The Big Trip

Day 1 - Seattle to Pendleton, Oregon


A-1 Auto Movers - Arrive at 10:30 a.m. The joint's already jumpin' with cars and transport trucks queued out front. Paperwork takes a half-hour, with lots of laughter as the staff and I swap stories. Such as the time, around age 17, that I drove an old, orange (!) Volkswagen station wagon from Huntsville (Alabama) to Atlanta, over a mountain, and using a stick for the first time in my life. (I'd been taught the finer art of clutching a day or two earlier.) And how, during this drive and unbeknownst to me, the electrical system was shorting. So, at every stop, the car would stall. And since the battery was dead, I'd have to give 'er a push, or flag a motorist for a "bump," or just... run whatever red lights at the slowest speed possible. (The rest of the story involves driving to Morehead, this time with my brother, with more car problems, no air conditioning, no sight of our parents, and about $10 of cash between us, plus one gas card.)
 
The Great Grape Aka The Long-Distance Baby Mobile- Sara sits in her car, patiently waiting while I sign forms, agreeing to drive sensibly and refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, transporting firearms, or giving rides to serial killers. I'm also given names and numbers of who to call if this happens, or who else to call if that happens. I hand over $200 cash, as the deposit; they ask for fingerprints, as evidence should the FBI need to be contacted. (After all, I am engaging in interstate commerce!)
As for the car, it's something to see-- a silver-plum (!) Saturn station wagon (!!) with not one but two baby seats (!!!) in the back. (Just call me Big Daddy.) Plus stick-shift, cassette deck, power locks, power windows, ABS, cruise control, something called auto-traction, a whole lotta dog hair, and approximately 48K on the odometer. Sara and I stow luggage, though not before hanging the pair of fuzzy dice that Yours Classy brought all the way from Raleigh. (Left the hula girl at home, however.) Hugs happen and they're too short and too few. (As they always are, when saying goodbye to good friends.) And then, and with a honk and a wave, I drive off into the sunset. Or at least, just down the block to Wal-Mart.

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The First Of Way Too Many Mega-Store Stops - I buy film, to take pictures of the condition of the car. Just in case. I also purchase: 

  • two quarts of oil, as both checking and adding (as needed) is my responsibility
  • one oil bottle spout, to prevent spillage while adding as needed
  • one bottle of distilled water, for coolant system or muddy sneaker needs
  • one white sheet, to drape over the driver's seat
  • two bath towels, for drying stuff
  • one set of cheap floor maps, to protect the existing mats
  • one big, cheap, plastic container to hold these things (and contain any accidental leakage)
  • one six-pack of cheap bottled water
  • one six-pack of Pay-Day candy bars, for emergency sustenance
  • one box of trash bags, for trash, laundry, road kill, etc.
Happily - Happily, the Great Grape already has both a sunshade and a fire extinguisher. Nor do I purchase a gas can. (Let's just say I'll be very conservative in my gas-gauge reading...) Second stop, pre-Eastward ho!, is for lunch, and with wonderment of why Sara and I couldn't find this place last week. We suck. Billy McHale's steak 'n' ribs and right there, right next to Wal-Mart. I have a salad, lunch-sized sirloin, steak fries (those not contaminated with "steak juice") and a hot-fudge sundae. I also take notes-- that you're reading now-- and make a couple phone calls, telling that I'm leaving, telling what I'm driving (with accompanied laughter), and telling a certain special person how much I enjoyed her company, these seven, splendid days. And then I'm off! The time, 12:45 p.m. The destination, Raleigh, by way of Alexandria, Virginia.
 
The Washington State Fire Academy - I happily happen upon around 2:00, is located about 35 miles east of Seattle, outside the town of North Bend, near the base of Mount Baker (elevation 3,022 feet), and about five miles off the freeway (I-90) and up into the hills. The exceptionally modern facility, operated as a division of the Washington State Patrol, conducts classes in structural, aviation, and marine firefighting. They run a 10-week, wet-stuff-on-red-stuff (e.g. no EMS) academy as well as provide training to local agencies and each of the four branches of the military. Barracks and offices rest on a hill, overlooking the center's courtyard ringed by a concrete "burn building," a simulated ship's hold (underground) and conning tower, an observation tower and utility building, a hazardous materials building (complete with Chlorine-carrying railroad car)

