Posted by: bkivey | 24 October 2020

2020 Vacation: 25 September

I had thought to take WA 20 west through North Cascades National Park (No fees! Looking at you, Mt. Rainier Park!), and then work south to Everett and US 20 back through the Cascades. It would be a Day of Driving, but I was looking forward to the Park, and seeing a couple of railroad passes.

The weather had other ideas. The variable, but generally sunny, conditions of the previous day had given way to low, grey clouds hovering over the mountains, the exact place I wanted to go. Knowing it was futile to look at vertical scenery through horizontal clouds, I looked for something else to do. Frustrating? Sure. But I live close enough to make another effort without too much trouble.

The ‘something else’ was to have a look at a railroad yard in Pasco. You can see why traveling companions may be hard to find:

“What are we doing today?”

“Driving 200 miles across arid badlands to look at a railroad yard.”

“Fun!”

There were other activities of interest, all closer, but this was a ‘hump’ yard, where cars are rolled down an incline to do the switching, rather than done by locomotives. I’d never seen one, and as they are expensive to operate, not that many in operation.

For the day’s journey, I turned off the GPS, and navigated by road sign (VFR). I knew I had to travel generally south and east, and took US 97 south all the way back to Wenatchee, then WA 28 south along the Columbia River.

Heading south between Omak and Okanogan on the east bank of the Columbia. Ground is still smoking.

Tumbleweeds

The part of Washington I was traveling through was apparently once a great sagebrush ‘forest’. Not sure what you call a sagebrush geography, but the official signs go with ‘sagebrush-steppe’, which seems accurate. There were a lot of tumbleweeds, and on the day, a lot of wind to move them around. You could see stacks of them on fences: fences that in many cases seemed purpose-built for catching tumbleweeds, and at which they were successful.

Humans tend to imbue human characteristics to natural events, but I don’t think that’s by accident. Consider, if you will:

I was behind and to the left of a dually pickup truck towing a goose-neck car trailer. A large tumbleweed (1m+ dia) blew in front of the truck, and the truck demolished it. Just splinters everywhere. I was laughing about this when about ten seconds later, a good-sized tumbleweed branch hit my windshield. Not dangerous; but startling. Instant karma? You decide.

“Listen To The Wind Blow . . .”

Very windy on the day. This is open country, and not a lot to stop the wind coming off the Cascade Mountains to the west. It pretty much blows until it hits the Rockies to the east. Truck drivers were earning their money. You try driving down the highway at 65 mph with a four-story building towed lengthwise behind you. Empty trailers have no weight to keep them on the road, and they will sway and bounce. I passed one truck while we were both headed into the wind, and the bow wave was a physical barrier.

I had taken WA 281 south from WA 28 at Quincy, and joined I-90W at George, WA, Famous for the amphitheater The Gorge at George, the venue features a stage backed by the Columbia River gorge. I’ve been to a few concerts here, and it is a spectacular place to watch a concert. The amenities range from ‘primitive’ to ‘basic’, and while there are portable toilets, there usually aren’t nearly enough. It’s a pretty good hike from the parking lot (a number of people bring bicycles, although on a crowded path, it doesn’t work as well as you may expect), and you have to pack in and out everything you might want. I have waited up to three hours to get out of the parking lot. Honestly, it’s worth renting or borrowing an RV. You and your friends can chill while everyone else leaves. I don’t think overnight camping is allowed, though.

The Gorge at George is closed when not in use, so you can’t randomly tour it. I can say the most spectacular concert opening I’ve witnessed took place here. It involved Roger Waters and Gulfstream V.

Exiting on WA 243, then a left on WA 26 took me past the Hanford Reach National Monument. This is where the US manufactured nuclear weapons material for the first atom bomb detonated at White Sands, NM 16 July 1945, and for the ‘Fat Man’ weapon used on Nagasaki 9 August 1945.

Nothing, really, to see here, except landscape. The famous (infamous?) Reactor B, where the material was manufactured, appears to be gone. There is a roadside pullout with sign, but the visible structures do not align with the historical placement.

I somehow managed to approach the town of Othello twice, which is about as many ways as there are to do so. Othello is unremarkable, except that my oldest sister has her name up on a building:

I sent her the picture.

I managed to stumble on the Drumheller Channels National Landmark about 8 miles north and west of Othello on W. McManamon Rd. I believe the road is given a name as a courtesy, because there are no other addresses out here.

If you could stand here, you would see massive floods scouring the land. The sign states that the last floods were 13,000 years ago. This is very young terrain in geological terms; but older than recorded human history.

Pasco is in the Tri-Cities area, consisting of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland. This area is farm, ranch, and railroad.

The US 395 bridge between Pasco and Kennewick:

A car in Pasco not normally seen:

The hotel was unremarkable, other than it backed up to a street that functioned like an alley, and more activity than was maybe justified by the businesses. The room also featured the most uncomfortable office chair I have seen in a hotel room:

 


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