Drives To Take Breaths Away
I can't believe I'm Yelping a road (actually this is my second "Yelped road"...see: yelp.com/biz/pinto-ridge…)!
"Anyways", I say in my Nacho Libre voice.
There are many scenic drives out there (Pacific Coast Highway, the Columbia River Gorge, etc.), but this one is on the top of my list. You have everything with this drive. You start out by driving through the nice little Victorian town of Ferndale to get to it, and then you pass the big "Cape Town --- Petrolia sign", and then you are on your way. You're on Mattole Road and on your way to the Lost Coast (yelp.com/biz/king-range-…).
Within seconds you are whisked up a ridge overlooking Ferndale proper and its huge cemetary, and within a few minutes--that's it, no more civilization. From here on in, you are left to a narrowly paved road with generally no centerline stripe. You are left to your wits to manuever the many hairpins, bunny jumps, and vista points. Pot holes and missing parts of the road are common place. I love this drive.
One passes a farm house or cow pasture here and there, and then for a while you are on top of the King's range zipping through grassy hilltops (I always think of Ireland or Scotland during this stretch), and then you drive down a mountain with a several-switch-backed stretch of asphalt---there must have been a road bike race here, because on the road are painted inspirational words like: "you can do it, dad!", "You're almost on top, don't puke!" This part of the road reminds me of a scene from the Alps in the Tour de France.
Then you make it down to the valley of Bear River, for a mile of low-riding, and then it is back up (it has to be close 40 degrees of vertical climbing).
Once again you are up on top of the King's Range. This is where you get the epic view. The view of the Pacific. The panoramic view of the Lost Coast. The memory-maker of vista points along the Lost Coast's Wildcat Ridge. Here is Cape Mendocino. This stretch of road is the climax. Here the wind will blow in your hair. You will see your first long stretch of the Lost Coast.
As quickly as it appeared, you quickly jet down Wildcat Ridge, and then drive as close as close gets to the water. For six glorious miles, you drive among the breakers, sea rocks, sand, and ocean spray. This road is bumpy, but it has character. This road is narrow, but it has width. I'm glad this Coast is Lost. It should stay that way, until I find it next.
Common synonyms for the state of WA: rain, Microsoft, grunge, water (yeah, lots of H2O comes to mind), Boeing, and vampires.
There's one word which doesn't get it's fair share though (we always get the shaft here in Eastern WA!). The word:
Vast rolling hills of greens & yellows magically occupy a large section of southeastern WA and neighboring Idaho. A lot of it's farm country, and the patchwork of fields along with the hills make for picturesque & inspiring scenery.
If you're in this part of the country, I recommend you jump on the Palouse Scenic Byway, and zip between hills on the curvy and fun-to-drive roads. Most of the roads are single lane, and the traffic isn't too bad. Be sure to bring your camera, because you are sure to come across landscapes which will force you to stop and capture them.
These stretches of roads are not to be missed and should be a part of anyone's tour of Washington state.
Vampires, shmampires. This is where it's at!
Ok, I'm not really "Alexander Supertramp" (the alias of Chris McCandless during his ill-fated Alaska Adventure), but I found myself listening to the soundtrack to his cinematic story (Into The Wild) when driving the Seward Highway Scenic Byway.
You see, I was in Anchorage for a conference and had penciled in a few extra "me" days before work, so I found myself racking my brain for cold crisp adventures around Anchorage. If I had the time and it was a month or two earlier, I would have loved to hit Denali and see the Aurora Borealis, but timing prevent that. I could have explored Anchorage and nearby areas. But as I sat in my hotel room the first night in Anchorage, I looked at a map and chose a trip to Seward.
The main pull: Seward Highway Scenic Byway, and its 127-miles.
The drive certainly is filled with majesty. You quickly leave the "hustle & bustle" of Anchorage and then venture along the water of the Cook Inlet's Turnagain Arm. Here you see icy cold water and are surrounded by high mountain bluffs. Once you leave the water you begin to cruise through massive glacier-cut valleys of the Kenai Pennisula.
Forget Texas, everything is bigger in Alaska!
The drive through these valleys and mountains was my favorite part of the drive. Even though it was cold and the mountains were lightly covered with snow and ice, they all were a blanketed beauty. You really have to be careful here to not get whiplash due to looking at all the views during this drive (oh, and don't take pictures with your phone while you're driving. Save that for the dummies *ahem, ahem*).
The drive is 127miles, but for me, the drive went slower (you will find yourself looking around quite a bit). Making many stops is mandatory. The drive is also curvy, and the speed limits are certainly not 70 miles/hr! Oh, be sure to fuel up before taking this drive. There is plenty of empty miles along the way.
After about 3-4hrs of driving, Seward sneaks up on ya. I approached Seward around supper time, and was going to go straight into town and look for provisions and lodging, but there was a turn out for Exit Glacier just outside of town.
I had to go.
It's a short 7-10miles off the Highway. When you get your first glimpses of the glacier, it certainly is impressive, BUT....the road was closed off 2miles from the Glacier. Oh well, I snapped a few far-away shots, and made my way to the end of the Seward Highway Scenic Byway.
