I’ve always lived in rainy places. I love the rain. I love living in the rain forest of Washington, D.C., the spring-time high water in the rivers and creeks, the way that after spring’s blossoms, the leaves burst forth and expand until they grow so large they pull the branches outward and sunlight flickers through dense green all summer long. I even love the heavy, humid summer days.
The desert is so foreign to me, and so dramatic. Since my father-in-law lives in the tri-cities area of Washington state, east of the Cascades, where there is very little rain, we visit it every year or so. I usually don’t like to drive much, but I love the road trips out of the tri-cities area and into the high desert, the vast dry scrub ringed by mountains and cut by squares of bright green crops growing in irrigated fields.
Even better, this area is a desert with rivers running through it—the Columbia, the Yakima, and the Snake. Just outside the cities is the only free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River, running through striped cliffs before it hits its first dam. We visited the free-flowing part of the river a few years ago, but none of my kids match the height limit for the boat that took us there, so this year we contented ourselves with dammed water’s controlled flow. Still, the rivers are magnificent. We rode on the Columbia on a paddle boat, drove across and back across it over beautifully spanned bridges, and watched the geese and ducks paddle along it from a river-front play ground. We also visited a dam on the Snake River and counted a few salmon going upstream in the fish ladder—although the professional counters promised us they would soon be coming through in larger numbers, my girls thrilled at the occasionally glimpse of a large shiny fish belly or side through the muddy swirling water pressing against the glass windows of the viewing area.
We also left the riverside communities and drove into down-town Pasco, which is largely Mexican-American. We literally had to cross to the other side of the tracks—in fact, we had to wait for 15 minutes for a long, empty cargo train to cross directly in front of our car. The kids counted ninety-something cars; my husband and I checked out the detailed grafitti. Downtown Pasco is something of a ghost-downtown, with too many empty sidewalks and shuttered store fronts. Our regular favorite Mexican restaurant there was closed, so we drove slowly along the few blocks, looking for someplace to eat lunch. We saw a taqueria and stopped. Although the bathroom outside of the restaurant proper almost put us off, we were so hungry we went in—and had the best tacos we’ve had in ages. The meat was so perfectly seasoned, the sauces so fine, the tortillas so thin and light. My husband is half Mexican and really nothing makes us happier than finding a good, authentic Mexican restaurant. If you’re ever in Pasco, go.
Best of all, our family got to spend a week together, all day, every day.
Oh, and the dogs did fine too. They stayed in the house. Our friend and professional dog walker, who knows about Cholula’s problems and is happy to walk her with hot-dog treats in his pocket to attract her energy when other dogs appear on the horizon, came twice a day, and my father gave them a couple of extra walks during the week. Both dogs and house were in fine condition when we returned. And the dogs were so satisfyingly thrilled to see us when we returned—or maybe, if our dogs are our mirror, it was just that we were happy to be back home. In any case, there was much leaping and racing.