We left home in a downpour, crossing the border at Sumas where the young American immigration officer huddled in her little booth, efficient, pleasant, but not friendly. There was no wait, evidence that a weak Loonie has put an end, for now, to Canadian cross-border shopping sprees.
In farmland now, dairy, blueberry, assorted dormant vegetable beds waiting for spring. Highway 9 heading south toward Seattle has become familiar but still offers up surprises when we look for them: pulling over in Acme so more eager drivers can pass us safely by we notice a house with a castle-like turret at one end. The windows are odd too, for a dwelling. Oh, it’s an old church; the former steeple has been knocked down and shaped to lend a medieval flair.
Arriving in Sedro Woolley the rain turns to a light sprinkle and we nudge the car in the direction of the old downtown, to Joy’s Bakery and Cafe, a serendipity from a previous journey. Americana runs thick here, nearly as thick as the gravy over biscuits served up on enormous plates to matching patrons. The place is nearly full – workmen in reflective jackets and steel-toed boots, farmers in jeans and baseball caps, young families splitting cinnamon buns two ways or even four – but we manage to find a table and order coffee and a warm pastry. This is a movie set, but real; the America foreign tourists wish they knew how to find, but rarely do. We take it all in, sipping our coffee, seeing with Rockwellian eyes.
Back on the road, past Big Lake, the highway tilts and turns through forested foothills, empty now, rendering as fine a driving experience as one could wish for. No cops either.
So to Grandmother’s house we go, in Arlington, where my mom greets us and pulls us in and tries to feed us far too much, especially considering that pastry of an hour ago. We catch up, I weigh myself on her bathroom scales (yes!), and onward we go again. We want to hit the mountain pass at the height of the day’s light and warmth.
Soon we turn east onto Hwy. 2, gaining altitude as we pass through small towns with curious names: Sultan, Goldbar, Skykomish. The grade steepens, the highway broadens to two eastbound lanes, snow lies thick on either side creating a tunnel-like effect as we approach the pass.
“Slide Area” a sign warns.
I move the car to the innermost lane, telling Renata “If there is a slide, the extra space might be handy.”
Not a mile farther up the road a sudden movement on the slope to our right grabs our attention. Avalanche! A curtain of white appears before us as I swerve into the empty oncoming lanes and the car is whacked from the side by snow and ice. We keep going, looking back to watch the ongoing spectacle of snow pouring into the road, laughing nervously at our good fortune.
Beyond the summit a man is standing in the middle of the road, holding a sign and signalling us to take a detour. Too much slide risk ahead. We dutifully follow the back country road, looking for signs to Leavenworth. “Picturesque” is a feeble word to describe this mountain wonderland. Would that we took detours more often.
Leavenworth is snarled with traffic, the Friday afternoon rush not working well with the other end of the detour. But soon we are out of the crush, out of the mountains, and into the dry continental air of Eastern Washington. The sun is shining brilliantly as it sinks to the jagged horizon.
Welcome to the Apple Capital of the World. Welcome to Wenatchee.
“How was your trip?” my brother asks.
And it was.