The Long Way

Take a left in Streetsboro, go about 2,500 miles west, and you can’t miss it. Getting to Washington State and the Pacific Northwest is that simple, with the United States’ Interstate highway system. But our family took the long way. Over the course of five days (including one rest day in western North Dakota), we put almost 3,000 miles on our 2010 Honda Odyssey. But we finally made it last night. We pulled into our rental house in Silver Creek a little past 8:00 PM Pacific Time.

What a journey! It really feels like an accomplishment. We climbed towering sand dunes on America’s “North Coast“ in Indiana. We ate deep-dish pizza for lunch in Illinois and squeaky cheese curds for a mid-afternoon snack in Wisconsin.

We visited relatives in Minnesota. And the next day, we enjoyed what I would consider to be our best hour of the westward road trip on a little stretch of Minnesota Route 27.

We ate in a classic roadside diner in North Dakota. On a series of short stops across the state, we reveled in the wonder of an oversized fake buffalo and fake cow — but also very real herds of bison, wild horses, and pronghorn antelope.

And after gushing so much about the Dakotas again in my last post, it’s only fair to point out that Montana has many of those same favorite features. It has the rolling grasslands and badlands… the wide open skies… but also less of the boring farm fields. Montana also has many of my favorite features from the Rocky Mountain states: snow-capped mountain peaks and pine forests. But there also seems to be a lot more space in between those mountains and forests. Which makes it all feel more majestic. It’s such a beautiful place. Even after only two visits to Montana, I might have to admit that it’s my favorite state to visit.

And yet, it’s shocking to see how quickly one becomes desensitized to it all.

After just one day (about nine hours) of driving the long way across Montana (from east to west), it all came to feel surprisingly normal. Maybe even pedestrian. And I’m disappointed with myself about that. We just got to a point of travel fatigue, in general. The United States of America is a big country! As much as I love travel — especially through America’s ”Wild West” — I got tired of all the driving… all the eating out… all the digging through suitcases… There came a point when we just wanted to reach our destination.

I cannot tell you much about our experiences in the panhandle of Idaho, except that my legs got cold while pumping gas on our brief pit stop in the state. When we made it to Washington, however, we had a special sort of initiation experience. Shortly after crossing the border from Idaho into Washington, we turned north. I piloted our minivan through the wilderness areas around Long Lake. Elliot had meticulously researched a cliff-jumping location at a place called The Cove, and he even got a 100’ roll-up tape measure in Spokane to verify heights and depths.

So within an hour of our arrival in the great state of Washington, we were flailing through 50° air to splash down into 50° water and come up gasping for air. It was crazy. And it was cool. It revived our spirits and got us excited for the final push to the West Coast. Even when our only lunch option was another diner in Sprague, the greasy food just tasted better.

We’re thankful for the privilege of being able to afford the time and expense to undertake such a crossing of the North American continent. We took the long way across America, but it was a good way. Now we get to explore the Pacific Northwest for awhile!

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