Thursday, September 11, 2003... Greetings from Troutdale, Oregon, about 15 miles east of Portland, gateway to the Columbia River Scenic Highway.  Guess what's on my schedule for tomorrow morning...

Today's drive was basically a long clockwise loop to get out of the rain and back to more or less where I was two nights ago.  I checked the weather maps and forecasts while socializing with my hosts this morning:  rain most or all day west of the Cascades in Washington and northern Oregon, followed by clearing for tomorrow.  That was all I needed to see.  As they headed off to work, I dashed east, over the mountains and down into the agricultural valleys of central Washington.  The skies lifted as soon as I was on the east side of the Cascades; shortly thereafter, the rains stopped and the sun occasionally showed itself. 

(As bad as my past few days of travel have been, my hosts' daughter has it worse.  After almost five carefree years of existence, she started kindergarten last week. Her college degree is about 3,000 school days away.)

I drove past miles of apple orchards around Yakima to Zillah, which touts itself as the center of Washington's winemaking industry.  I know I've driven past signs for Oregon, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri and Pennsylvania wines, too, but have yet to see any wines from these states sold more than 50 miles from the vineyard.  For my purposes, though, Zillah is also the home of the Teapot Dome Gas Station, constructed in 1922 in the shape of a teapot and promptly renamed in honor of the biggest scandal of the Harding Administration.  The family-owned station's low-tech pumps still work, dispensing fuel for several cents/gallon less than charged elsewhere.

Teapot Doma Gas, Zillah, WA

With the sun now shining, I turned south toward the Columbia River Gorge.  En route I learned of a Washington law which more states should adopt:  if you're holding up more than five vehicles, you're obligated to pull over and let them all pass.  That means you, Mr. and Mrs. Retiree in Your Underpowered RV...

On the second anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings, I wanted nothing to do with the radio, particularly any comments from the unelected buffoon in the White House who's done more to destroy the American economy, isolate the United States from the rest of the world and recruit more anti-Western Islamic terrorists than Osama bin Laden ever could. I did, however, make a point of stopping at America's oldest World War I memorial, a replica of Stonehenge.

Unlike the English original, this one is intact.  It sits atop a hill overlooking the Columbia River near Maryhill, Washington.  Local eccentric Sam Hill, son of railroad magnate James Hill and an early promoter of good roads, started building it in 1918 to honor the thirteen local boys killed in the war.  The site offers spectacular vistas of the river, too.

Columbia River and Maryhill, WA from Stonehenge replica

From there, I continued west along the north side of the Columbia.  On this, the Washington side, the path closest to the water is generally claimed by the railroad; on the Oregon side, the railroad and Interstate 84 crisscross.  Sure enough, the closer I got to Portland the darker the skies grew, but it never actually rained.  I crossed the river on an ancient two-lane span dubbed the Bridge of the Gods, hopped on the Interstate and headed for the motel.

Assuming the current forecast holds up, the sunshine should be back for tomorrow and Saturday.  I'm planning to check out Mt. St. Helens, follow the Columbia River Scenic Highway, and possibly visit the End of the Oregon Trail Museum. tomorrow, then turn south and probably head over to US 101 for the redwoods on Saturday.  The way this trip has gone, though, all plans are subject to change without notice.  Later...

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