The final leg of our trip was from Spokane, WA to [my now-ex-wife]’s mom’s house in Auburn, WA just outside Seattle. Eastern Washington is nothing like what you think of as the Pacific Northwest. The mountains provide a natural barrier that keeps the moisture from the ocean on the west side, so that Eastern and Central Washington are more like desert than anything else. We stopped at a rest stop called Schrag near Moses Lake to pick up a cache and stretch our legs. I remember telling [my now-ex-wife] that the place was so dry that if I’d dropped a match, the whole area would be in flames before we got out of the parking lot!
At Moses Lake, we pulled off to get something to eat. As I was following [my now-ex-wife] to the exit, a Washington State Trooper was beside me. When I slowed for the exit, he immediately stopped, backed up, and followed me up the exit ramp! I pulled into a nearby gas station, since 26’ Penske trucks towing minivans are not suitable drive-thru material, and waited for [my now-ex-wife]. The trooper pulls up next to me and knocks on the driver’s door. I rolled my window down and greeted him. He was courteous, but firm in asking for my license and rental papers. He asked if I had stopped at the rest area at Schrag, and I replied yes, we’d been parked there about 20 minutes. He said I had been involved in a fender-bender back there, and that they had been looking for my truck!! Now, I’ll admit, I was not expert at driving that behemoth, but I seriously doubted I’d hit anyone!! And in any event, if I had, I wasn’t about to run from them in THAT thing! If they’d followed me up a hill, they could have run alongside and opened the driver’s door! I’d have appeared on one of those “Look at this idiot running from the cops” shows!!
He calls my info in while I get out to examine the corners of the truck for damage. In short order, he calls me over and gives me my papers back, and apologizes, I wasn’t the Penske truck they were looking for. WHEW!
Back on the road, by mid-afternoon we reached the Columbia River Gorge. Let me tell you, it was worth the stop! Simply incredible view!! I’ll bet there was a cache there, but I didn’t have internet access. We got some good pictures and a little video footage, though.
Down the hill at breakneck speed, then losing all that momentum, I spurred my enormous steed up the 1,800 foot, 6% grade on the west side of the river. By late afternoon, we stopped at the Indian John Hill Rest Area, our last stop about 90 miles from Mom’s house. Remember the name of that rest area.
By about 8PM, we pulled into Mom’s house, tired, but glad to be there. We started unloading a few things for the stay there, including our two animals. I went to retrieve Smokey, our cat, who had ridden 2,700 miles under the seat of the Penske truck. She was nowhere to be found. We frantically searched the neighborhood, calling her and shaking her treat jar, with no answer. Finally, I went inside and turned [my now-ex-wife]’s cell phone on, since that is the number that is on Smokey’s $5 collar tag. And we waited.
Upset and blaming myself, I said a little prayer. The kids would be going through enough in the transition without losing a pet. Please, God, let us find our cat.
About 20 minutes later, the phone rang. Smokey had been found in the restroom at the Indian John Hill Rest Area, and the attendant was holding here there. By now, it was about 9:30, and Elizabeth and I jumped in Mom’s car and sped off through a dark rain to retrieve our wayward kitty. By a little after midnight, we finally got back to Mom’s house, safe and sound, all back together again after the most eventful day of the trip.