Seward is a bit anti-climatic. It's a really small sea town. There are a few hotels, restaurants, and bars. I think it must get bustling here during the summer tourist season (boats launch from here to check out the Kenai glaciers.
For months of the year, this stretch of road is entombed in ice, but when it emerges from its hybernation, one must do whatever they can to roll on its asphalt.
This highway consists of one of the closest mountain passes to Rainier National Park (in fact, the eastern border of the park is up at the pass). The pass in question, Chinook Pass, offers a parking area, rest areas, and access to the Pacific Crest Trail.
But the drive, yes, the drive is damn fine. One gets to zoom past some beautiful Cascadian alpine country.
The scenery is a composition. At the lower altitudes you have a quiet whisper. Then you begin to climb. You pass by wild beauty.
The music builds.
You pass the crystal clear cold water of the American River and green meadows. The music builds.
For the finale, you point to the sky, the painfully blue heavens. The crescendo peaks at Chinook Pass.
Such a great drive. If you have the time and inclination, take this less-traveled road at your very next opportunity.
Have you ever driven on roads which just made driving fun and/or beautiful? I've Yelped a few which are like that (yelp.com/biz/mattole-roa… and yelp.com/biz/pinto-ridge…).
This is a shortcut between Waitsburg and Walla Walla. It zips through the green rolling palouse of southeastern Washington. I managed to drive this road at sunset and it was memory-inducing.
I don't have much to say, I'd say look at my photos (and yes, I took them while driving!), and go drive it yourself!
The Stratford & Pinto Ridge roads are some of the most desolate pieces of asphalt in this wonderful state, country, world. I guess this is why I like driving them. When driving north of Moses Lake to Omak (where they have the Suicide Race), Grand Coulee (where the Grand Coulee Dam is), or the Colville Confederated Tribe's Rez, this is the road to take.
It is a straight shot north from Moses Lake. And within 5 miles you are in the midst of wheat fields, abandoned 18th century structures, cow pies, and playing antelope (well, deer actually).
I believe the speed limit is 50mph on these roads, but really, I've never seen a roller on these roads in the 10 years I've been driving them. So, if you feel like testing the limits of your rig, this is a good stretch of road.
Heck, on my last drive, I stopped in the middle of the road, tossed out my cardboard, and busted some break dance moves right there in the middle of the road---I even posed at the end. :)
This road is off the beaten path of US-12. But I frequent it when I want to go fly fishing on the Tucannon. Taking this road is a short cut, and actually quite a pretty drive. This road mostly strings itself within the Patit Creek valley. This is notable in that Lewis & Clark walked in this valley during their expedition, and there is also an interesting replica of their campsite along this drive, if you want to stop by and check it out.
With many curves within the hilly Palouse, and flashes of green grass, blue sky, and yellow wheat, I just find this to be a beautiful drive during the spring and summer.
When driving to my bro's place in South Everett, we pass near the Mukilteo Ferry. Now there's a little short cut off the Mukilteo Speedway and Goat Trail Road that takes you to Washington Ave. By taking this detour, we avoid the traffic light in Mukilteo, but what's nice about this route is the view. You climb to the top of the mansioned-filled bluff and get some amazing views of the Puget Sound, ferry terminal, and Mukilteo.
It's a short detour, but when taking visitors here, I like to take this route to show them a truly beautiful view.
My Flux Capacitor was easily engaged as I reached time travel-inducing and Back To The Future-esque velocities on this laser-straight stretch of asphault in North Central Washington.
[note: Actual speed not specified for for legal (& literary ) reasons.]
Sadly, I don't visit my brothers-from-other-mothers and friends who live on the Colville Rez nearly as much as I should. They live in some truly beautiful country. Part of the romance of visits up north is actually the drive, and on a recent visit, I discovered a new stretch of road.
Similar to Pinto Ridge Road (yelp.com/biz/pinto-ridge…), the attraction with these roads for me is their seclusion and the surrounding beauty. You can have the roads to yourself for tens of miles at a time. The Cascades can easily be seen westwardly.
But I have to say, driving them is super sexy. On this road, I took advantage of the clear & straight road. I trepadatiously exercised my speedometer. And yes, this is where my DeLorean (aka my silver MINI) vanished in sparks of blue & white.
I traveled back in time to a month ago, and I saved my uninformed self from watching Sex & The City 2.
In southern California, they say you can surf the pipe in the morning and ski the bunny slope in the afternoon. Rim of the World Highway is one of two primary thoroughfares which offers passage to the fabled snowy peaks of southern California and allows you to do just this.
I have family in Running Springs, so we generally take the 330, but there are times when we take this route. This road is a bit of an engineering feat. With a 20min drive you are zoomed up from San Bernardino's 1500 elevation all the way up to the top of the San Bernardino Mountains at around 6000ft.
It's amazing how this road was built on such steep mountainsides. It truly is an engineering marvel.
