Road Trip North

Pedro and I have travels planned this year, though they are nearer and shorter than our incredible trip through Italy and Slovenia last year. After the work trip to North Carolina, our first personal trip was to Idaho to see some of my relatives. Since they live practically on the Canada border, we extended into British Columbia for fun.

It’s been a while since I made it up to North Idaho to visit family. That’s where my mother lived for most of her life and all us kids know it well. One of my stepfathers moved to the same town as another of my stepfathers, which makes it convenient for me to see them both in the same trip. Pedro was sweet enough to agree to meet them as part of a road trip. It’s hard to meet your person’s family, and I have anxiety about meeting more of his. Hopefully we will do that in 2023.

Anyway, first we had to get there.

We were so eager to begin a trip that we wanted to start Sunday. Pedro’s kids left for their mom’s house Sunday afternoon. After that, we headed east along the Columbia River Gorge. Earlier I had picked a spot 4 hours down the road, thinking 4 hours is about all we would want to commit to. That took us to the tiny, remote town of Boardman, Oregon.

Online, the place where I reserved a room looked pretty nice. But….we both are very familiar with rural Oregon. We knew to keep our expectations modest and flexible. So we were blown away when we saw the place.

Beautiful lobby of the River Lodge in Boardman, Oregon

Online it said there was an on-site restaurant serving craft beer from a Boardman brewery, so we intentionally did not eat before we left, and arrived starving. Sadly, the restaurant was closed. They are suffering an employee shortage in the services industry, like everyone else. It all worked out great though, because only a few steps from the River Lodge was Burnt Field Brewing.

Burnt Field Brewing, with indoor and outdoor seating. Wood fired pizzas and a fine selection of craft beers.

We had delicious pizza for dinner with delicious beer, and all of it was practically next door. Just across the street from Burnt Field was a ship aground, and a military memorial.

Capt. Al James, a steel pusher-style tugboat, was constructed in 1959 and retired in 1972.
Military memorial next to the tugboat and a cemetery.

After eating, it was shaping up to be a gorgeous sunset and we wanted to sit by the river and watch the sun go down. The evening was warm, with a gentle breeze. We had a bottle of wine, so we grabbed two glasses from the room and walked out to sit on the sand. We sat and talked and sipped wine till it was dark.

We walked around the side of the building and saw this! It was a surprise because our room faced the parking lot and we hadn’t realized how scenic it is on this side of the hotel.
River Lodge in Boardman, on the Columbia River.
Panorama of the sunset over the Columbia
Sunset through bushes on the shore.
If you look very carefully, and maybe click to enlarge, in the photo above this one…just to the left of the bushes and directly above the duck, is a tiny triangle that is Mt. Hood. In this image, I have zoomed in. You can see many wind turbines, one significant power source of this region.

The next morning I went outside and took a few photos before we left. I found dozens of dogs with their people, which was consistent with the night before. It’s a dog friendly hotel, and dogs must have been in every room but ours. Dogs in the hallways, dogs in the parking lot, dogs in the lobby, dogs on the beach, dogs everywhere. As I had dreaded, the previous evening, one of them down the hall soon began my favourite thing: random, incessant barking. But the dog stopped barking after only ten minutes and I never heard another bark all night.

In addition to rooms, there are several independent cabins you can rent.
Past the cabins, a very nice walking and cycling trail.

We had an easy drive Monday. Since we had cut four hours out of the way, we only had five more to go! Before leaving town, we found an awesome little drive through coffee place, called Cafe Cultura, quite tucked away. Their ad said they are bilingual and LGBTQ+ friendly, so that was enough for us. With our coffee drinks, we also ordered iced Jamaica for something refreshing once we were deep into the eastern Washington desert. We stopped at the Sinclair gas station because I wanted a photo with the dinosaur. I remember seeing a dinosaur at every Sinclair station back in the day, but they are rare to see now.

