We awoke to a very cold, crisp day in Omak. Well, at least I did–Brad slept until most of the chill had left the air. I went for a quick morning walk to take in some of the sights: an apple orchard, sheep and cows, wind-powered generators, Wal*Mart. It was so cold overnight, many of the town’s well-groomed lawns were dotted with patches ice crystals, formed as water sprayed from automatic sprinkler systems froze on impact.
Leaving town via a circuitous route (in other words, we took a road that didn’t quite go where we expected it would), we had some nice views of the surrounding hills, along with more industry and agriculture: sawmills, hay, greenhouses for flowers destined to be dried and preserved, Wal*Mart.
We headed southeast along route 155 towards the Grand Coulee Dam, one of a series of dams on the Columbia River used to supply electricty and water for irrigating the surrounding 600,000 plus acres of farm land. Science and engineering geeks that we are, a full stop complete with two tours of different parts of the dam was required. We got to see the massive pumps used for supplying water for irrigation and the generators and transformers used to make electricity. Cool. On one of the tours, they used a huge glass elevator to convey us down to the bottom of the dam; the elevator moved at an incline down the concrete face of the dam itself. The dam is one of the largest concrete structures in the world and our tour guides regaled us with all kinds of facts about it: they poured concrete for the dam for 8 straight years, round the clock; one of the gantry cranes used for maintenance on the generators can withstand loads of 2000 tons and is the largest such crane in the world; there are 14 miles of tunnels inside the dam; and yes, it’s bigger than the Hoover Dam (and about the same size as the contraversial new Three Rivers Dam in China).
After the dam excitement, there wasn’t much time left for driving. We headed south to Wilbur on route 174, and then east on route 2 to Spokane, where we will stay the night. Between Wilbur and Spokane, there are farms, farms, and more farms. Many of the fields were a beautiful bleached gold with the remains of the recent harvest (wheat?). Others were just turning green with winter crops (wheat or rye?).
Except for detours and sidetrips (of which we hope there will be many), Route 2 will be our constant companion until we reach Wisconsin. Tomorrow, on to Glacier?