We decided to drive all the way from Glacier to Seattle (where my sister Caroline lives) in one day.  We flew through Montana and northern Idaho with almost no traffic and under beautiful sunny skies.  We cruised into Washington State the only way we knew how, having been pre-teens during the grunge era of the early 90’s, i.e., listening to Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana on full blast.  Jude bopped around in his car seat.

Things slowed down significantly about 60 miles east of Seattle, when we hit terrible traffic on U.S. Route 90.   Every car came to a grinding halt, and no one moved an inch for 75 minutes.  (We never found out why the traffic had completely stopped.)

I was in awe of how Pacific Northwesterners handled being stuck in traffic.  The only honks I heard were in greeting, and not frustration.  We were a long way from Brooklyn!  When traffic was slowing down, and before it came to a halt, big trucks began honking their horns whenever they passed an RV pulled over to the shoulder.  What was going on?  We looked more closely and saw that the truckers were responding to several young teenage girls (mostly blonde) hanging out the window of the RV and pulling their arms down and up, signaling they wanted the drivers to honk at them.  I guess the girls had become bored while waiting for someone to come help them with their flat tire (help probably couldn’t get there quickly).

I searched for some entertainment for Jude.  As I handed him back a box of raisins, I noticed the car to the right of us had a baby in the back seat.  I looked at the parents – they looked straight out of the movie Juno, i.e., kids themselves.  I wondered how they would handle the long wait.  As I looked into their car, I saw the mom driver shake her head in a mildly disapproving way, that also suggested, “oh man, not again.”  I learned the reason for the mom’s expression when the dad opened the passenger door, got out of the car, lit a joint, and then proceeded to smoke it in the middle lane of U.S. Route 90.  Wow, parents do handle stress differently out here, I thought.

By now everyone had put their cars into park or turned them off, so no break lights were visible.  There was an older couple who got out of their car, both wearing only swimsuits; the wife was over 50 and only wearing a bikini.  A driver of a truck flipped down the truck’s back, and two men sat with their legs dangling down, surveying the stopped highway.

Soon a man started walking down the road between cars with food.  I immediately thought he must be selling candy for his school sports team.  By the time he got close to us, however, I could read his sign: “FREE SNACKS.”  People were rolling down their windows and accepting peanut butter crackers and other individually-wrapped snacks from his large box.

In fact, everyone I saw seemed to have adopted a very refreshing we’re-all-in-this-together sort of attitude.  Nobody was pounding the dash and nobody was screaming at their spouse or kids.  It perfectly reflected the attitude and outlook of the people we’ve encountered in Seattle – despite the lack of sunshine generally found in their city, they more than make up for it with their sunny dispositions.

Travel Tip: Don’t Travel Too Far in a Car with a Two-Year-Old and without Kitchen Tongs or NPR Podcasts

As we left Montana bound for Seattle, Jude began shouting, “Water, mommy, Elmo, mommy!”  He had dropped them from his car seat and they were now out of reach.  That’s when I remembered that I didn’t have my long kitchen tongs.  In New York, I leave long kitchen tongs in the car so I can reach everything Jude drops (he still sits backwards) without jumping out of my seat or tearing a muscle with a loooong reach.

Luckily, we put Jude fast asleep fairly quickly by playing an NPR podcast debate on the future of Pakistan.  These podcasts (we downloaded many before left) have the dual benefits of (i) getting Jude more sleep; and (ii) preventing our brains from turning to mush while we travel for five months without work or formal education.



  4 Responses to “Glacier to Seattle and Why Pacific Northwesterners Handle Traffic Jams Better than New Yorkers”

  1. You and Patrick both write so well and interestingly! I look forward to all new installments.

    I assume your family was okay in the Bennington floods. Not fun!

    Love to you all,


  2. The NPR is a great idea. I remember falling asleep to NPR as well. Maybe that’s why I’m a liberal :).

  3. I love this post – and the idea of kitchen tongs. Brilliant!

  4. I’m from Seattle and have been stuck in that exact traffic jam – with what sounds like many of the same people :). To still your curious mind, they all-too-frequently close that route to blast for avalanches if it’s winter and manage construction and rock slides in the summer. It’s a nightmare, we always plan our trips around the WSDOT page.

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