I always wanted to kidnap one of these dinosaurs to put in my own garden. I am wearing a US flag T-shirt because it was Memorial Day.

When one leaves Portland heading east, the Columbia River Gorge becomes drier and more desolate with each mile. Boardman was right in the middle of high prairie lands that support agriculture and livestock, or huge fields of windmills generating power. We turned due north to follow a new highway into eastern Washington, which was miles and miles of the same thing. We were bored with the flat yellow-brown landscape, but the highway was clear and we covered a lot of miles. For as mindblowingly beautiful and wet and green as western Washington and Oregon are, eastern Washington and Oregon are the exact opposite: flat, dull, brown, and boring as heck. We did find ONE body of water and stopped for a few minutes to stretch our legs.

Pedro and me at Sprague Lake, Washington. Though you see water in the photo, you can also see how flat and dull is this landscape compared to the other side of the state.

We had pretty blue skies all day. You can’t tell in the photo above because my iphone camera overexposed the background. At home in Rainier, I had not seen a day of wildfire smoke all year. Compared to the last two summers, that is remarkable. I forget how wonderful it is to have clean air when I’m not being polluted by dirty air. Anyhow, when we dropped into the Spokane valley of northeast Washington, we finally saw the smoke that others have been suffering under.

I always love the memories that tumble over me when I go through Spokane. It was the “big city” destination when the family made an annual trip out there in the 70s and 80s, and it was the location of my first permanent station in the US Air Force. All my baby Crystal memories surfaced from when I was only 19, learning to be a grown up in the world and making some really dumb mistakes. That’s how we learn, eh?!

I started plaguing Pedro with some know-it-all statements as I am annoyingly wont to do, “Spokane hosted the World’s Fair in in 1974. If you look out across the city, you can still see very old buildings, mixed with the brand new ones in this rapidly growing area.” And, “When I was a kid we came for school supplies in the winter. All the downtown shopping was connected by skywalks. You could shop in Sears, Woolworth’s and the Bon Marche without going outside in the snow.”

Soon we crossed the border into Idaho, and then the memories really tumbled out. I hope I didn’t bore Pedro to death.

“I used to go to church there! It was Southern Baptist, the preacher yelled and pounded his fist and we sang a lot.”

“This bridge is a mile long over Lake Pend Oreille to Sandpoint. We’re on the new bridge, but the old one is still used for pedestrians and bikes. Over there is the beach where we swam in the summer and we came for the 4th of July carnival, and my aunt had a house on the beach right there. With the round window – see it?”

“I learned to swim right there in Pack River! Right where the river has a bend in it, beneath the railroad trestle.”

“I used to live on that road when I was a teenager. Back then it was a dirt road.”

Both of us lost cell service completely when we got to Moyie Springs, Idaho, our destination for the night. We assumed it was due to being very rural. I had visited my stepdad, Bob, one time at this house, and I could picture it in my mind. I had his address and knew the name of the street. Without GPS, we were having to draw on skills we hadn’t used in a long time. We had no paper map, we had no directions. Chagrined, Pedro exclaimed, “We used to prepare for finding a place, before GPS. Now we are unprepared!” Turns out, the cell tower was knocked out for the night. All area cell and internet service was dead. We didn’t get it back till the next day.

But without too much circling around (Moyie is a very tiny town), we found the place.

Bob had prepared for us by putting a roast into the crock pot. We arrived and he had everything ready for amazing tacos, even beer to go with them. I forgot to get a photo with him – dang it! We chatted and played with his dog and ate as much as we dared. As soon as we arrived, I had used his landline to call Jim, who had not been sure if he would be in town when we arrived. He was not only in town, but had made us dinner. Ooops.

After only a couple of hours with Bob, we drove two more miles to visit Jim.

I parked the Jeep up on the top of Jim’s mountain. You can see wildfire smoke through the trees.

