The Drive Home, Fall 2019
So on September 26th, our wedding anniversary, we packed up the Subaru, with everything just fitting, and headed down the street to the Sidney-Anacortes Ferry. It’s always a nice ferry ride and US customs in Anacortes gets a kick out of our Vermont plates. This time the custom’s official asked which Maple syrup was better, Vermont or Washington State. We got the answer right, Vermont, and he let us go.
Our first days drive repeated one from last year. Route 20, or North Cascades Highway, is very scenic and the northernmost route across the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington State. We spent our anniversary night in Winthrop, WA, a small, funky town with a real old time look. A shout out to Bev and Jerry whom we met and had dinner with early in the season. They live in Winthrop in the non boating season.
From Winthrop to Spokane we loosely followed the Columbia River and halfway to Spokane we came upon the Grand Coulee Dam. Built between 1933 and 1942, the Grand Coulee originally had only two powerhouses. In 1974 a third power station came online making the Grand Coulee Dam the largest power station in the United States by name-plate (rated) capacity.
One night in Spokane and east we headed on Interstate 90 into Idaho and the Coeur d’Alene National Forest. This was a beautiful interstate drive and we covered 300 plus miles to Butte, Montana. It was in Butte that we were forced to spend two nights because of a very early snowstorm that dropped upwards of three feet of snow in the higher elevations. Butte received maybe five inches, but without snow tires we decided to hole up the extra night.
Last year on our return trip we had to detour past Yellowstone National Park due to snow caused road closures. This year the snow problem wouldn’t happen till the day we left.
We only had a two night reservation at the Old Faithful Inn. It was enough to wet our appetite and promise ourselves a return trip to Yellowstone. The inn itself was rustic and interesting but thoroughly overpriced. And the food was very mediocre. However it is right at Old Faithful and that’s what counts.
The park, established in 1872 and covering nearly 3,500 square miles is breathtaking. How we never visited before this we don’t know. The vistas are spectacular. The steaming hot springs, geysers, and mud pots are otherworldly. Animals and birds abound and the fishing we were told, is fantastic.
The morning of our departure it was snowing lightly at the hotel but roads were passable we thought. Our route out of the park would take us south thru Grand Teton National Park. Our Subaru was handling the drive slowly but steadily. That is until we came to a long incline and in front of us were two stuck and sliding tourist buses and numerous cars. While stopped I got out to walk ahead and see if there was room to sneak thru as our car, sans snow tires, was handling fine. While walking up hill a Yellowstone bus tried to slowly pass our parked car with Cath in it and proceeded to sideslip and then sideswipe us. I didn’t see it happen. The bus only managed to get 100 feet past us until it became stuck. It was easy to catch the bus driver and we exchanged information. We were able to squeeze thru and made it to the turn south to Grand Teton only to find out that all roads were now closed. Fortunately we were near Grant Village, a park facility and there we waited for over three hours. Finally the roads opened and we headed south.
Next stop, Casper, Wyoming. Casper has a superb museum, the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center. We spent hours there. The volunteer guides were incredibly knowledgeable and friendly.
From Casper it was a quick one nighter in Gothenburg, Nebraska and on to Omaha. Only one night in Omaha but it included a ridiculously expensive steak house. The food was good, the bill not so.
We enjoyed the The Durham Museum and the historic Old Market section. Two days would have been fun.
Davenport Iowa was next. I don’t know why other than we needed to stop one night before Chicago.
Chicago here we come. O’Hare is my only experience with Chicago and Cath was there once as a child. Our niece Maia, husband Mark and newborn, Skyla live in Chicago so in addition to visiting the city we were able to visit relatives.
Lot’s to do in Chicago. We took in The Field Museum, The Museum of Science and Industry, the John Hancock observation deck and an architectural boat tour. We also walked, a lot and ate well. This is another town we will need to return to.
We left Chicago and drove home with one stop in Erie, PA for a nights sleep. We arrived home in Vermont the afternoon of October 10th. All told our trusty Subaru covered 3,485 miles with only a bus sideswipe to complain about. We averaged 29.4 mpg. Pretty good. Better than Big Smile. That’s it for 2019.