October 9th, 2019

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I just got back from my first trip after retiring. I drove to Montana to visit Meghan and get my new dog, who I have named Rider. It is getting to be that time of year where the weather can be a problem driving that far. Being retired it normally wouldn’t be a problem. However it IS for the time being since I still have physical therapy and orthopedic appointments that I cannot miss.

The drive was a good opportunity to think about some things (as it always is). With the changes in my life the last few months it has given me a lot of time to think about finally deciding to retire. More time to spend with family was my main reason to finally go for it. I will have more opportunities for travel as well.

There are, however, a few details I need to figure out. The biggest of those is considering where to live. I like Washington but I do miss things about Colorado. I have really good friends in both places. Along with that are, of course, the financial aspects; WA has no state income tax and does not tax Social Security or retirement. That is pretty huge when you no longer work and want to stretch your dollars. On the other hand, though, one big thing is the cost of living in WA. Gas is currently a little over $3.00 a gallon and is even higher in the summer. Rent is ridiculous, and that is only WHEN you can find a place to rent in an area you want to live and can find a job you want. With my medical stuff happening I really cannot make any major changes at the moment so I have time to figure things out.

Speaking of driving, I forgot just how tiring driving that far can be, especially after not driving at all for three months. I left mid-afternoon last Wednesday, drove halfway and stayed the night in a hotel. I had to plan around some appointments but wanted to get a jump on it, knowing that breaking it into two days was going to be easier. Plus I wanted to take advantage of the weather being decent for driving.

I believe I have mentioned before how I just don’t like to do the marathon driving like I used to when I was younger. I have gotten away from that more in the last few years and it does make a trip more relaxing and enjoyable. Used to be when I had taken time off of work the goal was to maximize that time off and get someplace fast to spend more time there. Time will no longer be an issue (it really hasn’t the last few years anyhoo). Animals on the highways are always an issue after dark.

The first part of my drive through the Seattle metro area is a lot of traffic to deal with until you get to Snoqualmie Pass and I-90, but at least it goes through the National Forest and there are mountains. The drive from Ellensburg, WA to Spokane is very underwhelming. Miles and miles of miles and miles. There are few towns along the way so you have to plan a little for things like food, bathroom and fuel stops. The drive the rest of the way is better as you start to get back into the mountains and forests.

Speaking of forests, the difference between the forests of Washington and the Rockies is fairly big. Different flora and fauna due to the different climate is quite obvious, with coastal forests being more humid. This humidity makes the forest extremely dense with understory so thick you cannot walk under the trees (except on a trail) as opposed to forests in the Rockies where you see trees with grass under them.

It was good to not only get back on the road but see those forests of the Rockies again. I do miss seeing the forests where you do not feel so confined by the understory. It was also good to be back in a drier climate. I find hiking in the Rockies is more enjoyable since you aren’t limited by a trail through the brush. I have hiked trails in WA where you cannot see ANY views at all. For me it takes away a little from the enjoyment of being outdoors – it’s just not the forests and mountains I grew to fall in love with in Colorado. Different strokes.

On a twelve hour drive there will usually be something of interest worth stopping to see – museums, historical markers, even quirky restaurants and things like the world’s biggest electric electric shovel (seen it). If I see something even remotely interesting I stop and look.

Along with the usual rest stops I made a few other stops to see some interesting things along the way there and back. One place, which I have stopped at several times before, was a rest area on the west end of Wallace, ID.

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Rest Stop and Mining Exhibit – Wallace, ID

The town of Wallace has extensive mining history and is worth stopping in. At this particular rest area (right off if I-90) they have put together an exhibit about it with a lot of mining equipment. I took some extra time to check out the exhibit. It is very well done and is worth your time. Stop and read the interpretive signs; you just might learn something interesting and fascinating. Be sure to make a donation to help the cause!

I got to their house in the afternoon and we had a good time but it was busy! We went out one day to see their new house and drop off a load of hay. It is a really nice place they had built on a nice lot they picked out. Gorgeous views really don’t suck! the weather was very nice most of the time, but I had to get out of there early due to a big storm moving in. It was a good thing I did as it got pretty nasty.

I left Tuesday mid-morning and it was very windy until I stopped in Ellensburg at a hotel. It was odd going to a hotel with a dog. He did great during the 8-hour drive we made – slept the entire way, but was prancing around like he was Fabio on a  romance novel cover.

Looking west at Snoqualmie Pass from a rest area was a big “uh-oh”. It looked nasty on the Pass so I looked it up and it was rain/snow mix and slushy with 32 degrees. I have been stopped in that Pass before when the weather was bad and it WAS bad. I didn’t want too take a chance.

I got onto Expedia (which I am getting away from using) and checked into the Red Lion Hotel. It was decent but undergoing renovations. Friendly staff, decent rooms at reasonable prices, decent breakfast buffet, and some restaurant choices nearby. I decided to go to Taco del Mar next door and ordered a taco salad. She asked me what I wanted on it and I said “surprise me”. She looked and me and was a little surprised and smiled when IU told her to go for it and do whatever. I ended up with a 10-layer taco salad.

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Amazing taco salad – Taco del Mar, Ellensburg, WA

It was delicious and I ate the whole thing. Walking out I told her how good it was and she should name it.

I have actually done that before at a different Taco del Mar near me and it is really fun to see the reaction of the employees when you tell them they can create something, anything they want, for you. I said to her “make it like you would at home” and it was really good too. Try that out for yourself sometime!

After finishing off dinner I got the dog out of the truck and went to the room. After sleeping all day I guess the excitement was just too much for Rider.

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We got back in the truck this morning and finished driving home. Driving over Snoqualmie Pass just west of Ellensburg I saw snow, wet roads, and about 33 degrees. Not too bad and I am glad I decided to call it a day yesterday where we did. It was pretty relaxing to take another night – we just needed to avoid the weather.

I stopped and got a few pictures along the way:

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Near Snoqualmie Pass – Washington
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Near Snoqualmie Pass, Washington, looking at the ski area across I-90
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Near Snoqualmie Pass, Washington

It was fantastic to get away and I needed it badly. It is always good to see and hang out with family. It’s good to travel. And I finally got my dog.

It’s been a really good week.

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