Monday, June 30, 2008

Missoula Montana to Vancouver British Columbia

We got off to a slower than intended start this morning. Knowing that we were more than half way and that we would pick up an hour due to the time zone, there was no sense of urgency. Over our toast and coffee, we talked to a couple about our age from Cranbrook, BC, who were headed to Alliston, Ontario for a month on a home exchange program.

It was already warm out when we headed west on I-90, where was a noticeable haze over the valley. Unlike yesterday, when we could smell fire smoke, the culprit was easy to spot.

We had our daily deer experience early today, and I didn't have to be the primary driver. A small pickup truck ahead of us was on the brakes before I saw the deer on the shoulder pointing across the road. I braked aggressively and the deer, as the truck approached, turned and jumped a fence. Sandy got a picture of it (the small shape in the centre) as it turned back to look, just before I sent it running with a blast on the quite effective GoldWing horn.

Montana terrain gets rougher as you go west. We spent a long time riding along the Clark Fork, the largest river by volume in Montana. I had never heard of it before, but it drains a huge area up to Lake Pend Oreille in northern Idaho which then flows into the Columbia River. Sandy did get a shadow photo of us as she held the camera high to get her desired angle.

We crossed into Idaho over Lookout Pass, descending into another valley and then climbing again to 4th Of July Pass. Then we approached Coeur D'Alene on a high road overlooking the lake of the same name. From there, we soon came to the Washington Border (following a jerk in a Washington plated pickup truck who wouldn't move out of the left lane), and Spokane. The community of Spokane Valley seemed to take their cue from Scottsdale, Arizona with respect to business signage. Luckily, the Zumo was able to find us food and gas.

From Spokane, we took US 2 West, a two-lane road through mildly rolling and well irrigated farmland. At Wilbur, we turned north on SR 174 to Grand Coulee. Before we got there, parts of the farmland gave way to sagebrush and lava rock. It seems some of the terrain is too rough to farm.

The Grand Coulee Dam across the Columbia River is the largest electric power producing facility in the US. Completed in 1942, it is 5,223 feet long.

Crossing a bridge below the dam, we turned northwest on SR 155 across the immense and very dry Colville Indian Reservation. This road did not have a lot of traffic and it wound through the hills in a very enjoyable manner. I'd give it two thumbs up if you are ever in the area.

We left the reservation and SR 155 at Omak for US 97 North. Strangely, 155 doesn't even warrant a direct connection with the two-lane 97 so we were forced to take back streets through Omak to connect. While there, we had to stop for two ambulances responding to a residential dwelling. I'm sure there was a story there, but we didn't hang around to find out.

Temperatures were rising as we headed north towards the Canadian border. The valley was irrigated and contained many apple orchards, among other things, while the hills were dry and covered with sage. Sagebrush probably should be the official US plant, considering there is so much of it.

We arrived at the border, weary travelers returning home on the eve of our nation's birthday. The experience was less than it could have been, however, as we sat stopped in a line at 39C (102F) for a half hour while NOTHING moved. Then the line started gradually. Although there were six booths, only two were open. When we finally got to one, the agent was nice enough but he talked R E A L L Y S L O W L Y. Looked like one more work to rule day. Give them their firearms, already.......

Taking Highway 3 West, we could see a large cloud on the horizon. With the heat, we were actually hoping for rain. I stowed my wallet and notebook in the trunk just in case and we headed on. In Princeton, it started to rain and then picked up. We were right on the edge of it and, with the sun ahead of us, it was difficult to see as we ran through the hairpin turns. Soon, we were out of it and the pavement was dry.

Near Hope, we passed the site of the massive 1965 Hope Slide, one of the largest landslides recorded in Canada. It killed four people who were traveling the highway at the time. On a trivia note, Hope, BC was the filming location of the movie First Blood, which introduced the world to John Rambo (although the movie purported to be placed in Hope, Washington).

From Hope, we followed Highway 1 at a good pace (I know, Slammer, speed). The traffic wasn't too bad and we reached the outskirts of Vancouver in no time. I made use of the diamond lane, which had little traffic since most vehicles only had one person. There was a sign that said "Motorcycles OK", unlike the yoyo's in Ontario who prohibit solo bikes in HOV lanes.

We arrived a Malcolm's apartment about 7:00 PM Pacific Time. He came down to help us carry our gear up, but left his outside door key in the apartment. This is a point at which one becomes dependent on the kindness of neighbors, even if you don't know them. Someone he buzzed did let him in. The apartment over Ambleside in West Vancouver has one of the nicer views I know of anywhere. To the left, the Lion's Gate Bridge; across the way, Stanley Park and to the right, English Bay.

We had a supper of gazpacho, pakoras and salad. I may get healthy yet:-)) Then we visited and inflated the air bed where I got to sleep. Sandy took the couch, saying that sleeping with me on the air bed would mean she would roll into the depression my larger mass created. I remember a demonstration of gravity that worked the same way, showing how mass distorted space..........

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