Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

The Smell of Rain in the Air

It's true -- you can smell rain in the air.  There was the scent of rain in the air all day today.  It's clean, it's damp, it smells wonderful.  People keep trying to capture the scent of rain, but no one truly does.  You see it labeled as "rain fresh scent" in detergents, fabric softeners, soaps, shampoos (not that I know anything about shampoos), and air fresheners.  Funny thing is that none of them really smell like the air does just before, or just after its rained.  It's intoxicating to say the least, especially on a motorcycle where the air is pushed up into your nostrils which intensifies it (which is why dogs love hanging out the window of a car).  And I wish -- oh how I wish -- we could capture it and bottle it up.  I'd make a fortune.
I had intended to leave at daybreak this morning -- but it was not the scent of rain, but actual rain that kept me pacing in my office and watching the weather channel on TV and the live radar on all morning. I'd not gotten much sleep anyway, with the nervous anxiousness of hitting the road keeping me restless all night.  Watching radar is about as exciting as watching clothes tumble in the dryer.  All week long the forecast had said today was the day it WASN'T going to rain so its the day I planned to hit the road.  Naturally it was raining when I woke up, and as I watched the radar map and plotted elaborate routes AROUND the rain, it gradually cleared up and I hit the road about 1130am, sticking to my original route.

One has little choice when leaving Seattle except a freeway, and I wanted to try a different route south into Oregon -- one I hadn't taken before.  So I headed east out of town on I-90 and up over Snoqalmie pass in a slight mist that was more irritating than wet.  However, it isn't called the "Dry Side" of the state for nothing -- it cleared up shortly after the pass and the sun came out.  In Cle Elum (the earliest opportunity), I jumped off the freeway onto the old highway along the Yakima River and down through the Yakima Canyon and into the "Palm Springs of Washington".  Yes, Palm Springs and Yakima could have been twins separated at birth -- it's true.  I've ridden this route many times and it's one of my favorite roads in the state -- and it made up for the late start and the horrid bumpy rutted freeway over the pass.

Just south of Zillah, where I searched in vain again for the Church of God - Zillah (I can't find it -- I know its here!), I turned south on US-95.  This is a new road for me -- having never gone this way before.  US-95 heads due south out of Yakima and cuts down through the middle of Oregon and drops into California towards Sacramento.  It rises up out of the fruit orchards of the river valley and down towards the Columbia River Gorge where I happened across an actual sized replica of Stonehenge sitting on a bluff above the Columbia in the middle of nowhere.  You have to love bizarre monuments that some lone eccentric puts in places like this -- in this case to honor WWI soldiers.  it's quite lonely and haunting to say the least, and I enjoyed poking around it for a while.I crossed the Columbia and into Oregon -- land where the residents are too incompetent to pump their own gas and you have to have an attendant do it for you.  Alas there was no place to fill up at before crossing so I got to watch some pump jockey operate the pump I could do myself on the other side of the river.  I've never been able to figure this one out.

Central Oregon is about as desolate as anywhere in the West.  It's a long 150 miles from the river to the town of Bend where I landed for the evening.  I passed a few towns -- most of them ghostly to one degree or another, with abandoned store fronts, gas stations and post offices (the top picture in this post is from one -- Grass Valley, OR).  It all felt like a set from "The Last Picture Show" or "Come Back to the 5 & 10 Jimmy Dean".  I chased a rain storm too through much of this part of the country, crossing the mid point between the equator and the north pole at the 45th parallel somewhere out in the middle of the high plains.
I kept thinking I'd catch up to the storm -- I could see a good 30 miles ahead on the high plains, but I never did get rained on.  I stayed just enough behind to have a wet road and that intoxicating smell of rain on damp hay and sagebrush.  I breathed it in as I roared down US-95 and rolled into Bend at sunset.  If I could only figure out how to bottle it up and take it with me.

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