Summer comes late to Western Washington, and I never can wait for it. Impatient, Troy and I take off east of the mountains as many Spring weekends as we can, in search of sun. Our favorite destination is Lake Chelan, where my bass-obsessed husband Troy loves to fish and I love to elevate riding in a boat to a fine art (proper boating must involve: a picnic including wine or mimosas, a good read, and lot of naps with my dog Leupold on the sunny deck of our Bass Tracker boat.) This last weekend we decided to turn one of Troy’s bass fishing tournaments into a quick family getaway. We packed up Leupold, made a playlist full of great country music (I’m listening to am lot of Luke Bryan, Ashley Monroe and the Band Perry) and hit the road.
Our first stop was Grand Coulee, WA in Grant County. To get there you drive through Coulee City and Electric City, tiny little eccentric towns with a rich history and locals who are super willing to talk if you only stop to ask (I think that if I lived year round in a town with a population under 1,000 people I’d be ready for some fresh ears and thoughts, too!) I heard from one man that the Grand Coulee Dam is the largest concrete structure ever built, because although several other dams in the world are larger, they include earthen berms and the Grand Coulee does not. He was quite proud of this.
I heard from another that the dam was partially responsible for the atom bomb, which was so interesting that I had to dig into further once we got home. Sure enough, I learned that in 1948, Vice Presidential candidate Earl Warren is credited with saying: “Probably Hitler would have beaten us in atom bomb development if it had not been for the hydroelectric development of the Columbia, making possible the big Hanford project which brought forth the bomb.”
An adorable woman I spoke in the parking lot of the Grand Coulee Variety store, smoking a marlboro in one hand and gesturing with her half drank coke bottle in the other, told me some local fishing secrets for nearby Lake Roosevelt (where Troy’s tournament was being held.) Expecting advice on which sections of the lake were the most active for fishing, I was amused when she told me instead, “if your husband doesn’t come home with fish tonight, he wasn’t fishing, he was cheating. Mark my words, shoot me if I am lying, anyone can catch a fish on this lake.” It made me laugh and it made me wonder- how I can use this testing system with a husband whose tournaments are all catch and release?!
These off route little towns are my favorite places to walk around, talk with people, and explore the small shops that have survived. The economy has been tough on them, and the buildings and people appear painted with the same sepia brush of unuse and hopeful waiting. Leupold and I walked the dusty highway mile from Grand Coulee to Electric City, stopping on the way for lots of pictures, and barbeque and a coke from the Tropical Pig. I was disapointed to see that the antique stores we passed were all closed but I expect the town is just sleepy this time of year and will continue to wake up as summer comes closer and brings campers into the nearby parks.
In the afternoon, following a disapointing and windy day on the lake, Troy and I sought better weather and fishing in Lake Chelan, WA. There we met up with my cousin and her fiance and spent the night on the Tin Lilly patio drinking margaritas. Let me tell ya, their bartenders know how to muddle a lime!
A slow, slightly foggy start the next morning brought us into town for breakfast at the Apple Cup(order your hasbrowns crispy) and to the city park to enjoy the beach. Back in the truck, we crossed over the Bybee bridge to get ice cream cones as big as our heads at Lone Pine Fruit. This place is the cutest and so worth the trip out of town. We bought honey, soaps, fruit, and baskets (made in Africa not Chelan but hey, it’s somebodies country, right!) and enjoyed them in their cute garden before making the trip back West.
I am already counting the days until our next road trip to the Eastside. Until then, I’ll be drinking margaritas and staring at these photos, remembering.