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Happy Labo(u)r Day Weekend: Day 3

September 2, 2008
Vashon ferry dock

Waiting at the Vashon ferry dock (Orin O'Neill photos)

HOME—I was awakened by the sound of a door slamming, and several male voices speaking Spanish. The clock radio’s red LED digits said 7:35. Better get up, there’s a long ride ahead.

I found a room at the Travelodge just south of downtown Portland. Exactly 100 bucks with tax, and well-positioned to get outta Dodge on an early holiday morning. Just like last time, the weather was cool and overcast. Downtown Portland was deserted on Sunday night, and was still deserted on Monday morning. If US 30 is deserted, I’ll be happy.

US 30 was not quite deserted, but it wasn’t packed, either. My thought was to beat the hordes heading back from their 3-day weekends. US 30 is the toughest part of the journey, so getting it out of the way straight off is a good thing. Especially if you start to feel like a wall is approaching quickly, as I did.

Once again, signs showing distances to various way points offered manageable little chunks: Scappoose, 7 miles; St. Helens, 12 miles; Rainier, 8 miles. The last one is where you cross the Lewis & Clark Bridge to Longview, Wash. That’s a major psychological hurdle; getting over it and on the road north will be a big shot of adrenaline.

Of course, you have to get out of Longview first. I didn’t review the map, so missed a turn and had to wander around downtown Longview for a short while. There’s a nice park with a pond in the middle of town; the rest of the place is big-box sprawl-y. You’d stop here if you needed gas, or something at Fred Meyer.

Finally got pointed in the right direction, north on SR 411. This is a road you’d take just to take it, but once I got a few miles away from Longview, traffic seemed to have disappeared. I was headed north at a comfy 45 mph with nary an SUV or minivan in sight. Got to Vader, made the right turn onto Toldeo-Vader Road, same deal. The road runs next to I-5 for a short distance; the SuperSlab was full of traffic. I, on the other hand, had the slow road all to myself.

Same deal on Jackson Highway, almost all the way to Chehalis. A few other cars were on the road as I approached Centralia, but they were in the lane to my left, and turned off as soon as I got up next to them.

Centralia. Gotta stop at McMenamins Olympic Club for lunch. Not because the food is exceptional—don’t get me wrong, the food is good—but the place is typical of the McMenamins chain, an historic old building where the quirks have been retained. Stay in the hotel, and you’ll have to go down the hall to take a shower or use the toilet. It’s charming, not annoying.

Once I’ve refueled myself, I refuel the PX and continue the journey north on SR 507. Tenino, Bucoda, Yelm all come and go in manageable chunks of miles. But just north of Yelm, traffic is stopped.

This wreck stopped traffic

A Toyota Camry and a Honda Civic have made hard contact; the Camry’s on the road, now about 2½ feet shorter, while the Civic is in the weeds on northbound drivers’ right. There are fire trucks and aid units, and paramedics are tending to an injured occupant on the shoulder.

Several stopped vehicles turn around and head for alternate routes. I have no alternate route, so I walk up to the accident scene hoping to find a state trooper. I have a scooter, could I get through without disrupting your investigation?

Didn’t get a chance to ask. As I approach, a trooper is telling three people standing near a Honda Odyssey that the aid units are about to leave, and once they’re gone the fire trucks will depart as well. At that point they can open the southbound lane and flag traffic through.

I have to admit, it would’ve been nice to have a huge head start on the rest of the northbound traffic, now considerable even though many vehicles turned around. As I walk back to the PX, I pass the info on to the occupants of the vehicles in front of and behind me.

In a few minutes we’re off, the troopers I pass looking rather bemused. Oh look, there’s a guy taking a road trip on a moped. I’m back up to speed in no time, but now I’ve got pay really close attention to the mirrors.

I’ve reached a point where I’m giving imaginary pep talks to the drivers behind me. “Okay, after the curve, you’ll have a long straight stretch with dashed lines. Once the minivan passes, you have a clear shot. Yeah, go for it! Totally textbook, even used your right-turn signal and gave me plenty of room.” People even knew what I was trying to do when I pulled into the little turnouts at the railroad crossings. Major kudos go to the driver of the old Nissan pickup, who saw me (more importantly, saw no traffic coming from the opposite direction at all), moved to the next lane well behind me, and moved back to the northbound lane well ahead of me. There was no aero turbulence from his truck at all. I rode next to the fog line, so he had an unobstructed view ahead.

Then there was the guy in the pimped-out Ford pickup. For some reason, he thought he had to complete his pass before the solid yellow line appeared. He did. He missed me by about three inches. I could see the brake calipers through the wheel spokes.

I was really glad to see Spanaway. I’d decided to take the ferry from Point Defiance to Vashon Island. After a trip up Vashon Highway and another ferry ride to Fauntleroy, I’d get to experience something I’d only seen previously on banners advertising tacky apartment complexes: If you lived here, you’d be home now. Favicon

Today’s stats:

Beginning mileage: 18435
Ending mileage: 18639
Today’s mileage: 204
Gas purchases:
1.604 gal for $6.65 in Portland, Ore. @ 18436 miles
1.618 gal for $6.96 in Centralia, Wash. @ 18556 miles
1.009 gal for $4.11 in West Seattle @ 18639 miles*
*Final purchase, to top off the tank

  1. Matthew permalink
    September 2, 2008 9:32 am

    thanks for the travelogue–great writing and enjoyable reading. Have been thinking of a similar trip for next summer. Starting further north, but your maps have already been extremely helpful.


  2. September 2, 2008 9:48 am

    Oh, one thing I forgot to mention: the ferries were just about deserted. This in the late afternoon, when you’d expect them to be packed.

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