Road Trip Day 1 - On The Road, Vancouver to Yakima

'Articles in this series - 
Day 1 - On The Road Vancouver to Yakima
Days 2-3 - Miles and Miles OF Miles and Miles (Yakima to Butte to Yellowstone)
Tips for visiting Yellowstone
Day 4 - Full Day in Yellowstone

Days 5- 6 - Mammoth Hot Spring to Aberdeen South Dakota
Days 7-10 - Food, Family, Farm & 4th of July Fireworks in Aberdeen, South Dakota
Day 11-12 - Five States In A Day, A Fake Palm Tree, An Exploding Tire, Traffic and Kingston Arrival!
Days 13-16 - Exploring Kingston and a Cottage Visit
Day 17 - Toronto - ROM's Chihuly and Tattoo Exhibits & Fab Dinner At El Catrin
Day 18-20 - Express Ferry, Crazy Water Tap, Weird Signs, Bugs and a Rattlesnake Warning Sign!
Days 21-23 - Long Days on the Road, a Respite in Missoula and Coming Home

Border from Canada into the U.S.
It's been a long time since Glen and I have been on a serious road trip. When we had younger kids, driving was a necessity to save money. We went camping, but also took them a couple times to visit relatives in South Dakota.

Once we drove round the clock - kids sleeping fitfully in the mini-van. Another time we drove long hours but stopped at night and explored Yellowstone National Park on our way home. Then one year we went without kids and not only drove to South Dakota, but continued on to Zion National Park in Utah. We had logged 7,000 kilometres by the time we returned to Vancouver. This trip will be even longer - around 10,000 kilometres.

Our departure the first day was delayed as we had friends whose family was throwing them a surprise anniversary party.  Fortunately it was mid-day, so we could pop by for a few hours and then put in a half day of driving.  I wanted to get as as many hours on the road as we could that day so we would have more time to explore Yellowstone National Park. If we waited until the next day, our time at Yellowstone would be very minimal.

The scenery in Western Washington
We left about 3:15 p.m., heading straight south to the border crossing from Canada into the U.S. For anyone who regularly crosses the border - you know this is absolutely unpredictable. The waiting times can change in the blink of an eye and can range from 10 minutes to 2 hours. When we checked the border report on the traffic radio station, it sounded okay, but you never really know until you get there. Here was our first lucky break. It only took us 20 minutes to get through - crazy good for a Saturday.

Our next big concern was driving half-way through Seattle to catch the I-90 going east.  It was late afternoon on a Saturday and even though we would be taking the 405 along the east side of town, it again was unpredictable. Our second lucky break - we zipped through the Seattle section without even slowing down. That same luck continued as we headed east through Issaquah and out into Central Washington. On top of it all the weather was AMAZING! Beautiful blue sky, nice warm weather (hot at times) and the few times a cloud appeared it was those one of those fluffy white confections.

One of the most striking parts of the drive this day was seeing the change in eco-system. From Vancouver, B.C., to Seattle and east through Snoqualmie Pass, the countryside is pure north country. There are lots of lush evergreens with lakes tucked in here and there.  As soon as you are on the east side of the pass it all changes. The trees get further and further apart. Then it slowly turns to scrub brush. By the time we reached central Washington state, it was truly barren unless watered.

The very barren landscape of Yakima Valley
It was around this time our amazing luck ran out in the most unexpected way. It had been recommended we let go og the strict daily driving schedule - just relax and enjoy the road until late afternoon, Then when you start to tire just decide where you think you'd like to stop for the night. Whoever is in the passenger seat can go on (we bought some cell roaming data just for this purpose - but you could also stop anywhere they have wi-fi), find the hotel deal you like, and book it a la internet.  Bingo. They offer lots of choices and you have the freedom to drive a little longer or shorter that day depending how you feel.

All along we had tentatively been aiming for a stop in Ellensburg and as the we started to tire, that still looked  about  right.  I was just about to go online to book a hotel when a text came through. One of the wives at the party we attended before we hit the road just told her husband there was a HUGE sports tournament in Spokane and everything within a 100 miles was probably fully booked. He immediately passed it on. Impossible I thought. Then I started checking. Town after town in that area showed all the hotels full. Now what?
Here are 2 essentials for a road trip - a cooler packed with lunch & snack stuff and a
comfortable folding camp chair you can place under a tree. It's much more relaxing to have
lunch outside in a great rest stop or local park seated under a tree than in a busy restaurant.
On a whim I decided to check in the city of Yakima.  It was 30 miles off the freeway going south, but what did we have to lose.  Fortunately it turns out that people hadn't mined that town's hotels fully yet, so we were able to book a room. It sounded lovely - the Yakima Inn and Convention Center - and offered two pools, free breakfast and nice photos.  It was generally mid-priced, but with a few rooms left on sale.

If you're going to be in hot places, don't forget the had, quality sunglasses
and drink LOTS and LOTS of water.
Eureka - we had a place to stay.  Now I have to say I couldn't have asked for better hotel staff. Even at 8 :30 p.m. they were truly wonderful.  And we had a comfortable bed to sleep in that night which was no small feat. But, the hotel itself was a very old 2-story with no elevators and long past due for an update. Our room was clean, but there were holes in the wall above the TV and the desk and dresser that had definitely seen better days. The wifi crashed and wasn't available again until morning.
And don't forget some great music. I couldn't figure out how to get these CD's by
Jody Quine and Matthew Kocel into my iPod for some reason, sodid it old school
and brought actual CD's along.
All in all a fabulous day with this one just minor setback. But the hotel fiasco did slow down the relaxing and unwinding just a bit.  Tomorrow - from Yakima to where ever the road takes us.