So after 9 weeks of planning and organizing and reorganizing we finally set off on our adventure last Monday. We're both early risers so we were out the door by 5am and thanks to my favourite border crossing ever (Sumas) by 5:40am we were in Washington.
Day 1: Vancouver, BC - Albany, OR
Considering that it was memorial day in the states, we lucked out pretty well and I like to think our early start played a good role in that. I will say right now, the I5 may be my new most hated road ever. People are idiots and the speed limits in the states are already high in my opinion so I don't see the need for the crazy speeding and swerving lanes like maniacs... but that's a discussion for a whole different forum ;) We made good timing none the less factoring in our first stop in Bellingham for gas and to fill our cooler with munchies for the trip. We were in Portland just after midday and our first stop was the amazing Powell's Books. The outside is under remodelling right now but once you walk through the front doors you forget completely where you are. It's massive! I've always been a book nerd and I told myself before I went in there I would limit myself to one new and one used book... well, add a book bag and a magnet on top of that and we'll call it 'self restraint'. This is where we realized that I had a bit of a souvenir addiction. From there we drove out to find the infamous Slappy Cakes. At this point I was absolutely starving and upon arrival I spotted the massive line of waiting patrons. We inquired about wait times and alas my heart broke a little when the hostess told us it was over an hour. My tummy couldn't wait over an hour. So we decided to walk down the nice little residential street and as though the food gods were in my favour, right around the next corner we stumbled across an amazing little food truck city. Being a chef I love to try new things and living in Vancouver, it's another city that the food truck movement really took off in. There was an endless array of choices; sushi, Korean barbeque, mac and cheese, perogies and burgers among many others. Burgers will always have a special place in my heart so we decided on the wonderful little red truck called Timbers. They make their own mustard and ketchup in house as well as their patties. It was without a doubt one of the best burgers I've had in a very long time. We also got Herb's Mac and Cheese, which he uses penne for and it was to die for. I cannot recommend this little secret more; if I lived here I would never leave the little food cart city.
Once we had sated our hunger we got back on the road and headed east on the 84 towards Multnomah Falls. As we approached my heart fell into my feet as the exit for Multnomah was completely shut as the car park was full! I was immensely disappointed yet more peeved that there's no way to advise people before they drive a 1/2 hour out of their way. So we did a U-turn at the next exit and prepared to simply go on to Albany. Lo and behold, the west bound exit was still open! We pulled into the car park and headed towards the little tunnel that leads below the interstate towards the falls. I'm assuming the east bound exit was closed as it was the lodge parking that was full. There were a lot of people but it lived up to everything I had seen and heard. It was so green and lush and a fantastic reprieve from the heat with the spray of the powerful falls. Happy to have not missed it, we took our photos and got back on the road towards our hotel for the night in Albany.
Powells Books.jpgTimbers Food Truck.jpgMultnomah Falls.jpg
Day 2: Albany, OR - Weed, CA
After our free hotel breakfast we were out the door again. Today was a shorter day of driving but the one I was most excited about. Today we got to see Crater Lake. We finally got off the dreaded I5 just after Eugene and passed onto the 58. It was a gorgeous drive through the mountains and we stumbled across Lowell's Covered Bridge. We stopped for a while and took a few photos; the water was so still it was just a reflection of the beautiful, Oregon greenery. From greenery to dry highways and a road that looked like it never ended, it appeared to go for as far as the eye could see. Finally we approached Crater Lake National Park. Snow on the side of the road went from inches to feet as we ascended and close to the top it was incredibly eerie as we wound our way through the mountain and were surrounded by 7ft walls of compact snow. There are a lot of places to stop and take pictures along the way. The water is such an exquisite blue. It was as serene and beautiful as I had hoped but a lot colder! Luckily as a Canadian now, I don't leave the house without a hoodie. We stopped at the lodge and I collected even more souvenirs. Shot glasses, a mug, a few key chains, a ring, a magnet. By this time I just gave in to my addiction. The 62 towards Medford was a gorgeous drive before we got back on the I5 again and headed toward Weed, CA. Mt Shasta took my breath away, before we were anywhere close to it. It's peak was shrouded in clouds and the sheer size of it blew me away. Once we were in Weed and checked into our hotel we decided to go for a little walk and realized that the main strip is about 3 blocks long. More souvenir shot glasses and magnets before a massive dinner at the Hi Lo café and cramming in a piece of their famous pie; I went with the chocolate cream. Fantastic! The only downside here was for some reason our air conditioner was timed or malfunctioning and would turn off after every half our or so then turn back on again (perhaps a temperature setting). This led to a bit of a restless night but nothing that breakfast at the café couldn't fix!
