Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Central Washington - 14 Auguat 2012

Spokane was just down the road so we stopped there for breakfast in the Riverside Park along with the homeless still asleep on the park benches.  After a quick look at the Spokane Falls we swapped the mountains and conifers for rolling hills with grain in the middle of the harvest season. Some fields cut, others being harvested and some very ready for the combine to visit.

There was an abrupt change in the topography as the grain fields ceased and were replaced with rocky lands covered in sage brush and then suddenly it was back to fertile wheat fields as far as the eye could see.

The roads were die straight for miles the only variation being altitude as we rolled across central Washington then descended to the Columbia River and the Grand Coulee Dam.

Built as part of the New Deal to create employment after the Great Depression, the Grand Coulee Dam was, until 4 years ago, the largest dam in the world, nearly a mile across, and until three weeks ago, the generators in the most recent power plant were the largest in the world.  The Chinese have just commissioned generators with a whisker more capacity than the units at Grand Coulee.

We took the dam tour which after the requisite post-911 screening and accompanied by a federal guard, took us to the pump house where they pump 3% of the river water 85m up to  Banks Lake from where it irrigates many thousands of acres of otherwise arid land and grows most of the mint  and lots of potatoes for the USA.

Although the biggest hydro producer in the USA and one of the biggest in the world, irrigation, not electricity, was the prime reason the dam was built, electricity is just a very useful by-product.

Instead of taking the direct route from Grand Coulee we ventured north to pick up the scenic route along Hwy 20 into Winthrop passing through orchard territory along the rivers.  Anywhere within pumping distance of the rivers is verdant green, beyond that boundary is burnt dry dusty brown at this time of the year.

231 miles today, total trip 5475, States: Washington

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