Washington & Oregon

Fort Lewis, WA – Lincoln City, OR
Daily Mileage: 253
Total Mileage: 4267
Total Number of States Traveled: 21

I spent the night in Lincoln City – not far from the Rogue Brewery in Newport, OR.

Washington – Spokane to Tacoma

Daily Mileage: 291
Total Mileage: 4014
Total Number of States Traveled: 20

I departed Spokane fairly late, knowing the trip to Tacoma would be one of the shorter legs of the trip – staying in the same state for the whole leg as well as using an Interstate (I-90) instead of the slower (aka scenic) US routes.

It was raining (of course) as Spokane slid away in the rear view mirror… the terrain was fairly arid and flat with only small hills as I-90 passed the towns of Sprague and Ritzville… and the rain slowly tapered off. I stopped in Moses Lake for gas and a quick cheeseburger and was surprised to find a Starbucks. The coffee stop was busy with families traveling for Easter – some wearing Sunday best, either coming from or going to a family function, church service, or both. Passing through George and Vantage was fairly scenic. George is known for it’s Gorge (The Gorge at George) where they have concerts overlooking the Columbia River. The views are really impressive and I regret not stopping to snap a quick picture. Passing through Ellensburg, I started to climb the Cascades and the rain picked up. There was a little bit of snow here and there on the ground. The rain really started to come down as I passed through Cle Elum and Roslyn (where they used to shoot the TV series Northern Exposure). I checked the weather station and the only warning was to watch for standing water. Finally summiting I-90 at Snoqualmie pass I could hear some of the die hard skiers using their FRS radios on my Bearcat scanner.

Coming off the summit, I stopped at North Bend to get a coffee refill and stretch the legs. Not much further west, I took Washington’s Highway 18 south east towards Tacoma. I’d driven WA 18 a number of times and the construction that was going on 10 years ago was still underway. I imagine with all the rain, it’s hard to get a project finished. WA 18 made for an easy drive (still raining) into Federal Way, connecting with I-5 and heading a bit south into Tacoma.

Montana, Idaho, Washington

Whitefish, MT – Spokane, WA
Daily Mileage: 262
Total Mileage: 3723
Total Number of States Traveled: 20

I was in no rush to depart Whitefish – the trip to Spokane (while still staying on the less direct US 2) would be a relativity short day. I finally got a Montana ham on a 2m repeater as I left Whitefish – he promised me an easy ride to Spokane and said US 2 would provide a nice trip.

The road headed west through the town of Libby and Troy, crossing the border into Idaho – paralleling the Kootenai River flowing in from British Columbia. The road summited as I entered Idaho and the light rain turned to a wet snow. Bonners Ferry, Sandpoint, and Priest River – and I was through Idaho into Washington State. The snow turned to a heavy rain… a typical Washington welcome. The remaining ride was an uneventful trip into Spokane – which was a much larger city than what I’d imagined.

Red Lion Hotel At The Park
303 W. North River Drive
Spokane, WA 99201

North Dakota, Montana

Minot, SD – Whitefish, MT
Daily Mileage: 726
Total Mileage: 3461
Total Number of States Traveled: 18

Got up early and took the dog out for a walk. The room I had was on the backside of the motel complex and opened right onto the parking lot. As soon as the door opened I experienced an Alaska flashback as a wall of arctic air hit me in the face. The sky was clear with the sun just peeking up – the parking lot had snow remaining from where a plow had shoveled it some days back. The guy parked next to me in his contractor work pick-up had a plug running into his room to keep his truck heated over night. But due to my good Alaska training, I knew that only around -10 degrees do you really need to start worrying about having a battery blanket and oil pan heater. The Tundra started like a champ with the exterior thermometer reading 2 degrees. Bottom line: Minot, North Dakota does not disappoint for it’s frigid reputation. I jumped on Hwy 2 and continued west. There were a handful of 2m amateur radio repeaters between Minot and Whitefish, Montana – all using terrain to provide wide swaths of coverage. I was usually able to hit at least one repeater during the entire day – but I never got a single reply, nor did I hear any other hams talking.
Hwy 2, just two lanes along this stretch, is generally very straight – following the same train tracks used by Amtrak‚Äôs Empire Builder run as well as freight trains. I was able to make good time, averaging between 70 and 80 mph. Coming to the North Dakota/Montana state line…

…I decided to stop at Fort Union – a trading fort located near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers…. essentially making Fort Union a trucker’s stop on the Interstate.

