Sunday, May 20, 2007

Travelling West

Julia, the travelling cat, and I headed out of the mountains yesterday to flatland, and then back into the mountains. This journey usually takes about 8 hours.

Life is quite different on the road these days, in increased traffic. The road from the border to the major highway into Spokane is resort country so many of the vehicles on the road are pulling boats. On this day, Julia, the wonder cat, was enjoying her journey and was very quiet. Sometimes she doesn't and then wants to hear Tina Turner and usually quite loud. So the journey was without any auditory accompaniment.

How do I spend the time on long car trips? Observing, mostly, I suppose. I have taken the journey west many times now, both in the US and Canada. The journey on Highway 3 to the coast has some of the most spectacular geography on the planet (not that I have seen everywhere on the planet), 5 mountain passes, and many more valleys. A lot of ascending and descending.

Travelling via the US starts with about 3 hours getting to Spokane; about an hour and a half from home, the valleys open up and the massive sky boasts itself. At Spokane, I-90 takes me to the coast. This is a 4-lane highway. Yesterday what I noticed after about 100 miles (that's a difference too), was that I was getting into my own rhythm of driving. Because of having the choice of 2 lanes, I can go at my own speed, and then of course, use the cruise control which is hard to do when driving up and down a mountain.

Being in my own rhythm is like a waking meditation. Observing in a mindful manner.

Most of the driving I enjoy is in the "shoulder" seasons. By the summer time, the roads are full of vehicles, all travelling at their own unique speed, some sight seeing and some wanting to get somewhere fast. I don't find it particularly enjoyable. Winter, except for its dangers lurking around every curve, has a driving appeal. I don't often travel to the coast during the winter because it can extend the travel time by sometimes 50%. That makes for one very full day - and a bit of white knuckling as well.

My first journey to the coast in the spring is usually for Easter. This is always a most enjoyable journey because the world is awakening, and few people have discovered that it is an ideal time to be on the road. There is always a fairly big risk that there will be snow happening at the top of the mountains, so I don't change the snow tires. As you saw last month, the snow tires were a GOOD idea!

On the road yesterday, I amused myself with the licence plate game. This game, has many variations; when in Montana or watching Montana plates, someone who knows (that would be Al!) will be able to identify the county where the car normally resides. Since Montana is sooo big, I often hear Al say, "They are far from home."

My children and I began the licence plate game in Florida, where there is a lot of people from many different states. BJ, who we were visiting at the time, gave us a briefing so we could spot the plates easily. Yesterday, I saw cars from 13 states; Pennsylvania was the farthest. And I saw none from North or South Dakota - I guess they were travelling a different direction.

In a way there are plenty of ways to keep busy on the road... Not just for me....

Yesterday... Julia, the curious cat:

More pictures to come... there is a problem with uploading images with my Browser...

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