Story by Tom Blake
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of stories Blake has had published in the MSTA Florida Chapter newsletter, The Florida Gator Tale. The story originally appeared in the July 2020 newsletter and has been edited to match the MSTA website’s style.
Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced pon-daray and translates to “pendant”) is a long, pendant-shaped lake in northern Idaho. After a very tiring, chilly and mostly wet day of riding on U.S. Route 2 that started in Montana at Glacier National Park, I concluded the ride on the lake’s northwest side in the Town of Sandpoint.
After a long, hot shower, I headed for the hotel’s restaurant. It had a beautiful lakeside view, and I ordered what turned out to be the best meal of the trip – a hardy bowl of cioppino (Italian seafood stew). I’d never had it before and haven’t had any better since. It included big hunks of delicious halibut, about half a dozen small clams on the shell plus mussels and prawns in a very flavorful and warm tomato base. Boy, did that and a Jameson on the rocks really hit the spot.
About 45 minutes down the road the next morning, I was in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, at a trendy little downtown coffee shop. The town was very clean and nice and with a large lake on its south side. It’s a college town and looked like a great place to live, maybe during the summer. The coffee was excellent.
After much deliberation, I decided to cross Washington state to Seattle on Interstate 90. I’m sure U.S. Route 2 would have been vastly more scenic; would have put me close enough to the Grand Coulee Dam to pay a visit; and later would have crossed the more challenging northern Cascade Mountains. On the other hand, I-90 routed me through Ritzville, a small town about 90 miles southwest of Spokane where I was temporarily stationed on a U.S. Air Force radar train in the late 1960s.
The Ritzville I remembered was a tidy little farm town with well-maintained houses and green, manicured yards. The place I found on this trip looked like it had been through hard times. I barely recognized it. A deputy sheriff, whom I spoke with over lunch, remembered touring the train as a young girl, and we had a nice chat. Among other things, she said they took a lot of ash from the Mount Saint Helens eruption in 1980. She said that the ash turned day into night as it blew over the state. You could still see it along the sides of roads. Mount Saint Helens is located about 180 miles, as the crow flies, to the southwest.
About 85 miles west of Ritzville, I-90 crosses the very impressive Columbia River. An overlook approaching the bridge provided a great view of the river and surrounding area. The river originates in British Columbia and is the largest in the northwestern United States.
Nearing Seattle, one cannot help but marvel at the sight of ice-capped Mount Rainier, which is situated about 60 miles southeast of the city. With its peak at 14,410 feet, it dominates the skyline and is the tallest and most glaciated peak in the Cascades. I was fortunate, as I was told the view of the peak is often obscured by clouds. It’s also an active and potentially very dangerous stratovolcano.
I spent a couple days in Seattle resting, sightseeing and getting an oil & filter change on the ST. Then it was on to the Olympic Peninsula, which is separated from the mainland by Puget Sound and from Vancouver, British Columbia, by the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Olympic Mountains and Olympic National Park –which includes the Hoh Rain Forest — are at the center of the peninsula. Hoh is one of the few temperate rain forests in the United States. Although rainfall there averages 150 inches or so per year, I managed to run the perimeter of the very scenic peninsula with nary a drop. Crescent Lake, formed by a glacier, is in the northwest section of the peninsula and the ride alongside it was fabulously beautiful.
Two bridges with a causeway in between got me across the Columbia River where it passes the small town of Astoria, Oregon, and spills into the Pacific Ocean. I spent the night in Astoria at a hotel next to the river and managed to leave my credit card at one of the nearby watering holes. Fortunately, it was still there the next morning with no extra charges. Whew! There also was a marina within walking distance filled with commercial fishing boats. And the place had a considerable population of large, ugly and noisy seals swimming around and relaxing on barges and docks.
The next morning, I continued south on U.S. Route 101 for about five hours to Florence, Oregon. This was one of the most beautiful sections of the whole trip. It was slow going thanks to the hilly and scenic nature of the country; the many little towns and on this day; and numerous cops with radars a-buzzing. Mountains and craggy hills butt right up to the Pacific Ocean along the route.
The next day I cut southeast from the coast at Reedsburg toward Crater Lake National Park in south-central Oregon. The lake resides inside a very large volcanic crater created by a super-violent eruption of Mount Mazama about 7,700 years ago. Wizard Island, a cinder cone near the western edge, was formed by subsequent, smaller eruptions.
The lake is surrounded by a steep, 7,000- to 8,000-foot ridge — what remains of the original mountain. A well-maintained park road follows the ridge. The crater’s blue water is about 2,000 feet deep. On the day that I visited, it had a misty, surreal appearance. Sensual overload; my camera was smoking!