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The Spokane Word






-----All online evidence pointed to us having a five-hour drive day ahead, which is a good amount for an average day on the return journey. From Olympia, we were to travel north to Tacoma before splitting off of I-5 and joining I-90 as it traverses the state eastbound. But there wasn't anything to really break the trip up, as five hours in the car isn't daunting so much as the thought of going that distance with no significant breaks in the action.


-----Tacoma is the home of the Tacoma Rainiers, however, and amongst Triple-A affiliate teams, they are the closest in physical proximity to their Major League franchise—in this case, the Seattle Mariners. We decided that, since they had a game today and were thus open despite it being a weekend, it'd be best for us to stop in and get a pennant before getting on our way. What we did not expect is for the brutal Seattle area traffic to hit us early and often as we exited Olympia, and from there it was wall-to-wall stop-and-go as we navigated our way to the stadium. The problem was not that we went on a game day, but that we went when the game was about to start, as we'd overslept our alarms and, after breakfast, had to rearrange some of our plans due to Glacier National Park not being fully open.


-----It's good to see a local crowd coming out and supporting their team, but when faced with trying to get through crowds of people on the street, it's not too pleasant. We rolled down windows to explain to security guys that we were just trying to get to the team store—which was, in all fairness, the only reason that we were waved past signs that said "LOT FULL." When we got to the stadium, my dad let my mom and I out with much more cash than was necessary and a mission to find the team store and get a pennant—or, barring that, something—at all costs. A few well-placed questions later, and we found out that the team store was on the opposite side of the entire stadium, so we bolted ... only for the National Anthem to begin playing. We stopped, but I couldn't hear it worth a lick, and when fireworks went off upon its conclusion, my heart skipped a beat. (Seriously? Warn a guy!)


-----As my dad weaved around and evaded the security guys who chased him off if he so much looked at a banned parking spot, my mom and I weaved our way through the immense lines to get into the stadium and eventually—mercifully—made it to the glass doors underneath the words "team store." We pulled the handle, and though many were inside, we couldn't open it. A nice patron eventually let us into the bandbox of a store, which would have felt cramped if it had only been ourselves. But several dozen folks were inside and no one knew where the line was to check out, least of all the cashiers. They had one pennant, which we got, and we jogged back to the parking lot where my dad saw us in the nick of time. We got out of the area as fast as we could, as we didn't want to risk any wayward home runs clocking a windshield.


-----Getting back to the road was a journey in and of itself, and it involved going down a series of San Franciscan slopes—nearly 45º angles, from my perspective—where stop signs and red lights were poised at the bottom. It was worse on the brakes than anything we'd experienced in the far northwest. My dad just started laughing, because what else could you do? (At least, for our trouble, we got the third pennant of the trip. Hopefully we'll never have to endure the Seattle traffic experience ever again, for it is truly brutal.)


-----The road to I-90 was mostly downhill, and we passed a great many military convoys en route to the more arid regions of the state for various exercises. Even I-90 was mostly downhill, though we went through what was ostensibly a mountain pass known as Snoqualmie Pass. It was in this area that, four years ago, we did the stupid thing and got out of our cars during some rock blasting, only to have to run half a mile back up to it when the cars started moving again. We reminisced about this idiocy as we cruised by the lakeside construction area (which is still being worked on, by the way).


-----Traffic was backed up to a near-standstill westbound, and though we were moving out on the eastbound direction, there were still a surprising number of people. After we traversed the Cascades, the greenery gave way to aridity and irrigated farmland, with increasingly rolling hills. Most of those on the road split off towards Yakima further south, which we found out in Ellensburg—but before reaching Ellensburg, we got off for gas and possible lunch in the town of Cle Elum. We got the gas and checked out an adjoining Subway, but some shady figures were hanging about and we decided to just get to Ellensburg, which was about a half-hour's drive away. But getting out of Cle Elum gives you only one option: westbound! It's not signed at all, and we had to turn ourselves around at the last exit back.


-----Ellensburg featured a two-story Subway, whose seating and bathrooms were on the upper floor. We got six-inch subs which weren't all that great due to Subway's notoriously crumbly bread, but it was cheap and light and sustained us until Spokane. The road from thence on was less traveled and, aside from sections of grooved, potholed, and otherwise pockmarked road, it was quite pleasant under the wheels. We ended up missing our exit by several miles—how, I know not—and we were less than amused that it would happen twice on the same day ... but the first one, in our defense, was an unavoidable mishap due to the road engineer having a little too much at the bar the night before. All things being equal, we got to our hotel a little after 7:00.


-----On the outskirts of Spokane lies an eating establishment known as the Rusty Moose. We were there on our first trip and were eager to recreate such unforgettable experiences as me fake-riding an iron moose sculpture outside, or my dad rubbing his beard on the "reserved parking" signs. They'd rearranged and redecorated slightly, but the food was just as good as we remembered. The waiting staff with whom we interacted were not there five years ago, but they enjoyed the fact that we came back five years down the road. We ordered the gorgonzola fries for an appetizer, as they were very good last time and we enjoyed recreating as much of that experience as we could.


-----The portion wasn't quite as big as the vat we'd gotten five years prior, but the few tweaks they made to the recipe made it even better. The blue cheese wasn't overwhelming, but there were glorious chunks of it which I scarfed right up. Our drinks were a perfect recreation of the huckleberry lemonade we'd had last time, and—according to our server—they happened to have the right ingredients to make them. Much of the huckleberry stuff they had on their menu five years prior had been pulled due to the fact that they couldn't maintain a constant supply of them, but there was some huckleberry purée that they mixed into the lemonade and it was utterly delightful. We each had two glasses of these and felt quite special that we were able to get them again at all.


-----As main courses, my dad got a big steak, while I got perfectly cooked Coulotte medallions—which, I was told, was a cut similar to a sirloin. The potatoes were fresh and garlicky while both dipping sauces were flavor-packed as well. It wasn't the biggest thing on the menu by far, but I only managed to eat about half of it and boxed the rest. My mom, on the other hand, got a huge salad with about five ounces of steak set atop. The salad was so immense that they cut up a whole tomato into slices—a bit like an orange—and put it around like a garnish, and it didn't look the least bit out of place in terms of scale. I know not how she managed to eat as much as she did, but she too had to box the rest of it up.


-----There was no room for dessert, and they no longer offer their enormous—to quote my mom "absolutely insane"—mud pie, so we settled for the sweetness of what remained of our second round of huckleberry lemonade. Once outside, I sat astride the metal moose to recreate the first picture, and my dad rubbed his beard on not one, but two "reserved parking" signs, as well as a sconce in the hotel's hallway to cap it all off.


-----Tomorrow: Bozeman, Montana. With Glacier National Park out of the picture—as the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road is not yet fully plowed—we've decided to cut it out of the trip.

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Seattle-are traffic extends from Olympia to Everett and is terrible. And you chose to get off in Tacoma, which has the worst roads and the worst traffic and the worst drivers. I do my best to avoid driving thru there when I go to Seattle.


So hope you enjoyed the traffic jam that in Washington State freeways. B-)



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Our desire for a complete collection of minor-league pennants is stronger than the force of nature that is the Seattle-area traffic. :P

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