Sunday, October 25, 2015

Geezers, Wyoming and South Dakota - Whitefish to Crater Lake National Park

Day 23 – Whitefish to Kennewick, WA

We were up and on the road before 9:00 today, but as we started our drive out of Whitefish the 4-Runner had several warning lights come on including the “See Dealer” light, which really put a glitch in our plans.  We have driven Toyotas for many years and they have proved very reliable and we have never had a problem with them on our travels so today is a first.  I was afraid we would have to drive a long way to find a dealer, but it turned out there was a dealer in Kalispell, which is just five miles south of Whitefish and was right on our way.

After a nervous drive to Kalispell Toyota we pulled into the service department and the first thing they asked was did we have an appointment and of course we didn't and we told them we were traveling.  I saw us sitting around all day waiting for an opening, but they said no problem, just give us an hour to see what the problem is.  It turns out it was only a problem with the vent on the gas cap and with a new gas cap installed we were on our way in less than 45 minutes.  Not only that, they washed our very dirty car in the process.  I really have to give Kalispell Toyota a big thumbs up, they couldn’t have been nicer and more helpful.  To make time to help some worried tourists and get them on their way was great; our day was saved. 

We were feeling very good as we left Kalispell because we didn't have a serious kink in our plans.  We drove south along the Flathead Lake and made our way to Interstate 90 on a series of scenic back roads.  Once on I-90, we were on our way west with a stop in Coeur d’Alene for lunch and gas, and then into Washington and Spokane.  The last leg of our day’s journey was on US 395 west to the Tri City area of Washington and the city of Kennewick where we would spend the night.

At the hotel they had a pot of chili, chips and drinks set out for their guests so we made that our dinner and called it a day.  Tomorrow we continue our drive southwest to Crater Lake National Park where we will spend two days at the Crater Lake Lodge.

Day 24 – Kennewick to Crater Lake National Park, OR

We were hoping to wake up to sunny skies, but what we saw was heavy overcast and drizzles.  After a good continental breakfast at the hotel we were on the road to Crater Lake National Park.  The hotel we stayed at was a Hampton Inn and I have to give them two thumbs up.  From the good chili we had last night to the way above average continental breakfast this morning, and the very helpful and friendly staff, this turned out to be a great place to spend a night on the road.  It is a brand new hotel and the rooms are very nice so if you ever need a place to stay near Kennewick, I highly recommend the Hampton Inn at Southridge.

The first part of our drive today was on Interstate 82 and 84 along the south side of the Columbia River.  Traffic was pretty light and we made good time, but this changed when we got off the interstate and started south on US 97.  US 97 is a mostly two-land road that runs down through central Oregon and the foothills of the Cascades.

At first we made pretty good time, but there were a lot of trucks and they slowed down on the grades.  Things got worse when we came to a complete stop where they were repaving a long stretch of the highway.  Traffic backed up for a long ways and the delay was lengthy.  We finally were on our way again, but we had dozens of slow moving trucks in front of us so progress was slow.  We stopped for lunch in the town of Madras and when we got back on the road traffic had stretched out and thinned a bit, but was still slow going.  Finally we went through Bend, Oregon, which is a pretty big town now and most of the traffic seemed to drop off for the last part of our drive.

We finally got to the turn off for Crater Lake and made our way up to the Crater Lake Lodge where we would be spending the next two nights.  It was a bit chaotic when we got there as there was major road and parking lot work going on and people were trying to get checked-in and find a place to park.  We finally got checked-in and while Val was looking for a parking place, I got our luggage up to the room.  Val got lucky and found a spot where someone was just pulling out.

Even though the mileage was not that great, it was a long and tiring day with all the delays, traffic and the rain that went on most of the morning.  The Crater Lake Lodge is one of the Grand Lodges of the National Parks so we can check another one off our list.  As we travel, and whenever the opportunity arises, we try to stay at one of the Grand Lodges.  We weren’t able to stay in one in Glacier because they were all closed for the season so Crater Lake Lodge will be our only Grand Lodge for this trip.

When we tried to get dinner reservations at the lodge, they were booked until 8:30 so since we had eaten a late lunch and weren’t that hungry, we decided to skip dinner.  Tomorrow we will spend the day exploring the park.

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