We spent just one day sampling
There are two motels in Concrete, and only one passed our drive by test. When Dick went to check in, only desperation to sleep somewhere other than our car tonight kept him from turning around and leaving the office when he looked through the open door behind the desk to see multiple cat food bowls, spilled cat food littering the floor and a generally untidy living space in the motel owners' apartment.
We got the last room in the hotel, and they charged us $85 for it, claiming it usually went for $120. The room was clean—evidently the owners contract out the motel housekeeping services to someone with higher standards than their own.
However, there was hardly room to move around the room, because it was stuffed with oversize furniture—a king size bed and a super-sized recliner chair that was almost as wide as the bed, plus a wide-screen television inside a massive armoire which was set on an angle in the room so that the television could be viewed easily from the mega-recliner. There was a big box fan blowing away on top of the desk, because the room had no air conditioning, and the Northwest is in the middle of a record heat wave. (Normally a big fan on the desk would be a problem, because we like to put our computer on the desk, but since there was no wi fi, we didn't use the computer much.) The only small thing in the place was the shower, which was about three feet by three feet, and had a nozzle that delivered water with about the same force as the power washer we use to clean our deck.
Someone must have convinced the owners that the key to customer satisfaction is not a comfortable and tastefully decorated room which can be adequately temperature controlled, but rather lots of take-away amenities. Our room included the normal shampoo, conditioner, and soap, but also offered body wash, cologne, a sewing kit inside a fancy zippered patent leather change purse, and an address book (none of which we chose to use or take away with us as fond reminders of our stay).
After checking in, we headed for the two block long downtown business district. It was empty as a ghost town. All the businesses were closed, except for two saloon-type restaurants across the street from each other. We chose one of them, and ate at the only free table. The other dozen tables were taken up by six Harley Davidson riders and all their clothing spread out to dry after a trip over the mountains in a torrential rainstorm.
As we were settling in for the night back at our motel, a storm warning siren blared into our window. After it continued for about five minutes, Dick went outside to check on what kind of disaster might be imminent, and he discovered that the shed next door to the motel is the volunteer fire department, and the siren was to alert the fire fighters of a fire somewhere. Maybe the natives have trouble getting a cell phone signal around here, just like us.
Enough about Concrete. Dick has the succinct analysis: "It's a little town that's trying hard, but has more spirit than assets."
Everyone else we saw in the park seemed to be doing just what we were—driving through for the day and taking short hikes and stops at scenic overlooks along the way. (There are a few overnight accommodations in the park, but they book up months in advance, and you can only get to them on a passenger ferry, leaving your car and all you cannot stuff in a couple suitcases behind—not our style this time around.)
The water here was all shrouded in clouds of mist. It was a warm day, nearing ninety degrees by 11 a.m., and the water was all freshly thawed snow and ice. Where they met, the water vapor in the air condensed, and the border between air and water blurred. It was very beautiful to see, hard to capture in a photograph. Some of our experiences we are just going to have to keep in our mind's eye.
We called this morning to see if we could get on a two and a half hour bus and boat tour of the
The tour is conducted by Seattle City Light, which supplies 89% of
We enjoyed breath-taking scenery, learned a lot about the landscape and the water (which gets its other-worldly aqua hue from glacial flour—rock ground so fine from the movement of the glacier that it remains suspended in the water, reflecting light),
and had a leisurely afternoon, letting other people do all the work while we just sat back, relaxed and appreciated the wonders of man and nature around us.
As we continued east on the
By the time we get to Washington Pass at a little over 5,400 feet, we catch a little break in the weather, and skies are clear again as we drive into Winthrop.
You can't walk 200 feet down the wooden sidewalks without seeing someplace selling espresso, there are at least six good restaurant choices along the three blocks comprising downtown
The 349 people in this town sure know how to make a tourist want to stop and stay awhile.
We stay downtown in the Hotel Rio Vista, where all the rooms overlook the river swiftly flowing behind it. We open the door to our deck, listen to the roar of the water and enjoy the view, while catching up with our computer work. They have a great wi fi signal here. Everything about it is great, actually, especially in contrast to our lodging in Concrete last night.
The hotel burned to the ground in 2001—they have pictures of the conflagration framed in the office. The place was rebuilt, bigger and better than ever, opening one year, almost to the day, from the date of the fire. The woman at the desk tells me that no one was hurt in the fire, almost a miracle. But, people lost everything in their rooms, and most of the cars parked out front were destroyed. The fire was started by a guest who left a candle burning unattended in her room. "They prosecuted her—I don't know what happened to her, but I bet she doesn't burn candles anymore," the desk clerk says.
We eat dinner on the pleasant outdoor terrace of a restaurant just down the street. We can look down at the light traffic and the strolling tourists on the street below, while catching a bit of a cool breeze. Afterward, we wander over to the open air espresso, bakery, and ice cream establishment a bit further down the street, and we eat our ice cream cones while seated on saddles mounted tableside.
The next morning we return there for a freshly baked and frosted cinnamon roll, an apple fritter and our morning lattes. This is a fitting end to our time in