On our first night out, we stayed in La Grande, Oregon. We usually stay closer to home or farther from home, but this time La Grande seemed like a good place to stop. After supper, we walked around the well-tended campus of Eastern Oregon University. It sits in an area above the town, with nice vistas across the town to the plain to the east. The campus has some magnificent old trees. I was struck by this one, with its twisted branches and a skin even more wrinkled than mine. I don’t have my father’s faculty for being able to identify trees, but according to my Picture This app, this is a black locust. (Do all these apps broaden our knowledge without deepening it?)
Since we would lose an hour when we changed time zones the next morning, I suggested that we split the difference and go to bed a half hour early. That was only marginally successful. I woke up earlier than usual and we had a longer-than-usual day. I think that when we move into Central time, I’ll just let it happen and not try to prepare for it.
As we left Baker City, there was a sign warning that next services weren’t for 74 miles, but we saw a Travel America truck stop about 50 miles later. Still, that area of Oregon – Baker City to Ontario – is pretty empty of people and their constructions. It can be very dry there, but this year it must have gotten enough snow or rain for it to be a pretty green, at least for now.
Interstate 84 across southern Idaho is a road I’ve traveled by motorcycle, car, or truck in all kinds of weather at least once a year for the last 22 – except the last two, when we traveled almost not at all. The road is so familiar that there are whole sections I don’t really notice. In the past I’ve stopped to see some of the sights along the way, but now I usually treat it as just a road to get from where I was to where I want to be. In the dry, mostly vacant western section past Boise, we stopped at a rest area. As I came out of the building I heard my name called. It was Bren, a Laramie friend. What are the chances of meeting someone you know at a highway rest stop far from either of your homes?
On our trips across southern Idaho, we usually stop for the night in Twin Falls, but a new charger has been built in Burley, 30 miles east. We continued there, past deep green fields of rich lava-based soil irrigated by abundant Snake River water. In all my trips across the state, I hadn’t spent much time in Burley, seeing only the face it presents to the interstate. Staying there overnight and eating in town at La Hacienda we saw that it is a more substantial town than I had thought. We liked it.
After supper, we used the motel conference room for a Zoom meeting with a number of people from the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Washington County, coordinated by a long-time friend of Andrea’s. It was a Q&A session related to my book (In Between, A Memoir) and our movie (Strictly for the Birds). It was fun, there were some good questions, and participants offered some good insights. I’m glad we were able to do it. We really appreciate Sara’s efforts to pull this together. We’re working on a discussion guide for readers of my book. If this session was any indication, the book can prompt a lively discussion.
(When we asked to use the conference room, we told the woman setting it up for a meeting the next day about our story. She was very interested in both the book and movie. Sometimes we’re a little surprised at how warmly the story is received in different parts of the country.)
Tuesday, our third day on the road, dawned cooler and cloudier. The road between Burley and the next town – Tremonton, Utah – rises out of the Snake River Valley before dropping into the Salt Lake Basin. It is a beautiful, lonely road and is sometimes subject to strong winds and blowing dust or snow. On this day, there were a few strong gusts, but mostly we just tooled along unmolested.
There is a short bit of interstate through the built-up area in front of the Wasatch Mountains, but then the road threads up through several canyons to the Wyoming border. Through one of these, the interstate runs beside the Union Pacific Railroad – the railroad that connected St Louis with the West Coast more than 150 years ago. One long train slowly moving uphill had an engine in the middle and six (6!) in the front. It’s a remarkable grade, rising almost 2,500 feet from Ogden to the Wyoming state line..
The funky little place we like to eat in Evanston, Wyoming, was closed, so we drove into town and had lunch at Gramma Mae’s, a small cafe that time forgot. It was like we’d entered another dimension. Gramma Mae and her partner (husband?) are small and quite elderly and do not move quickly. She said her daughter told her she should retire, but I got the impression that Mae isn’t ready to do that. I’m not sure even how to describe the experience, but I was charmed.