Ain't nuthin like ridin' a fine horse in a new country - Augustus McCrae – Lonesome Dove

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Missoula on Home~

The final leg seemed the longest of the trip.  I'd slept the night before & enjoyed the very nice room.  I woke an hour before my alarm, took my time & watched the weather report.  Freezing rain near St. Regis had me worried, so by the time I called Butch - I'd stopped at Starbucks for a hot tea & was already on I-90.  Pretty much the only car on the road.  I had some interesting radio stations that I listened to along the way!  The Bear, the Wolf & the Eagle!  I'd listen until I ran out of the range of each station, early in the mornings anyway.
As the day lightened, all it did was to show me how icy in spots the roads were.  I just maintained my speed, kept the wheel straight & didn't make any sudden changes.  I'd wait for the straight stretches to pass any trucks.
Near St. Regis~
By the time I was near St. Regis - the road was down to one clear lane, but with no traffic - I had it to myself :-)
Rest Area~
I made a very short stop here - up on the pass.  No lack of snow in the Tamarack Forest!  Some of the trees look almost dead in winter, dropping their needles.  Coeur d'Alene was the next goal & the WA state line after that.
Coeur d'Alene
Filling up whenever I got down to half a tank worked out well.  That usually took two-hours & by that time I was ready for a short break & stretch.  I pulled off for gas at Liberty Lake & was right back out on the road heading for Ellensburg, when I realized that the tank wasn't totally topped off.  Oh well, if it got too low - there was always Moses Lake.
Central Washington State~
 On such a slate gray day - the monochromatic views were far from inspiring.  I'd started the trip doing about 70 mph.  Once in Montana - with the 80-mph speed limit - the Bronco just seemed to go 80 all on it's own.  That's the speed we did all the way across, so at least we were making time.  I stopped at the Schrag rest area & did a few jumping jacks just to get the blood flowing!
The Columbia~
Views of the Columbia, gave me at least a little of the scenic interest I was using to enjoying!  I didn't get a photo of the lit, blinking sign that greeted drivers climbing the hill on the far side.  It read;  "50+ Elk killed in a year, over the next six-miles."  Believe me - I kept both eyes open through there.
At Ellensburg, I stopped at the truck stop & asked about the pass.  The truckers were worried & wondering about it as much as I was.  It started snowing lightly while I was there & lasted for a few miles out of town.
Leaving Ellensburg~
Now, so close to getting home, I sure didn't want to be stopped on the pass!  Friends let me know that the eastbound lane had been closed due to an accident.  It was noticeable - hardly any traffic coming eastbound.   It started raining about half way up!  Rain!  Hadn't seen any of that since I'd left!  :-)  The worst part, was on the down hill grades - the lanes were narrowed for the construction & had No shoulder!  With snow packed up against the barriers - there was maybe a lane & a half of space.  No fun...
Eastbound Emergency Rigs~
I didn't have much of a chance to get a photo - but What a Mess!  The backed up traffic went on for miles & miles...
Trucks line the shoulder of I-90~
More trucks were off to the side than I'd seen my entire trip...  Just a way further & the wind struck!  Huge gusts blowing the rain right at us in sheets.  I took the Fall City exit & let me tell you - following a car at 35 mph. seemed like a crawl!  I stopped at daughter Courtney's for a minute - to tell her I was back & took the back roads home!

I just have to brag up the Bronco.  Purchased in April of 06, after my other one was totaled, we bought it with 117,000 miles.  It was almost impossible - even then, to find one that was in decent condition.  We've always taken good care of it, maintenance when needed etc.  I drove it on this same trip in July of 2012 - to see my Dad, so this was our second long-distance haul.  Not one single problem the entire way!  The engine just purred & purred!  The harder I worked it - the smoother it ran.  I think the Bronco enjoyed his vacation from pulling the horse trailer & all the short around town trips that constitute the work week :-)  Our total mileage was 2,808 & I was gone nine days.  Of those nine, only three weren't on the road.  I still feel like I'm moving today!   The cold/wet of the great north-wet has already settled back in my bones :-)

P.S.  The one thing that I noticed the most - in every state I traveled through - was the lack of snow.  All the way across - there was maybe 3" of windblown snow, nothing like the Winters of old by the time January rolled around...

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