Country Living Series

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Follow me home

The trouble with going to Portland, you see, is I have to come home again. It's not the coming home part I dread; it's the nine-hour-long drive to get there.

It didn't help that I overslept Monday morning. I rolled over, looked at my watch, and gasped: 8:15 am. Couldn't believe it. I haven't slept that late in years. I'm used to being up by 5:30 or earlier.

I heard my friend Wendy moving around in the kitchen, so I came stumbling bleary-eyed out of the guest bedroom. "It is really 8:15?" I asked. Wendy laughed and told me I clearly needed the sleep.

So we got a late start at Wendy's favorite coffee house, but I did notice this sign, which amused me.

Wendy and I said our goodbyes and I got in the car to start the long drive home. I popped a tape in the cassette player (yes, our car has a cassette player) and was singing at the top of my lungs when I noticed this startling sight.

This was the Columbia River as it passes through Portland. Very pretty and impressive to be sure, but the trouble was... I wasn't supposed to be crossing it.  Not here.

In fact, once I was on the other side, I was in Washington. Crud. Missed my exit. That's what I get for singing at the top of my lungs while dealing with urban highways. Or maybe that's what I get for oversleeping.

I turned around and found my correct exit, and was soon paralleling the mighty Columbia (rather than crossing it... at least not for another 200 miles or so).

This western part of the Columbia River Gorge is so pretty it's hard to resist taking scenery photos, even if it's just the kind where I hold up the camera and hope for the best.

I waved to Multnomah Falls in passing, but didn't stop.

The cliffs along this area are steep and dramatic, lush and green.

I'm astounded I even got this shot, blurry or not. It's a nesting platforms for ospreys.  See the little black dot on the right edge?  That's the parent bird.

Some weird type of construction. I think they're scraping the cliffs or something, so fewer rocks tumble onto the highway. Not sure though. I passed it pretty quick and I was trying not to hit traffic cones.

Short tunnel through a cliff the highway couldn't skirt around.

Incrementally, the landscape started getting drier as I headed east.

I stopped in Hood River for lunch, and saw this impressive view of Mt. Hood as I got back in the car.

This huge and dramatic escarpment always impresses me.

A distant glimpse of one of the three dams that spans this section of the river (sorry, can't remember which one).

A retreating final glimpse of Mt. Hood in my rear view mirror.

Past the city of The Dalles, things got much drier.

(Color distortions through the windshield, sorry.)

Remnants of a small fire.

Windmills... a bridge across the river.

Really HUGE scree slopes.  The thin black line near the bottom is the highway on the other side of the river.

A patch of green in the desert. This is actually a massive farm across the river, entirely irrigated with water from the Columbia.

Even big rivers can zigzag. They just do it, well, bigly.

Towing a plane.

As I neared the eastern end of the state before veering north into Washington, I began seeing vast fields of crops, all presided over by massive irrigation systems with water pumped from the Columbia.  This is corn.

I passed this semi hauling PVC pipes. Cool patterns.

Finally! Only four and a half more hours of driving to go!

The bridge that flings me across the first loop of the Columbia, heading for the Tri-Cities.

First phase of the trip, done. I give you the irony of entering the "Evergreen" state in the midst of dry desert scrubland.

I think this is an old mining building, but I'm not sure.

Phase two.

Second bridge across the Columbia. This puts me into the Tri-Cities.

If possible, this portion of the trip is even more boring than the first part. By this point in the journey, my eyes are glazing over.

Phase three.

Once I leave the main highway and take the side road toward Idaho, things immediately shape up scenery-wise. There's a lot more agriculture, which always interests me.

Harvesting wheat.

Cresting a hill, heading toward classic Palouse territory.

I'm a sucker for old barns.

Colfax in the afternoon sun. From here on home, things are just downright pretty.


I'm guessing this isn't a road sign many urban folks see!

But THIS is the sign I was waiting for. Whoo-hoo, almost home!

Abandoned barn.

Here, the wheat is still too green to harvest.

But the grass hay is ready to cut.

One of my favorite vistas.

And that, dear readers, is the last photo I took of the trip. Sorry for such a lengthy visual essay, but frankly taking pictures helped pass the time on the nine hour journey.

Of course the moment I got home, Don and I plunged into an intense work schedule, which is why it's taken me two days to get this post up. We're in the middle of our busy season (and very thankful we HAVE a busy season) so I'll post as I can.

Thanks for following me home.


  1. Glad you made it home safe and sound. You don't ever need to worry about apologising for "lengthy visual essays" - we love them.

  2. Well you can tell people you lost a lot of weight on your trip - mug weight.

  3. I made that drive in the other direction many years ago. Unfortunately it was September, after harvest, and so it was nothing but endless miles of rolling brown dirt. It was my first time across Washington from Idaho, but even the novelty couldn't overcome the landscape. Sure is pretty on both ends though.

    Jeff - Tucson

  4. Gorgeous pictures and scenery. I'm a flatlander so mountains and hills are awesome.

  5. Thank you for taking us on the ride.

  6. I am imagining you holding the steering wheel with one hand and trying to take good photos (and the photos were good) with the other. Kind of scary.

    Stay safe. I enjoy your blog.

  7. Each of those windmills cost taxpayers about $300,000 up front. Additionally they cost the rate payers about $1000 a year and untold thousands each in tax write offs. Ironically we could cut electricity rates and save taxpayers millions perhaps even billions by tearing them down. A classic example of government gone wild.

  8. That old mining building looks like what would be called a "tipple" here. To me, it's amazing to see that much flat land! The first thing that comes to mind for me when I think of the Pacific Northwest is a sort of terminally cloudy place with an eternal misty rain-not a desert. Looks like a fun ride.

  9. Great picks, worked in the grain bis in portland yrs ago, loved the area. To bad you didn't get picks of the crop circles and aliens, dang another topic to prep for.

  10. Glad you had a successful show in Portland. I am awaiting the time to see the "Welcome to Idaho" sign and have it mean home.

  11. have enjoyed your blog and stories and pictures for a few years now...God bless you and your family.

    Jeanne, Arkansas

  12. Phyllis (N/W Jersey)August 2, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    Seems like you took the scenic route home! The last few pictures look like they could be from where I am. I never get tired of looking at acres and acres of hay and corn with the mountains in the background. Now rest up for next year!

  13. I love a good travelogue!

    As I look at your pictures, I'm listening to the National Anthem being played for Michael Phelps and Gabby Douglas --- wonderful music by which to gaze at pictures of the American landscape!

    Hang in there --- the other side of a sellout show, I guess, is that now you have your work cut out for you restocking!

    Just Me

  14. I am stunned that it is August and there's still SNOW on Mt. Hood?!?! I'm in a flat part of the country that hasn't had rain in 2 months and above 100 degrees every day (well, that's most of the country, isn't it?).

  15. Love the Welcome to Idaho sign :o)

  16. In September of 1967 I drove to the lodge at Mt Hood. This was the driest Summer on record. They were skiing right at the lodge. Snow year round is normal for Mt Hood.

  17. Seeing all those pictures makes me the PNW. Maybe someday I'll get the opportunity to return.

    P.S. The wind turbines with pointy nose cones are made by Siemens!