Early start aside (we were out to the Anchorage International Airport by 5.30am for a 7am flight), our flight back from Alaska had the added bonus of a lovely passenger sitting beside us. Michelle was from Palmer above Anchorage Alaska and was flying down to Seattle and then over to Spokane for a break. She worked on a hunting lodge up near Denali and so we had some great conversations about Alaska but then also parts of the US for us to explore – very helpful. We talked the whole flight effectively and before we knew it we were landing in Seattle (flight was @ 3 hours but you jump an hour forward on the way so we landed around 11am). With no customs process to bother us it was a case of trudging through the airport to find the right baggage carousel – Seattle Airport would be an easy airport to get your step count up for the day. From the airport we took a couple of buses north – firstly up to Bellevue which sits to the east of downtown Seattle – a good stop to refresh with a bite to eat between buses. From there we took a bus toward Everett and finally a taxi to the RV Park. After saying giddy to the park owners, we found Romin in one piece and none the worse for wear for our absence – and she started first time. I think that it took us longer to get from the airport to the camper than it did to fly from Anchorage to Seattle, so what was left of the day was spent unpacking and resupplying Romin for the next leg of our US road trip.
Wednesday had us up and away at a good hour – we headed east across Everett to get onto Highway 2 through to Snohomish. From there started our climb on the Cascade Highway and stopped for a nice break at a quaint little railway junction town of Skykomish. Skykomish is near the base of Steven’s Base – a rail crossing was cut through and over the hills here to connect the train line from Montana to Seattle. Whilst we were parked there, a couple of trains were moving through – each well over a mile in length – not fun if you were caught waiting at the railway crossing. Steven’s Pass is only a bit over 4000 ft but it was a really nice climb – very scenic with a range of mountain peaks, trees and rivers to take in. On the east side of the peak you wind your way down to the junction town / city of Wenatchee, but near the foot of the pass on the eastern side you are entertained by the lovely but strange town of Leavenworth. The whole town is Bavarian themed – apparently in the 50’s? someone decided that changing the look of the town might see more tourists stopping. The town is loaded with fancy motels, restaurants and touristy related ventures. There’s a large knight well over 30-foot-tall standing guard along the main street – just all seemed very odd to find a town looking like this in this area – it didn’t necessarily fit with the landscape – that said the Wenatchee River runs through the town, so really nice outlook. You could image it being a great spot for Octoberfest.
Just after Leavenworth you go through the town of Cashmere – a very strong citrus / fruit growing area – there were orchards everywhere. At Wenatchee you link up with the Columbia River. Highway 2 follows the river for a while before you climb up and onto a vast plateau – here you strike the wheat belt. Unlike back home in NZ, here the paddocks are worked right up to the very edge of the highway – no fences – it’s all used if it can be. As you can image, the landscape flattens out and its mile after mile of paddock – many had been worked, many had just been cut for hay. The 2 takes you through Waterville where our friend Dale in Montana was born, and then onto the strangely named Coulee City – hardly a city from our perspective. We drove in thinking we might find a supermarket – emm, no. There really wasn’t much of anything. Just before Coulee you do cut down through what must have once been a large and mighty river gorge – supposedly the Columbia once flowed through here, but now it was all dry and you are left with these great stone / rock ‘canyon walls’ – quite the spectacle. We kept pushing east, the landscape not varying too much, and stopped for the night in the little town of Davenport, alongside the local park.
On Thursday we got on the road early and headed the remaining 35 or so miles into Spokane. We managed to negotiate all the morning downtown traffic and made our way down to the very nice Riverfront area (one of the areas Michelle from the plane had suggested we have a look at). We hadn’t quite expected it to be right in the heart of town, but it was, so RV parking wasn’t plentiful, but it was only around 8am so we parked and headed out for a good walk around the area. There are loads of nice sculptures – a nice running one on the corner of the park stretches for 100 metres of more. The Riverfront area is two-fold – on one side you have the Spokane Falls cascading through the city, generating power, and then you have the site of the 1974 World Expo. The city built a lovely convention centre and I want to say amphitheatre to show case all that the city had to offer. Looked like it was a real hit and the area has been maintained as a tourist destination. One of the striking sculptures is the super-sized ‘Radio Flyer’ cart that were popularised in the 1950’s – this one serves as a slide in the park – rest assured it was tried out. Even on a grey dull morning there was lots to take in and the park was loaded with squirrels pigging out on acorns – preparing for winter. There’s a cable car that runs overhead and a large carousel – very well-done area and we were very pleased we had made the effort to call in and have a look.
Managing to negotiate our way out of the city we hopped back onto Interstate 90 across to Spokane Valley where we pulled in for fuel, refreshments and a recharge at the local Starbucks. We passed a couple of hours there trying to get things charged before calling in on the local Walmart for some supplies (I do like these Walmart’s – the range is incredible and there are very nicely maintained – very unlike the You Tube clips you used to see). Refreshed, refuelled and recharged we got back on the road for the short hop out of Washington State – we’d crossed around 300 miles in a little over a day and really enjoyed what we saw along the way – next stop – the top of Idaho.