2 August 2002
[A good deal of muttering on paper about an obsessive idea, which I will spare you. I only hope any posthumous editors are as kind.] We left town at about 6:30 p.m. and made decent time - going over the I-90 bridge we felt sorry for the folks headed westward in their floating parking lot. Gorgeous sunset behind us, then magnificent stars, even from the roadway with its occasional lights. I was thinking it was about time for the Perseid meteors, and I did see one large meteor from the car. I planned to do some sky-watching after we got settled for the night, if possible.
Sadly, this was not to be. We tried unsuccessfully to find a hotel in Kennewick, heretofore unacknowledged hotbed of tourism - after five attempts we continued on to the Umatilla Inn & Suites - formerly the Rest-a-Bit Motel - in Umatilla, Oregon. By the time we got our room and so forth, I was exhausted enough that all thoughts of star-gazing were driven from my mind. Still, the showers continue for another week or so - maybe I'll find someone with a vehicle and an interest I can dragoon into going out to meteor watch in the next week or so. You graveyard shift people have the luck of it, by the by, since the best viewing is after midnight.
3 August 2002
I am spoiled by the natural softness of the water here in Seattle. In high school, we didn't even bother to use distilled water in our chemistry class lab - plain tap water was pure enough for the crude "experiments" we did. I hate the soapy feeling from more mineral-laden water elsewhere.
I love how you come out of the mountains onto the upper plains after the pass: trees trees trees trees then wham you're looking at the bare foothills, with a slight sprinkling of sagebrush. When we came through last night it was late afternoon, so coming out from the trees into the open light of the foothills was even more striking.
The motel's idea of "coffee" is to have a small 4 cup maker set out, with enough sandy-colored granules already sitting in the filter basket to make perhaps a quarter of a cup of coffee by proper standards. Certain to be stale, lighter than anything I'd be willing to call even a cinnamon roast - if I were to brew it, I might get some coloring to my hot water, but the water here is hard enough I would be hard pressed to discern any difference in flavor. There's a skill I could barter, perhaps, should the need arise: coffee-making. Or espresso-pulling, or something like.
Breakfast at Rusty's Pancake & Steak in Ontario, OR where the menu proclaims they proudly serve Folgers. Sigh. Thus I had ersatz coffee, ersatz cream (non-dairy "creamer" even if it was liquid and packaged in little tubs) and an omelette with ersatz cheese (processed "american" and "swiss" cheese food both). It's a pity I can't subsist on sneer quotes, I'd be a good deal more sated. My post-surgery tummy doesn't handle unnatural oils in food well, so I spent the next while being quietly ill and napping in the car. Stopped to get some hair bands and some dorky clip-on sunglasses to ward off a headache - all three of us have joined the dork squad, since no other type of sunglasses were to be had. Now that we're through eastern Oregon and into Idaho the land continues to become more sparse - trees are much rarer, and pine trees or evergreens are pretty much nonexistant. There will be deciduous trees along a watercourse or next to a farm house, but mostly it's just grey-tan rolling hills and sagebrush.
[later] Here's a first for me - an Emergency Broadcast Warning over the radio that wasn't a test! Tornado warning to the north-east of us. Yes, tornado. Don't know if one ever actually materialized - I'm guessing not - but still kind of exciting, in an oh-shit kind of way.
Stopped at a rest area that had a building with faux flying butresses. These delightful architectural anomalies contained lights that were apparently designed to illuminate the main building. Very odd. Now lightning and thunder and raindrops that hit the windshield like hailstones. 68 miles to Idaho Falls and our hotel reservations.
to be continued