Our route from Portland to Boise took us alongside the Oregon Trail on I-84. As we climbed 4500 feet in less than fifty miles and our truck labored to tow our RV, we had to think about the settlers who did this route with their feet. Whether they were ambitious, adventurous, foolish, or desperate, we have to admire the labor they went through to traverse this area. I had no idea that western Oregon was so desolate.
We started the drive in the west in a lush, green area along the shore of the Columbia River. As soon as we passed Mt. Hood, the hills turned yellow and dry even though the river continued to flow wide and deeply. A sign said that the Oregon Trail stopped at this point, and settlers had to dismantle their wagons, rebuild them into boats, and float down the rapids that today's hydroelectric dams have taken out of the Columbia. As we drove we wondered why farmers were not using this water for irrigation as they had in western Washington state. It also looked like a navigable river, but except for an occasional fisherman, the water was empty.
A cold front came through and with it a strong north wind. Because the ground is so dry and bare, large dust storms darkened the sky. It reminded me of some of the news footage I saw from Iraq during the early invasion days.
On long driving days, part of Ken's technological aresenal that gets lots of use is his satellite radio. It advertises that it broadcasts everything all the time and with over 125 channels, that pretty much is the case. It kept us in touch with the world during our month in Mexico last winter and is a real sanity saver when the local programming leans too heavily toward god and country music. However, we are still pretty far north - we just crossed the 45th parallel, and the satellite sits low on the horizon. For much of our drive along the Columbia River gorge, tall trees and mountains blocked the signal entirely. It was torture to get involved in a great episode of "This American Life" on the NPR channel and have it cut in and out in a schizophrenic way. Hopefully another day of driving south will remedy that.
In light of the latest storm news and the threat to gas supplies once again, we will try to put the pedal to the metal and refrain from stopping to take photos until we are closer to Albuquerque, our next destination.