My natural response to a car drive is to slouch against the seat, close my eyes and fall asleep or pretend am asleep and wish the ride goes on. Goes without saying I am not the most interesting travel companion around.
With car travel, inertia grows on me. And I enjoy it as long as we don’t continuously stop, but keep going on. It helps if there is good music playing or good conversation flowing, that I only need to hear and not contribute to. If it is cloudy or raining I even get tempted to open my eyes and stare bleakly out of the window. This can be nice, however, when the sun is shining into the car, it’s not as enjoyable. The sun can make the car heat up, and it can be difficult to sit comfortably without the sun shining into your eyes. However, when there is less traffic and its night time, you might even find me with the hint of a smile watching the lights gleam in the distance. Or staring with unseeing appreciative eyes out of the moon roof (that I had to literally fight with the salesman to get installed in my car).
At this point, you might be wondering why am I rambling about all this when this post is supposedly about a trip around Seattle. You are right and this is about such a trip. Only, the two-hour road trip from Seattle to Leavenworth, a town modeled on the old German villages, makes you thoughtful.
In all the hustle bustle of everyday life, especially with the added excitement of a holiday and day trip, I almost never have a chance to just lie back and think. So, I was extremely surprised when half an hour out of Seattle on US-2 East I started to feel a growing calm inside. The tall pine trees lining the roads get denser and houses grow sparse, and your mind gets clearer.
The winding roads are often single lanes of slowed down traffic, but when the journey is so beautiful why bother worrying about reaching the destination? Luckily, I had quite a few songs downloaded on my phone, because soon enough we lost network and after the initial panic it added to the sense of peace. It was me and my solitary traipse inside my mind.
We crossed a town called Sultan. And this is not something in Saudi Arabia, but in the Washington state of USA! A large colored sign claimed the main shopping center was coming right up. If we identified the right spot, then all it had was a local grocery shop, a used furniture shop, a Mexican, and a pizza joint. There was a police station, a community center and I had to shake myself to figure out if I had fallen asleep and woken up in some eerie TV series set. Sometime back it even had a murder dinner. And no, that is not a real murder, but a pretend event you can buy tickets for.
One hour out of Seattle, I was already compelled to step out of the car as we pulled up near a mysterious looking coffee shop overlooking a bubbling brook and a rickety bridge. It was the Columbia River Bridge built on the principle of a cantilever truss. Mechanics was always a subject I dreaded in college, but as my eye fell upon the bridge, I knew this is what my teacher was trying to explain when he drew those complicated diagrams. As per Wikipedia, the Wenatchee district bought this bridge for 1$ in the year 1951. A timeless relic preserving years of history. I don’t want to know more details. That way my imagination is free to indulge in all sorts of stories.
Next, we were in the town called Gold Bar and I am not making up the name. It actually had the road called Nugget road and I was tempted to turn left onto it. Maybe, Scrooge Mc Duck lived here and mined his vast fortune.
A random man stood by the roadside flagging our car for a lift. I imagined him to be an escaped convict on the run (who had found regular clothes) or maybe a CIA agent about to save the world. Either way, I soon had another distraction. A train trudged along on a track parallel to ours.
I was reminded of the classic Bollywood film song. Rajesh Khanna in an open jeep romancing his Sapno Ki Rani, Sharmila Tagore, who reads a book sitting across an open window of a train. Our train, however, was a freight carrier.
Onwards on our journey we went, the goods train our faithful companion. It had three engines; basically it was three times the length of a regular passenger train. This one was carrying tanks of what I can only guess was oil. One exciting turn even had us going over a bridge (a different more sturdy one) while the train criss-crossed below us.
One of the main commodities it carries is lumber. Now, its a summer sport, where you can float on logs with the river current, right through the heart of the state park. In earlier days this was how the logs were transported to different locations along the river banks. Jut cut down the tree and hope the river current took the logs to where it needed to reach.
We left the train behind and started our ascend higher into the Cascade ranges. Around 80 miles from Seattle we crossed the Steven’s pass. A popular ski joint, but it is June and this time of the year there is no snow. You can only glimpse it reflecting from distant white peaks, while all around, the hills are covered with blooming flowers and growing grass. A Heidi meadow feel to the journey as we even spot some tired looking horses grazing close by. A sign says deer might also cross our path.
All along the drive there are spots to park the car and start on hikes or go river rafting. A few like me even end up simply stopping to click some photographs. Like I said, I was not in a hurry to reach Leavenworth, our destination for the day. The drive itself was such a revelation. The pristine ice cold water of the Wenatchee river gurgled sprightly along. And when I tried to click some photographs, the sun obliged and peeked right through the tufts of clouds.
Nature sometimes leaves you at a loss of words. I wondered why the river water seemed higher during the afternoon. Was it because of the tides? I wondered if I would have been happy living in the mountains without wi fi? I wondered how the people in the houses scattered far away, with tired looking tractors and peeling paint from the barns, stay. Do they get scared of watching horror films?
We were not in some different place and time, only a mere 2 hours away from Seattle. And soon our journey would end in Leavenworth, but that’s a story for a whole different post. Yet it feels like I was suspended in time free to muse and amuse myself. Curiosity made an appearance and laziness made an assertion.
For now stay with the green foliage, the wild untouched waters and the refracting sun rays. Sit with me by these gray rocks. How many years must it have taken the waters to make the stone this slippery and smooth? When was the last time I had a picnic with myself sitting on some rocks by a river side?
We went onwards to Leavenworth, but this is one journey you must take if you are ever in or around Seattle. This trip is worth it.