Not a great pic, but you get the idea.

This morning it was very chilly when we woke up, but it remained cozy in Penelope just running the space heater.  After getting ourselves together, we popped by the post office, then headed over to Panera to use the wifi.  The next stop was Kohl’s to grab a couple of shirts for MW and a birthday present for Angel Booger, who is turning 7 this month.  (I love Kohl’s.  They make shopping so easy.  I used their in-store computer to order exactly what I wanted, and they shipped it directly to my sweet AB for free!)  On the way to our next stop, we saw a McDonald’s that had the old golden arches on the building.  I believe that was a 1950s design, and don’t think I’ve ever seen one in person before.

Last week on the highway a truck threw a rock up and put a chip in Brutus’ windshield.  Since the weather is turning really cold, we thought we better get it taken care of before it cracks and requires windshield replacement.  Safelite only took about 30 minutes to get us on the road again and had free wifi to boot!

Yakima River Canyon

With all of the chores done, it was time to head out and explore a little.  We took the drive through the Yakima River Canyon to Ellensburg.  Just WOW!  That drive is spectacular!  The river runs along the road, well below it most of the way.  The hillsides vary between rocky and grassy.  Along the way we saw a bald eagle and a couple of herds of elk.  At a few places there were people trout fishing, but the drive was not crowded at all.  It was truly beautiful.

Now that’s pretty food!

Once in Ellensburg, we found The Boss Brazilian Barbecue.  The reviews were good, and we’re always up for Brazilian.  You know you’ve fallen into good food when you walk in to a Brazilian restaurant and the owner, who is also working behind the counter, is BRAZILIAN!  We had the chicken (MW) and beef (me) meals, which came with rice, black beans, and salad.  Both were awesome, but the winner by a hair was the beef.  It would be dangerous if this place was in Greensboro!

Elk Grazing on the Hillside

The drive over had been so nice that, contrary to most of our outings, we decided to go back on the same road that we came on.  It was just as amazing the second time.  I think the luckiest people in this area are the ones that have to drive this route as part of their jobs.  How serene would that be in the middle of your work day??

Back in Yakima, we went to Cabela’s on the great plaid shirt hunt, then back to Penelope to relax.

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Today was going to be a long drive, so we hit the road early this morning.  We realized last night that, since the temperatures are dropping into the low 20s and teens on some of our planned route to Kansas, we would need to revamp and hustle to get south of the big mountains.  Thankfully, we have a gorgeous day to do it.  It is sunny and clear, although still a bit cool and windy.

While I was getting my act together, MW walked down to the dumpster to drop off the trash.  Later he told me that when he opened it, a raccoon inside scared the crap out of him.  He scared the crap out of the raccoon, too!  He gave him our trash to rummage through and left him to his business.

Mount Adams and Mount Rainier

We headed south out of Yakima and had many good views of Mount Rainier with the snow glistening in the sun.  The land was ever changing: very flat with huge mountains in the distance, rolling hills of grass, plateaus with great crevasses between them, high mountain desert with mesquite and scrub grass, then into the fir trees and mountains around Goldendale, and back into the flat valley.  We also saw a lot of evidence of recent wildfires with thousands of acres burned.  (That is good for the grasslands, though, and sometimes they are purposely fired.)  There were also an abundance of giant wind generators in certain areas.  We stopped at an overlook in the Klickitat Valley where you could look out across 35,000 acres of alfalfa and 25,000 acres of wheat, plus sheep and cattle in the distance.  (I didn’t make that up…there was a sign that told us what we were looking at.)  The coolest thing about that valley on a clear day like this one, though, is that you can see Mount Rainier 85 miles away (14,410′), Mount Adams 45 miles away (12,307′), Mount St. Helens 70 miles away (8,365′), and Mount Hood 50 miles away (11,245′) at the same time, all covered in snow.

Stonehenge Replica

We stopped in  Maryhill, WA, to take a look at the Stonehenge replica.  It was built as a memorial to WWI soldiers from the area soon after the end of the war.  It was pretty neat, and the guy that built it certainly had a passion for the task.  It took him 11 years to complete, and fourteen local soldiers are honored there.  The link between Stonehenge and this site was a misconception.  The builder, Samuel Hill, thought that the original Stonehenge was a site of human sacrifice (a widely held theory at the time), and felt that WWI was a huge human sacrifice, so the symbology worked.  Whatever the reason, the result is impressive.  It is a full-scale replica that sits on a high bluff overlooking the Columbia River.

John Day Dam on the Columbia River

Back in Brutus, we headed east on I-84 to pick up a scenic drive in Oregon.  Along the interstate, where the hills are quite steep, we saw a herd of bighorn sheep grazing and passed the John Day Dam over the Columbia River.  We exited the interstate and headed south to Ione, OR, where we stopped at a nice little park to have lunch.  The scenic drive is full of farms with cattle, sheep, and horses.  In Heppner we stopped for gas.  While MW was pumping and I was taking a minute to stand up, a precocious little boy named Alex came over, climbed up on the back of Brutus, and started asking me questions.  He was adorable, dressed in pajamas and cowboy boots!

Fire Damage

Near Ukiah in the Umatilla National Forest we saw more fire evidence and someone had come through and cleared a lot of the underbrush for about 50 feet into the woods beside the road.  We thought it might have been to help keep fire from spreading, but they left what they cleared in great piles that looked like they were waiting to be burned except some were covered in plastic.  In the end, we couldn’t figure out what they were doing.  Another interesting thing about this area is that you see signs for free range cattle and a lot of cattle gates in the road.  (In case you’ve never seen a cattle gate, it is where a fence ending on either side of the road so that there is a gap for the road.  To keep the cattle from walking through the gap, they put metal bars into the road, spaced apart so that cows can’t walk on them.  It keeps them on their side of the fence without a gate.)

Going on through Granite to Baker City the road scared us a couple of times by turning to gravel, but it ended up being fine.  As has been true when we have been through lots of farmland, we saw many birds of prey today.  We also saw a very large flock of turkeys.  Somewhere along the scenic drive we encountered huge swarms of what looked a bit like lightning bugs and there were also an inordinate amount of spider webs across the road glistening in the sun.  Are they looking for large prey?  A Silverado 2500 HD for instance?  There will need to be some elbow grease applied to Brutus’ front end to get the stuff off!

At Baker City we stopped for groceries, birthday cards, and junk food. Then we hit I-84 south, which was also full of terrific scenery.  The hills were very steep, and somewhere along the way we saw three cows who had climbed halfway up this steep side to graze.  What makes them work that hard for the same grass they could have had at the bottom of the hill?  It can’t be that easy to haul 1,500 pounds up a steep incline.  It is the same thing when they are fenced in and are straining their necks through the fence to get the grass on the other side.  Did one of them say to the other “You know, that grass over there is so good that they put this fence here to keep us away from it!”?

We finally reached our destination for the night, Farewell Bend State Park (so named because it is where the Oregon Trail leaves the river).  The park had a beautiful entrance and the first section was wooded and lovely. The winter sites are more barren, but have hookups.  The interstate is nearby, so it is not quiet, and there were a lot of gnats when we first arrived, but they seemed to go away when the sun went down.  Taking a walk before turning in, I saw the best thing about this park…the stars are beautiful.  Light pollution is at a minimum, so the Milky Way is very clear and the heavens are just gorgeous.  I need to get an app to change the aperture on my camera so that I can take pics of that!

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