Day 4: August 21, 2018
Route: Richland, Washington, to Hunters, Washington
As I mentioned before, we slept without tents so we could spend less time packing up in the morning. While hanging around camp last night, a cat wandered into our camp site. I don’t know who the cat belonged to, but it had a collar on it. Perhaps it was the KOA’s cat. In any event, Greg made friends with the cat and it stayed at our site all night sleeping on top of Greg. Greg said the cat made his night.
We got up around 6 a.m. to get to the B Reactor tour.
B Reactor was the first large-scale nuclear reactor ever built. It was built as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. The story behind the reactor was fascinating. The construction of B Reactor went from trying to find a suitable site, to planning, to construction, to production in 21 months! Plutonium created by the reactor was used in the first test of an atomic bomb at Trinity, New Mexico, and in “Fat Man,” the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. B Reactor, and the Hanford Site as a whole, were instrumental in ending World War II.
The tour of the reactor itself was great. I was fully expecting to have to go through a bunch of other exhibits and side rooms before we got to see the reactor, but that was not the case. We went through the entrance, into a hallway, then through a set of doors right onto the reactor floor, in full view of the giant face of the reactor. I found the whole building to be fascinating.
The tour gave me a realization: something like B Reactor could not be built so quickly today. There are too many bureaucratic hoops to jump through and environmental red tape to cut through. The permitting process itself, at a minimum, would take longer than the entirety of the Hanford Project took from conception to completion. The reactor, though its ultimate purpose was destructive in nature, is a symbol of a different age, and a testament to the ingenuity and dedication of the American people.
After our tour, we got back on the road and headed north with the goal of getting as far north as we could get before we decided to stop for the night. We hopped on Interstate 192, then US Highway 395. One thing about this area of Washington is that it seems to be an endless stretch of grasslands. As far as the eye could see were brown fields of grass. But once again, I noticed that the roads simply appeared to be placed on the ground and followed the contours of the land instead of cutting through it.
We stopped for lunch at the Odessa Drive-In in Odessa, Washington. Odessa is a farming community with a population of less than 1,000 people. The town was actually named for Odessa, Ukraine.
I had a bacon cheeseburger, which was great. Greg had the special, a cheesesteak sandwich, which he said was also delicious. Mom-and-pop places are the best.
After leaving Odesssa, we rode through additional farmland, the road following the undulating topography of the eastern Washington shrub-steppe. Oddly enough, the road was freshly paved, yet I saw maybe one other vehicle aside from our motorcycles. Who exactly was this road paved for?
At Wilbur, Washington, we turned onto east US Highway 2 for a few miles. Wilbur was another farming community, nearly the epitome of “Small-town America.” We then turned onto Miles-Creston Road, a twisty road connecting US 2 to the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.
Most people, when they think of Washington, think of a place with mountains and evergreen forests. However, much of Washington is largely grassland, especially eastern Washington, which lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Range. I did not see my first Washington evergreens until we got onto Miles-Creston Rd.
Miles-Creston Rd. dropped us onto Washington Highway 25. We made a quick stop at Fort Spokane, a former U.S. Army outpost located at the confluence of the Columbia and Spokane Rivers. Fort Spokane was the last frontier outpost built by the Army, and was used to keep a buffer between the native Coleville and Spokane tribes from the newly established city of Spokane, 50 miles to the east. After the Army moved out, the fort was used as a boarding school for native children and a tuberculosis sanatorium.
After leaving Fort Spokane, we headed north, finally stopping at the Hunters Campground outside Hunters, Washington. We got a site right on the shores of Lake Roosevelt, with a great view of the lake. Walking along the shores of the lake, I saw a few deer, and multiple flocks of geese. The hills on the opposite side of the lake were evidence of the glacial origins of the land in the area. The hills were made up of loose sandy material left behind after the glaciers melted.
After sundown, I went and sat on the dock near the campsite and watched the stars come out. The smoky skies had cleared just enough to allow the stars to shine. If you keep looking up, you’re bound to see something special. I watched a meteor streak across the entire length of the sky from east to west.
Tomorrow, we cross into Canada.
Distance: 197 miles, 916 total.