This was a LONG day. I drove from Condon, MT. to Walla Walla, Washington along the beautiful but torturous Route 12. This scenic highway follows the path that Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, their guide, Sacajawea, a few US Army soldiers traveled in 1804-06 on the Corps of Discovery Expedition. They were charged by Thomas Jefferson to find the NorthWest passage across the Continental Divide, and with a women’s help, eh, hem, they did.
Today, this trail is a small, winding, and very beautiful scenic drive, cutting across Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. But I had been warned, not once, but twice to avoid this roadway because it was long and VERY, very hard to drive due to the hairpin turns – one after another , after another, after another.
But because I am stubborn and because this trip is about opening my eyes to awe, and my ears to other opinions, I sallied forth.
And indeed it was beautiful, but after 6 hours of constant twists and turns, I was ready to call it quits. The road goes from mountain passes along the Bitterroot River into gorges and canyons along the Columbia river. It passes through the Nev Pearce Indian reservation (this tribe saved Lewis and Clark from starvation when they were trapped in the mountains for 6 weeks during the winter) and then it levels out a bit coming into Washington State.
By the time I made it past the mountains and into the wheat fields of western Washington, I was beat. But I had a surprise waiting for me: as the sun was setting on the golden wheat fields, suddenly three pheasants flew right in front of my car. These guys fly low, and at first I was startled, then impressed by their beauty, then fearful when the third and last pheasant failed to clear my car. Yup. He hit me.
With a thud, he clipped my antenna and fell away. Poor guy. I felt so terrible. I surely must have killed him, but I was going 65 MPH down a highway with cars behind me so I couldn’t stop. Luckily, the only damage to my car was a bend antenna. If he had been a split second faster, I would have lost my windshield and probably driven off the road.
So, I am sorry for the poor pheasant, but grateful he was a tad slow. And really, I can’t be a hypocrite, had that same pheasant served to me at a fine restaurant with a nice meuniere sauce, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. But because I was the cause of his demise, I felt the need to say a small prayer to the bird god and also scold Maurice, the bobble-head moose, for not seeing this coming and protecting me. But in Maurice’s defense, I hadn’t included birds in his job description, only deer, elk, moose, so he’s not at fault. Shit just happens.
I arrived in Walla, Walla (so nice, they named it twice) just as the sun was setting. I was now in Pacific Time and had gained an hour, but the drive still took me almost 8 hours. I was exhausted.
My $49.50 motel room at first looked like I was stepping into a bad re-make of Psycho, but it turned out to be very clean and nice. Run by a sweet Indian family, they went out of their way to make the stay nice and it was.
I drove into downtown Walla Walla and picked up a nice turkey sandwich at a locally sourced shop, took a quick look around, then headed back to my room to eat. I just needed to get into my comfy clothes, have a beer, then fall off to sleep.
The next morning, I made my way back to downtown and found Walla Walla to be quite charming. Lots of restaurants, cafes, and wineries along the main street. This is the home of Washington State’s famous Columbia River vineyards and it reminded me of Calistoga or Napa. Too bad I was so tired the night before, else I would have done some tastings.