Sunday, June 4, 2006

A real entry?

Yesterday Nancy and I drove across the mountains to Ellensburg and Yakima, in search of beautiful old signs, old cameras, and thrift score action.

Alas, thrift stores even out of the cities are dead as dodos. Miles of unidentifiable broken plastic thingamabobs, hideous pilled lavender flannel, and horrible crap made out of straw. I found a decent Leontyne Price record and some Boring Postcards in a St. Vinnies in Yakima, that's about it.

We did find some cameras in an antique mall in Ellensburg. I bought a Kodak Brownie Starmite II (made from 1962-1967) with flashbulbs, box, and manual, and Nancy got a big old back of expired film, 126 from 1977 and 620 from 1965! Yee haw! We don't know what the hell we're doing but we're having fun. Sending everything of for special processing (your local shop doesn't want to hear about C-22 process film) is going to cost a fortune, but screw it.

The drive was very nice. We bombed straight up the I-90 greenway as far as Cle Elum, admiring the ski slopes where I used to crash 30 years and more ago, and you know, the greenway's pretty. It's one of the nicest stretches of interstate anywhere, even if you know the band of trees is just a screen in front of the clearcuts. At Cle Elum we got off the main highway and rolled through town, a typical mile-wide Western main street, and continued down State Route 10 through the Yakima River valley, way down in it with the river and the railroad, unlike the oblivious freeway way up on the other side. Very beautiful, with nice mostly vertical basalt columns everywhere, and an occasional outcropping of white sandstone. The river was very high, and the mayflies were hatched, and appeared to be evenly divided between the fish in the river and our windshield. A ton of drift boats and waders were out there fishing.

Ellensburg is currently riding out what looks like a slump on the far side of hope. A few years ago they spruced things up, painted some murals, did up their remaining Victorian building stock, and got ready for a cowtown tourist boomlet that never happened. Kind of sad, really; lots of empty storefronts, and some others that looked like they were open only because they couldn't find the keys. We bought a coffee from a hippie, possibly his only retail transaction of the day, and looked sadly around the antique stores. The only things even worth glancing at were "sold". We did find the cameras, which was nice, and they had a nifty linoleum rug -- a six-foot square of backed linoleum that people used to use to cover bare floors. It would look nice in our cabin study but it's not ready yet and it looked like storing it would destroy it.

The drive from Ellensburg to Yakima on Washington 821, through the Yakima Canyon, was even prettier. Here the basalt starts to jut out at crazy angles, sometimes almost horizontal. We zipped through Selah and a little town improbably named "Wenas" -- I'll let you decide how that's pronounced, and how much grief the kids at the junior high get -- and down into sunny Yakima. Yakima also didn't look like the picture of economic health. It looked like they're trying to tear down or remodel all the crappy seventies urban-renewal they did, urban-ruination more like, but it's still not thriving. Not downtown at any rate. We got lost three or four times and ended up in Union Gap, where there's a St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army (closed, alas, after five on Saturday), and a terrible, terrible Value Village all right in a row. Slim pickin's.

Homeward bound in the evening, we missed out on famous Yakima taquerias and headed to Mt. Rainier. US 12 to State Route 410, Chinook Pass and Cayuse Pass, over 5,000 feet and surrounded by ten feet of snow on all sides. We were looking right at Rainier but you can't see it because Barrier Peak and a dozen others are all in the way. It's a gorgeous, gorgeous drive, not too hairy unless the scenery draws your eyes off the road. The eastern approach along the Naches River, near Cliffdell, is maybe the prettiest place in the state. You've still got the eastern-slope flora, the Ponderosa pines, mixed in with more and more Doug fir, but it's wet enough to be almost as green as the west side. You drive along the raging river with a dozen cute little bridges crossing over to rows of cabins on the other side. Adorable, and it seems like part of the forest unlike the McMansions that jerks feel obligated to erect nowadays.

On the west side, the pines disappear, the red-cedar and the ferns start appearing, and then you're in King County, Enumclaw, Auburn, city lights and home.

Thursday, June 1, 2006