Three States, One Day

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Oct 18, 2012

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Where I stayed
Big Pine Campground

Flag of United States  , Montana
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Howdy folks,

Steffie and I woke up at 8am on our last morning in Seattle and quietly got ready while the others were still in bed. John wasn't in bed however, he was already off to work, but he ended up taking a day off just to say goodbye. We gathered some last minute internet information and after a warm goodbye to John and Zemeer, we hit the road. We had breakfast at McDonalds which wasn’t healthy, but is hardly routine for us. We headed south on Highway 99 then north east on Highway 405 before joining the big long Interstate 90 which heads all the way across the country to Boston!

We had some major driving to do on this leg. From Seattle to Spokane is 451km and we would be upping our daily average from 110kms to 212kms! Some of those days we aren’t even driving which makes the big drive days even bigger. Monday was no exception, with our rubber on the road driving us further east away from the Pacific. We didn’t really have any planned stops for the day, but we filled up petrol and got some food in Ellensburg which had all the big chain stores in the middle of nowhere (something that USA does really well is carbon copy country towns).

Around halfway, we crossed a bridge over the lake near Vantage and stopped at the Wild Horses viewpoint on the other side. There were a number of said horse metal sculptures high on the hill, while down over the lake you could see the high cliffs and tiny town below. Steffie and I swapped driving, so I continued along the road until we arrived in Moses Lake. There we got out and stopped at Blue Heron park where I had found a disc golf course on the internet. The course was pretty small, but the park was nice and green compared to the surroundings. There were plenty of people out enjoying the hot weather and going for a swim in the lake.

The landscape changed quite a bit during this drive after we left Seattle. First we drove through the Cascade Mountain Range which wasn’t quite as spectacular as in Banff and soon we found ourselves out in the middle of a large agricultural area. There were signs stating that they were growing: alfalfa, peas, grain corn, sweet corn, field corn, Thomas hay and potatoes. The land was quite dry though and all the crops were being irrigated.

Eventually we drove into Spokane, which is a pretty big city given the surroundings and also the last major town in Washington State. We checked into the Hotel Ruby which was in the middle of the bar district. The downtown area was quite urbanised and funky! It seemed to be quite clean except for a few homeless bums, but any big city has those problems. We were both pretty exhausted so we spent the night indoors catching up on the outside world.

This morning, we had to get an early start so that we could drive another 277kms. We were up and ready at 9:30am, we took a quick loop through the downtown area. After passing the Hotel Davenport, we headed down to the riverfront where the site of the World Expo 1974 was held. Obviously, there wasn’t much left of that event but a few plaques. We circled the island and walked out over the bridge where the rapids were. I hesitate to call anything a waterfall these days after seeing so many larger ones like Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray. We circled back via the Monroe Street Bridge and saw the 'falls’ at the Washington State Power Plant before heading back to check out the lobby of the Hotel Davenport. The lobby was exquisite and beautifully furnished. Even though our hotel was pretty modern, you could tell that this was the best joint in town even if it was only a century old.

Spokane’s claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Bing Crosby and we passed by the Bing Crosby Theatre on the way to the car. We were now ready to go and drove back onto Highway 90 towards our next destination Coeur d’Alene which was across the border in Idaho. We were there in under an hour and parked at the lakefront to check out the place. There was a walk around the marina and there were plenty of watercraft about the place: boats, jet skis, cruise ships, a pirate ship and even some float planes. There were quite a few boutique type shops given that the city is a recreation destination. Apparently they even do hydroplane racing on the lake as well.

The day was quite warm and we stopped at Cherry Hill Park to have lunch. The temperature was around 32 degrees which is the most warm I’ve felt since Australia. There was also a disc golf course there so we whipped or discs out for some fun in the sun. The holes were very long compared to the last one and went in and out of the scrub, up and down the hill so we were pretty tired. We only finished 8 holes because we couldn’t be bothered walking back up the hill again. I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in my game and Steffie is catching on as well.

Back on the highway, there wasn’t much to divert our attention off the highway. We stopped in the town of Kellogg to fill up fuel and get a Maccas icecream and there was a random Walmart in the middle of nowhere. Those things are everywhere and pretty addictive to go to. Just imagine a big Bunnings warehouse that houses a Kmart and a Coles with beer and wine. The prices are just stupidly cheap compared to Banff and it almost makes you cry. The end result is you buy much more, but spend the same. Not exactly good for travelling light.

We found a free camping website with plenty of places to pull up for free. A lot of the sites are Walmart or Casino carparks that allow RVs to park overnight, but sometimes they list primitive campgrounds in national forests and that was how we found Big Pine Campground. It was 70kms out of Missoula and down a dirt road off the highway, but Steffie and I were amazed to see how good it was. There was a big grassy area with fire pits, tables and a pit toilet! We even camped on the grass which was better than a lot of places we paid to stay at. There was a river running nearby so Steffie and I went for a dip in the nice cool water which was very refreshing. There was plenty of wildlife about with a few garter snakes, rabbits, squirrels and a few dogs from the other campers. The said big pine was a 350 year old Ponderosa Pine which was quite a bit bigger than anything else around it.

That night we had a huge thunder and lightning storm, so we were glad that we put on the tent fly. The thunder was rolling over the hills and the lightning made it look like daylight. Pretty cool stuff! Next stop Glacier National Park!
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