3,400 miles

Veeka trying to fish in the lake at Coulter Village.

Veeka trying to fish in the lake at Coulter Village. The Tetons are in the background.

Yes, that’s what I ended up driving over a two-week period. I did rest in Minnesota for three nights and spent another three nights in the Grand Tetons National Park, so I might have driven the distance in less time, but it would have killed me, I think. We left off in Casper, Wyoming, soon after a coal truck sent a rock into my windshield. It made for a large crack that I had to wait until Seattle to get fixed.
It took all day to drive across Wyoming – 347 miles to be exact – and we took the southern, prettier route across the state although there were some really isolated patches where I’d hate to be stuck without gas. The vistas got prettier and prettier as we approached Grand Tetons National Park and I realized to my horror that I had booked at place in Jackson Hole, one of the less accessible parts of the park. We first reached Jackson, the lovely and expensive town that you hear about where all the rich people hang out. We wandered into Nikai, a nice sushi place on Broadway, which is where we got a very nice meal. We lodged at a hostel in the small village at the foot of the Jackson Hole ski area some 10 miles away. Even the hostel cost us $110/night but it was one of the cheaper places around and it would take our cat, which many places would not. It turned out that the hostel and several of the inns surrounded a grassy green quadrangle where Veeka would play at the end of the day with other kids.
Our first day, we visited several of the water spots: String Lake and Jenny Lake, looking for places to swim. The mountain peaks were all out and it was sunny and gorgeous – and crowded. And that evening I persuaded Veeka to come up with me on the gondola to a restaurant high above Jackson Hole. She’d never been on such a contraption before and she was frightened but she finally consented to climb on and discovered it was not so bad after all. Dinner was at Il Villagio Osteria, an Italian place nearby that she picked out.

My expert bicylist

My expert bicyclist

On Monday, I gave up my plans to see Yellowstone, as I was tired of driving and we wanted to hang around the Grand Tetons. So we both picked an activity. She wanted to ride bikes, so we went to Dornans – a small village with lots of services – and got bikes for us both. At first she complained that she could NOT balance on the purple bike she was given but eventually she got the hang of it. We rode 7 miles to Jenny Lake and then 7 miles back – 14 miles – not bad for a kid who just got off training wheels a few months ago. Then we rafted the Snake River, an almost three-hour expedition with Barker Ewing, a well known local company. Peter, our guide, was unbelievably fascinating about all the wildlife we saw. Veeka was more taken with a small hedgehog that someone brought along the ride as a pet

Rafting the Snake River and dodging a storm.

Rafting the Snake River and dodging a storm.

(although the last thing I’d do on a raft expedition would be to bring along my pet porcupine) and she ignored the bald eagles to coo over the spiky little creature. By late afternoon, it was raining elsewhere in the valley but miraculously we escaped a downpour. That night we dined at the Gun Barrel, a restaurant in Jackson famed for all the dead animals hanging on its walls and NOT a place for an animal rights person. Must say the elk I tried was pretty good.
The next day, we drove 387 miles from Teton Village to Boise. Idaho took a long time to cross plus we had some mountain passes to traverse getting out of Wyoming. Southern Idaho can be dull but we found a gorgeous lookout in Twin Falls of the Snake River. The next day was a 380-mile drive up the center of Idaho – not the fastest route but it was prettier. We began on Route 55 following the Payette River. When I took this trip back in my teens, I remember buying sacks of Idaho potato chips. No more. I learned that Idaho apparently doesn’t sell its own potatoes in state and there aren’t the famous chips any longer.

From atop White Bird Hill - a view of the Salmon River Valley just east of Hell's Canyon.

From atop White Bird Hill – a view of the Salmon River Valley just east of Hell’s Canyon.

The drive was gorgeous and we ended up in McCall for lunch. This is a small town on a lake and we chose a Chinese restaurant with an outside terrace 20 feet from the lake, mainly because I had to bring the kitty with me (could not leave her in a hot car) and I figured an outdoor restaurant wouldn’t mind her). The boats on the lake, the sun and people on the beach next door made for a lovely setting. From there we followed the Salmon River north on Route 95 which was also lovely. The steep meadows and impossibly vertical pitches of the 3,000-foot bluffs were truly stunning to see. To the west was Hell’s Canyon and I so wished I had an extra day to drive about the bluffs and see the views. Then we drove for miles up White Bird Hill through Nez Pierce Indian country. The drive from Grangeville to Lewiston was through the lovely Camas Valley, which had the most interesting and daredevil railroad trestles through all the cornfields.
We cross the state line into Clarkston and then drove another 100 miles along the Lower Granite River through the prettiest fields and hills of southeastern Washington. One thing I’ve noticed during this drive is the thousands of windmills that have been built across the country and I saw the most ever in eastern Washington. Apparently they sell their power to the Bonneville Power Administration. Am not sure how it all works but it was amazing terrain until I got to Walla Walla where we stayed with a friend for the night.

Veeka and the African hedgehog on our Snake River rafting trip.

Veeka and the African hedgehog on our Snake River rafting trip.

The next and last day was a push for my parents home in Redmond, just east of Seattle and it was a long, hot and difficult day. When I showed up, hot and sweaty at the PetSmart in Woodinville, just north of Redmond, I expected them to take my cat for 10 days for boarding. Apparently my ancient kitty hissed the wrong way at the clerk and she refused to take my animal. I stood there at 6:30 pm and just yelled at her. I’d driven 3,400 miles, I said, with the understanding that there’d be a place for my cat to stay, as my parents’ two cats would not suffer the presence of my kitty. I HAD to put her somewhere. But the folks at PetSmart thought she was too violent (this cat has never bitten ANYONE and she is decrepit, believe me) and so I was turned away.
Happily when we reached Redmond, my parents said the kitty could stay on the porch/balcony for a night. She created so little fuss, they said she could stay another night. And….so she is camping out on the porch for our entire stay. Fortunately the weather outside is in the 90s, so she’s quite comfy. Thus endeth part 1 of our journey to Alaska.

One thought on “3,400 miles

  1. John Morgan

    That is a lot of miles. I’m so glad ya’ll made it safely. Now, maybe Veeka can drive the rest of the way and give mom a break 🙂

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