Lowell's Covered Bridge.jpgCrater Lake.jpg (I've reached my maximum photos per post so I will add more photos in comments)
Day 3: Weed, CA - Bishop, CA
This was to be the longest driving day on the first leg of the journey. Our goal on this day was Mono Lake so we had a lot of uneventful driving but amazing scenery. We used the I5 for the last time and I think we went through more national forests than any other day. What I wasn't expecting was to come to a vista at 8000ft with spectacular views of Mono Lake. There's a rail guard there that's plastered with people's stickers so I left one that I'd received from Powell's. Once down at the reserve we walked along the boardwalk and stared in awe at the tufa. The water was such an amazing shade of turquoise. It was definitely worth the trip and worth changing our route. We ate at the famous Pizza Factory in Bishop after we went for a dip in the hotel pool. Another must is Erik Shatz Bakkery. We stopped there for coffee and breakfast on the way out the next morning and their breakfast bagel was awesome (cheddar bagel with ham, tomato and scrambled egg), my espresso was wonderful and we picked up cookies and candies for the days ahead.
Day 4: Bishop, CA - Las Vegas
Knowing that today was the day we would brave Death Valley we made a point to get an early start on the day. We were leaving Bishop just after 6am. What really struck me was just how immense Death Valley is. It's crazy to think at one point you're driving 190ft below sea level. There was a peaceful quiet in the car for most of the morning as we were awestruck by the scenery. By 8:30 the heat was already at 98 and rising. The Mesquite sand dunes were fascinating as well. It was hard to believe just days before we were in the chilly, green forests of Canada. By the time we got to Pahrump for gas we were both drenched in sweat and it was necessary to indulge in slushies from the Maverik. The stories about the wind in that area from Pahrump to Las Vegas was not an over exaggeration. We got hit by a gust of wind so powerful at one point that it felt as though the car had been T-boned. We arrived in Vegas at about 1pm with cheers and high fives and a great sense of accomplishment. We had done it. Almost 1600 miles, 4 states and a province, 2 countries over 4 days.
Days 4, 5 & 6: Vegas Baby!
We stayed in the Excalibur as per my request (it looks like Disneyland on crack, the 5 year old in me couldn't resist). So upon our arrival we briefly rested in the glorious air conditioning of our hotel room before donning our walking shoes and going for a walk about. New York New York, MGM Grand, The Paris, The Bellagio, The Luxor and Planet Hollywood. All spectacles in themselves. The monorail; I made joked about it being operated by Homer Simpson then after 5 minutes of roughly bouncing and bumping, I swallowed my words. The first night we saw an amazing hypnotist at the Paris, his name is Anthony Cools and I couldn't recommend a show in Vegas any more highly. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard in my life, the fact that 3 people in our group volunteered and succumbed to the hypnotist really amped up the excitement and getting to meet him afterwards highlighted what an awesome guy he is. Seriously, if you have the chance go, see it! If you have the cajones, volunteer. I've pledged that if I ever get to see him again I will volunteer. We lounged by the pool in our hotel and ate at Buci for lunch before heading over to the Plazzo to see the Chinese acrobatic wonder that was Panda. A treat for the eyes with real Shaolin monks and crazy stunts! Our last day was more of a lazy day after indulging in a famous Vegas breakfast buffet. I played my first $20 in a machine at the MGM and pulled out $100. As I'm not a gambler I considered this Vegas' way of covering some of my souvenir costs =P We did the CSI Experience then had the honor of going to the Tournament of Kings in our hotel that night. A 3 course dinner and show in medieval times. No utensils, kings, flame throwers, wizards, fire works, horses, maidens, flagons and delicious, whole Cornish hens. It was a fantastic time and one that I enjoyed thoroughly.
