May 11, 2021

Dateline: Spokane, Washington

Liberty Bell Mountain

Happy birthday to me, as I enter the tail end of my fifties. One more year until another milestone and another decade. I tend to alternate between good and bad decades with the even ones being good ones so hopefully my sixties will be kind to me when they get here. God knows I’m becoming far older than I ever intended to be but that’s the way of the world. We all age at exactly the same chronological rate although the physiologic varies a bit depending on genetics, environment and life choices. Somewhere close to six hundred people have messaged, texted, Facebooked, called or otherwise let me know they were thinking of me today. I am reading and responding to them all but it may be a few days before I get to all of them. Scrolling through the Facebook well wishes is always interesting. As each familiar name goes by, it brings up images of the time of my life that that person entered it – childhood playmates, school friends, colleagues, people in the opera and theater worlds, vacation buddies… each important and each a reminder of how many people we touch as we go through life, hopefully in positive ways. Sources tell me I even got a shout out on Birmingham Mountain Radio this morning. That’s a new one.

The last few days in Seattle was relatively uneventful. I got some writing done, did my usual geriatric Q and A for my father’s senior community residents (only this time, it had to be done via video than in person due to Covid precautions), and had some time with old friends. The immediate family gathered for my birthday dinner last night and everyone was well and made merry over a salmon dinner. This morning, I had breakfast with my father, admonished him again not to leave his building without his stick for improved balance, got his birthday blessings and headed out on the return journey. Rather than head directly east, I first went North and had coffee and a long chat with Craig Mollerstuen, my college roommate who has relocated from Alaska to Bellingham. That put me in position to cross the Cascades via the North Cascades Highway and Washington Pass, a road I had not taken for some decades. It doesn’t open until late in the season due to the snows and had only been clear for about a week so there was very little traffic. The pass still had a good foot of snow on the ground but there was none on the pavement and the weather was spectacular allowing for amazing views of Liberty Bell mountain and the surrounding peaks. My favorite mountain pass remains Logan Pass in Glacier National Park but this one remains a close second and is far less known.

Grand Coulee Dam

From the mountains, down the Methow valley and then over various back roads of Eastern Washington. I crossed the Columbia River at Chief Joseph dam and an hour later passed Grand Coulee dam in its canyon before heading on to Spokane for the night. It’s been many decades since I was last on most of the roads, some of them not since childhood and various sites and place names brought up memories predominantly of family vacation road trips of the 1970s. Grand Coulee dam always makes me think of my father, who worships at the altar of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, piloting first a station wagon, and later a van, full of family and camping equipment singing ‘Roll On, Columbia, Roll On’ with its verses celebrating various Washington state sites. Or passing the sign to Ritzville and remembering my sister at roughly age six, being vastly disappointed to find that the town was not made of crackers.

Tomorrow is more mountain driving through the Rockies. The weather promises to be fair so it should be uneventful – as long as I remember to keep myself well caffeinated.

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