03 November 2015

A Little Summer Adventure

Yeah,  this is one of those thinking that I clicked "Publish" things.  In August.

Out of the clear blue sky, Kevin invited me to go to Winthrop for the weekend.  He had talked about going there since we bought the big truck but all of a sudden he decided "Let's go!"  Which is how it should be, I think.  Otherwise there is always a reason to not go, because there is just never a "perfect" time.  He said that because we didn't get to do much of anything fun lately, this was a good opportunity.

It took four tries to find a hotel, because short notice and August.  I will advise to not trust the online booking systems because the sites said every place was booked but after a few calls, I found a room in a nice hotel down by the river.  This prompted a few Chris Farley references for days.

This is another example of how we shouldn't be in charge of our own lives because it's as if half of Eastern Washington is on fire right now, including a resort lake nearby where we were staying. But more on that later.

I had to hustle on Friday to get all my errands and chores done on Friday.  By the time Friday night came around, I was absolutely ready to go relax. This is the first time we've done a trip just for just us and just for relaxation since about 2000.  Everything we do seems to be activity related and done in large groups. Neither of us are big on just relaxing so this was going to be interesting.  We're not used to being at our own devices.

Saturday morning Kevin woke me up a little early so we could leave before traffic was stupid.  He took the puppy to get coffee and treats while I got ready and packed.  Then we avoided eye contact with the puppy, who knows it's the weekend and was feeling betrayed that we were leaving.

Winthrop is about three hours away, over a northern pass that is just a two lane highway.  It's a primitive pass that closes every winter due to snow and slides.  There is no cell service for almost two hours. Picture the lost highway that you would see in horror films.

That being said, it's quite beautiful.  Lots of mountain ranges, boulders, trees.  We stopped a few times to take pictures and walk around.  Three hours isn't a long trip and it was nice to just take our time.  Also, did I mention no cell service?  In this case, it was a relief.

We stopped in Newhalem, which is a housing development/camp owned by Seattle City Light.  It looks right at the mountain faces and is the last stop before going over the pass.  As we pulled in, we noticed smoke on the mountain.  Again, half of Eastern Washington is on fire right now.  We both worried that we would now have fires on our side of the mountains. We saw a homemade sign on the side of the road that said "We have seen the fires, no need to call to report." so we kept going. Because we make good choices.

We got into Winthrop at lunch time and the place was a complete zoo.  It's Old Western styled town on one long street.  We ate lunch then went to find our hotel.  It turns out that we could have walked to it from the restaurant, so that was nice. In fact, it's all quite walkable in Winthrop.

I can't believe that I didn't take any pictures but there is a good reason. More on that in a bit.  Here is the link to help you envision where we stayed:  Hotel Rio Vista.   It's right on the river and each room has a balcony/deck.  We actually sat by the river for a little while and chatted about returning to see it in the winter when the river is really ripping and/or in the summer again and going rafting.

We walked around town, including a museum that was set up like a little town.  It is a very cool way to look at artifacts.  Actual livery, blacksmithing, doctor office, etc.  It was a mining town and they had the equipment used to dig, haul and otherwise mine.  Kevin was equally horrified and impressed at the primitive machinery. He was definitely thankful of the new equipment he runs every day.

We had ice cream before dinner, because: adults! and played miniature golf.  I was totally beating Kevin until he shot a hole-in-one.We visited a bookstore and a gift shop and just took our time.  This never happens in our lives, we rarely just relax.

Then we went back to the hotel and took a nap.  And the power went out.  Like the mature adults we are, we ignored it for a little while.  There weren't any sirens or reverse 911 calls so we didn't panic.We were on vacation, we were napping.  We were being boneheads.

Finally, we went to the front desk to see what was happening. They had no idea about anything.  No idea what happened, no idea when it would return, "last time it was weeks" and suggested that if we wanted something to eat, we should go to the grocery store NOW.

