On Saturday, May 30, 2009, we drove the length of Washington State Route 21 through the wilds of eastern Washington, flat farmlands and farm-filled forests.
State route No. 21:
A state highway to be known as state route number 21 is established as follows:
Beginning at a junction with state route number 260 in Kahlotus, thence northerly by the most feasible route, crossing state route number 26, and continuing northerly to a junction with state route number 395 in the vicinity of Lind; also
Beginning at a junction with state route number 395 in the vicinity of Lind, thence northerly by the most feasible route by way of Odessa to a junction with state route number 2 in the vicinity west of Wilbur; also
Beginning at a junction with state route number 2 at Wilbur, thence northerly by the most feasible route to a junction with state route number 20 at Republic; also
Beginning at a junction with state route number 20 east of Republic, thence northeasterly by the most feasible route to the east of Curlew lake by way of Curlew to the international boundary line in the vicinity of Danville.
Near the Snake River, in the unassuming town of Kahlotus (which means "hole in the ground" in the native tongue), Highway 21 begins at a junction with SR 260. The road then promptly starts climbing out of the hole and up onto the Columbia Plateau.
In the middle of empty farmlands, SR 21 intersects SR 26. There's not a city for many miles in any direction. Try not to hit the birds basking on the pavement.
We continue through the gloriously huge farms of the Columbia Plateau, eventually arriving at a junction with US 395. Highway 21 then jogs west a bit, finding the small city of Lind, and then turns due north once more.
Before too long, Highway 21 intersects I-90 -- once again, in the middle of nowhere, with nary a gas station or convenience store in sight.
After many more miles of green and golden fields, we arrive in Odessa and have a stop sign at SR 28. The restaurant known as Chief's will make you a good sandwich for a good price, even if the cheese isn't fully melted and the bun isn't toasted. . . On the maps, SR 21 overlaps SR 28 for a block, but it now goes straight north through the heart of Odessa, then does its zig-zag on the north side of town.
The farms of Lincoln County keep rolling past, and then we arrive at Wilbur and US 2.
SR 21 has a short gap as it gets further west of town, then leaves US 2, heading north.
A few hundred yards later, you must take a right turn to stay on SR 21. Otherwise, you're on SR 174, heading for the Grand Coulee Dam.
North through the fields once more, then up a short hill, around a bend, and . . . SR 21 drops off the face of the earth, plunging and weaving down a canyon to the Columbia River, glistening tantalizingly blue in the distance ahead of us. Closer and closer we drive, down onto the flats and past some bright green farms, until the road suddenly ends with this sign. It is now time to wait for the little ferry boat to arrive. Don't fret; it's only ten minutes away on the other side of Lake Roosevelt.
The ferry arrives, cars and motorcycles drive off, and -- after a moment -- the ferry operator waves us down the ramp as if he expected me to start driving without his signal. A pickup truck gets on behind us, then we're sailing; cars are already waiting at the north side of the lake. I would say that the ferry is free, but everybody in the state has to pay for it through taxes, whether they use it or not; I should clarify, however, that no additional toll is required for the trip.
Ten minutes later, we arrive at the north side of the lake/river. It's time to get back in the car!
After some time, we pass through the town of Keller, for which the ferry is named, and enter the forested north. Forty minutes from the ferry dock, which is about halfway to the next junction, I stop for a photo. Thirty miles from anything, out in the middle of the Colville Indian Reservation, heading up the Sanpoil River.
Another forty minutes or so later up the Sanpoil River valley, SR 21 hits SR 20 in Republic. We've been here very recently, it seems. We stopped for dinner this time, though, at a restaurant named Tamarack that a woman down the street described as Mexican even though the Mexicaniest item on their menu is a taco pizza. We ate a chicken-artichoke pizza for dinner and breakfast the next day (in Canada!).
A couple miles east of Republic, SR 21 starts up again from SR 20, still heading north up the Sanpoil River valley. A few miles later, unbeknownst to us at the time, we start heading down. At a place called Torboy, the Sanpoil River flows down into the north-south valley from the east, whereupon the main river turns south while a small portion turns north -- or so it seems on the maps and aerial photos -- and flows into Curlew Lake, then Curlew Creek, then Kettle River, which takes us north through the most-populated stretch of SR 21 all the way to . . .
The Canadian border! Open 8 a.m. till midnight, every day. Manned by one guard, carefully screening the southerners. He almost didn't let us in -- I think it was because we were from Seattle. Can't trust those Seattlites!
And thus I've finished another state highway -- probably the loneliest road so far. Not much to do but keep driving and driving and driving. . .