Coming back

After a couple of days meandering around Seattle – the baseball game, seeing that bleeping bridge troll, walking around Capital Hill, Fremont and Wallingford and a very quick there-and-back trip on the water taxi – it was time to return to reality.


Thus, on a Tuesday morning, we loaded the unfashionable minivan to the gills and headed east across Washington State.

At roughly 8:44am, the professor turned to me and asked: ‘what time did we leave the house?’ ‘I don’t know, just after 8. Maybe 8:12?’ I tried to recall the time displayed on my phone when I glanced at it on our way out. ‘I thought it had been a lot longer than that,’ he sighed. “I’m bored,’ he announced, in the style of our boy-children. Which is a terrific sign – driver boredom in the first 45 minutes of a 15 hour experience.

Driving, or in my case ‘riding’, the car is boring. There’s no two ways about it. The long stretches of asphalt, surrounded by trees. The desperate searching for interesting exits or stops; any reason to get out.

Maybe that’s just me.

‘When do you want our first stop to be,’ he asked a little while later. In a tone that inferred it would NOT be in the next five minutes. Which was too bad because I’d half expected we’d at least get some Starbucks, or something, before officially hitting the road.

‘Well,’ I replied, ‘we didn’t eat breakfast, and I didn’t eat dinner last night,’ hoping the audible pleas from my insides would soften his ‘not stopping anytime soon’ stance. I gauged his face and proceeded to remove the ham sandwiches I’d made the night before from the cooler. And the boys, who did eat breakfast (and dinner) suddenly clamored for whatever food was being made available.

‘Good sandwich,’ the professor muttered after a few bites. I raised my eyebrow at his generous assessment. It was, after all, ham and butter and bread.

The Gort disagreed. Though he didn’t come out and say so, directly. Instead he began a kiss-of-death disassembling of the sandwich starting with the bread. ‘This bread is too salty,’ he declared. Which was strange coming from a guy eating beef jerky as though his life depended upon it. He passed the two, barely-nibbled, slices of bread back to me after offering it to his brothers. A few minutes later he handed back the ham, too. ‘It’s too salty,’ he protested. ‘It tastes like the ham we buy at the store.’


I returned the orphaned ham slices to the discarded bread slices and saved it for later. No doubt someone was going to eat that sorry sandwich before we made it back to Calgary.

‘I’m about to yawn,’ a headphones-wearing Percy warned from the backseat, in a voice so loud it suggested a hearing impairment. ‘Ahhhhhhh,’ he followed through on the threat. ‘He’s really into yawning these days,’ the professor noted. Indeed, he seems to like the drama of it.

Initially, I thought the earbuds and ipod shuffles would save our sanity on this last day of ‘vacation’. But that was before Percy started humming in a squeaky falsetto whatever song he was listening to, while bouncing a stuffed animal on his knee. ‘It’s my stuffy,’ he blame-shifted when I complained about the falsetto, which was 10% hilarious and 90% annoying. As is everything when you’re looking at spending 15 hours in the car.


The problem, this time around, was the professor was bored. Which resulted in all manner of inefficient stops.

10:12am Twenty minute break walking up a dirt hill to some horse sculpture-statues.


11:06am Stop for gas, and five tacos from a truck bearing the sign ‘Tacos y Mariscos Sandoval’ along with a ‘blended coffee’ from the adjacent drive-thru coffee shack called Elke’s at George. The Johnsons never pass up an opportunity for a taco.

12:31pm An emergency stop at a Rest Area near mile 246 as one kid-who-shan’t-be-named pees in his pants. In the restroom, I hear a lady jabbering inside her stall. I assume she’s talking to a traveling companion in the adjacent stall. It turns out she’s wearing a headset and talking on the phone. WeirdI reach for the soap dispenser only to find a little clump of powder dumped into the palm of my hand.

Powdered soap.

Never in all my traveling life.

2:35pm we stop for one last pump of cheap American gas, and for $2 tacos at a Cafe Rio in C’oeur d’Alene. Life’s little way of making up for 2013’s failed attempt at emulating stylish Mormon bloggers by eating at a [closed] Cafe Rio in Provo, Utah. I venture into the adjacent Fred Meyer for a few supplies and spy the same brand of beer the professor had purchased the previous day, which had fallen out of the back of our car onto the pavement and shattered into a million pieces. When I check out, the cashier asks for my identification to prove I’m 21. ‘I left it in the car,’ I tell her and she promptly removes the beer and sets it aside. No beer for you! Despite the fact that I’m standing at the check-out with my 10 year old son and have many! visible! grey hairs.

Only in America.

Late afternoon we arrived in a dot-of-a-town called Bonner’s Ferry. ‘There’s going to be a Starbucks here,’ I joked aloud, since the town has a population of 2610. Two minutes later we spotted a Safeway grocery store….with a Starbucks inside it.

Glory be.

Having availed myself to free wifi (ahem, Instagram) for a few minutes and obtained an iced coffee to fortify my sagging spirits, I took over the driving for a bit. And nearly flipped the car going around a curve as we approached the border crossing.

‘Where did you come from?’ the agent inquired.

My mind drew blank. Did we come from Oregon? Or Seattle? Or Calgary?

Only four eight more hours to go.

In Cranbrook we stopped at a Tim Horton’s for the last portion of the ‘Donuts of North America Tour 2014’. There was Top Pot in Seattle. And Blue Star in Portland. And then there was Tim’s. A terrible way to end the tour, though at $5 for 6 donuts, it was definitely the cheapest. And most helpful in convincing me to lay off fried dough until my pants fit again.

We stopped three more times after that – once for the largest truck in North America, and once for a picture of Frank’s Slide, and finally for gas in a tiny town seconds before the gas station closed for the night.


Around midnight we arrived at our home which smelled stale and closed up. It felt like we’d been gone for a month though it was only 13 days.


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