I have just come home from a 15 day trip cross-country with my father. This is notable because I was a kid in the back seat the last time it happened, about 4 decades ago. Or 5. It is also notable because I was leaving a sweet husband and 2 teenage boys behind, our 2 exchange students. My husband was very encouraging about me going, but I was afraid to leave him behind with the boys and their needs (homework getting done, waking up in time for school, decent dinners). Mostly it is notable because I haven’t always found it easy to converse with my father—okay, let’s say I didn’t even try for a long time—and I was a little worried about how it would go this time, long days in the car with nothing to do but talk.
I will close this anxious paragraph right now with the good news that it was wonderful! We had such a great time seeing and sharing our impressions of things, laughing at each other’s little jokes and just being LIKE ADULT FRIENDS! I don’t think I have ever experienced the joy of that before with my Dad. It was wonderful. (And I know he was so happy to have my companionship: he said it several times. He has been so alone since Mom went to the foster home and even that didn’t really prepare him for her absence in death).
This trip was a pilgrimage of sorts for Dad. The end goal was to attend his 65th college reunion but I think the real intention was to revisit the places he had shared with my Mom. They met at the college, and she taught nearby while he was in the Navy in WWII, so we visited their off-campus houses and the sidewalk into town where they first met…lots of memories came up. I think in his heart he was knowing it would likely be his last time to visit. It was not maudlin, though. There was enough activity and scheduling to keep it moving.
We left May 1st. We planned to leave at 8:30 AM, and I said I’d be ready by 8, but guess who knocked on my door at 7:30? A sheepishly smiling Dad who was too excited to sleep. I was still stuffing battery chargers and car snacks and books on tape into bags.
His plan was to go east by the route he and Mom had most favored in all their cross-country trips: the Lolo Pass, route 12 along the Clearwater River from Lewiston, Idaho to Missoula.
The Columbia River Gorge is so beautiful that it is a shame not to have pictures of it, but I will on the return trip. I started out slow on the picture taking and got crazier and crazier as the trip wore on, snapping photos out the car windows as we were going down the highway just so I would remember certain colors or ideas. Dad is such a perfectionist photographer that I know my approach disturbed him, and he generously offered to stop the car when he saw my “trigger finger” over the camera shutter button, and he did try to slow down, but often the moment was past by then (literally, a quarter mile past) and so I just took willy-nilly pictures. They are from what my husband and I call the “impressionist photography school”.
So on the first day I was still trying not to annoy by asking for frequent stops, and consequently I don’t have many excellent pictures. But the drive was exceptionally beautiful and we felt vindicated and rewarded for taking a chance on snowy conditions in order to use this route. (We had been checking the weather on Routes I-80 and I-90 also.)
Here they are, Day 1:
Starting to see the (impressionistic) snow at ground level ^
We pulled into Missoula just at dusk and got our motel and had a late supper at Cracker Barrel just before they closed. (I had hoped for a Cracker Barrel stop on the trip since we don’t have any in Oregon, but I didn’t expect it to come so soon! Too tired and hungry to take the shopping seriously, though, and as it turns out it was our only Cracker Barrel of the whole trip!)
Days’ End: about 12 hours and 600 miles of beauty