And home again, home again, AKA bombing home on the Interstate.
It takes about a day and a half for me to get home from Yellowstone. A very long day and a half, but still. I left my cabin at Old Faithful early in the morning, feeling wistful as I always do, and comforting myself with the thought that I will be back. At the rate things are going, I’m not sure when my next visit will be, but return visits will remain inevitable until I become too decrepit to travel. A long time in the future, I hope.
I did not make any more stops in the park, as I hoped to get as far as Spokane that day, which is less than ten miles shy of 500 miles. I did make two stops in West Yellowstone, one for just enough gas to get me to the Interstate, where it’s about thirty cents a gallon cheaper than in West, and the other at the hostel to pick up the wristwatch I had inadvertently left there two days before. Fortunately, the cleaning staff had found it and set it aside for me. And, I discovered later, sent me an email to let me know they had it.
After that, well, Kestrel and I could probably drive this route in our sleep. North out of West to Hwy. 287, which runs along Hebgen Lake to Earthquake Lake, the site of the landslide caused by the earthquake I’ve been nattering on about for the last two weeks. Up and over the natural dam, and downstream along the Madison River, past the Gallatin Mountains and through the little town of Ennis, which makes a great deal of its living from the fly fishermen who flock to the Madison every year.
And on north. It takes about three hours to get from Old Faithful to I-90, headed westbound. From Old Faithful to Livingston is only about two hours, give or take an animal jam in the park, but that puts you an hour and half east from where 287 eventually debouches, so it’s not a time-saver that way.
Once past Ennis, the land opens up and the mountains draw back, but after I landed back on I-90 it wasn’t all that far to my last crossing of the Continental Divide on this trip, at Homestake Pass, then Butte, where my great long lasso of a trip reached its knot and I was back on highway I’d already traveled this trip. I stopped in Butte for lunch and gas, then let Kestrel really start eating up the miles.
It was about the middle of the afternoon, somewhere along about Missoula, I think, that I started thinking, why don’t I just keep going? Theoretically, if I drove straight through (something I have never done in all my Yellowstone trips), I could make it home before midnight.
I debated the idea for miles. All the way through the last 100 miles of Montana and the 60 or so miles across Idaho as far as Coeur d’Alene, where, in spite of the fact that I still had over a quarter of a tank of gas, I stopped to get more because I knew the price would jump forty cents a gallon as soon as I crossed the state line into Washington. However, the moment I climbed out of the car, I knew I wasn’t going to do it. One of the odd things about spending the entire day making miles is that I tend to not realize how tired I am until I actually stop. So I resigned myself to that one last night on the road.
I crashed and burned in a little mom and pop motel out by Spokane International Airport, and got up and out at the crack of dawn the next morning. I was pretty much sick of breakfast bars by that point, so I decided I would see what the little town of Ritzville, which is the next wide spot in the road after Spokane, had in the way of a diner. My mouth was set for pancakes. I did find some, or, rather one enormous one after the waitress told me two would be overload, bless her, but only after giving myself the grand tour of the entire town. It was worth it, though.
Back on the highway, I stopped at a rest area to clean up, then took a glance to the west and did a doubletake. Was that Mt. Rainier? Surely not, I was still too far east. I fetched my binoculars and stared again. Lo and behold. Home.
You see, I have this theory. My theory is that there are place-oriented people and there are people-oriented people (kind of like the way there are introverts and extroverts). I am a very strongly place-oriented person, which is a good thing because a) I’m really bad at marriage, having tried twice and failed both times, and b) my blood relations are scattered all to hell and gone in places I wouldn’t live in on a bet. I was born in New Orleans and grew up in LA, Denver, and San Franscisco (my father was an engineer, which is the next thing to being military for getting transferred regularly), so it’s not like I have a hometown, either.
But home is the Pacific Northwest, and in particular, my corner of western Washington, where I’ve lived for the last almost twenty years. I moved to Oregon in my mid-twenties and loved it, but then I made the mistake of falling in love with a Midwesterner who hoodwinked me into moving to Ohio. He claimed that we’d only be there long enough for him to finish grad school before we moved back to Oregon. Then he got within two hours’ drive of his seven brothers and sisters and I never did pry him loose.
I finally managed to finish grad school myself, leave him, and find a job in Tacoma, Washington. I remember driving over Snoqualmie Pass in tears because, dammit, I was home. Never mind that I’d never lived here before. It was just like the John Denver song, only a different part of the country.
Anyway, I still had about two hundred miles to go, but I was home. Much as I love traveling, and as you can see I really truly do, I love coming home almost as much. Especially since this is where I get to come home to.
I hope you enjoyed my travelogue, and that you will stick around for more adventures. For one thing, I am in the process of adopting a pair of kittens, which ought to be good entertainment value. And there are always new places to discover, even in the old familiar stomping grounds. And beyond.
There. On the horizon just to the left of the yellow sign, that’s not a cloud, that’s Mt. Rainier.
If you like my travel writing, you might enjoy my fiction set in Yellowstone:
Repeating History, “A GRAND yarn you can’t put down.” Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures