Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4th of July

I've been meaning for some time to take an up close look at Mt. St. Helens, and I finally did it last week. It was part of a pilot run for a longer trip I'm planning for the fall. The good news is that my van ran perfectly and averaged over 25 mpg over 800 plus miles of challenging roads. And how convenient when I'm tired to pull over in a quiet spot and have a nap in the back
I took the Coho across and turned right, taking rte 101 around the Olympic Peninsula. It was an overcast day and as the ocean got closer a heavy mist fogged my windshield. I got to stop at Ruby Beach, one of my favourite places, and at its mysterious best when it's shrouded in a damp mist so that it's hard to say where the sea stops and the air begins. The dark rock formations rising out of the sand seem to be precipitated out of the ocean salts. The last time I was here I was one of the young teens trying to climb the rocks.
All the way to the southwestern tip of Washington state is Cape Disappointment, where the mighty Columbia empties all the water and silt it starts collecting at it's source in Northern B.C. All of the waters that come from the Rockies directly to the Pacific flow into either the Columbia or the Fraser. On an overcast day it's hard to see the Oregon shore from the Cape. A fine campground is nearby and I had a nice spot by a small lake overgrown with water lilies. A bull frog serenaded me to sleep, but a small animal chewing on my van woke me up a few hours later. Still haven't figured out what it was. Possibly a possum, or it may have been the racoon that checked me out earlier.
The next day it was on to Mt. St Helens, travelling along the river on Hwy 4. Stopped for lunch at Longview as the sun came out. What a pretty little town, with shady tree lined streets. Didn't stay to look around and got on I5 for a few miles until I caught hwy 503. By this time it was quite warm and sunny, and the valley of the Lewis River was beautiful with lush pastures and small farms. At a cluster of small buildings called Cougar the road entered a national forest and the road became very windy and hilly as it got into the Cascades. Speed limits are often 25-35 mph, and for this road that's plenty fast. Requiring a great deal of concentration, it's almost too much windiness for a driver to enjoy the drive. A passenger would enjoy it a lot more as long as he wasn't spooked when driving along precipitous mountain sides.
About 1pm I got to the turnoff to Windy Ridge and was quite tired, almost ready to say chuck it, but I'll probably never be back that way again, so I went and I'm glad I did. If the previous road was a little scary, this one was almost terrifying. An incredible amount of work must be needed to keep this road in repair. Rock falls and washouts constantly defy the will of men. And a repair crew was at work where the edge of the road had partially crumbled away. I wish I had taken their picture. They looked like characters out of a western movie, and none of them looked to be under 70.
Sunday I was in Puyallup, taking in the local Independence Day activities. This involved a lot of eating- barbecued brisket, potato, salad, beans, and all the usual American picnic foods. The last time I was there for the fourth an older generation, now mostly deceased, had prepared the same dishes using the same recipes. Now I'm the older generation, and my sisters' grandkids were frolicking in the yard just like I did so many years ago.
Then the sun started to set and the fireworks came out, and for once I was glad that the weather had been damp for the previous few days. Americans have publicly funded fireworks displays just like in Canada, but they also roll their own- in spite of the fact that it is illegal almost everywhere. A mere technicality. The American Constitution clearly states that they have a government by and for the people, and Americans use the occasion to let everybody know it. So when my nephew started the proceedings he wasn't alone. The hills resounded with fireworks going off in every direction. It sounded like a war zone, and looked like one with all the 'rockets bursting in air.' And this is the main difference between Americans and Canadians. Americans had to fight for their liberty and the right to rule themselves, while Canadians had liberty handed to them. And I think many Americans know they are going to have to fight for it again.
On the other hand, Canadians were given a constitution and a bill of rights by the government. It's an important distinction. In Canada, the government tells us what rights we may have. Americans tell the government what powers it is allowed.

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