Road warriors diary: Day One

WA spanaway

Gentlemen, start your engines.

Tuesday, May 30:

Long before Jordan and I hit the road on our recent multi-state trip, there was much to do to get ready. Not just plan the route and calculate how much ground we needed to cover each day on the 2,000-mile trek, but actually rent a moving van and pack it.

That process began in earnest three days in advance of starting the trip. Jordan and Jamie had arranged to sell their split-level house and vacate the premises on Tuesday, May 30, the day after the holiday.

For that to happen, everything had to be packed, sold or given away, and then the entire house cleaned. We started in on Saturday, picked up a U-Haul truck Sunday, and finished packing it Monday. We were exhausted before even starting the trip.

WA em-jordan-jamie

Having sold their home in Washington state,  Jordan, Jamie and baby Emalyn looked forward to their Midwest move.

Come Tuesday morning, we were ready to roll. I hopped into the cab of the 20-foot truck trailer while Jordan took the Honda Fit and the three animals – Jax, an energetic pitbull terrier mix; Brandi, an aging chocolate Lab; and Sage, a thankfully mellow cat.

Leaving Spanaway, their suburban home just outside Tacoma, we headed for Interstate 90, our route for most of the first 1,500 eastbound miles.

Click on images to view captions.

 

I’d never been on this particular freeway, the main connector between Seattle and Spokane, so I looked forward to seeing new things. We drove over the Snoqualmie Pass in drizzle and fog. Crossing into the drier eastern side of the state, we passed by Moses Lake, the town where our daughter-in-law Kyndall grew up, and Spokane, where Jordan began his college career 11 years ago at Gonzaga University.

(He wasn’t ready for college then, he readily admits, and he has no regrets about withdrawing as a first-semester freshman so that someone more motivated could claim his four-year, full-ride scholarship in the Army ROTC program. Suffice to say things turned out just fine.)

We were cruising along in the early afternoon, admiring the splendor of Lake Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho when things started to go wrong. About 40 miles east of the resort community, I heard a loud “pop” come from the back of the truck and pulled over.

The inside left back wheel had blown out. Here we were in the remote mountains of northern Idaho, somewhere in the 10-mile stretch between the towns of Kellogg and Wallace, and I wondered how long it would take to get help.

Two calls to the U-Haul “hotline” produced the same result: 10 minutes on hold and no answer. Jordan went online and, despite sketchy internet connection, managed to file a claim for road assistance. We wound up waiting for three hours for a crew to arrive from neighboring Montana. Yes, it’s that sparsely populated in that part of Idaho – services few and literally far between.

A burly guy with low-slung pants that looked like they’d last been washed 5 years ago got to work replacing the tire while his companion, an older guy wearing a baseball cap and a sleeveless shirt revealing sun-burned, tatted arms, periodically offered advice.

The younger guy had the word “redneck” inked on his neck. I found myself trying to remember if the movie “Deliverance” was filmed here in Idaho or somewhere in the South.

 

Turned out the guys were a father-son team who’d recently moved to Montana from Missouri, where we were headed.

While we were waiting for them to arrive, the most amazing coincidence occurred. Through Facebook, Jordan learned that one of his former Army buddies had just moved back to Wallace, Idaho, a couple weeks earlier. He texted him and in minutes, his friend, John Ramirez, was on his way. John’s ex-wife and daughter live in a small town 20 miles to the west. John himself had recently interviewed with the county sheriff’s office for an entry-level patrol position and was feeling good about his chances of getting hired in his old hometown.

The two ex-soldiers laughed and chatted and got caught up while I took a walk on a paved bicycle trail running parallel to the interstate. If we had to be stuck somewhere, this was a beautiful spot.

 

Finally, the replacement tire was put on. We thanked the rednecks (nice guys, by the way) and resumed our travel. We were too late to shop at the local market (it had closed a few minutes earlier at 8 pm) and so we braced for the remaining hours of driving through a national forest that took me, in the lead, down steep mountain grades and several S curves. Not the most fun thing to do in the dark of night.

We arrived in Missoula – 500 miles from our starting point – and checked into a motel just before midnight. We fell into bed knowing we’d have to be up at 6 am to grab breakfast and hit the road.

Next up: Road warriors diary: Day Two

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