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Road Trip: Northwest United States

Updated on March 7, 2019
James A Watkins profile image

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

The Great Northwest of the United States

This article is about my journey from the Northwest USA to the Midwest.

I had previously traveled west by automobile as far as one could go—to the Pacific Ocean.

For the vast majority of the return trip, I chose to stay off the Interstate Highway System, and drive on the northernmost Federal Highway in America, US-2.

I am going to share with you my photographs taken during my travels.

THE OCEAN AT PACIFIC BEACH, WASHINGTON
THE OCEAN AT PACIFIC BEACH, WASHINGTON
WASHINGTON NEAR THE OCEAN
WASHINGTON NEAR THE OCEAN
OLYMPIA WASHINGTON
OLYMPIA WASHINGTON
TACOMA WASHINGTON WITH MT RAINIER
TACOMA WASHINGTON WITH MT RAINIER
SEATTLE WASHINGTON
SEATTLE WASHINGTON
US 2 STEVENS PASS WASHINGTON
US 2 STEVENS PASS WASHINGTON
HEADWATERS OF THE WENATCHEE RIVER
HEADWATERS OF THE WENATCHEE RIVER

Visit the Great State of Washington

I didn't want to visit the State of Washington—the only state in America named after a president—without seeing the Pacific Ocean. It takes a few hours to reach the ocean west of Seattle, driving through small towns and forest.

I saw on my map places named Ocean City and Pacific Beach. I imagined artists' enclaves of old hippies, on a cliff with the ocean ferociously spanking the rocky shoreline. I was in for a surprise.

When I got to the ocean, there was a beautiful, wide sandy beach—virtually devoid of human beings. The little villages had no artists or hippies. They were run down, nearly deserted, with only a couple hundred inhabitants. Having lived in Florida for 18 years, I had no idea people would not make commercial use of such a place, of a wide expanse of oceanfront property.

The rest of my trip would be eastbound. I drove through the state capital, Olympia, which has 50,000 residents. Mount Rainier soon came into view, at over 14,000 feet one of many active volcanoes in Washington. I drove through the city of Tacoma, 1/3 the size of Seattle. Tacoma is known as a blue-collar town of 200,000 souls. It looked like a nice place to live.

The metropolitan area of Seattle-Tacoma has the 15th most people in America (3.4 million). The northernmost major city in the United States is Seattle. A light drizzle or mist is present many days of the year in this major seaport.

Seattle is the home to Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks. Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam all hailed from there. Seattle is one of the most congested cities in the USA, and features some of the most expensive real estate. It boasts the most college graduates of any city—more than half the adults holding a Bachelor's Degree—and is the most literate of U.S. cities.

Seattle is a very progressive city politically, since it has a far larger percentage of Atheists and people who practice homosexual behaviors than any other city in America.

Wenatchee is in the middle of the state, and home to 30,000 souls. It is the apple capital of the world. Wenatchee straddles the magnificent Columbia River—4th largest river in the U.S. and with 14 dams, it is easily the river that produces the most hydroelectric power.

Nearby are the Bavarian village of Leavenworth (pop. 2000); and the lovely town of 4,000 named Chelan (deep water), which is on Lake Chelan, a 55 mile-wide, narrow beauty.

I encountered a fierce, blinding dust storm in Eastern Washington before driving through Spokane, the 2nd largest city in the state and a bastion of conservatism. Washington borders British Columbia, Canada, and features a wide range of topography including the ocean, mountains, rain forests, desert, and mucho agriculture. Next stop Idaho.

LEAVENWORTH WASHINGTON
LEAVENWORTH WASHINGTON
YOUR INTREPID REPORTER IN LEAVENWORTH WASHINGTON
YOUR INTREPID REPORTER IN LEAVENWORTH WASHINGTON
WENATCHEE RIVER
WENATCHEE RIVER
WENATCHEE RIVER TRAIN BRIDGE
WENATCHEE RIVER TRAIN BRIDGE
THE OWL SODA FOUNTAIN IN WENATCHEE WASHINGTON
THE OWL SODA FOUNTAIN IN WENATCHEE WASHINGTON
THE COLUMBIA RIVER
THE COLUMBIA RIVER
ROCK ISLAND DAM OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER
ROCK ISLAND DAM OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER
LAKE CHELAN
LAKE CHELAN
LOWER SPOKANE FALLS
LOWER SPOKANE FALLS

IDAHO

Idaho is one of the fastest growing states (population wise of course). There are 40% more people living there than 20 years ago.

Idaho is a conservative state. It is known for its forests, mountains, ski slopes, timber industry, and yes: potatoes (1/3 the U.S. crop).

Coeur D'Alene is home to 50,000, and a gorgeous town where tourism thrives. My father had told me not to miss it as he considered it the nicest town in the country, with the nicest people.

Sandpoint was perhaps the most beautiful place on my trip, surrounded by water with huge mountains in the background. 7,000 people are blessed to call that place home.

