Sunday, August 10, 2014

Launch Day

All our planning came down to the last four days wherein rivers were diverted, mountains moved and a entire new vistas opened up - AK2AR, part one, was finally ready to roll. And right on cue, August's heat settled over the region like the dying breath of a microwave oven salesman. By now Sledge had been on the road for a week and was completely prepared. I on the other hand had left everything until the last minute, packed, unpacked and repacked several times and in the process delayed the official departure until almost noon. 

Carol kissed me, took photos of us and we were off. Up I-205, onto I-5 and fully into the maw of the end of weekend, midsummer traffic madness. Joining the legions of tired parents with screaming children, we now find texters, phone callers, game players, and all other manner of distracted drivers weaving in and out of their lanes. The worst exemplar being a young woman who braked violently each time she started a new message on her iPhone. Some 15 miles south of Centralia it proved all too much and we turned right and made a beeline towards Yakima along Routes 508 and 12.

At Ellensburg we headed north with the goal of crossing the border at Osoyoos. The heat and summer fires darkened the sky as we drove through the Wenatchee National Forest towards the town of Wenatchee and an Econo Lodge for the evening. For the price, Econo Lodges have seen extensive renovations in the past few years and if you're willing to stop in a retro-style motor court they can be pretty okay.

Monday morning started out warm and only became more oppressive as woodsmoke hung in the air. Outside Wenatchee we saw the effects of the regional fires first hand. Blackened earth and a few sad sticks instead of trees and prairie grass surrounded us on both sides of the highway. Its easy to understand the term 'wildfire' when even the aftermath looks like it burned very fast.

Finally at the border we crossed into Canada after a few cursory questions. Drugs? No. Guns? No. Alcohol? A half liter of Jim Beam. Handguns or rifles? No, but I do have a slingshot. What's that for? I'm not entirely sure. Perhaps you could shoot a bear, you might frighten it if you hit it directly on the nose! (The young agent's eyes crinkled as she laughed in a way that convinced me Sledge would fall madly in love with her. I was mostly right.)

We set Kamloops in our sights after a quick lunch of Italian food at the only open restaurant in Oliver BC, the Amore Pizza Factory. Our journey on route 97 was rudely interrupted by a seething mass of tourists in Penticton: all of whom were driving vaguely and apparently without purpose in the 100F temperatures. Throw in an endless series of traffic lights, and well, let's say it was simultaneously miserable and enraging. Eventually, the road turned towards the countryside and emptied out. Our last 90 minutes of the day was spent sweeping through corners and finally down the steep hillside into Kamloops and our hotel.

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