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Let me tell you about American radio. Driving all over the place, we keep fading in and out of range of different stations, so we keep flipping the dial to find new stations as the old ones fade out. The problem is we will find a station that sounds ok as long as there is a DJ talking, or even ads, but as soon as they play a song it turns out to be an "all country, all the time" station. Or worse, we'll find a song that sounds fairly normal and modern, with a rock beat or pop rhythms, until you listen to the lyrics and find they are something like "I'm so glad I let Jesus into my life" or "Praise the Lord, praise the Lord!"
And the amazing thing is that one or other of these two conditions holds for most of the stations we find. It's quite difficult to find a station actually playing mainstream music. (Unless country and Christian rock count as mainstream around here!) And once we do find a good station we hold on to it until grim death and overwhelming static drown it out.
The other weird thing about the stations is that many have odd names starting with "The". So far we have listened at various places to The Hawk, The Hippo, The Bone, The Bull, and The Hawk again - a different one here in Washington to The Hawk in California, I think. While driving we have been playing a game of making up new radio station names: The Spoon, The Foot, The Rock, The Banana.
Anyway, on to today. We woke at 07:30 and ate cereal for breakfast. After checking out of the motel at Goldendale we set out on the long drive on 97 north through the Yakima Indian Reservation, surmounting the 3,107 foot high Satus Pass over the Simcoe Mountains, which were more hills really, with some rocky outcrops, covered in a scrubby brush and yellow wildflowers, with nary a tree in sight.
Having passed through this stark but beautiful landscape, we reached Toppenish on the Yakima River and turned west towards Yakima itself. We arrived quickly on the freeway and pulled off into the town to get a stretch and look around the historic centre of Yakima. We stopped at the Visitor's Centre and picked up a map and directions, then set out across some confusing freeway access loops - where we nearly ended up on an entry ramp - a few blocks to the historic town centre. We parked on the street (2 hours free parking) and wandered around the blocks marked on the map we had. It was a pretty boring walk, past uninspiring government buildings, a shopping mall, and some dull businesses.
Churches in Yakima
We had just about got back to the car when we spotted an interesting and old-looking touristy area with several shops in a row of restored wooden buildings with an old west feel, near the railway tracks. This was Track 29, a section of old wooden train platform converted into a boardwalk along a series of parked boxcars that had been converted into shops with added wooden shopfronts. So we wandered over for a look and found half the places closed. A shame, because otherwise it looked quite nice. The problem was the day was now around noon and the sun was burning down out of a blue sky, so we got quite hot walking around.
Train tracks behind Track 29 shops
We headed back to the car and drove over to a sub place we has seen near the Visitor's Centre, almost getting lost on the freeway access loops again. We ordered sandwiches - a chicken fajita sub for me and a plain swiss cheese and veg for Michelle. Michelle's arrived with some sort of ham or other meat on it, and we had to ask for it to be remade, but apart from that it was good.
Larson Building, Art Deco architecture in Yakima
Next we drove north again on 97, following the Yakima River almost as far as Ellensburg, where we turned right to head east over a ridge on I-90. Crossing back into the Columbia River Valley (which had done a longer loop further east of us). On topping the ridge we stopped at a viewpoint for a breathtaking view of the Columbia River Valley below.
Heading down to the river, our next stop was the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, where we first checked the Visitor's Centre about 2 miles east of the interpretive trail amongst the petrified forest itself. The Visitor's Centre was quite cool, with chunks of petrified logs all over the place around it. Unfortunately, it only opened on weekends, so we couldn't go in to see the displays. Behind the building, cemented into an artificial wall, were old Indian petroglyphs, along a path overlooking the river far below. These were quite interesting - they were all original, but had been moved from their locations to here and placed together so they could be protected. We turned back to the road, first stopping in a trashy souvenir place selling polished bits of petrified wood for outrageous prices as well as fossils from all over the world. Some of it was quite nice, but horrendously expensive. Then we headed out to what we expected to be a fantastic walking trail through petrified forest.
Indian petroglyphs, Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park
When we got there, it was a nondescript stop by the side of a scrubby hillside, with not a tree in sight. The walk turned out to be a trail going past a few dozen lumps of petrified wood, preserved in situ in the ground, partly buried, and covered with heavy mesh cages to prevent vandalism. Although in situ, these were very disappointing and rather boring compared to the spectacular chunks of petrified wood placed around the Visitor's Centre. Not wanting to spend too long walking on an exposed hillside in the baking sun, we cut short our walk after seeing 7 or 8 of the in situ pieces and headed back to the car.
Petrified wood, Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park
We crossed the Columbia River on I-90 and turned north, then took the exit on to state route 281 to Quincy, which was obviously a farming town from the cattle smell that entered the car's air conditioning system, forcing us to close the vents. We took a left on to 28, heading west once more towards Wenatchee.
At Wenatchee, we checked in to the Welcome Inn, quite early at about 16:30. We went for a walk downtown and got directions to laundromats and a supermarket from the Tourist Information Office. Then we walked out to the Safeway supermarket and bought some more breakfast supplies, as well as some bagels, cheese (Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar), and pastrami to make our dinner rather than eating out again.
Street mural, Wenatchee
One bagel down, we went over to East Wenatchee (across the river), which was where the tourist info lady said was the nicest laundromat in town. And indeed it was nice, with a snack bar, magazines, video games, and even a table I could sit at to write today's diary while we waited for the machines to wash and dry our clothes. After this, we'll head back to the motel and eat a little more and have a relaxing and early night in.
We'd planned to get to Seattle on Sunday, but we are far enough ahead of schedule on the drive that I think we will try to arrive on Saturday, giving us an extra day to explore the city.
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