Saturday, August 22, 2009

SIDE TRIPS PART part five--Destination

Misty clouds were still hanging in the hollows of the mountains when I started out the next morning. The highway dropped down through the forests and leveled out at Spokane, Washington. The land opened up into huge farms that went on…and on…and on. I thought about getting out the other pair of glasses I keep in my glove box
A sheriff from Texas-modeling my glasses (sorry Cindy).
When Hubby and I are on long, boring road trips and I am in the passenger seat, sometimes I put those glasses on and wave at the truckers we pass for the amusement of all. But, considering I was alone in my car--and already a hazard to myself and everyone else on the road---I decided against the idea. I exited the four-lane at George, Washington (love the name) and traveled through apple country. There were apple orchards, apple warehouses, apple packing houses, and fruit stands loaded with produce all along the way. I crossed the Columbia River at Wenatchee and took State Highway 2 into the Cascade Mountains. My route followed the course of the Wenatchee River. The highway was new pavement and paint and all busy with people traveling on their way to play in the woods.
Not sure if this is a noun or a comment on the State of Washington
I pulled over to stretch my legs and take some photos of this waterfall.

As I was standing there a group in their kayaks

appeared and took turns dropping down through the rapids.
I went over Stevens Pass and nearly drove off the road when I caught a view of Mount Index decorated by Sunset Falls.
Sunlight was sifting through the cloud hanging on the crest of the mountain and glinting off the falls. I had to go 'way down the highway to turn around. Fearing the light and clouds would change at any moment I grabbed my camera and nearly high-centered on the guard rail. Most of the beauty was still there and, despite the traffic zooming away at my back, I had a special artsy moment with the clouds and the mountain and the smell of wild blackberries ripening in the sun.

 I found my way to The Dreaded I-5. The traffic was even worse than I remembered from living in Tacoma when Hubby was in the army. I traveled far north of familiar territory and was soon looking for the exit to my motel. I had a weird déjà-vu feeling there because I had explored the area virtually on Google Maps. I knew exactly what I was going to see before I turned every corner. My assigned motel room was great. It was in the corner on the ground floor with big windows on two sides. I called the family back at home, unpacked, and relaxed on the queen sized bed. Total miles 840 (1352 km).

Friday, August 21, 2009

SIDE TRIPS part four--Wallace Silver

If you are zooming along the seventy or so miles of Interstate Ninety that goes across the panhandle of the State of Idaho and you get stuck behind a large truck at about exit sixty-two you will never see Wallace. The freeway goes OVER the town.

Wallace is in a deep mountain valley not far from Fourth of July Pass. This valley is about the only way through the Bitterroot Mountains. When plans were being made to turn I-90 into a huge four-lane corridor, Wallace was in the way.

The town is listed in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places. There was a problem.

The decision was made in 1986 to move the chateau-style Northern Pacific Railroad Depot away from the mountain enough that a highway could be constructed on pillars over the collection of turn-of-the-century buildings. If you climb up on a stool at the local soda fountain and order a tasty huckleberry milkshake,

the lady behind the counter may tell you about the filming of “Dante’s Peak.”

Wallace was chosen for the setting of the movie and, for one summer, Pierce Brosnan (James Bond) and Linda Hamilton (Sarah Conner in The Terminator) walked the streets of town. If you haven’t seen this cheesy film, it deals with a volcano that blows Wallace to smithereens. Never mind that the nearest volcanoes are Mt. St. Helens—hundreds of miles away in Oregon, Mount Rainer near Seattle and the whole basin of Yellowstone Park—far, far way in Montana (which, if you believe the rumors, is set to blow in 2012 and take out most of the western U.S.) Fortunately no buildings were harmed in the making of the movie or the freeway.
The 99% pure silver crystals I bought in Wallace, also my silver ring with a star garnet (Idaho's state gem), and an Idaho quarter ---NOT 99% pure silver.
Wallace is considered the Silver Capitol of the World—
Items in store window displaying old mining tools.
source of more than one billion ounces of the shiny stuff since it was discovered there not long after the end of the Civil War.
On August 20, 1919 a great and historic forest fire swept across northern Idaho and western Montana. It was the largest forest fire in American history and blackened 3 million acres. For two terrifying days and nights the fire, driven by hurricane force winds, raged across the timberland and took 86 lives. The buildings on the south hill and the east part of Wallace were destroyed by the blaze.

The rebuilt town now boasts buildings designed by nationally known architects of the early 1900’s with such features as cast-iron cornices and pilasters, terra cotta trim and decorative glass.
By the time I reached Wallace it was getting late. I had driven 430 miles (692 km) and was a little frazzled.

I got a room at the Stardust Motel, old and shabby, but clean and cheap.

