Geek note: After two days of taking images on the road and posting them via the iPad, I decided to make things easier on myself. Uploading images taken with the iPad is considerably easier than transfering images from the camera to the iPad and then uploading, for a variety of reasons. While this system has many advantages, the main disadvantage is that iPad images are in a separate sequence than the camera images. I'll try to integrate the two threads into a proper timeframe and/or coherent narrative. The camera on the iPad is pretty good, but the Fuji FinePix is better, so you might see various quality shifts along the way.
The third day of our trip was going to be problematic... or not. Basically, it was our longest drive through the (potentially) worst conditions. Indeed, rushing through North Dakota and Montana bought us an extra night. Being delayed would mean we arrived in Bend on Dec. 24; in time for Christmas and even Christmas Eve, but not enough time to wrap presents or get settled before we met the grandkids.
Carole was having none of that.
We left Belgrade, MT comparatively late, around 9am. A good night's sleep, a decent breakfast, but too early for places selling tire chains on Sunday. The hotel staff checked the weather and road conditions for us; they were great. Still, I was just as happy driving up the mountains in daylight.
The Silver Dollar Inn. The brown vertical wall mountings are just some of the silver dollars on display. Note wax figures seated in foreground. On I-90, 12/23/12
We'd been driving on Interstate 94 from Minneapolis, and near Butte, MT it collapsed into Interstate 90. The roads were clear. Even in the mountains, the going was safe and not particularly scary.
Let me expound on that: I grew up in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains of New York State. So I'm used to mountains, but new ones. Further, I've spent that last thirty years here in Minneapolis. It's flat. Not plains flat, and we have the occasional rise and/or vista, and the Iron Range up north is comprised of real mountains. Still, not the Rockies. It's been many, many years since I was this close to actual mountains, and longer since I personally drove through them. The views were breathtaking. We weren't all that close to driving off a precipice, but we drove through blasted rock to descend into valleys and then rose again. Exhilarating but nerve-wracking at the same time. I'm so very happy the weather was great and we drove in daylight.
Somewhere in this drive was a small sign for "Continental Divide" and the elevation. Also along the highway were billboards. One of the billboards was for the "50,000 Silver Dollar museum"... 60 miles. Then 40. Then 20, and so on. Seemed liked a good place to get gas and do the tourist thing. So we did.
In MInnesota, the gambling and liquor laws are different. Outside of designated casinos, we don't have places that sell groceries, serve hard booze and let you gamble. The Silver $ Inn is all these things and more. We basically just stopped for gas, but I went in the bar/gift shop area to look around. Scarfed a business card (hard to do in some places) and left. Probably a fun overnight for hikers or hunters.
One of the reasons I volunteered for the trip was to see my nephew Jake at his home in Coeur D'Alene, ID. I knew we were probably not going to stay long... unless the weather was bad and we had to crash with Jake. He didn't have a guest room, but we brought air mattresses. As it turned out, the good weather shortened our visit.
Nephew Jake in the Fort Ground Grill, Coeur D'Alene, ID 12/23/12
We'd last seen my nephew Jake in Washington, DC over Thanksgiving. But this was the first time anyone but his parents had visited him in Idaho. I left the lunch place to his discrestion. According to my brother, one restaurant made Reuben sandwiches almost as well as they made them in New York City. I've only had Midwest Reubens, which are okay, and agreed.
This turned out to be the Fort Ground Grill, a bar/restaurant near the college. I was less impressed by the Reubens than my brother, but they were better than in Mpls and the portions were large. We had a good, if slightly hurried, meal.
Mom charged me with seeing how Jake lived, and I wanted to see a little of the town. Carole was getting ansty, so we kind of zipped through the town. We drove to the lakeshore, where I got out and took a few photos.
Dave with Coeur D'Alene Lake in the background. 12/23/12
Jake's place was very college-dorm-y, though none of the twenty-somethings were in college. Some sort of LAN gaming was going on, possibly more than one. I gave Jake an XBox for Channukkah, looked around, and we were off.
By my weather apps, things in Washington and Oregon were fine, but Carole was latching on to all warnings and we still had a way to go. We zipped through Washington state, passing Spokane without a stop.
Eventually, we needed gas, and were starting to hear reports of bad weather in the Oregon mountains. The gas station attendent recommended an AutoZone, and we finally bought snow chains.
So while I've technically been to Washington, I don't feel like I've actually been there. We spent several hours on the highways. By the time we stopped for gas it was dark. The major Washington Thing we did was buy chains. To be sure, everyone was nice and gave all sorts of weather advice. Still, I will count having "visited" Washington a bit reluctantly.
Let me zip through the rest of the day: As it turned out, the weather was a non-factor. Only once did we have to slow down during a mild snow, but the road had already been sanded and we were soon up to speed again, even in the mountains. I had the conceptual pleasure of exiting I-82E to I-84 W. The last 120+ miles were on 97, a lonely mountain highway. The entire drive south through Oregon was in the dark.
Then we got to Bend, OR. The kids had gone to sleep, but Carole's daughter Wenonah and boyfriend Justin greeted us. We unpacked some of the presents to be wrapped later, and went to sleep.
Carole, her daughter Wenonah and Justin, late at night in Bend, OR 12/23/12
Continued in 20121224-26 Trip to Oregon and Back: Christmas in Bend, OR