On the road again,
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway.
We’re the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way and our way Is on the road again.
We just can’t wait to get on the road again.
Funny how some songs spontaneously pop into our heads as we travel on. Actually, we were still in the preparation stage when Chris said the words that Willie Nelson made the most of in one of his more famous songs. And now, as we make our way across the country, it has become our mantra of sorts. Yes, we agree, after several months at home in Indiana, it surely does feel good to be on the road again.
Four days, nine states, one-and-a-half unabridged audio books . . . that’s how long it took us to arrive within 100 miles of the Pacific Ocean. On our way to the Evergreen State of Washington. The same route that we had taken just slightly over a year ago on our way to Oregon. Now the scenery looks more familiar, but still we marvel at the changing landscapes. Yes, it’s a long drive—over 2,000 miles to our first destination—but the scenery holds our interest. It constantly reinforces the concept of how vast is this country of ours, how diversified is the land. What lies beyond our familiarities is something so dissimilar that it gives us pause. Go west of the Mississippi and the terms “wide open” and “empty” have images to illustrate them. “What brings people to live out here?” is one of our frequent queries. Many miles go by while we are lost in our own thoughts. And so we cross this expansive country of ours.
We left the farms and fields of the Midwest behind . . .
while heading west the horizons stretch out much farther.
These farms have a much more weathered and time-worn look.
The second day brings a much more rugged landscape. Clumps of rocks called voodoos begin to dot the rolling hills.
Soon, the rock formations grow more immense in size, images that demand our undivided attention.
Once more, the road ahead seemed to stretch out to far-distant horizons.
Instead of rocks, man-made structures were dotting the land—we were in Wyoming, where oil, coal and natural gas rule the economy.
Nevertheless, the cowboy way of life hasn’t been completely forgotten.
And then, near the Wyoming/Utah border, we made a somewhat spontaneous decision. A highway sign indicated a national monument lay to the north and it caught our interest. Something to break the interminable interstate driving, we cut out for parts unknown and never seen. What it would cost us in time and slower driving, might be compensated with new discoveries and even more dramatic scenery.
Fossil Butte National Monument is located in a very remote corner of northwest Wyoming. Established in 1972, it protects some of the world’s most perfectly preserved fossils of ancient plant, animal, fish and insect life. It is an extraordinary place.
Crowning it all is the flat-topped rock butte that stands near the center of the ancient lake, part of a tropical forest that once covered this entire area. It is the heart of the monument and is one of the major sources from which these fossils can be found. It is a treasure trove for scientists, paleontologists and interested visitors. Fossils so well-preserved it isn’t difficult to envision them in life. It proved to be a fascinating interlude in our travels; a place we would have liked to have spent more time.
Not much later we crossed over into Utah, and the scenery took another dramatic turn. From barren sagebrush rocky terrain we came to what can only be described as an oasis in the wilderness.
Bear Lake, a huge expanse of incredible aquamarine water is surrounded by rugged mountains, where cabins and not-so-modest houses stand close to its shore. The scene presented yet another startling discovery.
Leaving the lake behind, the road began a serious climb. Before long, the arid land was replaced with stands of pines and fir. Once again our world returned to shades of green, something we hadn’t seen in hundreds of miles. It was a much-welcomed sight.
Eventually we came back down, both in our mindset as well as elevation. We returned to interstate driving. It was time to eat up the miles and pass up any other tempting scenic detours.
Now the land was green only where irrigation worked its magic. Surrounding desolation was broken up with patches of emerald fertility. The contrast in landscapes was astounding.
Still, we could drive for miles and miles, not seeing any signs of life or habitation. No grazing of livestock or agriculture . . . just dry rolling hills of beige and brown.
The only evidence of land usage came in the form of energy production. Wind turbines were now the predominant landscape feature.
Mountains ahead foretold the end of the dry hills of eastern Oregon. Another welcome sight, it meant that the mighty Columbia River would soon be coming into view.
Blue now became the color that we cherished. The dry hills of Washington made a backdrop to the wide river, but the contrast only enhanced the impact of this picture. The Columbia followed our route for nearly an hour, until it was time to diverge to our first northwest destination.
The solitary mountain had come into our view nearly 100 miles before we would reach it. Faintly at first, like a mirage on the horizon, with each approaching mile it’s definition became more apparent. Four long days of driving finally behind us, Mount Hood enticed us to our first 3-day stopover, a place for rest and rejuvenation.
Not quite to Washington yet, but nearly so. Last spring we left this mountain feeling rather unfulfilled. Weather conditions made our stay here less than desirable, and I knew I had to give it another shot. How could we just pass it by? There is more to be written and photographed in the days ahead—our journey is just beginning.
Chris & Melinda