Friday, October 12, 2012
EASTERN WASHINGTON – EARLY OCTOBER
Crossing on WA 2
If there’s an upside to this whole climate change thing, it is that my Puget Sound area buddy gets a few more weeks to acquaint himself with his cool Moto Guzzi Stelvio – a purchase he’d made only last June.
Washington’s previously unheard of “Indian Summer” stretched into October this year, so, as luck would have it the weather was perfect for our final day of a five day tour, an east to west crossing of the state on Route 2.
We parked the bikes in a “secure location” the night before…
…only to awake to 36 degree temperatures. The GSA’s heated grips helped, as did loads of layers of fleece and Gore-Tex and Denier. But once we got going, slipping away from I-90 only a few miles west of Spokane, we opt not to stop until the sun has plenty of time to warm things up a bit.
Creston, an hour or so on and billed as the highest point on the Burlington Route between Wenatchee and Spokane, offers a quaint place to wrap cold fingers around welcome coffee mugs and catch up on the local gossip.
A pair of Harleys rest outside, so we figure the place would be welcoming. Two couples had ridden the 32 miles from Coulee City and our parking lot conversation with them devolves into how pristine their bikes looked compared to our bug-encrusted models followed by laughs, handshakes and “ride careful” comments.
Somewhere back toward Davenport, things had gotten really good. The traffic all but disappeared. Fine pavement split Americana scenes from today that just as easily could have been captured 50 or 100 years ago.
The road rising and falling over eastern Washington’s vast prairie reminds us that the west begins about 50 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. From there it goes on nearly forever.
Dotted along the way are the remnants and whispers. In the not-too-distant future, the incessant north winds blowing out of Canada will tear this old farmhouse asunder. In the meantime, this stands as a monument to folks who turned their backs on the security of a populous for a chance to be part of something large and beautiful and romantic. And the work attached thereto.
A derelict schoolhouse sits atop a rise. Vandals tried burning this place down, but it persevered against this and other elements. Walking the grounds, the echoes of rural tots still ride on the wind as they kick the can in the play yard at recess.
With the advent of state routes and inter-states, these farmers could move into towns like Reardon or Wilbur or Hartline or Douglas for a more convenient life. The entrepreneurial among them rented out their barn sides and roofs for commercial purposes. Outside of Coulee City, one has been restored.
On that vast plain I am reminded that retirement is the workingman’s reward for his efforts over a long career. Those who work the land – because the work is never done – may be less able to enjoy a few golden years of leisure. Perhaps it was the sight of this old Chevy: knee high in weeds, watching the traffic slip by on the state route, patina deepening with each passing day. This old boy appears to enjoy a richly deserved rest.
After a delightful descent between Waterville and Orondo, we follow the Columbia though rich orchards to Wenatchee, Cashmere (great barbecue place there) and beyond.
Crossing Stevens Pass, we find that the little dots the 3-A places next to this scenic route are justified with sweeping curves, expanses of fall color, gorgeous peaks and glimmering rivers. However, with those dots come increased traffic – many of the drivers, perhaps, amateur. We find an alternate route from Monroe to Snohomish, where we’ll call it a day.
This day’s route: From Spokane, west on I-90, taking airport exit; Continue west on Rt 2 through Davenport, Creston, Wilbur, Almira, Hartline (zealous patrol presence as the route slips through many of these bergs) Waterville and Orondo. Conflue with US 97 south toward Wenatchee, but resume westward movement as Rt 2 splits and heads toward Cashmere, Leavenworth (Germanesque-themed touristy enclave), Stevens Pass, Monroe and off to the Sound around Everett.
Church of the Open Road Press