Just in case you wondered where it was…

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

SIDE TRIPS part three--Lolo and Lulus

Highway 93 in Montana runs along the edge of the Bitterroot Range. The vistas are wide open
with little towns called Darby and Victor and Lolo. They still harvest their grassy hay and pile it in stacks using a beaverslide.
photo from google images
Beaverslide then
Beaverslide now. This device is used to make very picturesque hay stacks--- --much more artistic than the big rectangular bales or the giant rolls that look like shredded wheat cereal for monsters. The countryside along the Bitterroot Mountains is part of the area used for the movies, “A River Runs Through It,” and “Legends of the Fall"—both starring Brad Pitt. On considering those movies as I drove along I thought how my little adventure was kinda like the movie, “Thelma and Louise” ---without Louise, and without the gun, and (dang it) without Brad Pitt. --And I was going north instead of south. Well, really there was no parallel at all to “Thelma and Louise” except for a crazed woman behind the wheel for a very long time. When I finally reached Missoula I took a break and stopped at the Missoula Art Museum not far from the University of Montana. They were closing, but I talked them into letting me cruise through the galleries while they emptied the place out. On the walls of one room were canvases about five feet by five feet. Some were one solid color and some were two colors
photo scanned from info brochure
Quoting from the exhibition brochure, “The artist transforms what at a glance appear to be monochromatic panels, revealing subtly enlivening surfaces with incandescent layers of muted color.” In the next room was a selection of prints on variations of this:

photo scanned from info brochure

Highlighting “the artist’s sensitivity, intuitive color sense, consistent instinct for compositional resolution and his ever present spirit of experimentation.” Before they showed me the door I went through one more room. It was a large gallery with nothing on the walls. On the hardwood floor were hundreds of rocks painted red and bearing the name of the artist.

photo scanned from info brochure

This artist “has been the recipient of many prestigious grants and awards.” A list of the grants and awards followed. Visitors were encouraged to take a stone with them until the “sculpture” is redistributed into the world. I took a rock.

As I left Missoula and journeyed west on Interstate 90, I wondered about what I had seen at the museum. Either I was really obtuse and missing the point when it came to the definition of art; or the creators of those works had decided everything that required skill had already been done; or they were pulling off one of the best Emperor’s New Clothes scams I had seen in quite a while. I personally preferred the art of the farmers’ haystacks.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Part two of the account of my trip to Washington State. The distance one way is 840 miles (1352 km).

When gold was discovered in Grasshopper Creek in 1862 it did not take long for a crowd of guys to show up looking for more of the shiny stuff. Soon a mining camp was established.

The inhabitants decided to name the place Bannock for a tribe of Indians in the area. However, the name was misspelled when it was submitted to Washington D.C. for a Post Office. In very short order stores and saloons were built and the Hurdy Gurdy Girls arrived.

photo scanned from info brochure
The new sheriff turned out to be one of the bad guys so a mob of vigilantes lynched him and his gang. By the next spring the population had swelled to 3000. When the Montana Territory as organized in 1864, President Lincoln appointed Sidney Edgerton Territorial Governor.

photo scanned from info brochure
Edgerton’s log cabin became the governor’s mansion. A few miners brought their wives and children; so the new chapter of Free Masons

constructed a building with a Masonic Lodge on the second floor

and a school on the ground floor. A nearby bloody battle between Indians and the U.S. Infantry threw quite a scare into the town’s inhabitants.

The traveling minister took advantage of the situation and was able to talk the people into building the first and only church in Bannack. Then the railroad went through nearby Dillon and the gold played out.

The town emptied and Bannack, once the proud capital of the Territory of Montana was essentially abandoned. The ghost town of Bannack is now a state park.

The day I arrived the single empty street was muddy from the night’s rain storm.

I paid a fee at the office and walked by the Meade Hotel, once filled with travelers who ate their meals at tables graced with white linens and fine china. The only one who stays there now is the ghost of a girl who drowned in a mining dredge. The church was locked, but one of the houses was open for visitors.

The rooms were empty but still bore wallpaper put up by the last owners.

Time and history hung thick in the air along with the sour smell of decaying wood. Other visitors were a mom and dad in shorts and flip-flops reading loudly from the information brochure. They were followed by a couple of sullen teenagers dragged from their motor home--fingers still twitching from their electronic toys. A group arrived on motorcycles and wandered through the buildings. They were togged out in full black leather Sturgis gear. From their gray hair and hobbled walk I guessed they were on their way home to jobs as dentists and accountants.

Monday, August 17, 2009


A transparent watercolor by Mr. WBL graces the cover of one of my favorite instruction books. I own, and have studied, one of his training videos and one of his teaching books. So when I learned he was traveling from New England to conduct a watercolor workshop in the Puget Sound area I was certainly interested. Here was an opportunity to see him in action, ask questions and be taught. I sent in my deposit, made reservations for accommodations and began preparations to go. Since I would be spending the five days at the workshop, Hubby offered to take care of things at home. I would go alone. There were two basic ways to travel to my destination. The more scenic route went along Interstate 15 into Montana to connect with I-90, the east-west artery where traffic flows across the northern part of the U.S. Then to I-5 which channels travel from Canada to Mexico along the West Coast. There would be a lot of driving seventy miles per hour between semi trucks and a good view of the center line of four-lane highways. I decided speed was not the priority on this expedition and made plans to take roads less traveled when possible. There were side trips that would get me there and still provide opportunities to see more countryside and points of interest. Saturday, August eighth, I filled my little blue Subaru with my painting gear, a couple of suitcases, said goodbye to Hubby and Son, and left.