Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day One: Journey Through Ecosystems

As we made our way East from Victoria to Missoula yesterday, what stuck me most was how the landscape changed. We started off on the wet West Coast in a dismal downpour, but with very high spirits! Running back and forth between the car and the house to load up, getting soaked, feeling rushed and slightly scattered, we were smiling. The smiles turned into giddy laughter as we made our way down our street -- we were off!

The moment we stepped aboard, the Coho ferry for Port Angeles felt like we had already entered the United States -- it was definitely not a BC Ferry! It was kinda shabby and grungy with very few services, but it was the first leg of our road trip and so therefore we loved it! We spent some time marvelling at our Road Trip Binder, which contains a detailed itinerary, maps for each leg of the jourey (with one exception -- ARGH!), reservation printouts, campground and restaurant information, and emergency contact information (including copies of our passports, health cards, etc).

During the last 15 minutes, exhaustion set in, and we had a power snooze. Having averaged 5 hours of sleep the previous two nights getting prepared for the trip, we were pretty darn dozy. Nap complete, we waited in our car to disembark the Coho. Despite being one of the first few cars on the ferry, we were dead last to leave!

Then on through to customs, where we had the pleasure of speaking to two officers in extra-fancy, leather coats who singled us out from all the other cars. Maybe that's because our car was ridiculously full of stuff! But one glance at our amazing Road Trip Binder was enough to put them at ease and even smile, and warn us that there will probably be snow in Yellowstone.
Then a quick visit to a natural foods grocery store in Port Angeles where we bought some neat-o snacks, humus rolls and I drank two Americanos because they were just that good. From PA we made our way towards Seattle, driving on a single-lane highway, rolling over hill and dale with glimpes of the ocean through evergreens and giant fluffy deciduous trees. We crossed Puget Sound twice: once on the long, long Hood Canal bridge, which is a drawbridge, and once on the Kingston-Edmonds ferry.

We wandered around the massive, mostly empty ferry, thinking that we'd spend the 28-minute ride napping somewhere. With dozens of long, empty, padded benches everywhere we looked, a ferry-snooze seemed liked the thing to do. But then we discovered the sundeck on top of the ferry and had some spontaneous, gut-busting fun instead.

The 100% empty, ginourmous upper deck of the ferry captured our imaginations, and suddenly seemed like the perfect place to do kartwheels and handstands, and take flying leaps. We photographed ourselves during these escapades and laughed so hard and for so long my face hurt! Niilo said, just as I was thinking, that this was way more refreshing than a nap.

Next, we headed for the 1-5 and made our way past Seattle, which was quite the driving adventure. with five, six and sometimes seven lanes across, and everyone driving 110 km/hr, my blood was saturated with cortisol -- especialy because our car was so packed I couldn't see out the back! But Niilo and I drove as a team and we made our way, driving against rush hour traffic and making excellent time.

I think now is an appropriate time to comment that even though we are "just" in the USA, I kept remarking how everything looks slightly "foregin". We are in America! Home of the free! Land of the brave! The place where you can live your dream. Except that it didn't look so dreamy in many of the small towns we drove through.

But, the further East we travelled, the more remote the landscape grew, and beauty surrounded and surprised us. We drove through snowy mountains with long, blue lakes and fat evergreen trees. Then the trees became skinnier and further apart, then they disappeared altogether and small, scrubby bushes grew out of rocks and dirt the colour or raw umber and cinammon, as we headed towards the Gorge Amphitheater.

The land grew flatter as we approached Spokane on the 1-90. We could see for miles and miles in every direction, and the state had posted signs along the highway to show what was growing in the fields. Mostly corn and afalfa for beef and dairy cows, but we passed the occaisional wheat or potato field.

The sunset took hours and we enjoyed the changing light as we drove past the very beautiful Moses lake. The landscape now greatly resembled the Okanagan, with square, tan hills, sparse trees and lakes . I have to say it was somewhere along this stretch that I feel deeply in love with the 1-90 highway. What an amazing way to travel! It's breathtakingly scenic, there are strategically placed rest-stations, and the speed limit is very fast! 70 mph in Washington, and 75mph in Idaho and Montanna. Woo hoo! That's 120 km/hr!

We arrived in Spokane, Washington at around 9:30 and decided to just drive on through to Missoula, Montanna. We were in the driving zone, and decided to keep that groove going. This meant going through Idaho in the dark, and we travelled most of the way at 75 mph, up and down steep hills, around and across sharp bends, in the pitch dark, at 120 km/hr, and the whole experience felt quite surreal. We practicaly had the highway to ourselves, just passing the occaisional transport truck. We drove through countless construction zones, and decided it was much better to pass through them in the middle of the night, rather than during the day when we would likely be stopped or delayed by traffic.

Finally, at 1:40 AM local time, we arrived in Missoula. The first motel we found wouldn't answer their door, so we crossed the street and inquired at the City Centre Inn. The innkeepers came to the front desk bleary-eyed and in their pajamas, but with smiles. We settled in to room #25, and flopped into the teeny-tiny, super-bouncy, but clean, double bed, and slept until 8:00 this morning.

It took us 3.5 hours to get on the road, but in that time we re-packed the car, checked emails, ate breakfast, and took long, hot showers. Now I'm writing this in the passenger seat as we drive towards Butte, across straw-coloured rolling hills with snow-peaked mountains in the distance. "Those hills look so artistic," says Niilo.

Yesterday was amazing. It feels so good to beon the road, on an adventure, with so much more to see in the coming weeks. I keep feeling waves of deep gratitude that we are able to do this trip together. Already it's clear that we are good travel partners. I feel peaceful and happy, and very much in love.


  1. You guys are way too cute! And it sounds like your trip is off to a wonderful start already! When Rhy and I went on our road trip two years ago, we definitely felt the same about the differences between American and Canadian culture as soon as you cross over that border! I look forward to hearing more about your spontaneous, gut-busting fun :)

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed your post Sara and pics! Keep 'em coming! Love Aunt Heather. ;)

  3. Cool pictures! Best regards, Dzmitry