My sister, WCP24, and I planned Labor Day Weekend 2020 road trip that was intended to be #chillaxing but quickly escalated to an anxiety filled, white-knuckled drive home … the following is our On The Gas, and Kicking Ass Blitzkrieg!
Since I completed my Jasmer Challenge fairly early in my Geocaching career, my sister asked what other challenges was I gonna accept. Two actually – Washington State Counties Challenge, and Washington State Favorites Challenge. As I learned from WatchDOGMike, that if you research well enough you can find one geocache that meets the requirements for several challenges simultaneously. That’s being efficient!
My counties map was up to 24 counties found of the 39 total. Respectable, but needed some work. Our intention was to black out the Columbia River counties, and the southeast corner of Washington but culminate with the geocache located at #thatNWbus – no lie!
Our plan was leaving after work on Sunday afternoon, find one Favorites Challenge qualifying geocache, then one in Skamania County, finally Klickitat County, before arriving at the hotel in Kennewick.
First Stop – B&meRanch GC40PEN
This heavily favorited geocache was called B&meRanch with 293 Favorite Points. WCP24’s only request for the entire trip was this, so I wanted to ensure we tackled this first. I can certainly begrudge my faithful partner-in-crime, biggest supporter, and little sister extraordinaire a reasonable request like that which … ultimately was beneficial to both of us!
A grip off of our intended path, but as I said, beneficial. We snapped some obligatory photos, dropped a TB, signed the logbook, put everything back and bounced!
Party Train – w00t, w00t
Many don’t know this about me but I have an inexplicable love for trains. All kinds: decommissioned trains, active trains, party trains, train wrecks … aiight, maybe not those.
Can you imagine my glee when I located a Skamania County hidden, non-micro sized, train based geocache that was less than a mile off the highway?
Locomotive Style (GC2ZD35) This cache is located on a F9A locomotive at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center in Stevenson Washington. WCP24 read the sign on the gate, “Gate closes at 5pm”.
Our car radio clock had 4:55 pm so we had to keep the blitzkrieg tempo with a walk-run gait to the GZ. I used the coordinates, and hint to find it in a heartbeat, signed the logbook, put it back and snapped some gratuitous train photos.
We practically ran back to the geo-mobile, the Sapphire Sled, only to roll it forward enough to be outside the gate.
5:03 pm on our clocks
It disappointed me but the sun was setting, so I slammed the car into gear, and charged off to the next geocache.
Bridge Over Troubled Water
As much as I have a “thing” for trains, WCP24 has gephyrophobia (pronounced jeff-i-ro-fo-bia) That’s the phobia for bridges. YEP, bridges. She absolutely hates’em. The Klickitat County geocache was the Dalles Bridge Intersection. While she was NavCom, I’m the wheelman and ultimately veto on directions. Based on the cache description, hint, and Activity Log, I though we could park next to it. Her phone directions spelled out a back and forth path over the bridge.
As we approached the parking area at 75 mph, I spied what I knew: Ground Zero (GZ) Before she could explain or complain, I zoomed into the gravel and parked. This is a lightning attack. We hopped out, found the geocache, and regrouped in the SS.
WCP24 reserved the hotel, and scouted out dinner plans for the night. She wanted me to experience Texas Roadhouse which I thought was BBQ. Thankfully it was not.
We dined happily on good old fashioned steak.
The Blitz Continues …
I had already sketched out a thumbnail itinerary that would have us tearing ass across the Washington State counties in one day. The hotel we posted up in was in Benton County, and nearby Franklin County.
Yesterday I logged 500 plus miles behind the wheel, and today I anticipated logging the same amount if not more. With COVID-19 still ravaging the planet, it complicated the housekeeping items of getting coffee, fuel, breaky, etc. Eventually after some fussing, we blasted off.
Benton, Franklin, and Walla Walla were found relatively easy. Columbia, and Garfield Counties were stretched out so I hammered down as much as I could on 2-lane country highways by the Columbia River basin.
Then … Asotin County.
I mistakenly thought Fill R Up was in Washington; it was not. With very little phone coverage, WCP24 was able to locate a qualfiying geocache called: Asotin County Tribute.
Hell yay. We found it, and regrouped in the Sapphire Sled. It was a grip past 1 pm, and just in time for lunch. WCP24 suggested that we earn our Idaho State digital souvenir by finding this double-digit Favorite Point cache that’s just past the state border.