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And The Academy's Fire Station - And the Academy's fire station. (They have three or four structural apparatus on site, plus whatever trucks are brought by the agencies being trained.) Scattered about the center of the courtyard and variety of metal constructs, suitable for repeated burning and shaped as cars, small trucks, and even a helicopter cabin. Training fires are fueled from discarded Diesel fuel, donated for burning off. Or using wooden palettes, also donated from such nearby firms as Nintendo. (They're in North Bend.) The pallets are used in the five-story "burn building," which, in addition to the training tower, contains mock-ups of a warehouse floor and a fully-furnished ranch-style home. (The latter for instruction on search and rescue.) 

Also Overlooking The Courtyard - Also overlooking the courtyard-- and, presumably, on the ground above the underground simulated ship's hold-- is a metal mock-up of a jetliner. Complete with wings. (The deep brown rust makes for some particularly interesting photos!) This training area also has a fire station, with a trio of Crash-Fire-Rescue (CFR) rigs available for use. Most of this information is courtesy of Vocational Education Specialist (and retired Fire Chief) Robert P. Jones, who provides an engaging, extended chat after Yours Curious pops his head into the office, asking for literature to take with me. One of his more-interesting facts: the Academy was located closer to the mountains, to take advantage of the crosswinds which readily dissipate the potentially environmentally affecting smoke. He also notes the presence of wildlife, such as the Elk that occasionally wander around at night. What a place to work! 

Prior To Stopping At The Fire Academy - Prior to stopping at the Fire Academy I did swing through North Bend, to snap a shot of Mount Baker and, upon easily discovering, the town's fire station. Also stopped at an outlet mall, at Toy Liquidators, before resuming my riding. (The latter having nothing worth buying. They suck.) Other stops that day included Clu Elum at 4:20 p.m., a flat, small, one-road-down-the-middle town where I mail a parcel to myself containing 28 rolls of 24 exposure film shot in Seattle. (Don't have a cow, man. Sam's Club charges $2 for singles, $4 for doubles.) Also took a picture of a Bull Durham Tobacco ad, painted on the side of a cool, older building. Drive through Ellensburg a little later, 5:15 p.m., looking for a Wal-Mart. No dice. Finally find a Target store in Yakima, population 54,900, where I purchase those supplies that I forgot to buy the first time: Fix-a-Flat, film, chewing gum, baby wipes, and packing tape for the box bought at the aforementioned Post Office. 

Fat Man Of Dubious Lineage - Staying in Yakima for dinner, I also discover a nice fire station near downtown, as well as the former fire station, now in use as a bail bonds office. [ Insert still picture of Walter Matthau in The Bad News Bears ] Yakima is also an old railroad town and has a string of shops built from retired railway cars. Alas, most are closed. And they don't photograph well, either. Seeking a speedier meal, I visit a lame mall's lame food court. (A&W hot dog and a Diet Coke.) Also shop, needing lens paper, the new "Entertainment Weekly" to read in bed, and whatever collectibles I might be looking for, like the brand new, special nine-inch figure of Fat Bastard from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. ("I want my baby my baby my baby back ribs.") Leave Yakima after 8. 

The Sun Is Setting, Slowly - The sun setting, but slowly. I still have a hundred (or more) miles to cover. Wish the radio stations were better. I spend most the afternoon and evening trying to find familiar talk-radio voices. (Even stumble upon a French-speaking station earlier in the day, near North Bend!) Southeastern Washington is gorgeous at dusk-- rocky, rolling hills in a soft, orange light. In fact, it's just as nice after dark-- unbroken stretches of pitch-blackness, interrupted only by oncoming headlights and distant oasis's of city lights. Marvelous. Two hours later, I decide to call it quits. Pendleton, Oregon. Finally crossed the border, stopping at a truck stop (for Diet Coke and postcards), a damn dam (to see what I could see, which was little), and, for the last hour or so, smelling the pleasant (to me) scent of burning wood. Must be the wildfires. Can't wait. Final mileage for the day: 325. Final time, checking into a Travelodge ($49 with AAA discount): 10:30 p.m. Good night. 

Total mileage today: 325 

Total mileage total: 325 

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros


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