Saturday, July 05, 2014

Tourism, Day 3: Just Drive, She Said*

Wednesday. I woke for the final time a little after dawn. No bear had attempted to have me for a midnight snack, so I had managed to sleep in 90-minute intervals, between trips to the facilities, for about eight hours. I considered it a record.
Say goodbye to Yellowstone 
When the others finally rose, somewhere around an hour after me, it didn't take long to empty the cooler of the melted ice, reload what foods and supplies we could, and get on the road again. My friend took first shift behind the wheel, and we flew down the two-lane highway toward the North Entrance (or, in our case, exit) of Yellowstone National Park.

Not stopping, come hell or high water
The road ran along the valley floor, mostly parallel, sometimes crossing the Gardner River (a tributary to the Yellowstone River), which, due to the melting of the snows fallen only a few days prior to our arrival, was markedly active.
We stopped, come gas station
Not too far outside the park, my friend started complaining, again, about the cost of gasoline, and announcing that she was glad we were out of the park  and away from the ridiculously high prices. So, within a half hour of our leaving the park, she was looking for a place to tank up. We found the little town of Emigrant, and got service from a little green dinosaur.

While we were there, the attendant at the gas station suggested we cross the road to have a nice, tasty, nutritious breakfast at this little place…
And extended our stop, for breakfast.
I will admit, they made a mean smoothie, and the boys and my friend seemed to really enjoy their monstrously large cookies. I recommend the Wildflour Bakery and Cafe, if you are in the neighborhood. Not only was the breakfast really good, the service was exceptionally friendly and prompt. I rather wish we could have stayed longer and sampled more…I really wish I didn't have as many allergies as I do. I'd have happily wolfed down every single item on their menu…

But, alas, we had to get moving again. The keys were handed over to the "foster son", who still enjoyed driving long hauls. My friend, sitting in the back seat with her computer in her lap, was determined we were not going to be approaching Seattle after dark. She was also still kvetching about cost overruns, even while the rest of us were enjoying the magnificent scenery around us, and noting the occasional (read: frequent) hawk and/or eagle flying by.

Needless to say, I spent the bulk of the next few hours staring out the window and taking as many pictures as I could. (This is a small sample. Click any pic to embiggen.)

Somewhere after the caboose –

yes, I measure time around the sighting of a caboose in Livingston.  Cabooses are becoming rare, since technology has made them no longer necessary for practical purposes. Call me a romantic, call me a foamer – I like the darned things, and, someday soon, I will spend a night in one.

Anyway, somewhere after we sighted the caboose, my friend decided to check the phone/internet data plan, to see how much we had left. It seems that, there, too, had been considerable waste, in her eyes. The monthly plan allowed for 20 gigabytes, five of which did we have left to last the week. She first sent text messages to her family members, then called to inform them that they were to refrain from using any more…well, you get the picture. Everybody was grounded, and she was still grouchy.

I don't have a lot of room for complaint, though, since, as a gift to me, she has provided me with her "spare" phone and included me in her service, so I can play at being the photographer. Because I was part of the "problem" of heavy data usage, I offered to pay for her to add on another ten gigs, so we wouldn't have to worry about her time studying online or my uploading photos as we crossed this great country, but she would hear none of that. Seriously. Cash. Or my lean debit card and a quick phone call to upgrade.  She simply ignored the offer. I think she needed to keep a raw point to gnaw upon.

At any rate, somewhere along the Montana highway, I stopped automatically uploading my pictures to storage, and started praying I'd have enough memory in both phone and SD card to keep my next ten days of pictures safe.

And I have to say, there was a lot to record.

From the snow melts filling the rivers
to the very soggy drive across Idaho
Welcome to soggy Idaho
to the vast open expanses of eastern Washington, just outside Spokane,

I do not think they needed that sprinkler, just then.

to the Columbia River Gorge
coming up close

gorgeous from either side
and finally, into damp Seattle.

Somewhere about Spokane, I'd just about had it with the complaints about expenses, and the declaration that we were going to drive down into Seattle, then head up and out again to find a state park beyond Everett where we were going to camp for the night – a campground, I might add, which did not promise showers, or even running water for tent campers; a campground which, according to the most current weather reports, was experiencing a rare thunderstorm (not a simple Pacific Northwest rain, but with actual lightning), and was expecting more of the same throughout the night; a campground affording little extra comfort, and no savings.

I had read, earlier, that some hotels and motels in the Puget Sound region offered free long-term parking if you stayed overnight before your cruise, so I spent a few hours surfing the internet before leaving home, just because I had this wild fantasy that we could stay somewhere with a shower at least one night before our departure. My friend had said we couldn't afford that, especially since she was going to OH EM GEE have to fork over ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-SIX DOLLARS for a week's parking…except she had decided at the last minute to ask her niece to ask one of her friends to park the truck in his/her drive.

That hadn't panned out. And she had still refused to make her reservations, because ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-SIX DOLLARS.

I was still trying to work out the parking situation as Spokane faded from our rearview mirror.

I was cranky. I was tired. I was especially tired of hearing from the back seat about how expensive everything was. I mean, I know full well that cruises are insanely expensive – that's one of the reasons I had never before taken one. That's one of the reasons I'd tried to talk her out of taking me on this one. It's nuts to spend the equivalent of six months' income for a week's stay in a couple of rooms in a floating city, even if that city does float to some unforgettable locations.

So, anyway. Money. We didn't have enough of it, and I'd had enough of hearing about it. I'd had $140 cash in my pocket that I'd saved from my house-sitting in January, in case I'd wanted to buy some postcards on my trip. I pulled out five twenties and said to her, "If we can find a motel for under a hundred bucks, I'll pay for the stay. Let's just get into the city and sleep in a real bed again, and see where that takes us."

She hemmed and hawed, and then her nephew started in on her, as well, offering to pay all the cash in his wallet to cover the rest, if it cost us more than a hundred bucks. Somewhere around the Columbia River Gorge, she caved and started doing some calling around, based on research I'd done into cheap motels along the interstate.

After a dozen or so calls, she found that the Motel 6 in Renton was available (and, yes, it's a meth/crack heaven, but it was near the airport, so we thought there might have been a chance of parking near there, as well), and, in fact, they would allow all four of us to stay two nights for under $90. I saw a smile on her face as she spoke to the motel personnel.

I deemed it a miracle.

She booked the room, programmed the satellite guidance system, and we were in.

Driving through the rains, through Snoqualmie Pass, we came out the other side, into the greater Seattle area, to see the clouds break and our hopes rise a bit. They left the light on for us.

I slept in a bed that night.

I was informed the next morning that I snore very loudly, which I had already warned them about.

I felt no guilt. We were near our destination, we were washed, and there was even a laundry in the building.

Things were looking up.

We could even afford the time to be tourists in Seattle itself.

*In case you were wondering about the title:

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