Sunday, September 15, 2013

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho to Spokane, across the Columbia River, the Ginko Petrified Forest, and Yakima, Washington

A traveling day today!  I know there are people who consider "a traveling day" to mean a thousand miles or at least 800.  We did 240 today and we traveled. (Just look at the title of this post......)

We drove past Coeur d'Alene Lake which is on the outskirts of the ares of Coeur d'Alene where we were staying.  This lake covers 49 square miles and is 25 miles long and at places two miles wide. National Geographic Magazine listed this lake as one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world.  We see why.  If only we had a sailboat............. we'd still be there.

But we don't, and we're not.

We drove the 30 miles or so to Spokane, Washington.  You know we'd show you a photo of ourselves at the side of a busy highway, cars and trucks doing 90 while we smile happily that we've made it to another state sign...........but the state of Washington stuck their sign in the middle of the divided highway..............!!  and we preferred to keep on living, so you will just have to do without that shot.

Spokane didn't look as large as it is on the map.  We got off the interstate at some point and followed our noses towards downtown, stopping at the Public Market along the way. It is a very cool place! The image projected of Spokanians (?) is that they are liberal, ecologically-minded, and going to save the world, going by the things we saw for sale at the Public Market.  I had to go back to the car for my camera. Randy wanted to buy the worm farm kit and the portable solar oven that looks like a suitcase.

We couldn't help but notice the homeless people all over downtown Spokane. They seem to be everywhere.  We didn't see any panhandlers, but we did see many homeless sleeping in a park, walking aimlessly with all their belongings on them, or rummaging for food in trash cans.

Spokane is known for its skywalks that join buildings together. It is especially helpful for the citizens during the cold winters when they can move over a 15-building area without having to go outside.

Finding Sprague Street, which seems to be the main drag of town, helped us to get our bearings. Thelma led us to Riverfront Park, on the banks of the Spokane River, and we got a fantastic parking spot nearby. A large fountain with kids playing in it was at the entrance.

A wonderful, historic carousel is inside a large building to be sure it lasts another hundred years. It was carved in 1909 by Charles Loof, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  There are two "odd" or "extra" figures on the carousel, one an Ibex goat, and the other a tiger.  I got right up onto the goat and when I realized it had a thick, leather seat belt, I became worried that this merry-go-round was going to give me a thrill ride.  Actually, it was a very long ride, worth the price of the ticket, and it went pretty fast, but I held onto that goat and had a fun time.

We walked all over Riverfront Park near the downtown area.  There are large pots of flowers everywhere, a clock tower, a pavilion for concerts, and a sky ride which we didn't see until we had left the park.  Riverfront Park was hosting a health run of some sort, and there were many families enjoying a Saturday morning and afternoon there.

We got back onto Interstate 90 and drove.  Our new audio book is The Litigators, by John Grisham. While there is a sameness to all of his books, each one has its own unique characters and odd lawsuit, and this one is no different, but we're enjoying it as we ride.

The town of Ritzville looked as if it might have a grocery store, so we pulled in. Their downtown area had been taken over by a "Health Fair" that seemed to have the whole population of 1600 or so involved in it. We asked about a grocery store, and were directed to the Pretty Good Grocery where we purchased a large jar of peanut butter.  Ritzville has some interesting old buildings on their Main Street, we thought.

We continued west and found a rest area picnic ground for lunch.

Washington State has hills and sage and fields of wheat that have all been harvested by now. After Montana, I confess that we were not enamoured with the scenery. Some more hills appeared, a town named Vantage was nearing, and  a sign warned us of a "scenic overlook."  We sort of sneered at it, but got off anyway. 

Oh, my goodness!  We had no idea what was below.............we couldn't see it coming until just about the minute we got off the interstate!

Out of the car, we realized that we were looking at the Columbia River at the bottom of rocky ridges and hills.  Who knew?  It hadn't been visible until then, or had we just not noticed................
We stayed at the overlook for quite awhile. It was 92 degrees.  Little lizards were running on the rocks.  The Columbia River was running below. We had found beauty in Washington.

Back in the car, Interstate 90 crossed the Columbia River, and we were still emoting over the beauty of it when we saw a sign for the Ginko Petrified Forest.  I must have been on guide-book-overload, as I had totally missed that in my role of "navigator" today.

A quick turn and half a mile later we were at the welcome center.  Petrified wood lay all around, and we admired it.  We did not want to take the ride through the park today, but were glad we'd stopped at the entrance area. 

Wineries started to appear, and we drove by fields of peas and wheat. We went up and down humongous hill and small mountains.  Apple orchards showed up, along with fruit signs and a very large area covered with wooden fruit crates for the harvests.  In the distance a range of purple mountains slowly were visible. We were heading into the Yakima Valley.
Fruit Crates

We pulled into Yakima, Washington at 5:00.  A short, relaxing soak in the hotel hot tub was followed by Mexican food at El Mirador, which translates to "The Viewpoint." It was decorated with lovely, bright colors. We got a good look at Yakima on the way to El Mirador.  All the fir trees lining the main streets are decorated with blue electric lights, as though it were Christmas.  We could not tell that Yakima was so large until we were downtown.  It looks like a city with everything, and it's not too large.  The Yakima Indian Reservation borders the city. There is a large Hispanic population as well.

We've got our motel routine just about perfected at this point.  My suitcase has not been out of the car yet, as it serves as a "dresser" of sorts in the back of the car. Tonight there is no elevator in our Clarion Motel, so only the most necessary things are inside with us.  It is amazing to me how little we really need on any given day.  I guess the lesson in this is simplify.


 Copyright: KP Gillenwater 2013