Drive Day—Columbia Gorge, Western Oregon, and on to Boise
Leaving Portland to travel east, we learned what winter is all about! Icy rain pelted us along our drive through the Columbia River Gorge. I was not familiar with this area at all, and was surprised at how wide the river is…and how strongly the winds howled through the gorge! Temperatures dipped into the 20s as the gale-force winds created whitecaps on the river.
|Columbia River Gorge from I-84...Brrrr!|
Despite being a little white-knuckled as I drove, I was in awe of what we were seeing. The scenery was dramatic, with mountains, then cliffs, then the other-worldly look of the windswept hills near The Dalles, Oregon. It was there we captured this photo of what cold can look like in the Northwest!
|The Dalles, Oregon|
|Idaho's version of Oz|
After the long drive through the Eastern Oregon plains, we arrived again at the mountains at Pendleton, and saw many beautiful scenes as we made our way into Idaho. The recent snows had left a beautiful impression along the way. Not far from the Idaho border, we saw this concrete plant near a small town—I remarked to MB that it looked like we had arrived in Oz!
We crossed the Snake River into Idaho after sunset and were glad to be safely in Boise, where eight inches of snow earlier in the week remained on the streets thanks to the 18-degree temperatures.
Thursday, November 20 (Day 31)
Boise is a surprising city in many ways. Traffic was busy and downtown was hopping on Thursday night, where we made our way to a delicious dinner at Fork, a block or so away from their capitol building. The food was fresh and tasty, and we were in need of a good meal after our long day of errands.
Being on the road for so many weeks, we needed a day to catch up on “to-dos,” including a trip to Scrubby’s Laundromat and an oil change for our faithful chariot. Unfortunately, the windshield sprayer motor went kaput, and not at a good time as we anticipated snow and ice in Colorado. We discovered that Boise folks are quick to help and ready to talk. We got to know Rafael, the manager at Einstein’s Oilery…an unnamed Good Samaritan at the radiator shop who took off from his project to help us lowlanders with our situation...and Dean, the friendly owner of Huskey’s Auto Electric, whose friend greets patrons at the door…
Friday, November 21 (Day 32)
Drive Day—Southern Idaho and Salt Lake City
Early Friday morning, we were on the road again (after yet another Senior Fit Omelet at Denny’s!) to Salt Lake City. Southeastern Idaho is a remote and desolate landscape, and a climate inversion had trapped a haze over the area much like what we experienced in California. This made the drive a bit difficult as the bright sunlight was intensified in the haze. This cleared as we turned south on I-84 toward Salt Lake City.
Utah is such a beautiful state, and seeing the expanse of the Great Salt Lake emerge on the landscape to the west of the interstate is quite a sight. As we drove, we talked about what the first settlers there must have thought about such a strange and beautiful place.
Salt Lake City was truly a stopover for us on our way to Vail, so after settling into our hotel, we followed our normal course of action—find food. Since it was a Friday night, we first settled on a hip happy hour bar downtown, Whiskey Street, as our warmup for dinner. We made our way down Main Street to Eva, with its eclectic mixture of small plates and “baker’s pies,” which were, in fact, pizzas with interesting combinations of local ingredients. Mine: the vegan pie, with butternut squash, arugula, dried cranberries, spicy red onion, and a few other ingredients I forget—delicious! At the other end of the food spectrum, MB ordered the “pig threeway,” a pie with—you guessed it—ham, Italian sausage, and some other variation of pork. Oink! He said his, too, was outstanding.
Saturday, November 22 (Day 33)
Eastern Utah and Grand Junction
The drive from Salt Lake City took us south on I-15, then west on I-70 to Grand Junction. I had no idea what the scenery would be in eastern Utah—breathtaking!
Outside Salina, we saw mountains with strata of dark red rocks…
…then the amazing Salt Wash…
…and the Devil’s Canyon.
While it was cold and sometimes a bit rainy outside, the clouds provided for some terrific lighting for photographs. Descending into the lower elevations west of the Colorado border, the sight of huge rock formations, mesas, and mountains was almost overwhelming. MB pegged it when he said it felt like we were in an IMAX movie!
In Grand Junction, we picked up a few provisions at the liquor store and the local WalMart, in preparation for a week in Vail. Last spring at the Corpus Christi Symphony “Pops in the Park” event, I was the sole bidder on a silent auction item for a week at the Marriott Streamside Condominiums in Vail at Thanksgiving. That, in fact, became somewhat of the “anchor” for this long trip, and we have looked forward to spending an entire week in such a beautiful and relaxing location. MB’s daughter and children will come for the week—the grandkids’ first time in the mountains or snow!
Grand Junction has a very cool downtown, though surprisingly not many folks were out and about on a Saturday night. The length of their main drag is similar to Chaparral Street in Corpus Christi, it appeared, and the configuration of the street had been altered for a more pedestrian friendly atmosphere. Beautiful Christmas lights were displayed and several restaurants offered interesting menus, from French to locally-grown organic fare. We opted for the latter at Café Sol, where we decided the 15-vegetable minestrone was some of the best food we had eaten in our month-plus on the road.
Next: The road to Vail