The Road Revisited

Follow Me Around The United States!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sweet Rainier Cherries and Learning That Washington is More Than Just Pine Trees.

I didn't hate Coeur d'Alene, really. I was sad that it wasn't the sleepy little potato farm town I had imagined, and depressed that it was being overrun with Californians, but I didn't hate it. Later on, falling asleep in Washington, I thumbed the red letters on my map and apologized for cursing at it. "It's not you, it's me," I told it. "I've just got the worst case of the lonelies I've ever had."

When I drove out of Idaho and crossed into Washington, I hit Spokane. Signs on every telephone pole declared it a "Meth Watch Area". From I-90 it's difficult to see the essence of the city, but it reminded me of Buffalo -- a city that is very short. Just outside the city limits, near the Fairchild Air Force Base, I met up with my old buddy Rt. 2 that I had crossed the Great Northern Plains with. "Hey, how've you been!" I shouted out the window. Yes, thirty-one days on the road and I was back to my old ways -- talking to inanimate objects, roads, food items, spiders, and stains on my upholstery.

Good ol' 2 and I set out through coulee country. Each time I crested a hill I gasped. "Could this be Washington?" I whispered. I didn't know the landscape of North Dakota and Montana extended as far west as this. I had expected to emerge from Spokane into a verdant grove of Douglas fir that would stretch all the way to the Pacific. But this was completely unexpected. Softly rounded hills striped like Neopolitan ice cream made an obstacle course for the two-lane road, making my tiny car grumble as we climbed. The sun was softening its harsh gaze and turning golden. A country station faded in and out on the radio. A canary-yellow Mustang blew by me like I was standing still, making me jump and nearly run off the road. Three miles down the road, it was stopped in front of blue and red flashing lights. Ah, justice.

I had to stop as well because the weather-stripping on my windshield started coming off, bitch-slapping the window with a "thwack, thwack, thwack!" I tried popping it back into place. Twenty yards down the hill, thwack, thwack, thwack! I dug my Krazy Glue from the glove compartment. Four miles down the road, thwack, thwack, thwack! "Ugh. Dammit." I pulled it inside the passenger window and closed the window. The small space where the window was open made a whistling sound, so I put on Ben Harper to drown it out. "I believe in a few things -- God, the devil and love..."

Descending from the coulees Rt. 2 took off through farm country. It was just like South Dakota. Here again were the butterscotch hills and chocolate steer cattle, the caramel grass and Technicolor sky. A dilapidated house was rotting into the ground a quarter mile back from the road, surrounded by sweet corn. I took a picture, just as I had in South Dakota. That house had been red, this house was gray and brown, but the scene was almost exactly the same. "This certainly isn't a pine grove." I didn't mind at all. Even though it looked so much like the rest of the Northern Plains, I was learning so many things about Washington. It may be dorky, but it makes me very excited. I love having my notions and assumptions turned upside-down.

Just outside Ephrata, the Yakima Valley opened wide and cradled my car in lush rays of sunlight and shades of green. Roadside fruit stands lined the highway, promising Rainier cherries, fresh peaches, zuccinni, and "cots" -- local lingo for apricots! I tried to resist, wanting to save money for a rare "big night" out in Seattle, but it was useless. I pulled over to a wooden archway covering tables of sweet fruits and colorful vegetables still smelling of loam. I picked out a box of peaches and the boy behind the table handed me a pale pink Rainier cherry. "Try it."
It was heavenly. "Yeah, I'm gonna need to get a box of those, too." He let me write a check and soon I was lolly-gagging down the road again, spitting cherry pits out the window and giggling as they flew as though launched from a gun.


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