After picking up Leah in Portland we drove east. This is part dos of how we started dating, which is the partial result of a big road trip we took. Just like I’ll tell my future kids to study abroad (it’s the best way to meet a spouse), I’ll also tell them that when they like a girl or guy a great way to get to know that person more is to travel the country together. My excuse for a road trip with Leah was to move my car. Their excuse could be anything—to see the sights, to hunt Sasquatch, to visit the tallest un-forested mountain in North America, to visit America’s first large-scale nuclear reactor. I don’t really think it matters what, because if the person likes you, they’ll come.
And if he or she doesn’t like you they won’t, and if they’re indifferent you’ll either learn to like each other or you’ll be stuck in a car, miserable and full of regret, for a really long time! But in any case it worked out for us. Now, those last two sights I mentioned: both are in Tri-Cities, WA, which is almost my second hometown(s). On one side of the Columbia River is Hermiston, population about 18,000, and where I graduated from high school. On the other side is Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland. The three cities merged sometime in the 1950s, as they have been booming since WWII, and today the region totals almost 300,000 people.
Before going to Tri-Cities though Leah met my parents, and though my parents aren’t scary—or at least I don’t think so—I have to commend Leah for meeting them (and my mom’s energetic dog) so early! That went well, after which we went to the other side of the river. Tri-Cities was voted one of the most recession-proof cities in the US because it’s a burgeoning area of wine, orchards, and government sites. Hanford, the nuclear base, is where they made the material that was dropped on Hiroshima, and Eastern Oregon and Washington are full of bombing ranges, nerve gas depots, and all the other unique things that can’t be near big population centers. Really, it’s a place like no other.
I, quite honestly, love the parts of Oregon and Washington that aren’t “Cascadia.” Everything is dry because of the rain shadow effect, the summers are scorching, there’s great boating and water skiing, and the history is neat, too. For example, near my parents’ house is where the path of the Lewis and Clark Expedition crosses with the Oregon Trail, which Leah got to see, and up the road is Walla Walla, the city so nice they named it twice. Walla Walla is home to more great wineries, a famous hot-air balloon festival, and Whitman Mission, and if you were curious, the Whitman family’s deaths directly led congress to create the Territory of Oregon in 1848.
In case you are confused, Walla Walla is in Washington. The Territory of Oregon comprised what is now Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and a bit of Montana, and Leah and I drove through all of these states, except Montana, on our way down to New Mexico. Our last big stop in Washington was Lewiston-Clarkston, which is actually two cities on either side of the Snake River—what is with all these combo cities, right? My best friend Johnny from high school lives in Lewiston, so we had to bring Leah to meet him, too. That all went well, and then we were off to Idaho, which was a beautiful drive. Part tres of the journey coming next week!
–Jeff and Leah