Monday, July 16, 2007

Natural Born Driver (Montana to Washington)

We leave Yellowstone on Monday afternoon and speed through Montana as fast as we legally could. Route 191 from West Yellowstone, through the Gallatin Forest, to the I-90. The I-90 goes northeast, over the Continental Divide.

"Wow, look at those boulders!" I exclaim.
"You've never seen the Rockies?"
"I guess not! They really ARE rocky!"

Giant, round edged boulders, like river stones from the land of giants, are stacked artistically on top of each other.

"Come to Testy Festy!" shouts out a billboard near the eastern end of Montana. It's an advertisement for their annual Testicle Festival. Eat a dozen Rocky Mountain Oysters!

By Tuesday, we are in Spokane, Washington and turning up on 395. It looks more like Northern California here. Lots of mountains and evergreens.

"We treat you right!" shouts a billboard for the Chewelah Casino in big happy letters. There's a photo of a giant grinning white woman, with a fan of bills.

A few hot little towns later and we are finally coming to Chewelah, another hot little town.

"Was that the Casino?" I ask, astounded.
We've just sped past a corrugated tin shack with an eagle mural painted on its side.
"And they're going to treat you right?"
"Yeah, with a hole in the slot machine where you can get a blow job while you gamble your quarters away," deadpans Big Dog.

From Kettle Falls, we take 20 West, a scenic route that winds through the Kettle River Range. We'll catch 97 at Tonasket and go north from there. Or so we thought. 20 West led us straight to a wildfire, just a few miles from Tonasket.

"You have to turn around, sir," a red-haired police officer at the roadblock is making all the cars go back.
"Jesus Christ," Big Dog murmers under his breath. He is waaay less than thrilled at having to turn back -- you can hear his mental calculator adding up the cost of wasted gasoline -- but there is nothing we can do.
"No traffic beyond this point. It's too dangerous," the officer says, but tell us that we can find our way through the mountains to Oroville.

I only have the AAA map of Washington, but hey, we got to Cocucho in Mexico, didn't we? It's not dark yet, is it? This is fine. I am not frightened, or freaked, and we enjoy the detour that actually drops us off in Oroville. There are tons of beautiful farms and ranches on the way. This is the Okanogon Forest area. Okanagon Valley straddles Washington and British Columbia and is the northernmost tip of the Sonora Desert!

It's been a long day and we are both a bit grumpy. When we get to Oroville we find no campsites appealing enough for us and return to the motel we saw in town. There's a sign telling us that the staff will "be back soon" but I need to go to the bathroom, Big Dog is hot, hungry and tired, and we start arguing about who's going to be the one to check in.

I hate interacting with others. It's not as bad as my phone phobia, but I'll go through a lot of effort not to have to interact with strangers. Besides, I had to do everything in Japan, so why can't Big Dog do everything in the States? But he bitches about how he's had to drive all day. He's only saying that, however, because he doesn't want to have to check us in. He's really not as tired as one might be after a long day of non-stop driving. Because he is a Natural Born Driver.

How he can drive for 12-15 hours at a stretch is beyond me. He can't sit still for 2 minutes. And yet when he gets behind the wheel, he can stay calm and even happy for hours. He may not be the most stable driver. He may not always be careful. He can get distracted easily and he, like many drivers, seems to have a double standard. What he expects of other drivers, he doesn't always practice. Some drivers are better, more skilled or know more about cars, but Big Dog can drive forever and ever. It's almost as if the vehicle is an extension of his body. I've come to the realization that some people are just natural born drivers and he is one of them.


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