“[Ruins] are relics of another time, of other lives, but they are of my time, too.  They are statues, memorializing the transitory nature of life.”
— Brian Vander Brink, Ruin:  Photographs of a Vanishing America

Derelict house along Highway 97 between Yakima and Goldendale, WA

Ruined house with Mount Adams

“Maybe these buildings fascinate me because they represent all of us — metaphors for our transient lives and the inability to stop the passing of time.”
— Brian Vander Brink, Ruin:  Photographs of a Vanishing America

When I see an old, abandoned house like this, I wonder about the lives of those whose home it once was.  Here it was situated under the wide, open skies of eastern Washington — an arid place, hot, but with snow-capped Mount Adams anchoring the horizon like one of those giant Buddha statues.  What would it have been like to grow up in this house?

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
— Ecclesiastes 9:1

“I guess I have a bad case of the American nostalgia for the clean, simple country life as opposed to the complicated world of the city.”
— Norman Rockwell, from Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People by Maureen Hennessey and Anne Knutson

“It is in the heart of the city that one writes the most inspired pages about the country.”
— Jules Renard, from The Journal of Jules Renard, edited and translated by Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget

Eastern Washington with view of Mount Hood

I admit feeling nostalgia for the country life, but I am now a city person, unwilling to give up ready access to libraries, neighborhood eateries and coffee shops, museums, culture.  I do appreciate the space and slower pace of the country, though.  This expansiveness and solitude seems especially apparent in eastern Washington, where the countryside is wide, open range rather small homestead farms.

Fences and sagebrush along Hwy 97 between Yakima and Goldendale, WA

Horses in the arid landscape

View from a rest stop along Hwy 97 in eastern Washington

I was reminded of the dearth of things to do in rural areas when I happened upon an odd sight at this rest stop along Highway 97 near Goldendale.  I wondered why this couple had plopped a couple of lawn chairs out in the sagebrush overlooking a dry, arid landscape — were they working on their tans?  Contemplating an attack on windmills like Don Quixote?

A seemingly odd place for an afternoon’s repose

But when there’s not much to do, you make your own fun.  Here in the mini-gorge below the rest stop is an historic road called “The Maryhill Loops Road.”  With its 25 curves in less than 4 miles, it is the destination for speeding cars and racing skateboards!  On this day, car racers were running trials for a Hill Climb event.  There was plenty of free seating!

Racing cars on the Maryhill Loops Road

Maryhill Loops Road

A feeling of infinity on the horizon line, with windmills

You just never know what you’ll see when you take a drive in the country!

Summer Road Trips

June 9, 2010

Highway 2 across eastern Washington

“Here in the disappe5aring prairie
I finally understand
how some infinities can be larger,
others smaller; how certain endless
quantities move closer to no end
faster than others.
Aleph Null — countable though infinite:
grass, sun, treelessness.
Aleph One — uncountable and infinite:
dust, wind, fire.  The distance
between here and God.”
     — from “A Pilgrim’s Guide to Chaos in the Heartland: 1. Road Trip Poem” by Jessica Goodfellow

Car trips seem like a quintessential American experience.  We never vacationed when I was growing up — all nine kids wouldn’t have fit in one car, and we couldn’t take a break from the responsibilities of caring for farm animals and crops.  So long driving trips feel like a treat to me.

The long drive across the state from Seattle to Spokane seemed greener this time than on any previous trip.  We took in a full day of sightseeing along the way.  We stopped first to hike up to the horse sculpture near Vantage, and then we left I-90 for Dry Falls to see the basin of what was once the largest waterfalls in the world.  We ate a picnic lunch there and then drove north along Banks Lake to the Grand Coulee Dam.

This part of Washington, east of the Cascade Mountains, is generally arid.  It’s agricultural land (Grant County is the country’s largest potato-producing county according to one sign along the highway), but it depends on irrigation. You get a sense of wide-open range, big skies, sagebrush and prairies when you drive here. 

Clouds provided a dramatic backdrop to our drive.

Luckily, we missed the rain during our sightseeing stops.

Tidy farm in eastern Washington

Red barn in green field

We saw lots of lupine growing wild amidst the sage.

Old-fashioned windmill

The drive home along I-90