Monday, February 28, 2011

Walla Walla, Part One: The Trip Is Half The Thing

This time last week, I was in Walla Walla.

I left Seattle bright and early, at about 6:30 or so in the morning. Having just gotten my first car in several years, I was excited (and perhaps slightly nervous) for the road trip. This was to be my first time traversing long distances behind the wheel on my own. I know, I'm insulated here in the city.

I decided to take the long way to Walla Walla - from Seattle down to Vancouver, WA, and east from there- for a multiplicity of reasons. Firstly, I had never been that way, whereas I had gone several times via the more standard route through The Pass down to Yakima, the Tri-Cities, et cetera. Secondly, the weather had been cold and wet lately, and the mountains would likely require chains - a safety measure that I neither possessed nor wanted to purchase. Finally, the lure of attractions in the Columbia Gorge region drew me towards it. My intention was to stop at several locales along the way: Syncline Wine Cellars, COR Cellars, and the Maryhill Museum of Art. I failed miserably on all accounts, twice due to my own foolish nature, and once due to the vagaries of timing.

Syncline Wine Cellars and COR Cellars are both located in scenic Lyle, Washington. I'm quite fond of the wines that they both produce - you should check them out if you see them on a list or shelf! I had checked into their tasting room hours just before my trip, and saw that neither of them had Monday posted as a regular tasting day - certainly not in tourist-sleepy February. However I, in my inestimable foolhardiness, decided that I would leave my fate in the hands of the Moirae and try my hand at a visit anyway.

What I didn't realize was that I certainly should have gotten some sort of directions to their facilities before leaving.

As I drove down the winding, windy, scenic, and generally lovely Highway 14 (also known as the Lewis and Clark Highway), I came to a sign. 'Tourist Attractions Ahead.' I was moving at a relatively fast rate of speed (ah-hem), but I had time to note both COR Cellars and Syncline Wine Cellars on the list. 'Oh, the town must be coming up soon,' I thought with intense trepidation. This was the first time at which I realized that other than the name of the town, I had no idea whatsoever where these destinations I had in mind might be. The speed limit reduced, and I obediently reduced my speed. There were several houses, shops, et cetera. I continued driving. This is not the first time in my life that it has come to my attention that I have difficulty measuring distances and the amount of time that it might take to travel them. 'One Mile Ahead' and 'Two Miles Ahead' were clearly posted on the aforementioned sign. Only after traversing what must have been five miles down the road, I thought to myself, 'I wonder if I might have missed them.' However, in my obstinate stubbornness I refused to admit this as a possibility. Another five miles and I accepted it as unmitigated fact.

At the same time, I was filled with a velocilust that would not allow me to turn back. I was making great time, and nothing as silly as 'goals' or 'plans' would allow me to undo that. With nary more than a glance behind myself at missed opportunities (kind of; I've had the wines of both wineries before, and quite liked them, but had been-there-done-that) I forged on ahead.

The Maryhill Museum of Art was my next target, and was perhaps an hour down the road (less? more? It all blends together from this vantage) from Lyle. 'Why,' you might be asking, 'would you ever choose the bustling metropolis of Maryhill, Washington (population 98 in the 2000 census) for a museum stop?' Your incredulance (not a word) would be justified were it not for this exhibit of 87 (!!!!!) works by French master sculptor Auguste Rodin. Sleepy hamlet Maryhill has iconic Quaker and town founder Sam Hill to thank for this absurd bounty of art and culture in what would otherwise be technically known as 'the ass-side of nowhere.' I'd heard legends about the exhibit's exquisite sculpture, and being an art enthusiast, this opportunity was in fact more than half of my reason for going the way-longer route to Walla Walla from Seattle. Alas, timing was again my bane: The gate was closed, with a sign up saying that the Museum would not reopen until March 15th.

So all of my hopes for tourist activities were dashed (I considered going to Maryhill Winery, but then just kept driving...), and I was left with the long drive to Walla Walla. This in itself was quite the experience: Long, straight desert roads allowed me to get the kinks out of my new car (aka the new love of my life, though it's a conflicted love, as I'm hardly a gas guzzler by nature) and push the speedometer to the right. Google Maps claimed that the drive would be seven and a half hours; I accomplished it in six and change.

Next Time: Part The Second: I Make It To Walla Walla, Washington Wine Mecca

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