The views, when the smog cooperates, can be magnificent (I've heard you could see the Pacific and Catalina Island). The city lights at night are also a spectacular astronomical site to see from these peaceful elevations.
At around the 4000' elevation (intersection of SR18 & 138), the 4-lane highway switches to a single-lane snake-like road. So, if you are stuck behind a slow truck too selfish to use a turnout, you can be in for a slog.
This can be a fun drive. But you have to have the right mindset. The speed limit is a harrowing 55mph. Yeah, I'm not an ole fogey, so here me out. In Southern Calif, 55mph basically means about 70mph. So, you can find some people driving fast up here. Plain & simple Southern Calif. drivers suck! And sadly this suckiness leads to some horrific accidents on these roads.
So, be careful out there, folks!
I'm now enamored with this route between Tri-Cities and Yakima (thanks to a friend for enlightening me on this less treaded path). Before driving this hidden gym, I took the cold and gloomy drive along the I-82 (that's an ok drive if you're looking to find the most road kill per mile....no thanks, for me).
This stretch of SR24 starts on the edge of the Hanford Nuclear Site, and travels west through some neat sage steppe hills, then some large empty expanse, an abandoned farm or two, then you have some hops fields, and then you reach civilization (known as Moxee and eventually Yakima).
It's only a 2-lane road, but there is not much traffic here, and the speed limit is mostly 65mph for most of the way. Eventhough it's in the middle of nowhere and out of cell phone range for part of its way, that's some of the beauty of this drive. But there really are some nice views here. If you have a clear day, you can see sibling volcanoes Adams and Rainier.
And if you look at it on a map, this route is even posted as being both quicker AND shorter than I-82 (atleast if you're leaving from Richland). So yeah, I no longer go the 82 route thank you very much.
Ok, I'm off for a drive on the 24 (it's Yakima Salsa Friday, of course!).
I'd driven by this road for years and always wondered where it lead. By its namesake, I hope it didn't lead to a fit of sniffy weeping.
I generally turn on to this road off of SR240. Here, Snively is a gravely road which runs you even more up close and personal to the Yakima River. The gravel road parallels the river on one side and fields of crops on the other side. After awhile pavement returns. Then the road takes turns through pastures and a few homes. This road, at points reminds me of other places---green lush fields of Ireland (yeah, maybe I'm stretching), or the marsh bottoms of Arcata, CA from my college days.
Either way, this road is a pleasant diversion from the normal humdrum that is the work commute.
"What The What?!"
Winter Storm Advisory in October??? Man, what a way to give me more gray hairs! I ended up making it over The Pass with no issues, but I was shakin' in my boots for a bit. Looks like the skiers have something to be optimistic about for the coming season.
Ummm...hopefully the Gods of the Pass will be gentle with me for my trip home in a few days.
My family generally take this roadway purely out of convenience (It's the most direct way to get to Running Springs from the "lowlands").
For all intents and purposes this road is a single lane jaunt up the hill. The speed limit is 55mph (!!) up this serpentine ride. This makes for a hairy and interesting adventure. Since many non-locals take this road (i.e. people lookin to get their skiing fix), you get all kinds of drivers.
There are the "drive up your butt with a coconut" drivers. They zoom right up your backside, and ride you until you yield. They might even flash their headlights at you [BASTARDOS!]. For these people I drive even slower, and almost contemplate NOT taking a turnout to let them pass.
Then you have those folks who driiiivvvveeee ssssuuuppppeeeerrrrr sssslllloooowwwww. These people are obviously wary of the steepness, the hairpin turns, the 1000 foot drop offs, and the other crazy drivers. (Basically, this is me until I get a few drives under my belt!).
Then there are the drivers who put on chains---when there's only rain or fog. C'mon people!!!
So yeah, my only qualm are the OTHER drivers. The actual road is not that bad. Like I said, you can make it to the top of the "hill" (i.e. 4000+ feet) in about 15 minutes. There are also very cool views of the lands below (when the smog cooperates).
By the end of a recent stay in southern Calif. I became a master of these hilly roads. I didn't have my MINI or a Porsche to maneuver the twists & turns--they'd be ideal and fun. I was borrowing my mom's Jeep. So yeah, I pictured myself like Han Solo in his Millennium Falcon, as I slowly worked my way up to zooming up and down this road.
NOTE!!! Here's some recent road info which covers this road for the next few months. This is from the California DOT:
[IN THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AREA]
IS CLOSED FROM HIGHLAND AVE /IN SAN BERNARDINO/ TO 2 MI WEST OF RUNNING
SPRINGS (SAN BERNARDINO CO) 24 HRS A DAY 7 DAYS A WEEK THRU 0001 HRS ON 6/18/10
- DUE TO CONSTRUCTION - A DETOUR IS AVAILABLE
Listes mises à jour récemment par Corey G.
It all started with my first experience at Kennedy School in Portland (my favorite).
(Ok, now Jimgermanbar isn't in the Tri-Cities, but I had to put that at #1---it's an hour away, but IT IS THE BEST BAR! Also throwing in Whoopemup Hollow Cafe--also a good dining experience worth the drive).