Finish Your Cross Country Trip – Climb the Foothills To The West Coast
On the first half of our road trip across the country to get from Toronto to Vancouver, it was an interesting drive across the U.S. through the mid-west. Continue to follow our journey for a taste test of what you might see ….
Day 4 – Buffalo, WY to Butte, MT
On the second half of our cross country trip, we began to climb the foothills to the West Coast. We were on the road by 7:30, with a brief stop at the front desk to pick up home made peanut butter cookies. This would hold us until our stop in Hardin for a proper breakfast.
While the Europeans can always tell tourists from their more casual dress, we were finding it was easy to pick out the tourists as we headed into the western states. If our cameras didn’t give us away, our shorts and sandals were markedly different from the local dress of blue jeans, ball caps and cowboy boots. We could not understand the long pants when daytime highs hit the mid-30’s °C (approaching 100°F).
It was a fast drive along I90 as the heat creeped up again. We were driving through the foothills and could finally start to see the mountains in the distance.
As we approached the foothills, we finally saw an impressive display of wind turbines. Later in the trip when we hit the mountains, we saw our first massive solar array. When travelling in Italy for 10 weeks, every drive that we took seemed to provide a view of arrays of wind turbines or solar farms. We were glad to see the U.S. harnessing these natural power sources.
We discussed the fact that this western vista (both the wide open plains and the mountains) was interesting to us but probably not the same “ahhhhhh” moment that others from the east coast may feel. Both David and I have travelled across Canada before and have done several trips across the Rocky Mountains. While not quite jaded, we could take in the scenery and absorb the nuances that others might not see on their first visit.
With large herds of angus cows in the fields all along the way, it should not be surprising that we stopped for ribs for lunch in Billings, Montana.
Since we had planned a short driving day, we arrived at the Best Western in Butte, Montana at a reasonable hour and actually had a few hours to relax before dropping exhausted into bed.
It had been a horrible few months of really bad news and I was beginning to think that I was a bad news magnet. But maybe my luck was changing! We had originally planned to stop in Missoula, Montana that night. And that night Missoula got the mother of all storms (weather guy called it “windaggedon”). Winds as high as 74mph. Power out for thousands! Good thing we were settled safe in Butte, Montana!
Day 5 – Butte, MT to Spokane, WA
Since we had planned another short driving day, we could lounge a little before getting on the road. The Best Western was our best hotel yet with great beds, cold a/c, big rooms and a wide selection at the “free” breakfast. I must admit to scowling when I see hotels including free breakfasts and free wifi – they have built these “free” amenities into their price! The price break we did get and really appreciated was the military discount. David as a retired Canadian military officer got the great discounts offered in the US. He gets much less recognition and discounts when we travel in Canada (although we were pleased when we travelled last to Bahamas to see that WestJet has matched Air Canada’s free baggage policy for the military).
I did the first part of the drive and of course it was again the worst part of our driving day with heavy rain as we started into the twisty mountain roads. Luckily we drove out into bright sunshine after about an hour.
With a few short stops along the way, we arrived at the Best Western in Spokane. It seemed that we had been lucky in planning our stops. When we were going to drive more or less straight through, we would have stopped in Missoula rather than Spokane but other than some rain in transit, we missed a really bad wind storm in Missoula.
This Best Western would not prove to be as nice as the previous one, reinforcing the variability in hotel brands. While we got what was billed as an “upgrade”, the upgrade moved us to the very noisy side of the hotel in a room where we could actually hear every step the people made in the suite above us.
We were in Spokane for 2 days.
It was was good to stop after driving steadily and to walk around the town and the Sculpture Walk at Riverfront Park, even in temperatures over 100°F.
Day 7 – Spokane, WA to Bellevue, WA
We thought we could lounge a little before leaving Spokane since we had a short driving day and another 2 days stop planned. But wanting to drive the more scenic route to Bellevue, we packed up early when we saw the forecasts for bad weather on the mountain roads, hoping to beat the weather.
Driving into the foothills, the roads climbed and dipped and twisted but kept heading steadily higher until we passed through elevation 4860 feet and through Stevens Pass. In many places, the clouds were low hanging, seeming to be at the level we were driving but we missed the worst of the weather and drove out of the clouds.
It had been suggested that we stop in the quaint town of Leavenworth with its Alp-like architecture throughout most of the town.
But we passed through only to stop at an Alpen drive-in restaurant!
We were still trying to get our Airbnb reservations completed so that we could finalize plans for the last leg of our trip. When our arrival date was firm, we debated whether we should stay right in Seattle or on the outskirts at Bellevue for the 2 nights before we headed into Vancouver. Knowing that we would likely be back for a weekend trip from Vancouver to Seattle, we opted for a relaxing stop in Bellevue with no sightseeing. Although there was some retail therapy while we stayed in Bellevue, most of the time we just lazed around and enjoyed not being in the car.
Day 9 – Bellevue, WA to Vancouver, BC
Vancouver was only a few hours drive from Bellevue so we again planned the more scenic drive. We debated taking the detour on the Mukilteo ferry over to Whitby Island but saved that for another trip. Instead we headed towards the water along Chuckanut Drive with the convoys of bicycles on that route.
When we could pull off the narrow twisty roads, we were rewarded with our first views of the waters of the Pacific.
This detour let us discover the cute little seaside town of Fairhaven. With lots of options for a coffee shop or a return visit for food, we wandered around a bit before getting coffee.
Heading to the water, we knew we had finally made it to the west coast!
It was then a quick drive to the border. The border crossing was a little longer this time, mostly because as usual we picked the wrong line. Crossing into British Columbia, we stopped to chat with a women riding the green version of my Pedego e-bike!
In Surrey, we were now on a well travelled path. White Rock for fish and chips at our favourite spot welcomed us to the west coast.
With the Airbnb condo programmed into the GPS, we navigated into Vancouver and found our temporary home. Our Airbnb host met us at the condo, helped us to store the bicycles we had brought with us and showed us the great view we would have from this great location on False Creek in Vancouver.
We had finished our cross country drive from Toronto to Vancouver. The midwest part of the trip offered us a view of almost limitless vistas across fields and the fertile heart of the U.S. Along the way we saw amazing scenery, saw displays of American pride and we stopped to visit a few spots. This last leg had taken us across the foothills and out to the Pacific coast.
We were now ready to settle in for our visit to Vancouver for a few months. While we had family commitments that had brought us to Vancouver, we also had a long list of things on our “to do” list. We will share our adventures as we go!
Have you done a road trip across the country? Did you like crossing the foothills to the west coast? What were your stops along the way? What detours did you take to see tourist spots?