Today, I am proud to announce, I succeeded in pulling myself out of bed before the sun crested the trees on the far bank of the river. Admittedly, that doesn’t happen until 8 A.M. or later. But still, I was up and ready to go by that time. Last night, I made a reservation for the ferry that would carry me from the Olympic Penninsula back to the mainland of Washington. After making the reservation, I read that I was supposed to arrive at least a half hour before the scheduled departure time, or my reservation would be void. Driving across the peninsula would take at least two hours I knew I’d have to wake up early and get going.
The drive and ferry ride went smoothly. I started my drive across mainland Washington around 1 P.M.
My destination for the day was a campsite I found in the middle of the Cascade Mountains. I arrived, as planned, around 4 P.M. Well, I arrived at the place where I thought I wanted to be – the GPS coordinates of the supposed campsite. There was nothing was there. Bummer.
After circling around to confirm that I had not missed anything, I just kept on driving. Several miles further on, I found a viewpoint parking lot to take a break in. I got out of my car and stretched, then took a few pictures of the Cascades.
When I returned to my car, I decided to keep driving some for a while. Since I couldn’t find the campsite I had planned for today, why not just drive to the place I had planned to stop tomorrow? Great idea! So I drove on, headed for Couer d’Alene, Idaho.
I did have a really fun drive. Today has been the best driving day I’ve experienced so far. Maybe it’s because I had such a restful time in Washingtion, maybe it was the lack of traffic, or maybe it was the interesting book I was listening to (The Dream of Enlightenment). Maybe it was all three.
I stopped once to take a short hike while I was still in the Cascades. There was a “scenic overlook” sign on the highway, so I followed its arrow and found a perfect place to stretch my legs and admire the mountain view.
Back on the road, I got through central and eastern Washington quickly. Maybe a little too quickly. That’s certainly what the police officer thought.
I’ve heard the phrase “speed trap” used before – even read it just yesterday in a book – but I’ve never experienced one. Until today.
I was driving along a one-lane road, perhaps a little above the speed limit. I caught up to a car which turned out to belong to a highway patrol officer. I slowed down, because, well, I had that kind of remorse we all have when we are caught stealing cookies. Remorse for being caught doing something wrong, and maybe even a twinge of remorse for doing the wrong thing itself. I drove peacefully behind him for about two minutes. Then the police car pulled off to the side of the road and let me pass. And as I passed, he turned his lights on and followed me. Uh oh.
I pulled off to the shoulder and he pulled up right behind me. He waited for a minute before getting out of his car. Then he walked up to my passenger window.
“Do you have your license, registration, and insurance?” He asked sharply.
“Yes, give me just a moment to find them.” I reached in the glove box for the registration and insurance. I handed them to him. I had several things piled on the seat next to me, so finding my wallet was proving to be a challenge. “I’ll have my license for you in a minute.”
“Hmm. Who is Donald?”
“That’s my Dad.”
Silence. Finally, I found my wallet – right in front of my eyes, of course. I picked it up, pulled my license out and handed it to him. “Here it is.”
More silence. Then he asks, “Where are you headed today?”
“I left the Hoh River this morning and I’m driving to Spokane.”
“What is the speed limit here?”
“Were you driving the speed limit?”
“That’s exactly right, you weren’t. I was driving the speed limit and you caught up to me real quick. Now you sit here and I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
So I sat there as he walked back to his police cruiser. It only took him a minute. He came back to my car, the driver’s side window this time.
“Here you are.” He held out my license and registration to me. I took them.
“Does this car have cruise control?”
“Does it work?”
“Alright, now let me tell you something. Driving over the speed limit will only save you a few minutes getting to Spokane tonight. So you put that cruise control at sixty and it’ll do two things for you. One, it’ll keep you safe, and two, it’ll make sure you don’t get pulled over by another cop. Understand?”
“Okay then, you’re free to go.”
And I was. He got back in his car and turned it around, getting ready to catch the next lead-footed young driver taking their parent’s car for a tour of the country. I turned on my engine, got back on the road, and set my cruise control at sixty. All night I kept it there until I crossed the Idaho border. There, the speed limit fluctuated from sixty to seventy-five, but I watched it carefully and followed it religiously.
Now, after a long day of driving and an exciting adventure like the one I had, most people would have a simple strategy for finding a campsite. Most people would think to themselves, “Well, I should just find the quickest place to get some sleep.” That would be quite a reasonable way to approach the subject. However, I found it necessary to pioneer a new approach. I call it, “Drive around in circles indecisively for awhile.” From my experience with this new style of travel, I can confidently say that it will not appeal to most people. It really adds nothing positive to a journey – it is not entertaining, it brings one no closer to the intended destination, and does not provide any edification either. If you don’t trust me and want to try out this new system for yourself though, I will understand. That’s how I spent my night.
Here’s how it happened. I got to Spokane without incident, then crossed the state border. I passed through Couer d’Alene on the way to my intended campsite. I found my exit and got down the road to the destination. Everything was fine, up to this point. Then, I saw a sign on a side road that said, “Private, Do Not Enter.” After that, I saw something that looked like it might be a reasonable campsite. But I couldn’t quite tell if it was or not. I did know that it was eleven o’clock. It was pitch dark in the area. There were obviously houses on either side of the road. I couldn’t see anything very well and I didn’t want to turn on my high beams. After my experience of the non-existent campsite this afternoon, I didn’t fully trust the website I’ve been using. The reasonable way to solve this quandary would be to turn off one’s engine, walk around the site, and come to a conclusion.
But for some reason, I have this fear of disturbing people. Part of it is respect for other people – I think that part is good. I don’t want to lose that and become inconsiderate. But sometimes (translation, at least half of the time), I go a little too far, and I think that is bad. Like in this instance. I didn’t want to walk around and wake people up and I didn’t want to turn my engine off and back on. That’s a little overly considerate.
So instead of just plunging ahead and exploring the area, I decided I would go back where I could find an internet connection and figure this thing out. I would try reading the comments on the website I used and see if I had found the correct campground.
On my way back to the freeway, I changed my mind. I thought, “Why not just drive around this desolate area, looking for a magical overnight parking spot to appear?” So I did. None appeared, and I only prolonged my already exhausting day. To shorten the story, I eventually realized my error and simply drove back to where I could get cell reception. I looked up the campsite, found that I had indeed been at the right place, and returned myself there promptly. I just drove up to the same entrance I had seen before and parked before pulling out my flashlight to explore. Then I plopped my car down in the middle of what I had originally suspected was the campsite. I am still a little unsure about this place, but I am in need of sleep right now. When I wake up tomorrow morning, I’ll see if I made a mistake.