I got an early start from Cle Elum because I had a long way to go before a lunch date in Spokane and I wanted to see the Grand Coulee Dam on the way. I’m a big Woody Guthrie fan, and so visiting this dam has been on my bucket list for literally decades.
The first part of the drive was definitely about soaking up the sunshine because I knew it wasn’t going to last. It was gorgeous along I-90, even if the road surface was a mess and I could hear stuff in the back getting bounced around a bit.
Just after crossing the Columbia River at Vantage, I turned off to a “scenic vista point”. For once, they weren’t lying.
And as if that wasn’t enough, there was a cool monument to wild horses on the hillside nearby:
But the smooth sailing didn’t last…
Not being a fisherman, I had not known that April 23 is the opening day of trout fishing season in Washington State lakes. After what had been a mostly deserted section of the drive (from Vantage up to just north of Soap Lake), I rounded a turn to find the next five miles absolutely packed with RVs, big boats, little boats, old guys in chairs by the water, little kids flinging their lines in, and much beer in many coolers. Let’s just say that big pickup trucks towing big boats are not the most polite of drivers, especially when they spot an open patch of roadside big enough to set up camp. Bella and I did not enjoy this section at all.
We did, however, enjoy the next section. Holey moley, this was a revelation in the coolest sense of the word! The Grand Coulee is actually a geological formation. And it is breathtakingly gorgeous, like a wide open, smaller-scale Grand Canyon. I feel like an idiot not knowing this place is just a three-hour drive from Seattle!
Big hunky cliffs towering over the narrow, winding road, geological strata right out there for everyone to see, it was just the kind of stuff my dad loved to see while driving along.
The Grand Coulee Dam was pretty impressive too, front and back. Bear with me, I just have to put in some photos to show this magnificent feat of engineering.
The last trip I took with my dad, we crossed the Columbia River around Wenatchee, where it was not that impressive but still good-sized. After realizing that neither of us knew the exact course of the Columbia, we gave up trying to figure it out using the tiny map on my iPhone. About two weeks after that, back home with his iMac and Google Earth, my dad told me in our weekly phone call all about the Columbia River. He had been doing his research, tracing the origins up to Canada. I said we should go see the Grand Coulee Dam some time, because he loved engineering works on a large scale. But we never got to make that trip, and I found myself crying so hard as I drove away from the Grand Coulee dam that I could barely see the road.
I met up with a friend of his in Spokane for lunch, and we told stories to each other about my dad, and that made me feel better. Everyone who knew him seems to have at least one story I haven’t heard, and I am collecting them all in my heart.
From Spokane to Missoula? I’ll be honest. It was a total slog. Rain, more rain, less rain, construction lanes, one-lane routing, and then more rain. I drove through two national forests (Coeur d’Alene and Lolo) but except for a few patches of snow, I was so busy navigating the crappy road conditions that I didn’t have much time to look around.
The day, however, did end on a high note. Just look at the price of gas in Missoula, Montana. You better believe I stuffed every last ounce I could into my gas tank!
- Miles Driven: 430
- MPG: 27.4
- Side trips: Grand Coulee Dam (so worth the extra 2 hours of driving!)