Driving Interstate 84 westward into Idaho and then down into Oregon is a trip. There is absolutely no way I would attempt this again in either direction before April 1st due to snow and ice and the probability of chains needed on many sections. I was lucky this time to dodge snow which was both in front and behind me.
After a night in Boise, Idaho, I got on the road early and rode the roller coaster highway down into historic Baker City and spectacular mountains covered in white. Then continuing down some of the steepest interstate grade I have ever seen to LaGrande and Pendleton, OR — again, not to be ventured in the winter unless you love taking your life in your hands with a huge number of trucks on icy 6,000 ft downgrades. I finally hit the Columbia River — could Portland be far away at this point — and then it became too dark to drive and I wound up at a crazy truck stop called Biggs Junction — I know it sounds like a candy bar — but I was totally spent and wanted to continue but made the wise decision to snooze at a convenient motel. The Gorge is completely black and night and not where you want to be when exhausted.
The next morning, I wanted to see the spot where Louis and Clark passed the Chinook burial island where they reported many natives entombed in canoes perched up on rocks — something like 47 or so. They called it Sepulchar Island and it is visible from Memaloose State Park east of The Dalles.
Another few hours and I was entering Portland again in rush hour traffic but happy to be home after over 4,000 miles, nine states, and twelve days. It’s hard to believe that I started in tropical Florida and made it to the Oregon without major snow issues. I was lucky. My original plan was to drive I-10 Florida to California and then I-5 north to avoid the possibility of bad weather, but Santa Fe called and it seemed logical to continue north.
I think what I learned on this trip was to not count miles but just go as far as possible without losing control. There were several moments I do not want to ever repeat — one being the windshield washer fluid (in a FL car, no less) not being antifreeze and I suddenly completely froze over the windshield in high alpine Wyoming truck traffic going 80 mph — the other entering Denver dead tired and getting stuck on I-25 downtown in mega traffic and totally a shaking mess. Coffee does not wake you up; it magnifies exhaustion. Lessons learned.
Portland is entering Spring and the long winter rains are hopefully soon over. Time to get back to work. Thanks much for the great number of friends and family who helped make this journey possible. I really enjoyed being on the road and meeting so many locals and travelers. The best, of course, is remembering it all — and getting ready to do it again. Perhaps traveling the country is better not in a car heavily loaded with furniture at the end of winter, but good memories none-the-less.
Namaste Portland. Safely home in one piece.