Friday, August 5, 2011

Road Trip!

In all the years I've been autocrossing (since 1993, for those keeping count), a car that is fully prepped to the SCCA "street" prepared rules has been anything but streetable. Stiff springs, unforgiving shock settings, harsh bushings, no A/C, no radio, race seats....

So, it made perfect sense to drive a nearly fully set-up ESP WRX three thousand miles, from Baltimore, Maryland to Packwood, Washington.

Let me preface this story by saying that Packwood wasn't my first choice for a summer road trip. I was supposed to go to Colorado Springs instead. But due to some problems that popped up after the Delaware Tour, and some bad timing on everyone's part, I ended up asking to transfer that entry to the last ProSolo of the year. Shortly thereafter, I was asked if I wanted to join a friend and some of his buddies on a hike at Mount St. Helens before the autocross. I was in.

I left Tuesday, July 19. My last regular season hockey game was on Monday night (and I scored a goal!), so I slept in, and took my time getting packed, so I hit the road around 2PM. I only got as far as Elkhart, Indiana, when I finally decided to find a hotel. SCCA has a member discount through Choice Hotels, and I have a gold membership with their Choice Privileges, so I was making reservations on the road the whole time, starting with this one. Their staff was awesome in helping me find hotels along my route and picking something that would work for me.

The biggest problem with staying in Elkhart was that my timing to get through the Chicago area was going to be terrible. I left the hotel just after 6AM, and it was bad, nearly Baltimore/DC area bad. Once I got through that, it was clear sailing into Wisconsin, where after a poor experience trying to find a Subway for lunch, I decided to do what Brian Ciarlei did on his trip to California -- no chain restaurants. I couldn't go all out and do the "no interstates" thing too, as I wanted to make sure I got to Mount St. Helens by 10AM on Friday, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of no chains.

And then I got the idea of getting microbrews from various areas as souvenirs for Pat. So, the first one I picked up was a Two Women by New Glarus Brewing out of Wisconsin.

From Wisconsin, I continued across I-90 through Minnesota and South Dakota, coming into Rapid City around 10:30PM. I'd stopped earlier in Murdo for a buffalo burger at "The Diner" that was part of the "Pioneer Auto Show" (an indoor museum/gift shop), so once I'd checked in, I was ready to sleep, though I was thinking about how to get over to Mt. Rushmore and/or the Badlands in the morning. In the end, I figured I couldn't sneak it in, and just got on the road.

Sunset at a scenic overlook near Northwest Jackson, SD

Thursday was Montana day. That was pretty much the jist of it... Montana. It's damned huge. I jumped back on I-90, squirted onto US212 for a bit to cut out a section of the interstate that went to Gillette, WY, then came back to I-90 in Montana. A stop in Livingston (Yellowstone Valley) for lunch netted another microbrew to bring back to Pat.

Traveling through Crow Country in Montana was a bit depressing. I've never really been around Native Americans, and seeing what Heather Everett aptly described as, "urban problems in a rural setting," was sobering. Here I am, a single woman, traveling across the country on what amounts to a whim, in one of my three vehicles, while Crow natives walk miles along the interstate to and from their destinations. It's a good reminder that a lot of us take a lot of things for granted in our lives, whether it's a roof over our heads and food on our tables, or extravagances like being able to go to amusement parks at the drop of a hat.

I spent hours hoping to see this train of 737s again to get a better pic!

Just across the state line into Idaho, I made another stop, mainly to clean the bugs off the windshield. I should have replaced the wiper blades and put some Rain-X on the windshield before I left, but hindsight is... yeah. This was the "skinny" part of Idaho, and with a 75mph speed limit, I would be through it in under an hour.

My goal for Thursday night was Yakima, Washington. I figured Yakima would give me enough time to get to Johnston Ridge Observatory on Friday morning. Spokane saw some crappy road construction that slowed me down, but Yakima was an easy reach, and I had time to grab some dinner at Mel's Diner just down the street from my place of rest.

Just over three hours of driving on Friday morning, though Packwood and Toledo, and I pulled up to the group of Subarus and one Mazdaspeed 3 at 9:58AM, a full two minutes early. Andy Howe greeted me, we went to the Observatory to check in and get our wristbands, and we were ready to start the nearly nine mile hike of the Boundary Trail.

I will continue the trek tomorrow, but until then, here is the view from the trail at the beginning of our journey.

To Be Continued!

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