Holy Lead feet Batman! Â I MADE IT TO SEATTLE! Â (Well, okay, Monroe.) Â I didn’t doubt that I would, honestly, except while I was going through Snoqualmie Pass todayâ€“but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning (a very good place to start): I stopped last night at around 11PM, and managed to fall asleep shortly before midnight. Â Google Maps told me that from my location in Montana, it would take about 12 hours to get to Seattle. Â So, wanting to get to my Aunt’s place at a relatively reasonable hour, I set my alarm for 5AM.
You know when you’ve been doing something that’s stressful to your body, and you finally sleep, only to be awakened too early? I associate this with the feeling that myÂ entire body has been turned to concrete. Â That was me this morning. Â My throat and nose were dry (hotel heaters!), my eyelids felt like they had sandbags hanging off of them, and moving took actual thought. Â Fortunately, taking a shower helped me Â to wake up a bit, and I started getting excited for this last leg of the journey. Â After all, the bit of Montana I saw yesterday was amazingly beautiful, and I expected this morning to be even better. Â Also, I was looking forward to going through Idaho in the daytime, Â (I drove through its mountains at night when I moved out to LA back in 2005, and have since learned they are quite scenic.) and was realllllllyyyy looking forward to seeing my relatives out in Washington. Â So, despite the rough start, I managed to be ready to go in about half an hour.
When I got outside, it was quite a shockâ€“but a bit like drinking a strong cup of coffee. Â The temperature was below freezing, and I was wearing flip-flopsâ€“Yikes! Â I tossed my bags into the car, then, breath steaming, I grabbed one pair each of shoes and socks and quickly put them on*. Â There was about half a minute ofÂ agony from freezing cold footwearÂ but after that, my body heat started thawing them out, and I could start enjoying the view. Â And despite the fact that itÂ wasÂ mostly taken upÂ with a gas station, it was still very pretty:
AfterÂ checking out, I quickly filled up my car’sÂ gas tank (while getting a cup of coffee at the same station), and then hitÂ the road. Â It was just aboutÂ 5:30AM. I had intended to stop as infrequently as possible today, but after driving for about half an hour, I had to pull over. Â I had been heading up into the mountains, and the sunrise over the lower-lands behind me was so beautiful that I quite literallyÂ could not form a coherent sentence. Â I’m not speaking metaphorically here. Â Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but the only sound in my head was a wordless shriek of joy at the beauty surrounding me. Â I couldn’t even come up with, “Oh my God!” just “Ah–! Â AHHHH!!!!” Â So, operating by instinct, I stopped atÂ the side of the freeway and took pictures. Â Here is one of them:
I stood, camera out, taking shot after shot, and wondering if any of the passing drivers thought I was crazy, whenÂ it hit me:Â thisÂ was the secret joy of this journey. Â Don’t get me wrong: I definitely left with the desire to see my friends and family and to have the time to decompress and think about the future. Â But having the chance to experience unplanned, unexpected moments of beauty, to spontaneously stop like this? Â That is the secret joy of road tripping. Â It was wonderful. Â It was a moment of pure happiness.Â (Getting some amazing pictures like this [which could, admittedly, be rendered better by photoshop] isÂ an extra helping of awesomeness.)
After aÂ few minutes that seemed to stretch forever, I got my fill of sunrise photos, and got back in the car to get moving. Â I didn’t get a huge distance behind me, but it was about 2 hours of nonstop travel before I stopped again.Â But I had good reason for the stop: IÂ really needed moreÂ coffee. Â I had been seeing signs for the “Wheat Montana Bakery” for a few miles, and it seemed intriguing, so I dropped in to check it out.
