Thursday, August 23, 2012

West Coast Adveture - Day 9

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

I saw it all today...well...I saw a lot.

I saw amber waves of grain.

I saw purple mountains majesties.

I saw the fruited plain.

I saw America...and I'm exhausted.

I met John at 8:30AM this morning for breakfast. We're both members of the Volusia Riders. Neither one of us rides a Volusia any more...truth be told, there are many people on the site who no longer have, or ride, a Volusia (or Boulevard)...but once you're a part of the family you're a part of the family. John lives in Spokane, Washington, had the day off work today, and decided he'd join me for the ride to Seattle.

Riding out of Spokane, one finds oneself quickly back on the plains...only, it's not the same plains as the middle of the country. For one, you can see the mountains to the west most of the time you're riding through them. It's also not as "flat" as the plains states. There were hills through North Dakota and Montana, too, but these hills were bigger, more pronounced, you noticed them...and it made it seem a lot less "flat." There were also dust devils. I don't recall seeing a single dust devil as I traveled through the Great Plains. I saw lots of them today. At one point, there was a relatively large one cruising across the open fields to our south and west, while at the same time I counted at least a dozen smaller ones in the open acreage around it. I've never actually seen a true dust devil before :)

US-2 just keeps chugging along through the amber waves of grain until you reach Coulee City. I got another nice surprise there...canyons. Not valleys...actual canyons. We were scooting along, right as rain, and all of a sudden US-2 starts to drop. It's like the fields just open up and the road starts going down into this unknown chasm. Then, without warning, you come around a curve in the road and there's the canyon, right in front of you. Steep walls jutting up on either side and a ribbon of highway that shoots down to the canyon floor and up through a break in the walls on the other side. This was an unexpected piece of scenery, to say the least.
Outside Coulee City - click the picture to see a larger version
Once you rise up out of the canyons, you're back in the foothills of the coastal mountains. The ride through them was exhilarating and over almost too quickly. If anyone from out east is up for it, I'd love to fly out to Seattle next spring or fall and take US-2 from Seattle, WA, to Kalispell, MT, and back again over the course of a week. I'm not sure there's any other place in the United States of America where you can see plains, canyons, mountains, rivers, lakes, streams, forests, big cities, small cities, and no cities all in just about 600 miles on one road. US-2, from western Montana to western Washington is America in a nutshell. About the only thing missing was swamp...and I didn't miss that. :)

One thing I haven't missed in my nine days of riding has been traffic. There have been a few times when I found myself amongst some other vehicles, but nothing close to what we ran into when we got to Seattle. It was about 5:00PM when John and I got onto the highway east of the city. 65 miles later, and over 90 minutes of fighting typical Seattle rush hour traffic, I finally made it to my hotel. The only thing left on the agenda for the night was to get some dinner...and for that I got to meet another great person with a Volusia Riders tie, Julie. I got to enjoy a few hours with her this evening as she gave me a quick tour of Steilacoom and treated me to dinner at the Steilacoom Pub & Grill.

As I got closer and closer to Seattle today, my thoughts started to become more introspective.

This trip does have meaning to me, in ways both known and unknown, regardless of what may have been posted earlier in the journey. This isn't a trip one takes just because it was there to be taken, at least that's not the only reason. For me, one known aspect of this journey is that the seeds for the trip were planted in 1994. Back then, my friends, Jason and Bryan, and I were supposed to drive out to Seattle via US-2 for our friend Jeremy's wedding. It's a trip that was well intentioned but never happened; however, I always wish it had. Instead, I flew out while Jason and Bryan took the Greyhound. If you ever get a chance to hear them talk about sharing a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter for three's a story worth listening to. There's a part of me that takes great pride in making the journey, by myself, while at the same time it's an accomplishment that's diminished because Jason and Bryan didn't get to share in it.

As the miles fade into the road behind me, the unknown becomes more clear. Traveling like this helps me to both escape the reality of my life...and bring me face to face with it. There are still days when I feel like a stranger in my own skin. Days when I look in the mirror and simply don't recognize the person staring back at me. Days when I just want things to be the way they should have been, not the way they are. As I traveled US-2 today, I was reminded that I can't run away from that reality. It hit home hard at the point where US-2 runs into the Columbia River and heads south before turning back west and following the Wenatchee River up into the mountains. Sara and I had driven the highway on the other side of that river just a few years ago. We had flown out to spend a week with her sister at her sister's in-law's home near Lake Chelan. The next hour of the trip was a blur as I remembered that vacation. Our time together. That we'd driven back to Seattle early to celebrate our anniversary. Memories. I can't run away from the memories, from the reality that they are all that I have left.

The evening finds me exhausted. It was long day of riding and an even longer day emotionally.

Spokane to Tacoma - 340 miles of some of the best riding I've ever experienced
2,500+ miles and still rolling

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Chad Cole