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A prairie scooter companion

September 15, 2009
Halfway home

Somewhere west of Spokane. And no, I didn't take I-90 (Orin O'Neill photo)

The morning TV newscasts forecast near-record high temperatures Sunday. Yes, everyone said, low 90s F is normal in August, but not mid-September. I decided to bungee the Corazzo jacket. The ride south and west would be relaxed.

Rob offered a couch for the night at his home in Tri-Cities, so I could take my time. Going back the way I came would be a treat. Until Ritzville, anyway.

I’m really pleased to be able to ride the route entirely from memory, and was equally elated at being able to use the Cenex card I won to fill the GTS’ gas tank.

Past Cheney (no, I’m quite certain it’s not named for the former Vice-President), the exurban landscape gives way to rolling prairie, the soft yellow of the long grass occasionally punctuated by massive dark rocks and stands of evergreen trees, many planted around lonely homesteads as a barrier to the often fierce wind. Not exactly the picture conjured by the tagline “the Evergreen State.”

The names change: Sprague Highway, Max Harder Road, E Danekas Road, all nearly traffic-free, making up a continuous strip of asphalt that, aside from a few gentle curves, points straight to the horizon, occasionally passing through little towns that aren’t much bigger than their corresponding points on a map.

A place for quiet contemplation, sure. Not a place I’d choose to live. I imagine most of those who do didn’t have a choice—they took over the family farm, or the family business that supports the farmers. Or they got a job with the state or the county that posted them here, because that’s where their skills are needed.

And I’m thinking they stayed because they grew to embrace the solitude. Some of them, anyway.

While I ate my lunch, I overheard conversations among the other diners about a 50th wedding anniversary celebration. It sounded like I was the only one in the place who wasn’t there. So perhaps those who live here stay because they found a sense of community in a place where the night sky is surely filled with stars.

Through the window of the diner, I spot a shiny black 2-seat sports car pulling into the gas station next door. It seems completely out of place in this land of pickup trucks, shopworn sedans and John Deere tractors.

As might a little black scooter. Favicon

  1. September 16, 2009 4:56 am

    Nice stuff.

    I feel time’s winged chariot hurrying near when I think of Garrison Keillor showing his age and having a stroke.

  2. September 16, 2009 10:23 am

    That column appeared in today’s Oregonian. You can read it here.

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