Mar 28, 2015

The Thrilling Details of Driving From Oregon to Utah and Back.

I did it. I drove to Utah from Oregon and then from Utah back to Oregon all by myself. Well I had my 12 and 15 year old with me but they legally could not help with the driving. Even though a few people suggested the permit-less and licence-less 15 year old could surely handle the straight roads in Idaho and Eastern Oregon with no one on them. 

We left Oregon on Friday at about 5:15 pm. As we got on the freeway I reset the trip odometer in my Camry to zero and away we went. Since we had to leave so late in the day on Friday I tried to be realistic about how far we could make it before I would get tired. Usually road trips for us mean you drive straight through, no matter what, so it was very hard for me to accept that I would need to get a hotel room and stop. It felt like I was betraying my true self :) About a week before we left I made a hotel reservation in Ontario, Oregon which is a six hour drive and one time zone away from here. As our departure date got closer, and closer I did the actual math and had a small chat with reality I realized that would put us in Ontario at midnight or later and that did not sound as do-able as I wanted it to. There are not cities that can sustain hotels just lying all around eastern Oregon so the next best option was to get a three hour start on our 14 hour drive and switch our hotel to Bend, Oregon.

The drive from Cottage Grove to Bend is really very beautiful. Mountains, evergreen trees towering on both sides of the road, and little towns. Then, all of a sudden, you come around a corner and voila, you glimpse a snow covered mountain in the distance. Believe me nothing is quite as thrilling. I love watching the mountain get closer and closer and then before you know it you are stopping at viewpoints to take pictures of the amazing Mt. Washington. There must have been several forest fires around Mt Washington last summer. We felt a little sad when we saw all the bare, destroyed forests. 

Soon after the fabulous views comes the town of Sisters, Oregon. Sisters is an adorable little gem. Every time I drive through Sisters I want to stop and stay. I hear all the shops and restaurants calling my name loud and clear. But there is never time. My ultimate dream is to get all my sisters to meet me and my mom in Sisters for a weekend. Get it? Sisters in Sisters? :)

We got to Bend about 8:30 at night. We found food. We took showers. We watched Disney channel shows. You know, the shows you have no idea why you, a 46 year old, are mesmerized by them but you are. We laughed about how horrible the hotel was and discussed how we had never, ever stayed in a horrible hotel before so this is a moment we will fondly remember. I have no idea how the horrible hotel thing happened but we did not let it bother us....I mean what can you do?

I woke the girls up at 4:00 am, we loaded the car, and headed out. There was no one on Route 20 heading east across Oregon at 4 in the morning. It felt a little creepy to be driving along on a two lane road, in the pitch dark, for hours, with nothing around... but in the same breath it was nice. I love watching the sun come up as you are driving. There is really not much else to watch across Eastern Oregon....southern Idaho, or the top of Utah. Lots of time to contemplate the meaning of sagebrush and stark, barren hills.

We listened to books on tape. I will forever associate sagebrush with Rick Riordan's young adult book, Sea of Monsters. We ate way too much snacks. That is the part of road trips that I have a love/hate relationship with. I have to eat... to stay awake... to drive. It is a nasty, evil, vicious circle. I always feel so gross by the time I get out of the car....even if I eat carrots the whole way :) Which I don't :)

I really do love road trips. This was the first time I have ever done a 14 hour drive without another adult along so I was a little nervous but it worked out fine. I stopped when I needed to, got out, got air, and ran around to embarrass my children.

It was fun to recognize land marks that have been around ever since I took road trips from Washington to Utah when I was a little kid. I pointed out where the Golden Spike Monument was to my kids because I remember seeing that sign when I was little. I remember it meant we were getting close to my Grandma Griffin's house.

I was maybe dreading the drive home a little bit but it all worked out perfectly. We left Utah at four in the morning on Thursday. The kids loved driving up the Wasatch front in the dark because you could see all our church's temples lit up and shining. They loved finding them among all the city lights. In Massachusetts and other places we have lived you rarely get to experience the full effect of a lit up city spread out before you at night. I remember the thrill of that when I was a kid.

We chose to not go across the eastern half of Oregon on the way back and stayed on Highway 84 and went up to the Columbia River Gorge and followed that down to Portland. It adds about 45 minutes to an hour to our entire trip but the Columbia River Gorge is so spectacular I would hope no one would dare mention the extra time. The day was clear. And the mountains, the water, and the snow on Mt. Hood in the distance. All the dams. The waterfalls. It makes my heart so happy to see it all. Even my girls recognized the stark contrast of Utah and Idaho to Western Oregon. My eyes were so happy not to see non stop city after city and to see solid green, mountains, and trees. I love Utah for lots of reasons but I was surprised how starved my eyes were for Oregon. Yes, I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder so I am a little bit sad if I have made any, sagebrush, barren, bland colors lovers sad. My apologies :)

Once we got to Portland we headed south on I-5 and that, in itself, is not a bad drive. The Willamette Valley is gorgeous. It is a 150 mile long valley in Oregon. This valley is surrounded by mountains on three sides. It was THE destination for wagon trains in the 1840's....supposedly the land of milk and honey. There is tons of agriculture. Signs claiming to be the grass seed capital of the world...which are true. Hazelnuts. Christmas trees. (Yes, there is a very good chance your live Christmas tree comes from this valley.) Grapes. Berries. Sheep. Enormous stacks of hay that remind you of the game Tetris. Cattle. Green everywhere you look. 

Cottage Grove is considered to be in the Willamette Valley and we got home to Cottage Grove at about 5:30 pm. I looked at my trip odometer the minute I stopped in the driveway and it read 2,170 miles. That, of course, included several trips up and down the Wasatch front from Provo to Salt Lake City and beyond but still nothing to sneeze at.

Do not worry I am not done talking about our adventure I have lots more to tell you about the trip....you would think it was all about the driving but it wasn't :) I want to tell you about what we wanted to accomplish and what we did accomplish, who we saw, and how it felt to see them. I can't imagine that you can not wait to hear me tell you about staying in my married daughters married student housing for five nights so I will blog again tomorrow

1 comment:

Melissa said...

I have been craving the beauty of the northwest- the lush green that is so effortless. I love the mountains in UT and beautiful red rock but I miss the ferns and moss and green of Washington and Oregon. So great to see you this visit!