Extreme Road Test - 2003 Hummer H2: Leg 1, Day 8
Ferndale, Washington to Bend, Oregon
After crossing back into the good ol' lower 48 states, we surely thought that our phone line and data upload problems would be solved. Wrong. Clearly, the most challenging aspect of our trip hadn't been conquering craggy roads, fording icy-cold streams, or even living through mosquito attacks--it entailed successfully sending the text and photos for the Web site update. After about an hour's worth of in-room aggravation, we decided to head out and send the info from the road. We were in luck when we later found a public pay phone equipped with a modem line.
Due to throngs of traffic, we opted to skip a touristy photo of the H2 parked in front of Seattle's famed space needle, and instead headed straight for the half-missing summit of Mount St. Helens. After a quick shot, we were back out on the highway looking to log some serious miles, though before long we were rudely slapped by the fact that the Hummer's fuel tank was again knocking empty (and so were our stomachs). We clicked off the ignition at a petrol pumphouse in the Washington state capitol of Olympia, and were pleased to see our favorite friendly food vendor--Taco Bell--beckoning to us just down the street. After feasting on tacos, burritos, and some nachos, we headed outside to see numerous Taco Bell workers touching our H2 with their hot-sauce-coated phalanges. We answered scads of Hummer questions and afterwards fielded a few of our own including, "We heard the Capital building here is nice, where would we find it?" After a few perplexed looks and some mild grunting, one guy answered, "I dunno, maybe in town somewhere." Throughout our journey we've continually been amazed by how many locals don't know answers to basic questions, including where to find major local landmarks and highways. Quite scary.
Soon we were back out on Interstate 5 and racking up miles on the odometer when we realized that we hadn't scraped clean the crust-coated back glass at the last gas stop and were working freeway traffic with little rearward visibility. However, even when cleaned, we never really could see out the back window, as the gargantuan factory spare tire, the extra spare tire we requested, and all of our boxes, camera gear, and trash combined to produce a thick wall of cargo that not even Superman could see through. We had no worries with lane changes, however, as we were bigger and simply figured that everybody would get out of the jumbo H2's way or be crushed in the process.
Just before entering Portland, Oregon, we came across two folks happily floating their way down the southbound I-5. Their mode of transportation was hard to miss as its chalky-white steel body panels were slathered with hundreds of random objects including, but not limited to: waffle irons, toasters, beads, stickers, feathers, and numerous plastic dolls (some with and without their heads). After chronicling the sweet ride via both camera and video, the almost too laid-back occupants offered a gift. We maneuvered the big H2 to within near paint-swapping distance to take delivery of a card describing the rolling trinket-toater. Come to find out the 1967 Biscayne was the mobile unit #1 of Our Lady Of Eternal Combustion and the cardlet simply stated, "Our body is a temple and this glow-in-the-dark 'Body by Fischer' is a refuge for once-worshipped toys, hygiene items, nipples, and mirrors." Apparently, Reverend "Chuck" used the vessel to accomplish his daily duties; those being performing "short-term/permanent Weddings on Wheels. " Our experience with the rolling garage sale started to get almost surreal, so we put the hammer down on the H2's mighty 6.0L V-8 and made a dash for I-84 East.
Although traveling I-84 meant an out-of-the-way excursion, it was well worth it to see the Columbia River Gorge. We thought swarms were long behind us, but a stop at Multnomah Falls proved us wrong as throngs of Japanese tourists buzzed about with cameras in hand. Fearing that our arsenal of mosquito spray couldn't deter the scads of tourists, we headed straight for the steep path that allows up-front viewing of the 620-foot waterfall (making it the fourth largest in the USA). As we descended, mysteriously many of the tourists had vanished. In search of a restroom we dared the environs of the Multnomah Gift Shop, replete with loads of bric-a-brac. As nice as they were, we passed on the Multnomah shot glasses and the lure of their matching waterfall placemats; we could hear the rumblings of another tour bus arriving and quickly made a beeline for our rolling test chamber.
Our major goal of the day was to see Oregon's highest peak, Mt. Hood, and feared we might miss it, as the sun was rapidly heading for the hills. We squealed up to a vantage point just as the fiery orb touched the western horizon--only to be treated by a pack of dogs that kept circling around our camera tripod. More than one super-slow shutter-speed exposure was ruined when the flea-infested hounds bumped continually bump the tripod in search of affection, though a game of "fetch the chunk-o-bark" kept them entertained long enough to record the occasion. Once darkness set in, we were back in the driver's seat faced with the fact that the fuel tank was again in need of a sacrificial dino juice offering. We pulled into a gas station, grabbed the fuel nozzle, and were nearly tackled by the gas jockey. Apparently Oregon has a law that dictates only "qualified" station attendants can pump the petrol and clearly we'd upset the lad.
With no Taco Bell in sight, we opted to ingest fistfuls of chips and sugary drinks in lieu of a traditional dinner. Predictably, the artificial high faded quickly. After repeated days of long hours and erratic sleep patterns, exhaustion was really starting to hit us as we ambled our way through the central Oregon night towards Bend. Soon, our grogginess was on par with a sedated polar bear after just being shot with a tranquilizer dart delivered by Marlin Perkins and his sidekick Jim. Approaching Bend, the first illuminated sleep spot we found was the lovely Dunes Motel so we pulled in for a look-see.
With rooms at just $35 per night and free ice, how could we go wrong?