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Sunday, July 24, 2005


Road trip day four: back in the saddle

Portland to Missoula: 557 miles, 10 hours

The last time I visited four states in one day, I was in New England, where the states are smaller than the state parks out west. Thanks in large part to the narrow panhandle of Idaho and the generous speed limits up here, we managed to cross both Washington and Famous Potatoes on our way from Oregon to Montana.

As the snowy peak of Mount Hood receded behind us, the lush greenery of western Oregon gave way to the rocky desert that fills the state east of the Cascades. Much of the road was lined with monumental rock formations that, for lack of a roadside geology guide, I’m going to guess are columnar basalt. Or something.

Just as the brown landscape of eastern Oregon bears little resemblance to Portland, the southeast portion of Washington is a world away from Seattle. Treeless, wheat-covered hills rolled into infinity, looking like a classier Nebraska. Spokane looked like Bridgeport, Connecticut, from the freeway.

Idaho, on the other hand, was stunningly green and rugged, and Lake Cour d’Alene looked like paradise. Our Idaho crossing was over in less than an hour, but I look forward to returning.

Now in Missoula, we’ve barely entered vast Montana, and it’s just about the most stunning landscape I’ve ever seen. Like Vermont on performance-enhancing drugs, with 100% evergreen forest. I also like the Montana version of time: The sun dropped behind a tall mountain around 9:00, and the sky was still light an hour later.

With our entry into Idaho, we crossed into territory that’s hard to do justice with a camera … so no good pictures so far. I’ll try again tomorrow as we head for Wyoming.

I-84 tunnel Mt. Hood in visor mirror Rocks in eastern Oregon The Evergreen State

I’m sitting on a sidewalk outside a closed UPS Store in Missoula to post this. Make it worth my while — post a comment, for gosh sakes.