Jim said he keeps that old truck on top of the mountain in the summers. It’s full of water because this time of year wildfire is a constant worry. There was a gigantic fire just to his west, and in the photo above you can see a new baby wildfire getting started on the top of a peak just to his south. I asked curiously at one point when he had the oven door wide open. “Oh yeah,” he said, “It’s for heat. I don’t feel safe starting a fire in the woodstove. One of the embers might get out.” Just twenty minutes with the oven open and the house would warm up.

Jim had cooked a roast in his crock pot too, with potatoes and onions and carrots. We happily tucked into our second dinner like Hobbits. We were well and truly stuffed after that one. I took Pedro outside to walk around the property before the sun went down. We walked down to the “the pit,” which is what the family calls the rock quarry on Jim’s mountain. From the edge of the pit, there is a great view of the surrounding area.

Looking out across the quarry to the Purcell Mountain range in western Montana.
Smoke from a wildfire rises from a mountain peak to the south.

We walked back to the cabin in the sunset, and settled in for a cozy night.

Orange skies are ominous, matching the reds of the autumn foliage.
The grasses are beautiful in the golden orange light.

12 thoughts on “Road Trip North

  1. Wow, beautiful place. And the “getting there”was awesome too. That spot in Oregon looks amazing. It might have to go on my “someday” list. You know I went to EXPO 74 with my family as a kid. Big vacation for us. Kinda cool to hear it mentioned again.

    1. It’s so great you went to the Expo! I did not. Do you know the tall metal pole that held the giant tent is still there? At least it was when I was there. Apparently it was kept as a reminder of the Worlds Fair. Boardman, Oregon is not a destination! Keep that in mind, ha ha. It’s a surprisingly nice hotel if you end up staying the night out there, however.

    1. Thanks for saying that about sharing, Derrick. In retrospect I thought I must be terribly annoying, Pedro has a good memory and I’m sure he recalls most of these places from my stories, and I wanted to point to all the places and say, “That’s from the story about…” haha. Now it’s my turn to see his childhood places and I am dying to go to Guanajuato, Mexico and as scary as it sounds, I’m also eager to meet all his sisters and brothers, most of whom are still there. Then maybe he would spend a day telling me all his memories… What do you mean about fighting WP for wont? Have you had alerts or something?

  2. My dad spent some time as a child across the river from Boardman in the town of Prosser, Crystal. He had been born in Nebraska and then his family moved to Prosser where his dad had a sheet metal business that made water tanks, big ones. I have a photo of him as a 4 or 5 year old stand-in on a wagon that was hauling one of the tanks. After that, he moved to Ashland where other family members lived before returning to Iowa where his grandparents lived.
    It’s always fun reading about your and Pedro’s adventures. We are in Custer SD making our way west. I expect we’ll make it to Washington/Oregon in late October/early November. Hopefully, we will be able to get together with you and Pedro.

    1. Oh my goodness, Prosser looks to be right in the middle of the flat, boring, and brown. Coming from Nebraska it must have looked like home, ha ha. I try, but just can’t appreciate those areas as some people do. They wax poetic about the Palouse, but I can’t join them. My uncle spent his childhood and much of his adult life in Ashland, and now lives half the year in his RV in Connell, WA (just north of Prosser). He loves it there. Why oh why? Anyway, wow, your dad certainly made the circuit. He must have had such stories to tell.

      I’m enjoying The Adventures of Peggy and Curt as much as you enjoy our adventures. Oh, what fun news that you will be heading our way. Marlene is coming home for a visit too! I’m so lucky you both are thinking of us. I am doing a lot of traveling around this Fall, but when you know the dates, just let us know where you will be and we will try to come find you if we have the time.

    1. I’m sure you are right about family appreciating the visits, and I enjoy them so much as well. I do wish these days that they were closer and it wasn’t nine hours of highway driving just to get to them. Sadly, the Kootenai River Complex is up to 21,000 acres now and still burning. The little one we could see from the quarry has stopped burning though, thank goodness.

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