Saturday, August 28, 2010

Washington to Washington, part 4....

(...continued from Part 3)

Day 8.  Jackson, WY to Boise, ID.
We headed out of the hotel parking lot, drove down the street and turned right onto Broadway.  I was relieved.  On several occasions, in other towns we had driven through, the directions called for turning one way or another onto Broadway Street.  I wish I could remember what towns these were, but believe me, it drove me nuts.  Broadway is not a modifier for Street.  Or Avenue.
Heading west from Jackson, WY
West of Jackson are more mountains.  I [heart] mountains!  We headed into Idaho, towards Idaho Falls, and instead of heading onto the interstate like every else does, we stayed north and beelined toward Arco, Idaho, and more importantly, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.

Arco is, among other things, the home of the Atomic Burger (which we did not stop for) and the Atomic Shake (which we did stop for).  Why all the atoms?  It turns out that Arco is the home of the world's first nuclear power plant, or at least, what the U.S. thinks was the first nuclear power plant...The town, accordingly, was the first powered by electricity from a nuclear power plant.  Who knew.
Atomic shake.
After stopping at a deli in Arco, we continued on to Craters of the Moon.  I don't know when we first noticed it, but it was apparent that keeping people off meth was a big deal here.  Murals and billboards along side the highway, in some cases appearing to be on private property, provided numerous public service announcements that "Meth is death" and other slogans.  Some of these graphics seemed to come straight off of a 80's heavy metal CD cover.  Weird.  And conspicuous.
Cave at Craters of the Moon.
Craters of the Moon is so out of the way that you've got to really want to go there.  The Transporter and her parents had been there about a decade ago, and there's a family feud involved in that trek.  To make a long story into a haiku:

Tricked Mom into car
Drove to Craters for park stamp
Mom annoyed 'til cave.

So, Craters of the Moon...it's a series of 3 lava fields that range from 15,000 to 2,000 years old.  And it's pretty weird.  Not that I've ever been to the Moon, but I'm also not entirely sure that it's the right word to describe what the place is like.  It's sort of more weird shaped boulders and volcanic cones, but they're dark in color.  And every photo of the Moon that I've seen shows the Moon being light colored.  Just sayin'.  The area was also arid.  After traipsing around on top of the lava fields, we ducked into a cave.  I thought I heard an exotic bird in one of the caves, but it turned out to be a pigeon.  Where on earth did that thing come from??  Also, could you imagine being the first pioneer to encounter this place?  What would you think??

Craters of the Moon National Park.
From there it was a drive through scenic southern Idaho to Boise. Not. It was surprisingly unscenic; I guess I had assumed that because we'd be driving "by" Sun Valley ski area (okay, just the road that goes to Sun Valley), I thought that it would be more lush.  There were many more "Say no to meth" billboards, and finally we were in Boise. And it was still Mountain Time. So the sun set at 9:30pm.


Day 9.  Boise, ID to Seattle!

We patiently waited to reach Pacific Time.  It doesn't happen at the Oregon border. Believe me, I asked.  If anyone knows why on earth the time zones are so wonky in southern Idaho/northeast Oregon, please enlighten me!

So, apparently the route that we had taken through Arco and Craters of the Moon was Goodale's Cutoff of the Oregon Trail.  In fact, there was an historical marker nearly every mile, detailing some fact about the Trail.  I think I-84 follows the Oregon Trail, sort of.   I'd been doing a little research on the Donner Party earlier in the summer, so the pioneer trail system was as fresh in my head as it was ever going to get.  And I remembered the Oregon Trail and its various cutoffs (one of which led to the Donner party's fate...a whole other story...).  The Transporter waxed nostalgic for the early to mid-80s Oregon Trail computer game.   I told her I wasn't an aggressive (or charismatic) enough kid to actually get much computer time on the one computer in school, so I probably played a total of one game of Oregon Trail, and died at the first river crossing.
Oregon Trail wagon circle exhibit.
As it turned out, the BLM-operated Oregon National Historic Trail Interpretive Center is not too far off the interstate, on Flagstaff Hill in Baker City, Oregon.  From the Interpretive Center, wagon wheel ruts are still visible.  My brain can't wrap itself around the idea that the ruts are still apparent.  Hello, erosion?  Oh, and there's a parks stamp there. What a great exhibit, although I almost cried when the voice of a pioneer woman lamented the loss of a child.

Back on the interstate, the Transporter and I noted the scenery:  barren and dusty.  Where are all the berries, particularly the Marionberry blackberries?  I'm particularly tickled by the OSU-developed berry.  Years ago, when I first visited Seattle, every time I ate out, the waitstaff made a big deal about offering marionberry pie.  Except, when you're from Washington, DC, and you're offered marionberry pie, you die of laughter that you are being offered a pie that sounds a lot like the crackhead ex-mayor/current council member from D.C.

It turns out that that part of Oregon into Washington is wine country, although I didn't pick up any.  We were on a mission to get into Seattle, which we did.  At rush hour.  On a Thursday.  We were back in urban reality.  3,401 miles.


Epilogue.  Seattle and sending the Transporter home.

Two of my newly married friends were on their honeymoon, and they offered me a place to stay before I could move into my more permanent lodgings.  So that's where the Transporter and I spent our first (and my second) night in Seattle.
Catching fish at Pike Place Market.
In the morning, we took trips to the post office, where the Transporter sent home some souvenirs:  coffee for her supportive hubs and loot – lots of it – for her tyke, and to the bank.  Then the Transporter and I played tourist.  We took the bus in to Pioneer Square to hit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park (another stamp!), strolled around in Pike Place Market (fish thrower guys), wandered by the original Starbucks, and took the Monorail to Seattle Center and the Space Needle (we did not go up).  After a little confusion, we found the right bus stop and headed back "home".
The original Starbucks storefront.
Bright and early the next morning, it was time for the Transporter to return to Mississippi.  After a few hugs goodbye at SeaTac Airport, she was on her way to her Southwest flight, and headed home. I was about to spend 6 months in Seattle.

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