It was Saturday, our last day in Yakima. Rather, our last half day - we planned to hit the road before noon. Weather reports had predicted dropping temperatures and snow in the pass, so we wanted to get started before traffic got heavy - but not so early that the roads would be icy or slushy.
The plan was to drop a few more items at the storage unit, drop the key in my brother's office mail slot, then head out. But the best laid plans of mice and men (and women) gang aft agley. (Don't blame me, blame my English teachers who had us read Bobby Burns in the original Gaelic.)
So, ganging agley this time - we checked out of our hotel and managed to wind our way to the storage center. I hopped out of the car. I took out the box holding our portable hard drives (to save and preserve our backups) and other various stuff. I reached in my back pocket, and lo and behold, no key!!! ACK!!! No key! My brother has the other key, but we're miles from his house and he's taking a well-deserved day off. We discussed various options - go get the key from him. Leave the box with him. Leave the box with friends in Seattle. Leave the box with my dad in Bellingham. We decide on option 5 - go back to the hotel, get the key, check the chair where I tossed my jeans overnight.
I run into the hotel and explain to the nice woman at the desk that we've lost a key - she gives me the room key again - I run up and look all over the armchair, no key - I reach my hand down the side of the cushion, in case the key slipped down - no key - I pull the cushion off the chair, and there, ready to slide into the inner recesses of the chair, there is a shiny silvery key, winking up at me, as if to say, "Ha, I fooled you, didn't I?" Some jokester, that key. He immediately goes back into my pocket, where he should have been all along.
Back we go to the storage center. In goes the box. Slam goes the door. Click goes the lock. And we are set. Key goes into a notecard and into an envelope, and we slip that into my brother's law office mail slot. And we reward ourselves with brunch at the Waffle Caffe - best waffles I've had in a long time, super thick cut bacon, definitely eat there if you ever get to Yakima. (http://wafflescaffe.com)
Okay, so now we hit the road. Finally. An hour late, but we're secure in the knowledge that all of our worldly possessions are either in the storage unit or in our rolling luggage. And off we go.
There are a few passes through the Cascade Mountains, which divide Washington State into the Western and Eastern halves. Never mind that the mountains aren't in the middle, and the halves are of unequal size. The mountains are the dividing line in the state, both geographically and politically, and we need to cross the mountains. These are serious mountains - not bare, like the Rockies, but mile high mountains of rock and evergreens, soaring into the sky, bold and rugged.
We're driving on Interstate 90 (which runs from Seattle, across the floating bridge on Lake Washington, then through the US, arriving on the east coast in Boston - the longest interstate in the US, at 3,101.3 miles. We only drive about 150 miles or so on it, but we go through Snoqualmie Pass. Snow-QUALM-me. NOT Snow-CALM-me. No. There is nothing calm about driving through Snoqualmie Pass. The roads wind through those bold rugged rocky peaks, somehow always wet with either rain, runoff, or snow/sleet/slush/ice. The views are amazing. The wind is cold and fierce at that elevation - the pass itself is some 3000 feet above sea level. People ski here, hike, mountain climb, and snow camp. People even train their sled dogs here. We're talking COLD.
So there we are, driving through the pass, snow like frosting on the peaks and trees, road as wet and winding as ever. We stopped at the rest stop before the peak, and were instantly frozen by the frigid wind - despite layers of clothes. This is our first (hopefully only) freezing temperature, and we shiver and gasp our way around the rest area, lungs frozen, breath steaming in the air, taking advantage of the services and stretching our legs before the long drive through - because there is NO WAY we plan to stop along the pass. (There are also no rest areas, only exits to small towns where crazy people who love to freeze live and work.)
And we drive. And we drive. It's beautiful, it's tense driving, the travel advisory lights are flashing so we tune into the radio station broadcasting updates. There are delays due to road construction, even on Saturday. No accidents, no snow on the road, we're okay. But the snow line is almost to the road, and we know that in a day or two that snow line will be at or below the road.
Despite being in the mountains, we see no wildlife - I'm always hoping to catch a glimpse of elk, bighorn sheep, maybe a bear before they go hibernate, even a wolf or coyote (though the coyotes prefer warmer and less mountainous terraine) - or, my lifetime goal, a puma, cougar, mountain lion. They live there, in the mountains, and occasionally make their way into Seattle and the suburbs. I'd love to see one - but we don't on this trek through Snoqualmie Pass, near Stampede Pass, and then we're back in western Washington where we slide on down into the Interstate 5 corridor and on up to Bellingham, for a quick hello and goodbye and more food.
And warmer - slightly warmer - weather.