Wayback Cafe & Catering
Odd as this will read, we initially arrived because of geocache hidden but stayed because it was amazing! The hostess greeted us immediately. She gave us a dining options: we chose outside.
We were hangry so we skipped apps to entrees. I landed on the 50/50 bacon burger … it’s 50% ground beef, 50% ground bacon. Heaven on Earth. The strawberry ice cream soda was refreshing in the Idahoan sunshine. Felt like a celebrity from the attentive service by our server – highly recommend!
Washington State University
I mentioned to WCP24 that I had never been to Pullman, WA, therefore also the Washington State University campus. Since Pullman is in the middle of Whitman County, it was prime target. With fully bellies, we found a cool geocache on campus, and we bounced.
This the On The Gas and Kickin’ Ass Blitzkrieg … not tour. We blasted outta there.
That NW Bus
WCP24 follows several related #Instagram accounts which she found a really cool tourist spot in our own state #ThatNWBus – it’s literally listed like that on Google Maps.
It’s located in the town of Washtucna, WA, and Adams County.
This time of year, and this is no exception is wildfire season especially in Eastern Washington. In addition to that, epic dust storms in the area were shutting down highways due to zero visibility.
The Emergency Broadcast System sent not one but THREE alerts to my iPhone. As we approached That NW Bus, we noticed Washington State Department of Transportation had closed off northbound Highway 26 at the intersection of Highway 261 / 260. They also closed the last 300 feet to the parking area for the bus at Highway 261 eastbound.
WCP24 started to worry, but I didn’t as I parked at the Pacific Pride parking lot. I felt my National Lampoon’s Clark W Griswold discovering Wally World was closed moment welling up inside me very quickly.
I DIDN’T JUST TRAVEL HUNDREDS OF MILES, BATTLED DUST STORMS, AND FIELDS OF TUMBLEWEEDS ON THE HIGHWAY TO BE DENIED THE LAST 300 FEET!
Oh-hell-effing-NO. I grabbed my backpack, and strutted across the busy 2-lane highway intersection. I grumbled, “that’s not a cop, let’s GO.”
WCP24 knew what the look in my eye meant: you either follow me, or get out of my way, because I’m doing it. She obediently fell in line behind me as I marched to my target. We rushed through the tourist experience with pictures, finding the geocache, and walking back.
We quickly regrouped in the Sapphire Sled. I enjoyed a moment of relief: 10 counties, 2 more qualifying geocaches for the Washington State Favorites Challenge, and our Idaho digital souvenir.
We were shaken out of our stupor with yet another EBS alert off my iPhone. We’ve gotta clear outta this area. One of the many wildfires was located a mere 30 miles north of us, with a dust storm bearing down on us from the east and traveling quickly westward.
WCP24 tried to get a signal with her phone to map our way outta here with various highways closed. My iPhone was worthless it was a brick with my T-Mobile type coverage … we’ve known this though.
NOTHING. She was dejected, then inspired. “Lamp, don’t you have a map of Washington State in your geocaching bag?”
Like a battled-test, tried and true, EAGLE SCOUT, I was prepared for this situation, and replied with a smile, “Yes, I do.”
With a paper map in NavCom’s hands, WCP24 was able to guide me outta that mess.
Westbound and Down
We were racing against the clock by losing daylight, racing against dangerous natural elements, and human obstructions. I barreled down Highway 260 towards Highway 395 in the hopes of traveling north, finding Interstate 90 to get the hell home.
Nope – as we approached it was closed.
By this time, I’ve driven through more tumbleweed fields that were piled up against guardrails and clogged the lane for hundreds of feet. I’ve dodged STOPPED vehicles inside dust storms with zero visibility.
We felt like maze runners! Our last option was northbound Highway 17 outside of Connell, WA. And it was clear, we regained coverage, which showed green passage the entire path to I-90.
The smoky haze from fire and dust blocked out the sun even as far west as Ellensburg, which we stopped for dinner through fast food.
I unclenched as I pointed the Sapphire Sled westbound on I-90 knowing the only thing between myself and my bed is time and distance which I have full control over.
The On The Gas, Kickin’ Ass Blitzkrieg was very successful and quickly coming to a close. See what I did there?