Day One – And We’re Off!

How do you eat an elephant? Right. One bite at a time. So, how do you drive a complete lap around America? One mile at a time. It felt a bit odd this morning, as we left Orting, then Enumclaw. Those little towns have been our home for a long time, and when we return, we’ll be living at the ocean. So, today was the beginning of our trip and the end of this last chapter.

First, here is the official beginning mileage for the trip:

IMG_0176When we get home, we’ll take another picture and see who the winner of the “Guess the Miles” challenge is, and who gets a signed copy of the book “A Lap Around America,” as soon as it is published. If you haven’t entered your guess yet, go to this post.

Our first day went pretty perfectly. For one, I was in a car with Dawn for the entire day, which makes me happy. That may work better for me than it does for her, since she might eventually get tired of my pop culture trivia questions along about California, if not sooner.

We stopped and had a picnic lunch here:

IMG_0184Yep, life is tough. A piece of french bread, some cheese, and a little trail mix tastes much better when surrounded by scenery like this. This is a little lake just off Highway 410 as it passes by Mt. Rainier.

As soon as we started to descend down into Eastern Washington, I was reminded how markedly our state is divided by the Cascade Mountain range. On the west, your biggest businesses are Boeing and Microsoft. On the east, it’s apples, wheat, hops, and beef. The west is exceptionally liberal in its politics, while the east is very much conservative. It would be easy to make a case for dividing Washington in two, and I’m pretty sure the eastern half of the state would be good with that. They have more square miles, but the population is in the west, so Washington is always a blue state, which is probably frustrating to the red eastern half.

The geography is also markedly different. The west is all green, all the time, where the east is one brown, rolling hill after another.

We took two little side trips off our main path today, one of which was pretty cool. We decided to make about a 50 mile detour to see the Gingko Petrified Forest state park. I’m not going to speak ill of a state park, and I’m sure if you’re into petrified wood it was heaven. I was just petrified that we drove an hour out of our way to see it. It does sit on the banks of the Columbia, though, so the scenery was very pretty.


Pretty, yes, but like most of the eastern half of the state, very brown.

Much better was Palouse Falls State Park. We had to drive a twisty, winding little road a few miles after we left the main highway, but it was absolutely worth the trip. The landscape was so flat as we approached that we couldn’t imaging there would actually be a waterfall ahead, but when we came to the end of the road, there it was:

IMG_0229A 200 foot waterfall, right in the middle of the Eastern Washington desert. It was pretty warm, so if it hadn’t been about a three hundred foot drop from where we were, I might have attempted a cliff dive.

Right after Palouse Falls, we drove to a tiny town of absolutely no importance to anyone unless you happen to live there: Starbuck, Washington. It was only important to me, because I had lived there briefly in the late sixties and wanted to see if I could recognize anything there. And… I couldn’t!

I also lived in Dayton, Washington in that same time period, and Dayton is remarkably unchanged. I had told Dawn all I could remember about the town, and as soon as we hit the city limits, I recognized landmarks. I absolutely loved living in Dayton, and I’m looking forward to driving around the town a bit before we depart for Oregon in the morning.

Here are our stats for the day:

Miles driven: 328. (One bite of the elephant.)

Pop culture observations: How much the lead singer for Level 42 sounds like Joe Jackson. If you’re not familiar with either of both of those singers, I wouldn’t worry about it. Also, I noted that our satellite radio station thought I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor came out in 1979, but I was sure it was released in 1978. Mama Google proved me correct – it was released in 1978. Dawn wanted to go on the record that she didn’t care either way. As you can see, I’m a real pleasure to travel with!

Thanks for following along on our journey. Day Two tomorrow will include a few interesting and unusual spots that I am looking forward to sharing with you. Cheers!




  1. Y’all stay safe and take LOTS of pictures. I see another book about hour travels in your future, Shawn.

    What memories you and Dawn will make!


  2. I am so pleased that your trip is off to a good start. I hope all remains light and fun with a sprinkle of adventure. Looking forward to more of your writing. This is pretty great to be able to read your writing every day!


  3. Lovely pics, fun day. I only miss any indication in what direction you are going. I am not familiar with the state of Washington as you are, so to be able to follow your route I beg of you a little help (like you started out towards the South or Southwest or Southeast… I don’t include North or East only because you mention Oregon towards the end of today’s diary entry). Thank you!


  4. Looks like a wonderful first day! Your trip is bringing back so many wonderful memories for me. My daughter’s family (they’re from Bellingham, WA) and I hiked all around Mt. Rainier on my last visit. I had to giggle at the Petrified Forest story. Fifty years ago while my family was on a cross-country camping trip, we stopped at the Petrified Forest park, had to hike what seemed life forever in hotter than heck weather on a dry and dusty path. Us kids were not impressed. Can’t wait to hear about your next adventures. Safe travels and enjoy!!


  5. You guys had a full day. We saw more elk scat at Gingko Petrified Forest than trees LOL. Thanks for sharing your travels. Now you know why I can’t wait to get back up to that eastern Washington paradise!


  6. Great start to your journey. I would love to visit Washington one of these days. We are big baseball fans and are attempting to visit all the major league stadiums so Seattle is definitely on that list! Thanks again for taking us along with you on your trip!


  7. It looks like you had a great start. I loved the pictures as it is good to see other parts of our wonderful country. When our younger daughter moved from NYC to Seattle, she commented on the brown of the Eastern part of the state as compared to the Western part. I now see what she meant. I loved the spot where you stopped to eat. Thank you for sharing your travels with us. I am looking forward to each post.


  8. Wow! Just getting a moment to catch up on your journey. I *love* Level 42 – I had Level Best on CD years ago and added it to my iphone music a few years ago. “Running in the Family” always resonates – especially when you have siblings and are into genealogy, LOL~


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