Enter manic crazy person into the hotel lobby. "I used to volunteer for the Red Cross in L.A. so if you need food or batteries, just knock on my door. I'm in room number-whatever."   Then she proceeded to tell us that money in small denominations is the MOST IMPORTANT ITEM in your emergency kit.  We slowly backed out the door.

We walked back into town and it was a ghost town.  Where there were people and cars a few hours ago, there was nothing.  We went back to the ice cream shop. (the only place still open) where the hilarious young son is gesturing behind his mother, the owner, to us to get out of town. They agreed that it could be days before power was restored and because we were only three hours away, to go home. 

So, we went back to the hotel and loaded the truck.  We had to get something to eat because Kevin has to eat every three hours or so or bad things happen.  I always have snack with me but remember, we had ice cream before we had our dinner and now it's 7:00 and no dinner.  We needed real food.

The grocery store was busy, with cars in the turn lanes waiting to get gas.  Kevin parked in an adjoining parking lot and went into the store by himself.   I figured this would be quicker.  About ten minutes later, he returned with an incredulous look on his face.  "Armageddon?"  I asked.

"You don't even KNOW!" he says.  "It was chaos.  It was like a movie. The shelves were empty and people were freaking out.  This is all I could get."  He hands me a bag that contains doughnuts, chips, and two bottles of water.  Jeez.  Now it's an authentic road trip from our teen years, full of junk food and poor choices.

Out of town we head.  This pass can be ugly in the daylight and Kevin wasn't excited about doing it in the dark.  "You look for deer and I'm going to, maybe, speed. A little."  Again, this place is remote so we were the only car on the road for miles.

We passed a DNR crew on the way when we were quite a bit from out of town so we assumed that something was going on with the nearby fires.  Seeing them made us glad that we left town when we did.  We reached almost the top of the pass when Kevin says "Is that someone walking?"  It was way dark by then.  Easily nine o'clock.

We were in the middle of nowhere. No houses, no rest stops, no campgrounds, nothing.  We were still at least an hour from the nearest town, which isn't really a town at all.  It's the Seattle City Light property that surrounds the dams that I mentioned earlier.  There are houses, but no stores or hotels or anything helpful if you're stranded.

As we got closer, we saw that it was a man and a little girl walking alongside  the road.  What.the.WHAT?  Kevin wondered "What do we do?" and all I said was "Kevin, she's a little girl."   We are in the middle of nowhere and I would have rather risk being killed than leaving that little girl to the elements and animals.

Kevin turned the truck around and pulled up ahead of them.  The little girl actually started jumping and skipping in excitement.  I thought I was going to burst into tears.  Kevin said it just broke his heart to see her.  She was probably around seven or eight and Kevin said the man was older than he, maybe a grandpa.

At the same time that Kevin jogged up to them another vehicle approached them.  They asked if everything was alright and did they need a ride.   The grandpa said that they had broken down so they were walking.  The other car was a SUV so Kevin suggested that they would be more comfortable with them.  (instead of squeezing in the extended cab of our truck for an hour)  They went, gratefully, with the people in the SUV.

The grandpa shook Kevin's hand and thanked him profusely for stopping.  He said that other cars had passed and not stopped. What is wrong with humanity?  A LITTLE GIRL, for eff sakes.  We couldn't understand why they weren't walking back toward the nearest town.  Maybe he became confused, we just don't know.

So, off we are again on the quest to get home.  We had talked about getting something to eat when we reached civilization, which is actually my old hometown.  But being rattled by the grandpa and girl, all we could think of was we wanted to get home again so we didn't stop.

We got home, so very tired, at nearly midnight.  We had a bowl of cereal and went to bed.  In our safe house, with electricity and no fires nearby. The next morning the news reported that the fires had damaged the electrical wires in the area, causing outages.  I phoned later in the afternoon and they had power again.  We still felt confident in our decision because regardless of the power, we had no food.  And we didn't pay a hotel fee to be camping.

The hotel gave us 50% credit so now we have to return.  We can't decide if we want to go in the winter or the summer.  I think we'll just not go when that half of the state is not on fire.

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