Day 7: Vegas - Twin Falls, ID
For the second leg of my journey I traveled solo. My partner in crime flew back to Denver, CO from Vegas and I started my journey back to Canada. I was out of Vegas by 5am and heading north on the 93; definitely one of the most desolate highways I've been on. I drove almost the entire state of Nevada that day, from south to north. Thanks to bad luck on my part and an a*hole who dangerously tailgated me I received my first speeding ticket ever. My general rule for driving in the states was to not go above 4 miles the limit, so of course I get the one cop on the road when I was doing 5 over trying to avoid having the guy who wouldn't pass from behind me, rear end me. Thankfully the policeman saw everything that happened and while there was no way to avoid my citation, I'm sure a lot worse came to that horrible driver behind me. At this point I was starting to think that my partner in crime was in fact my good luck charm. I arrived in Twin Falls, ID and signed into my hotel. Apparently almost 9 hours on the road wasn't enough for me that day and within half an hour I was out again, camera in hand and bound for Shoshone Falls. The water diversion was unfortunately already in effect but it was still an amazing sight. The Snake River is fantastic and the canyons are incredible, especially from the bridge of the 93 that leads out of Twin Falls. The seemingly ever present rainbow at the base of Shoshone Falls really adds a magical touch, even if I didn't get to witness it's full power.
Day 8: Twin Falls, ID - Home (not the original plan)
So today would turn out to be the longest day of the entire trip, both in hours on the road and just the day itself. My initial plan was to drive the 6 1/2 hours from Twin Falls to Kennewick, WA. The drive was pretty; from flat and canyonous Idaho to the mountains and valleys of Oregon. I arrived in Kennewick and pulled up to my hotel just after noon. That's where my trouble began. Thanks to a Texaco and Scotiabank, a gas up I had authorized had entitled them to hold $145 on my credit card. I had never encountered this anywhere; ever. And quite frankly I think it's the stupidest thing I have ever heard of but once again, I won't go into that. Essentially when my hotel went to run my credit card it was declined due to insufficient funds. After a lengthy and bitter call to my bank I was informed what had happened. Thankfully the manager of the Guest House International at Kennewick (I think her name was Debbie) was incredibly understanding and sympathetic. She was more than happy to wave my cancellation fee under the circumstances and I made the decision on the spot that it was a sign that it was time for me to go home. It was going to be a long day after already spending 7 1/2 hours on the road and having at least another 7 to look forward to but at this point I was missing my little family very much and I had confidence that as long as I drank a lot of water and stopped whenever I needed to, that I could make it home safely. So after my brief stop in Kennewick it was mush on! I faced the horrible prospect of hitting peak hour traffic in Seattle (avoiding that part of the I5, even the 405 was ridiculous by 4pm). Quite frankly drivers on the road there terrified me. Apparently they got their licences from cereal boxes -_-. After my last stop in Bellingham for gas and food I was finally at the Canadian border by 7:30pm. There was only 3 cars in front of me and my border officer was typically, Canadian-ly nice and after a few quick questions he welcomed me home (the first time I got to hear that after becoming a permanent resident) I pulled into my driveway at 8pm, safe, sound and exhausted. I had never planned for a 13hr day on the road but I was so very happy to be home a half day earlier than expected
Almost 2800 miles all up and the greatest adventure I've ever had; mishaps taken into account. It ended with 5 states and a Canadian province, a minimum of 45 hours of driving, countless stops along the way and a lifetime of unforgettable memories. I am so incredibly happy to have seen everything we set out to see and everything was more than I had expected it to be. It may be a while before I embark on another long road trip but it's definitely something I'd love to do again... though this time I'll work out a way to be able to split the driving! A massive thank you to every single person who helped with the planning of this trip. Your tips and advice never led us astray and I can't thank you all enough.