Thursday, August 13, 2015

"Exercise? I Thought You Said Extra Fries!" Grand Coulee Dam Excursion And Beyond.

School started on Wednesday. G has more of a year-round schedule, therefore, she starts earlier than the mainstream schools. We had no big summer plans nor took a vacation. We didn't even go camping, but we've done a variety of little things. One of which was a quick side trip to Grand Coulee Dam. If you aren't familiar, it is the largest concrete structure in the world! It's massive. Have you ever seen Hoover Dam, the one that gets all the attention? It's tiny compared to Grand Coulee. Several years ago, T and I took a tour bus through Hoover Dam and all the other tourists were oohing and aahing over it. We looked at each other and laughed in slight disappointment: "That's it? It's SMALL!"

Back in the 80's, there used to be a laser light show and the dam served as the screen backdrop. The show ceased for a while but recently it was brought back. With only a couple days left of summer we decided to jump in the car and drive over. The show, titled One River Many Voices, was a documentary of the history and creation of Grand Coulee Dam that started at 9:30 pm. By the time we got there the sun was setting. We made a pit stop at the visitor's center which has several hands-on displays and is pretty awesome. By the time we were done, it was dark and I didn't get any photos of the Dam itself this time. (Use the link the first paragraph if you'd like to see pictures of Grand Coulee Dam.)

My photo at the top shows the empty jugs that contained water from each state which was poured over Grand Coulee Dam. The photo in the center describes: "On June 14, 1951, fifty princesses and the queen of the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival participated in a symbolic pouring ceremony. Standing at the top of the canal wall, they emptied gallon jugs of water from all 48 states, the territories of Alaska and Hawaii, and the District of Columbia into the newly completed feeder canal. The ceremony symbolized the entire country's contribution to the project, and the benefit the project would have to the county's economy when irrigation started the following spring." The photo of me is a jack-hammer tool such that the workers used. I squeezed it and felt the vibration, although the sign stated the intensity was 100x that! G is reluctantly standing behind a diving suit. Somehow T evaded the camera!

This place is sorta special to us. G's very first overnight trip away from home was at Grand Coulee Dam when she was five months old. I bet you can guess why we came here. Hint: There is a river, and think of a rhyming word that would complete this sentence: "Wishing I were _______."

Alrighty, I need to back up a bit because part of this experience was the journey there. I spotted so many funny and interesting things, I felt it was writing worthy. First I'll start with signs. In order to get to Grand Coulee, one must pass through a more rural area of Washington State. Two-lane, unlit, windy highways through small towns to be exact. I chuckled at many of the signs we passed. Who says small towns are boring? The first one was a road sign:

Private Road
No Warning Signs

Ummm. Okay, except for that one I guess??

This one was a mattress business' sign:
Don't Give Up On Your Dreams
Just Go Back To Sleep

Pizza Parlor:
Of Course I'm An Organ Donor
Who Wouldn't Want A Pizza This!

And my personal favorite was advertising a burger joint:
Exercise? I Thought You Said Extra Fries!

Driving through rural areas is incredible fun. You see all sorts of crazy things. However, some not so pleasant. A few miles east of Creston we watched a thunderstorm. While it was raining quite hard at the time, it's otherwise been extremely hot and dry this summer. Lightening, while thrilling to watch, isn't necessarily welcoming. The bolts streaked down the sand colored sky with tall trees and thirsty sagebrush surrounding the landscape. We got through the brunt of the storm and then it hit us: The unmistakable smell of a forest ablaze! We couldn't see the source of the smoke, but the strong smell encompassed the car.

As we approach the town of Creston, four emergency fire vehicles pass us in the opposite direction, presumably towards the brush fire. Remember in the movie Planes Fire And Rescue there was the fire truck who had a hard time extinguishing the fire in time because he was old and rickety? Those were the type of vehicles that passed us! An antique parade on wheels out to save the day! Support your rural firefighters folks. Seriously, if that's what these men and women use to work a volunteer position, I can only imagine what their gear is like. I said a little prayer for them as they scooted by.

Finally, around 8:15 pm we enter the Grand Coulee area. Driving down the hill through Lake Roosevelt Recreational Area towards the Visitor's Center gives us a glimpse of the dam. There's a bridge at top that spans the width of the river. Way back when, you were once permitted to drive your car over it. I remember taking a middle school trip doing this very thing. Our bus stopped in the center of the bridge and we got out and looked over the edge of the dam. Once on the other side, we toured the underworkings of Grand Coulee by riding an elevator down to the turbines and such. Unfortunately, after September 11th that all changed. Terrorism isn't just life threatening, it takes away our fun, DAMmit!

As we prepared to leave, I noticed bats feasting around a stadium-style flood lamp. They dashed and flapped using their radar to hone in on insects. G thought they were interesting as we don't come across them all that often. Public Service Announcement: If you stand too close to their feeding ground, you could be mistaken for food and they'll dive at you.

Finally, we are back in the car ready to head home down the same darkened, windy roads. The sky is clear now, and sparkling with stars. I will admit the best part of this trip was witnessing not one, but two shooting stars! The Perseid Meteor Shower was arriving a couple days later and I wondered if these were the group leaders. They were like little laser lights on a infinite black backdrop.

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