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A most refreshing adventure, notwithstanding new physics

June 28, 2010

The past weekend marked my first night away from home — and away from the Covenant Cat — in 12 years. God’s provisions were kind and many. A young woman from our church whose life experience includes work with wild wolves and Army ROTC, managed the Covenant Cat’s daunting routine. I was relaxed; in fact, for the first time since I can remember, I was not anxious at all.

Eastern Washington is splendid. We lose cell coverage just out of Othello, a town of astonishing crumminess, not seeing the little bars on our phones again till Pomeroy, a town of astonishing charm and aplomb. We never missed the little bars.

The Palouse begins at Starbuck (not a coffee shop). The rolling green and wheaten hills of the Palouse touch a deep taproot of my heart, a touch that signals I am home: this is my land, these are my people; God gave me to love this.

A KOA campground restaurant near Lyons Ferry is my friend on the highway. Rather than commencing an instructive explanation of impaired glucose tolerance, I simply say I am diabetic, since the results of eating ordinary American food would produce the same results, and the dear girl who is on a working camp gig as a waitress assures me that the cook will make anything I can eat. Good to her word, Hillary of Bowie, Texas presents me with a grilled chicken breast with melted Swiss cheese and grilled mushrooms. It is the best road trip lunch I can remember.

We drive our winding way along minor highways through poor towns and impoverished towns. The difference is, poor towns have always been poor because of lassitude. Impoverished towns once prospered because of hard work, and now have fallen on hard times.

For long stretches of road, we see very few cars; often for several minutes at a time, not another car is in sight. Since we live in the Puget Sound corridor, the sparsity of cars is in and of itself a scenic rhapsody.

I stop to photograph a crumbling barn, and we walk around the private cemetery on the homestead. For the most part, the Harders lived long and apparently did well.

Journey’s end is Lewiston, Idaho, across a short bridge from Clarkston, Washington. Friends Michael and Sharilyn greet us warmly, we drive to Asotin, Washington with them to look around, return to their home for dinner, and talk far too late into the night. But we are all energized in the morning, especially tireless Michael whose preparation begins before dawn. It is our first time visiting our sister church where Michael is pastor, for us a too-long belayed aspiration.

Michael and Sharilyn have several people from their church family over for lunch along with us, and God has given me the energy to thoroughly enjoy meeting and getting to know them. I’m sad when it’s time to hit the road. I don’t know when we’ll get out here again.

We note that the eastern edge of the Puget Sound corridor now begins at Ellensburg, and that sadly, Ellensburg is no longer quaint, but an accomplished metroplex. But the server at the Subway there very kindly charges me just $1 for my version of the Salad Bowl — a couple of slices of turkey and cheese and some olives — assessing it simply as an extra topping for my husband’s sandwich.

The trip is generally considered to take 5 1/2 hours. We spent seven getting to Lewiston because of our stops. The journey home took eight hours because of a wreck on Snoqualmie Pass. Certainly the way people drive in technical civilization makes the wreck no mystery. We never saw the wreck, because the DOT had it cleared when we were still 10 miles behind the point where it happened. We saw the DOT incident response team truck returning from its mission half an hour before the stopped traffic was underway again. We sit parked in the 10-mile-long backup, moving forward a few yards every several minutes, for an hour. This is not comfortable with a postprandial bladder. I begin reciting the Westminster Shorter Catechism to belay the onset of a migraine.

Then, a son of Nevada, license number 119WFJ, has a New-Physics revelation. He suddenly posits that two motorized steel objects can coexist in exactly the same space at exactly the same moment in time. Eager to prove his hypothesis, he swerves directly toward my door in his mad attempt to change lanes. His attempt is mad because neither lane is making more progress than the other, as all traffic is nearly stopped. It is mad because he is in a Hyundai that probably weighs barely a ton, and we are in an Audi weighing well over two tons. But mostly, he is just mad. God’s good hand on my husband’s swift evasive maneuver preserves us all.

Of course I’m tired. But the uplifting fellowship with friends, and the loveliness of the Palouse country, remain with me, while the difficulties of actual travel begin to recede from memory. If my memory dims sufficiently, I will remember only that I can really do this.

  1. Laura permalink
    June 28, 2010 2:11 pm

    Oh Lauren, I was so looking forward to a record of the weekend’s adventures, and I have not been disappointed to hear that you were anything but. Except for the son of Nevada’s encroachment on your pleasure it does sound like it was a wonderful time. I’m sure the custom-order road trip lunch was a lovely touch and a perfect representation of the spirit of the small-town West. I hope you can at least visit again soon…

  2. June 28, 2010 2:19 pm

    It truly was a wonderful time, Laura. As one of our Lewiston brethren said, sometimes you have to go east to be in the West.

    It was great to be back in America again.

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