Seattle… Where the Smoke Broke and the Clouds Hung Low

Around 4,500 miles, over 44 different sights, 3 weeks of driving, and two days ago, I arrived in Seattle, WA.

First things first, after being on the road that long, the most fantastic discovery was my “hotel” was actually an apartment building, and my apartment had all the amenities of a home including a washer and dryer in the apartment.

Last Thursday, on the recommendation of my hosts in Sioux City, I checked into a motel in Thermopolis, Wyoming. It was there that I last wrote about my adventures. That’s where we’ll pick up today.

The hot springs were absolutely amazing. You could soak for 20 minutes in the state bathhouse (for free!), or visit two other pools near the bathhouse and pay a small fee. I started in the state bathhouse, and then drove around hot springs park, where I came within 50 feet of bison, and met the most unusual moth. It floated like a hummingbird, but had no feathers!

After much investigation, the woman who ran the motel told me this was a Hummingbird Moth. I had no idea such a thing existed.

I spent the rest of the afternoon at the Tepees pools next to the state bathhouse. The next morning as I was packing up to leave, I met one of the nicest people (I soon found out the further west you go, the more friendly people are). She and I talked most of the morning away, and it was from her I learned the haze I was seeing was from the massive wildfires all the way in Montana. I knew there were fires, but it wasn’t until then that I realized how bad they were.

My next stop was the Grand Tetons/Yellowstone; I knew state park camping would be difficult, so I reserved a tent site at the Jackson Hole/Snake River KOA. Aside from the sandy, potholed, one lane road down to the site (I found out it was in disrepair because of massive flooding in the spring), the site was perfection! My tent pad was on a little hill, with the Snake River not but right across the “road.” I did start to notice the elevation changes when the hill up to the bathroom had me very very winded, but I acclimated within a few hours. I slept with part of my rain fly open on the tent so I could see the crystal clear sky. I had no idea that would be the last time (so far) that I would see the sky.

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After a nice leisurely drive through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, I set up camp at the Towsend / Canyon Ferry KOA. (Note, I was also selecting KOA’s for their wifi, thanks to the little mess with the limited roaming data issue on my phone). Here I was one of two campers. The second started her trip in the west and was working her way east. On a bicycle, with her adorable dog, Bonnie. I felt briefly envious, but then realized, we all have our own paths to take, and our own ways of getting there.

But here at this campsite was when the wildfires really started to show. The sun was blood red, and the moon, when it rose, was the exact same color. The smoke was unbelievable. You could barely make out the outlines of the mountains.

To my dismay, the next morning, I found out Glacier National park was mostly closed, including both areas where I’d planned to camp. I think, at this moment, almost 100,000 acres of Montana is still on fire.

Instead, I dipped over to the hippie town of Missoula and checked into a reasonably priced motel. I checked out their local brewpub and adjusted my arrival plans for Seattle. Missoula was also covered in smoke, like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie, people were riding their bicycles through town with bandannas covering their faces. I would love to come back to Missoula once the wildfires are taken care of.

From Missoula, I visited Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. What an interesting place! Nestled in the middle of the Flathead Reservation, the garden does, in fact, have One Thousand Buddhas.

On through to Steamboat Rock state park, where I awoke to a chorus of coyotes, and yes, yet still more smoke. I explored the Grand Coulee Dam and realized I made the mistake of not changing my Seattle hotel reservations to my actual arrival date (a day earlier than what I’d changed the reservation to), so I decided I’d stay the night in Leavenworth, WA.

Leavenworth was a great adventure! In the 1960’s, to boost tourism to their town, they created a Bavarian look and feel. On the main Bavarian drag were shops, restaurants, and a local distillery shop. I enjoyed a brat, potato, and ham soup, and a pretzel from Munchen Haus, visited the sausage grocer across the street to stock up on campfire food (which, one day, on this trip, I should eventually be allowed to have a campfire again; they’re banned, because, well, wildfires). Then, visited the distillery shop where I purchased a bottle of Espresso Vodka. That is some dangerous, deliciously dangerous, vodka. Just a little orange zest, on the rocks, and 3 glasses later you’re face planting in your bed with a smile on your face.

Seattle. Oh. Seattle. The smoke isn’t bad here in Seattle, but it is cloudy here 300 days a year, so after a week, I still have no idea what color the sky is. I took the car to get an oil change, and I’ve toured the city’s more touristy spots. Seattle is lovely but desperate. People are genuinely nice and polite, but there are a lot of homeless people and children. It’s an interesting place that requires more study to understand.

On that note, I shall continue to study this city for one more night, before heading to Ruby Beach, and then down the coast to San Francisco and LA.

Stay tuned as I turn south on my journey….

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