Holy Lead feet Batman! I MADE IT TO SEATTLE! (Well, okay, Monroe.) I didn’t doubt that I would, honestly, except while I was going through Snoqualmie Pass today–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. Google Maps told me that from my location in Montana, it would take about 12 hours to get to Seattle. 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 my entire body has been turned to concrete. That was me this morning. My throat and nose were dry (hotel heaters!), my eyelids felt like they had sandbags hanging off of them, and moving took actual thought. Fortunately, taking a shower helped me to wake up a bit, and I started getting excited for this last leg of the journey. After all, the bit of Montana I saw yesterday was amazingly beautiful, and I expected this morning to be even better. Also, I was looking forward to going through Idaho in the daytime, (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. 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 shock–but a bit like drinking a strong cup of coffee. The temperature was below freezing, and I was wearing flip-flops–Yikes! I tossed my bags into the car, then, breath steaming, I grabbed one pair each of shoes and socks and quickly put them on*. There was about half a minute of agony from freezing cold footwear but after that, my body heat started thawing them out, and I could start enjoying the view. And despite the fact that it was mostly taken up with a gas station, it was still very pretty:
After checking out, I quickly filled up my car’s gas tank (while getting a cup of coffee at the same station), and then hit the road. It was just about 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. I had been heading up into the mountains, and the sunrise over the lower-lands behind me was so beautiful that I quite literally could not form a coherent sentence. I’m not speaking metaphorically here. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but the only sound in my head was a wordless shriek of joy at the beauty surrounding me. I couldn’t even come up with, “Oh my God!” just “Ah–! AHHHH!!!!” So, operating by instinct, I stopped at the side of the freeway and took pictures. 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, when it hit me: this was the secret joy of this journey. 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. But having the chance to experience unplanned, unexpected moments of beauty, to spontaneously stop like this? That is the secret joy of road tripping. It was wonderful. It was a moment of pure happiness. (Getting some amazing pictures like this [which could, admittedly, be rendered better by photoshop] is an extra helping of awesomeness.)
After a few minutes that seemed to stretch forever, I got my fill of sunrise photos, and got back in the car to get moving. I didn’t get a huge distance behind me, but it was about 2 hours of nonstop travel before I stopped again. But I had good reason for the stop: I really needed more coffee. 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. I expected this to have the flavor of a local business, but it seemed surprisingly corporate. 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. However, I would definitely stop here again for this poster alone (it pretty much summed up my life’s motto***):
After I got driving once more, it was smooth sailing for most of the day. I was listening to the audiobook of A Game of Thrones, and at one point, got ultra nerdy, and put on the theme song from the T.V. show as I was driving through snow-covered areas in the mountains. (Quit judging me. It’s perfect driving music!) 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 lies by Fort Tejon. Like that area, the lanes are tight, and pass through ragged mountain cliffs. Snoqualmie, however, has about half the lanes, but much steeper cliffsides. Also? you’re more likely than not to hit weather. And I’m not talking a drizzle here. I mean full-on “this is dangerous” weather. The last time I drove to Seattle I actually had to take a different route because there had been a blizzard and the pass was closed. This time, it wasn’t snowing, but it was raining hard enough to obscure the lane markings. It was actually a little scary: even though we were going 15 miles an hour, and I had my wipers on high, you couldn’t see more than about 10 feet in front of you. 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. 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 was to my relatives’ house within an hour or two. 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. We went out for Thai food, and then came back to their house and sat talking for a few hours. I’m looking forward to having more time to chat with everyone tomorrow. But for now? 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. Since it was warm enough for flip flops when I stopped last night, I didn’t bother to bring in better footwear. In retrospect, this was not the best choice I’ve ever made. But, then again, it’s not the worst, either. I’m not actually sure if I have a worst decision…maybe rushing through University and getting a stupid degree? 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. 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. One of my friends asked me when beauty is ever rational, which I found rather surprising. IMO beauty is frequently rational…and by that, I mean, quantifiable and describable. “Oh, that butterfly is so beautiful–look at the colors on its wings,” you might say. Or, “ah, so and so is prettier than some other person. I just love the way that [s/he] dresses so sharply.” (Or whatever). It’s open to analysis. This sunrise was not like that. Maybe it was just my profound exhaustion, but, as I said, it was so beautiful that it was overwhelming. I could barely drive; I certainly could not quantify it! Was it more beautiful than other sunrises I’ve seen? What specifically made it so beautiful? I have no friggin’ idea, okay? IT WAS JUST AMAZING. The rational part of my mind shut down and shut up as if I’d been meditating for hours. That’s what I mean by an irrational level of beauty. It’s so exquisite that it seems like it should hurt, but it doesn’t. 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.