Bonneville dam is a great place to stop for a break, it’s in the perfect spot, about two hours to Portland from Olympia and another hour or so to Bonneville, depending on weather, traffic and the number of cops spotted along the way.
The Columbia River is a monster river and I am always amazed at seeing huge boats and barges way up river past the Cascade Locks and the big Bonneville dam. It’s very odd to see a grain silo in the middle of an empty expanse of prairie and then turn your head the other way and there’s a big old boat chugging by.
The Columbia also has sturgeon, a sturgeon habitat and a famous fish named “Herman”. When I think of sturgeon, I think of caviar and lick my chops, but Herman is big enough so I’m not going to argue with him or his buddies in the tank about edibility.
The fish hatchery was in full swing getting salmon ready for their voyage out to sea and the poor harried rangers were herding both salmon and packs of rowdy kids ready for the end of the school year.
It semed to be a day of signs. Remember the movie with Tom Hanks and all the signs? Sleepless in Seattle? I can’t remember. The Universe kept sending signs to him and on this day it was sending me propitious signs too. Omens of a fair voyage, no doubt. Except for the one about biting squirrels, I still haven’t figured out what that one augured except don’t feed the damned squirrels.
I polished off my coffee and the Columbia and headed south on I-84 through Pendleton of Woolen Mills and Round Up fame, on to La Grande and past Baker City. Baker City is adorable by the way, full of Victorian houses and cute shops, none of which got me to stop this time. I kept on trucking or carring as it were, on to my goal for the night of Ontario, Oregon.
By the time you hit Ontario you are hitting the Ugly Part of both Oregon and Southern Idaho. I’m pretty sure most of the south end of Idaho along I-84 is seriously ugly and lives to be endured and gotten through as fast as possible. Yes, there are exceptions to seriously ugly including the Snake River canyon and the coolest “ghost town” on the planet, Silver City. It’s a nice drive south of Boise and a ways up into the mountains on a two lane dirt road, well worth a visit if you ever get the chance.
Before my day ended I discovered Ontario has the most insane road naming and numbering system in the world. Yes, every stree appears to be repeated and you can’t tell where you are even with a GPS. Not one but two East Fourth Streets, running two different directions. The same with every other street. EEEEEK! Luckily, I had been to the el cheapo but very clean motel I had booked before. I recognized it when I made a loop in the general direction and spotted it to my right. I launched myself at that driveway like Shamu doing tricks for tuna. Mission accomplished.
I unbungied, unraveled and unpacked the Fyr Fly 2, and slid down to Subway for a sandwich and in line, a story from a guy who had a Mini in Italy during the early 60’s. It was fun to listen to him talk about trying to get it into the country back in the day, but it was even more fun to get back to the motel and fall down for the night.
Next: On to Salt Lake a surprisingly beautiful city.