Dawn comes early around the 45th parallel, so now that it's after dark, I'll be brief about my first day on the road to Montana. I decided the theme of this trip should be "Touching Montana" because I won't be going into the heart of it. Once I get to Missoula, I'll drive directly south, hit a destination or two, then scoot back west into Idaho for more people-meeting. I'm driving to Montana from Portland, Ore., to interivew several leather artists, those who specialize in leather materials and products for Western influenced businesses -- horses, tack, fashion, etc. I'll post a few pics of my subjects, too, later on, but I'll be scarce on their details because my paying gig has first rights. Fine by me. The way I see it, and probably so does my editor, this is a paid romp through the West. Thanks, Dan.
The first leg on my trip brought me through the Columbia River Gorge on the border of Oregon and Washington. From the Oregon side, where I drove, the semi-tractor trailers on the Washington side look tinier than the end of my thumbnail. In other words, it's deceptive how wide the river actually is. Two words define this stretch of highway -- sky and water. Granted, there are massive land formations that make paying attention to the road a challenge, but the water runs along the route for more than an hour (I'm guessing because I was so enrapt) and when the sky is clear, like today, it's hard not to look up. (BTW, I stopped at designated areas to take all my pictures.)

This is the same land that Lewis and Clark explored. The number of brown historical markers along the road could be considered comical. I stopped at least three times within the first 60 miles.

If this landscape didn't impress Meriwether and William, they'd have to be crazy. Oh, wait, somebody already wrote that book. Let's move on. This part of America is not like any I've every experienced, and I've been to many places. And though I've driven this stretch at least two other times, it's still impressive. It made me want to sing "This Land is Your Land," which eventually deteriorated to a Smoky and the Bandit tune, "Eastbound and Down." We've got a long way to go, and a short time to get there...

Look closely, and you'll see the opening for the train tunnel.
I am taking my time on the drive, because, gosh darn it, working as a freelancer comes with very few perks, so might as well lolly-gag on the way to Motel 6. After the gorge, the land in Oregon goes flat like Kansas, but in a much grander way. It just seems bigger here. I feel lucky to see it in person. So, Dad, live vicariously.
Take a dip in the Columbia.
I stopped in Spokane, Wash., for the night. Spokane reminds me a little of Jefferson City, MO, or Springfield, MO, reminiscent of working class, patriotic, gun-show middle America. I passed a sign on the way to the only Greek cafe in town that read: Support our Veterans. Living, dead and in-between. I wondered if that was supposed to make me to think.
Starvation Creek, another brown signpost.
One great part about the route I'm on, not much traffic. More about the trip later, once I get some sleep, which may be tricky. At this latitude, the sun is visible for 15 hours, 37 minutes during the summer solstice.