I had high hopes for this place, and they weren’t disappointed, exactly, but they weren’t quite met. Â I expected this to have the flavor of a local business, but it seemed surprisingly corporate. Â The decor was kind of generic, the muffin I bought for breakfast, while tasty, had a taste and texture you could get at almost any bakery, and the coffee was strong, but not particularly excellent. Â However, I would definitely stop here againÂ for this poster alone (it pretty much summedÂ up my life’s motto***):
After I got driving once more, it was smooth sailing for most of the day. Â I was listening to the audiobook of A Game of Thrones, and at one point, gotÂ ultraÂ nerdy, and put on the theme song from the T.V. show as I was driving through snow-covered areas in the mountains. Â (Quit judging me. Â It’s perfect driving music!)Â Â It really was a pretty easy drive…until I got to Snoqualmie Pass.
Those who live in Los Angeles might compare it to the section of the I-5 which liesÂ byÂ Fort Tejon. Â Like that area, the lanes are tight, and pass throughÂ ragged mountain cliffs. Â Snoqualmie, however, has about half the lanes, but much steeper cliffsides.Â Also?Â you’re more likely than not to hit weather. Â And I’m not talking a drizzle here. Â I mean full-on “this is dangerous” weather.Â The last time I droveÂ to Seattle I actually had to takeÂ a different route because there had been a blizzard and the pass was closed. Â This time, it wasn’t snowing, but it was raining hard enough to obscure the lane markings.Â It was actually a little scary:Â even though we were going 15 miles an hour, and I had my wipers on high,Â you couldn’t see more than about 10 feet in front of you. Â When I hit the weather, my audiobook was still on, and I had to turn it off within minutes to ensure that my entire concentration was on the road. Â I’m not sure I really breathed until I got to the bottom of the mountain, and the rain slacked off a bit.
Fortunately, I made it through, and wasÂ to my relatives’ house within an hour or two. Â It had been a while since I’ve seen my Aunt Merrily, Uncle Len, and cousin Lizzy, and so it was really good to reconnect with them. Â We went out for Thai food, and then came back to their house and sat talking for a few hours. Â I’m looking forward to having more time to chat with everyone tomorrow. Â But for now? Â It’s time to go to sleep, and wait for the rain to catch me.
Daily Driving Summary:
Miles Driven: ~800
Hours on the Road: 12.5
Tanks of Gas: 2.5
States passed through: 3
*I packed an enormous suitcase of clothes when I left, but at night, I’ve just been grabbing a change of clothes and bringing it inside with me. Â Since it was warm enough for flip flops when I stopped last night, I didn’t bother to bring in better footwear. Â In retrospect, this was not the best choice I’ve ever made. Â But, then again, it’s not the worst, either. Â I’m not actually sure if I have a worst decision…maybe rushing through UniversityÂ and getting a stupid degree? Â But if I hadn’t done that, then I’d probably not be taking this road trip right now, and that would be a darn shame. Â So, I guess I make fairly good decisions? Hmm…
P.S. are you really still reading this ridiculous footnote?
**I posted a copy of a photo similar to this on Facebook with a caption in a similar vein. Â One of my friends asked me when beauty isÂ ever rational, which IÂ found rather surprising. Â IMOÂ beauty is frequentlyÂ rational…and by that, I mean, quantifiable and describable. Â “Oh, that butterfly is so beautifulâ€“look at the colors on its wings,” you might say. Â Or, “ah, so and so is prettier than some other person. Â I just love the way that [s/he] dresses so sharply.” Â (Or whatever). Â It’s open to analysis. Â This sunrise was not like that. Â Maybe it was just my profound exhaustion, but, as I said, it was so beautiful that it was overwhelming. Â I could barely drive; IÂ certainly could not quantify it! Â Was it more beautiful than other sunrises I’ve seen? Â What specifically made it so beautiful? Â I have no friggin’ idea, okay? Â IT WAS JUST AMAZING. Â The rational part of my mindÂ shut down andÂ shut up as if I’d been meditating for hours. Â That’s what I mean by an irrational level of beauty. Â It’s so exquisite that it seems like it should hurt, but it doesn’t. Â If you’ve never experienced something like that, I highly recommend a Montana sunrise as a good starting place to look for it.
***Or at least, the motto I’ve been following for the last few weeks.