Bonners Ferry is near the Canadian border. 3,000 folks live there. It is eight miles from where the Ruby Ridge tragedy took place, and the area outside of town is sort of known for survivalists, and polygamous Mormons.

SANDPOINT IDAHO
SANDPOINT IDAHO
MOYIE FALLS IDAHO
MOYIE FALLS IDAHO
COEUR D'ALENE IDAHO
COEUR D'ALENE IDAHO

I might be moving to Montana soon, just to raise me up a crop of dental floss

Montana means 'mountain' in Spanish. It is a land of cattle ranchers, lumber harvesting, and wheat fields. About a million persons live there, spread out over a huge area. People don't nose into each other's business much out there.

The first major landmark I encountered was Glacier National Park. Home to 25 active glaciers (hence the name), Glacier National Park covers a million acres. It is celebrating its 100 year anniversary this year as a National Park. There is a large grizzly bear population, hundreds of lakes, and six mountains that peak at over 10,000 feet above sea level. Unfortunately for me, most of the park was closed. I learned that it is July before the winter snows are cleared off the roads through the park.

We spent the night in Havre, Montana (pop. 10,000). It is in the middle of the northernmost part of the state, and the halfway point between Seattle and Minneapolis, Minnesota. The tourist attraction there is the underground area "Havre beneath the streets." One can see purple squares on sidewalks around town that are actually skylights for the underground. For decades the underground was a place of brothels, opium dens, and honky tonks—as well as a bank, drug store, and funeral parlor.

I had noticed that on my map, and during my drive across the 677 miles of Montana, that there was a tiny town about every seven miles. An elderly lady bartender explained that the old steam trains on the Hi-Line Railroad that US-2 runs alongside needed water every seven miles, so a hamlet would spring up around the water station (later a coal station).

SHELBY MONTANA (population 3000)
SHELBY MONTANA (population 3000)
WINDMILLS GENERATE GREEN ELECTRICITY IN MONTANA
WINDMILLS GENERATE GREEN ELECTRICITY IN MONTANA
YOURS TRULY AT GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
YOURS TRULY AT GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
ANTELOPE IN MONTANA
ANTELOPE IN MONTANA

North Dakota

North Dakota is on the High Plains. It has the 3rd fewest residents of any state, about 650,000. Largely an agricultural area, North Dakota has the most religious people in America, the most churches per capita of any state, and the lowest unemployment.

Grand Forks is home to 100,000 souls in its metropolitan area. It sits on the Red River, which is prone to major flooding. Minnesota is just across the river. Grand Forks is a college town surrounded by farmlands. Nearby is a major Air Force Base.

Fargo, made famous by a movie not filmed there, has 200,000 inhabitants including the city across the Red River, Moorhead, Minnesota. The largest city in North Dakota, Fargo is a conservative place, notable for its extremely low rates of crime and unemployment. It has been recognized several times as one of the best places in the country to open a new business, and by Money magazine as the best place to live in America.

THE GEOGRAPHICAL CENTER OF NORTH AMERICA IS RUGBY NORTH DAKOTA
THE GEOGRAPHICAL CENTER OF NORTH AMERICA IS RUGBY NORTH DAKOTA
FARGO NORTH DAKOTA
FARGO NORTH DAKOTA
I FOUND THIS OLD PHOTO OF THE 1997 FLOOD IN GRAND FORKS NORTH DAKOTA
I FOUND THIS OLD PHOTO OF THE 1997 FLOOD IN GRAND FORKS NORTH DAKOTA
IN 1997 THE RAGING RED RIVER FLOODED GRAND FORKS NORTH DAKOTA
IN 1997 THE RAGING RED RIVER FLOODED GRAND FORKS NORTH DAKOTA

Minnesota

Minnesota means "sky-tinted water." The state is known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." Minnesota features large swaths of agriculture, forests, and wilderness areas. 60% of the people live in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The citizens of Minnesota exercise more than those in any other state, and are among the healthiest, the wealthiest, and the most literate in America. The world famous Mayo Clinic is there. Among famous natives are Lawrence Welk, Judy Garland, and Winona Ryder.

The Twin Cities, the 16th largest metropolitan area in the country, has 3.2 million residents. There are three major rivers there, including the Mississippi. Bob Dylan, Prince, Garrison Keillor, the Coen Brothers, and the cartoonist Charles Schulz all hail from the Twin Cities. Major corporations such as Cargill, Target, General Mills, and 3M were founded there. Universities and parks abound.

The Twin Cities ranks near the top of American cities for its level of Christian worship, and charitable giving.

Minneapolis (the name means water city) is the newer city with the skyscrapers. It is heavily populated with people of Scandinavian descent.

St Paul, named after Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ, reminds one of a European city with Victorian architecture. It has a predominance of people with German, Irish, and French ancestry.

ST PAUL MINNESOTA
ST PAUL MINNESOTA
MINNEAPOLIS MINNESOTA
MINNEAPOLIS MINNESOTA
working

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