The Travels of a Journalist—52From Midwest to Pacific Northwest Along ‘Nullarbor’ of United States
Posted on January 15th, 2011

By Shelton A. Gunaratne © 2011 Professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead

 It took us three days in summer 1989 to drive the 1,630-mile distance from Moorhead/Fargo in the Midwest to Longview/Kelso in the Pacific Northwest. I have already mentioned the first leg of this journey (in Travels””‚45).

The second leg of the tour took us from Billings, Mont., to Spokane, Wash. “”…”a distance of 583 miles. We left Billings (pop. 105,845) somewhat late in the morning because we decided to drive through the scenic Black Otter Trail (U.S. 318) to see the city from the northern outlooks. Along the way, we saw the grave of Luther Savage “Yellowstone” Kelly (1848-1928), an American soldier, hunter, scout, adventurer and administrator. (Kelly joined the Army in 1865 by lying about his age. After the Civil War, Kelly established himself as  “one of the greatest hunters, trappers, and Indian scouts” of the American West.)

Also, along the way, we stopped at the Boothill Cemetery, the burial place of those who “have died with their boots on” or met with violent deaths. Muggins Taylor, the scout who carried the news of Custer’s Last Stand to the world, is the most famous person buried here.  The last burial at Boothill was in 1882.

 Picture 1: Billings, Mont., city line (March 2008)
(Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

 Then, we drove south on Zimmerman Trail to the Rimrock Mall and joined the westbound traffic flow on I-90 heading toward Bozeman (pop. 39,282), 144 miles away, where we stopped to eat lunch at Cooper Park, a four-acre expanse with picnic tables and grills. It occurred to me that crossing the seemingly endless prairies of Montana””‚some 665 miles from east to west””‚was much like crossing Peter Pan’s Never-Never-Land, the fictional creation of J. M. Barrie. It was so boring that I felt enormously relieved when we reached Butte (pop. 33,967), another 85 miles to the west. Butte is the gateway to Helena (pop. 29,939), the capital of Montana, located almost 80 miles to the northeast. (Perhaps, I am slightly exaggerating here. Nothing can surpass the boredom of crossing the 684-mile Nullarbor Plain in Australia, as I documented in Travels-11.) We stopped at an ice cream parlor at 2.15 p.m. It enabled us to break the monotony of travel boredom with a dash of sweetness. I was glad that Yoke-Sim took over driving the next 114 miles to Missoula (pop. 68,876), close to the Idaho border.

Because of travel fatigue, we weren’t in a mood to explore any attractions in Bozeman (such as the Montana Arboretum and Garden, the Museum of the Rockies, the American Computer Museum, and the Gallatin Historical Society-The Pioneer Museum) or in

 Butte (such as the Berkeley Pit, the World Museum of Mining, the Venus Alley, the Copper King Mansion, and the Arts Chateau). In Missoula, however, we stopped at the Chamber of Commerce; and all of us walked on a footbridge to the University of Montana campus.

Thereafter, Yoke-Sim drove us through the northern Idaho Panhandle city of Coeur d’Alene (pop. 43,683) into the eastern borderline of Washington. Coeur d’Alene is the home of Snake Pit Derby Dames, an all-female flat track roller derby league.

We arrived in Spokane (pop. 205,900), the second largest city in the state of Washington, about 8.30 p.m., PDT. We checked in at the Best Western Tradewinds Motel (907 W. Third Ave.), and we ate dinner at the nearby Burger King.

The third and final leg of our journey began Wednesday (19 July) afternoon.

We spent the morning exploring the city of Spokane. We stopped at the Automobile Association (1717 W. Fourth Ave.) to get the maps and tour advice before we commenced sightseeing. Then, we visited the Smithsonian-affiliated Cheney Cowles Memorial Museum (2316 W. First Ave.). Renamed the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, it is the largest cultural organization in the Inland Northwest with five underground galleries, an orientation gallery, cafƒÆ’†’©, store, education center, community room and the Center for Plateau Cultural Studies. The MAC also includes the historic 1898 Campbell House designed by architect Kirtland Cutter. The museum’s exhibits and programs focus on American Indian and other cultures, regional history and visual art.