When established back around 1830, the rivers were still the primary means of transportation and the trading post thrived for almost forty years, until the railroad finally came through providing a more efficient means to move goods. I was the only visitor – so I got some personal attention for the park ranger… he explained how the Indians would trade fur and buffalo skins for rifles, cookware, liquor, and tobacco.

The administrators who ran the post when native, marrying Indian women and integrating the trading operations into the tribal life of the locals. In the 1870s, as the Indian wars came to their height and the railroad came through, Fort Union was disassembled by the US Army in order to help build Fort Buford about 10 miles east.
Back on the road, I blasted across the badlands, passing through the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. I stopped in Malta, Montana for lunch at the Dairy Queen (which was filled for the lunch rush) and continued west. The next reservation was Fort Belknap, which took me to the down of Chinook where I turned south to head to the Bears Paw Battlefield.

At this location, the Nez Perez chief surrendered to the US Army after being surrounded. The tribe had set up in a depression, similar in appearance to a bear paw.

The ground was snow covered, the skies clear – and no one was around for miles. There was a small set of mountains to the south (that stand out after two days of rolling through prairies). It was a cloudless sky and even though the temp had climbed to only 32, it felt very warm outside.

I departed Chinook and headed west… continuing to make good time along US 2. The land was still basically flat – with no real sign of mountains yet. Finally approaching the town of Shelby was there an appearance of mountains. Shelby was a pretty big city (for northern Montana standards). It sits at the crossroads of I-15, connecting the north with access down to Butte, Bozeman, and Billings. I stopped at a large truck stop, adjacent to a rail yard and the on-ramp for I-15. In the distance, I could see low rolling clouds and the base of the mountains. After topping off the gas tank, I went inside to get some coffee and a sandwich… and then it was back on the road. I could hit a repeater on 2m now again, but never got a response.

My progress slowed a bit, passing through Cut Bank (self-proclaimed coldest spot in the US… I, however, noted that the current temp was in the low 40s… not even close to the mornings Minot, North Dakota temp of 2.

Further west, I pasted into the Blackfeet Indian Reservation an Glacier National Park. It was dusk as I started to climb into the mountains, following a well maintained twisting road. Had I more time, I would have enjoyed spending the day at Glacier National Park. The stream paralleling the highway appeared to be golden as the sun set.

It was dark as I came down through the mountains and arrived into the town of Whitefish. I got the distinct feeling that I’d arrived on the west coast once I’d reached Whitefish. I don’t know if it was due to seeing familiar sights like a Safeway grocery store… or that the people didn’t talk with accents anymore. It just felt like the west coast.

The Best Western Mountain Lodge
6510 Highway 93 S
Whitefish, MT 59937

Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota

La Crosse, WI – Minot, SD
Daily Mileage: 736
Total Mileage: 2735
Total Number of States Traveled: 17

I departed from La Crosse, Wisconsin (located on the eastern bank of the Mississippi) and headed east on I-90 for 27 miles until I hit the small town of Sparta, where I took Wisconsin State Route 27 north toward Eau Claire where I picked up US 53 north. The dairy farms were still covered with snow, but although the day started out pretty cold, it was in the mid-forties by lunch.
I rolled into Superior, Wisconsin and crossed into Minnesota and the city of Duluth on the western shore of Lake Superior:

… I talked to a ham while passing through Cameron who told me just earlier this week the first ship came into Duluth as the ice is starting to break up. Duluth is built up on a steep hill over looking Lake Superior. After climbing to the west, I rejoined US Route 2 – the road I started out on when I left Plymouth, Mass.
I had an enjoyable conversation with a ham near Deep River who ended up having two kids who had gone to my rival High School back in Sunnyvale, CA. As I approached Bemidji the repeater was pretty quite, except for one conversation I heard between three hams who were making coordination to help about with the funerals that will take place this Saturday. Most of the stores along US 2 had their flags at half mast, mourning the terrible loss at Red Lake High School…

I made good time through the rest of western Minnesota, stopping for fuel and food in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The sun set as I continued west on US 2 – and I watched as the temperature slowly dropped. It’s suppose to be 9 degrees tonight here in Minot…. but I’m guessing that’s probably pretty warm for the locals.

Best Western Kelly Inn
1510 26th Avenue SW
Minot, ND 58701