Our other prep-work was similarly haphazard. Most of our camping gear had been stored in the bus, so packing the rest seemed easy. In truth, it was, except for forgetting the french press. In the end, that didn't matter anyway since we also forgot coffee. Boo pre-cooked a bunch of chicken, getting up in the middle of the night Wednesday to complete it.
Almost Not a Departure
this US Forestry Service Beta site where smoke forecast models can be run. Once you get past the scary fires part, it's really very cool.
This story starts like so many of our get-outta-Dodge stories: with simply getting home from work. Boo had to work a little late, so she hit typical rush hour traffic, delaying our departure a little bit. The gas and grocery stop wasn't too time consuming, though we doubled back home for a few things.
In fact, between the traffic delay, gas, groceries, final packing and the double-back, the sun had set before we got on the road around 8:30PM. We drove through downtown Beaverton and got onto OR217 North and saw our temps start to climb. Again. Since we hadn't hit normal temps, we pressed on, but I kept my eye on the gauge.
One Exit at a Time
From the Sylvan on-ramp, the highway goes downhill, and the temps didn't move. So, we kept going. The made it through the tunnel and onto I-405 North without issue, though the temp started to climb again as we turned onto the Fremont Bridge. We stayed right, thinking we could just take the Kirby Street exit and camp in front of my brother's house. But the temp started dropping again, so just before the exit started to fork off of the highway, I drifted left, back into the slow lane. We continued north onto I-5. As we approached the Interstate Bridge into Washington, the possibility of making it to Chinook Fest started entering our thoughts. We talked about what the best route would be: over the reportedly very steep White Pass on US-12 or through the potentially toxic smoke in the Columbia Gorge? Hapy answered by raising his temp, so we turned onto Washington State Route (SR) 14.
Smoke on the Water
Once on SR-14, Hapy and I settled into a rhythm. I wouldn't push him too fast, and he wouldn't raise his temperature too high. We followed the Columbia River past the I-205 interchange where the highway narrows to 2 lanes (one each direction with a pair of yellow lines down the middle). By now, it was after 10:PM, but the road was still quite busy. The major interstate (I-84) on the Oregon side of the river was closed from Troutdale to Hood River, and the last open river crossing until the other side of the closure was the I-205. This increased traffic held with us until Hood River, and then almost everyone turned off to I-84. We stayed. And we were suddenly alone.
As we traveled East, we could taste the smoke in the air, but didn't really see it until after Hood River. The wind had been blowing east, so the massive wild fire which was so close was not really perceptible. Once past Hood River, though, we found that we needed to put surgical masks on so we could breathe more easily. With masks on, we navigated the twists and turns of SR-14 as well as ascending / descending the summits. The smoke created an eerie fog-like space, changing perceptions of time and speed. With our speeds lowered for visibility, Hapy stayed below 192* and we didn't need to pull off to let him cool. Hapy was happy and keeping him cool wasn't a constant affair. Just East of Wishram, we turned North onto US-97, passed through Goldendale and entered the Yakima Indian Reservation. As remote as SR-14 felt after our fellow travelers turned south, we felt completely isolated now. The hour grew later, and while conversation was lively, we were both growing tired. So, as we entered Toppenish we saw the always-open Branding Iron Restaurant and pulled in for a bite.
Not Toppenish. More Bottomish
As we were leaving, Boo suddenly became ill. We were out of the restaurant and heading back onto US-97, so we just kept going, and chose to follow the hospital signs. We found a small E/R clinic just off the main road. After a bunch of tests, and a couple of hours, they prescribed antibiotics for an infection, gave her one to start with and sent us on our way. It was 4:15AM. We had actually spent more time in Toppenish than we had spent getting there. With the gates opening at 8 and an hour left in our drive, we chose to keep going as long as we could.
As much as the drive there was an adventure, the drive home was relatively uneventful. We filled up with regular Diesel #2 as a stop in Naches that gave Hapy sporadic fits and starts, but his temps stayed relatively predictable. When they got high, we pulled over. That happened quite a bit, especially through the Yakima Indian Reservation. We stopped for lunch and a prescription pick-up at a Fred Meyers in Yakima. We hit heavy traffic east of Stevenson because of the I-84 closure, and watched the traffic lighten as we passed I-205. We left the festival after 1:30 and arrived home around 8:30 after just one extended stop, and a handful of pull-overs for Hapy cool-downs.
As to Hapy, I talked to lots of fellow car folks at Chinook Fest. The consensus is that my thermostat may be sticking (replace it), but my radiator is under-powered for the amount of heat I ask it to shed. I will look into replacing it with a new high-performance radiator. You know I'll post about it when I get it done. One closing point: we got just over 33MPG round trip.
As always, thanks for following along. More to come...