Next, we visited the Episcopal Cathedral of St John (127 E.12th Ave.), an example of Gothic architecture.  Work on the cathedral began in 1925.

Thereafter, we stopped for rest at the 90-acre Manito Park and Botanical Gardens (1702 S. Grand Blvd.), which features the Finch Arboretum, the Gaiser Conservatory, the Duncan Garden, the Nishinomiya Japanese Garden, the Rose Hill, the Lilac Garden and the Ferris Perennial Garden. We also visited the 100-acre Riverfront Park (along the Spokane River), the site of the Expo ’74 World’s Fair. The defining feature of the park is the Pavilion, which is marked by a 145-ft-tall (44 m) metal frame and wire shell that formed the U.S. Pavilion during the Expo. We capped our tour of Spokane with a visit to the Crosby Library, which contains a collection of American singer Bing Crosby (1903-1977) records and other memorabilia, at Gonzaga University, a private Catholic institution founded in 1887.  We ate our lunch on the Gonzaga campus.

 

Figure 1: The Route We Took from Spokane to Longview in July 1989 (398 miles). A=Spokane; B=Ritzville; C=Kennewick (Tri Cities); D=Plymouth (east terminus SR 14); E=Maryhill; F=Stevenson; G=Vancouver (west terminus SR 14); H=Longview.

 We left Spokane about 2 p.m. and drove 60 miles southwestward on I-90 to Ritzville (pop. 1,736), which has four individual structures on the National Register of Historic Places””‚the Burroughs (Dr. Frank R.) House on Main Street; the Greene (Nelson H.) House on South Adams Street; the Ritzville Carnegie Library on West Main Street; and the Ritzville High School.

Then, we drove 80 miles further southwest on U.S. 395 to Kennewick (pop. 67,180), where we stopped for refreshments. Located near the Hanford nuclear site, Kennewick and the adjoining cities of Pasco (pop. 55,490) and Richland (pop. 47,410) formed the Tri Cities. Kennewick lies along the southwest bank of the Columbia River, opposite Pasco and just south of the confluence of the Columbia and Yakima rivers.

From the Tri Cities, we drove a few miles south to Plymouth (unincorporated) to head westwards on the scenic State Route 14 (also called the Lewis and Clark Highway) for some 180 miles along the north shore of the Columbia River, which separates Washington from Oregon. Its western terminus is its junction with Interstate 5 in Vancouver, Wash.

We chose SR 14 as the preferred route to reach Longview even though we could have saved about 30 miles had we continued on I-90 at Ritzville. The reason: We wanted to see the scenic splendor of the sunset as we drove westward on the serene SR 14 along the river. The colors in the sky dazzled us. We were amply rewarded by Nature’s own open-air theater.

Driving from Plymouth to Mayhill (pop. 98) in Klickitat County, I thoroughly enjoyed the changing colors of the sky through the gloaming. A full-size astronomically aligned replica of Stonehenge stands here as a memorial to those who died in World War I.  The credit goes to Sam Hill, the Quaker who commissioned it. The replica was completed in 1929.

 

Picture 2:  Replica of Stonehenge in Maryhill, Wash.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

 Yoke-Sim steered us for the next 66 miles to Stevenson (pop. 1,200) in Skamania County, home to the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, which focuses on several tribes who inhabited the vicinity. Our two kids Carmel and Junius, who were quite used to the outdoor way of life, did not complain about their hunger pangs. I noticed, however, that they perked up after we ate our dinner in Stevenson. 

I took over the wheel for the final 87-mile drive to Longview, Wash., which we reached at 11 p.m. We checked in at the Hudson Manor Motel (166 Hudson St.) for a week.

On Tuesday (25 July 1989), we left the motel to settle down in an apartment at 1108 17th Ave., Longview. The same day, my elder sister “Rani” and my mother arrived to stay with us in Longview.

For the next month, I was back at work as a Daily News reporter.

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