At a rest stop near Post Falls on Sunday, John Isle, who was more than 1,000 miles into his trip from Minnesota to California for Thanksgiving, stopped to tighten the straps on two yellow canoes atop his white van.
“I heard about the bad weather coming in, so I drove like crazy and got here just ahead of it,” said Isle, who is driving to see his daughter. Her 45th birthday coincides with Thanksgiving this year.
Isle also got a head start on the nearly 1.3 million Washingtonians who will travel more than 50 miles for Thanksgiving this year, according to AAA. Nationwide, 1.6 million more people will be traveling for the holiday than did last year.
Westbound I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass is expected to see above-average traffic Wednesday, to the tune of a few hundred additional cars each hour from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m., according to state Department of Transportation projections. Traffic will be moderate to heavy from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m., peaking at 1 with around 2,000 cars on the road. Westbound traffic will be closer to average on Thanksgiving day, with moderate to heavy traffic from 10 a.m. through noon.
Forecasters say there won’t be any snow on the pass Wednesday through Friday, the busiest travel days of the holiday week.
But the Inland Northwest will be dealing with another kind of blustery Thanksgiving week headache.
The National Weather service warned that wind projected to blow into Spokane and Coeur d’Alene on Wednesday could cause tree damage and power outages, complicating pre-holiday travel.
Isle joked that he packed the canoes for his trip because flooding was forecast.
“Just kidding,” he said with a laugh. They’re actually his daughter’s birthday present.
The key to road-tripping, said Isle, who drives to see family several times a year, is to hydrate, which also means lots of breaks at rest stops.
The Pacific Northwest has “some really beautiful ones now,” Isle said. “They used to be grungy.”
Post Falls residents Sunni and Ted Everage, 66 and 82 respectively, used the rest stop close to their home to gather fallen tree branches and pine cones for holiday decorations. The subdivision the couple moved into last November lacks developed trees for quality foraging.
“We just wanted to bring the outside in for the holidays,” said Sunni Everage, who hoped to have their home decorated by the time her son and his wife got into town for Thanksgiving.
When Everage noticed how few days there were between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, she said she realized, “I need to bring the holidays in more quickly.”
The Post Falls rest stop also is the weekly Sunday stop for Jurgen and Melanie Thomason, who pull off there after church to let their dog Pfeffi relieve itself. They said they’ve become regulars at the rest stop since moving to Liberty Lake from Hawaii earlier this year.
Before returning to Washington, Melanie Thomason said she hadn’t seen her mother in almost 10 years. The whole family will be together on Thanksgiving for the first time this year.
Tim Weingart, 24, who is visiting home in Idaho’s Silver Valley area for Thanksgiving, said the bare roads in the Inland Northwest are preferable to the snowy conditions he left in North Dakota. No snow is forecast in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene over the holiday.
Weingart said he works in the oil fields in North Dakota and is taking advantage of extended time off for Thanksgiving.
“I don’t get time to see the family, so I finally did,” he said.
Steve Renberg and Jim Gordon were headed west to their homes in Seattle on Sunday after a long weekend of hunting in St. Regis, Montana.
They climbed out of a muddy red truck and adjusted their hats. The back of the pickup was full of gear, not game.
But the men said the trip wasn’t a flop.
“I missed one and I passed up a few,” Renberg said.
“We had fun. That’s all anyone can ask for,” Gordon said. “Beautiful. Good hikes. Good friends.”
Neither man planned to travel for Thanksgiving.
People heading east from Seattle over Snoqualmie Pass on Wednesday can expect to see heavier than-normal congestion and potentially stop-and-go traffic from 1 through 5 p.m., according to WSDOT. Eastbound Thanksgiving day traffic is expected to be above average and moderate to heavy.
Rather than traffic, Renberg and Gordon both were looking forward to having some turkey — just not one they shot themselves.
“Wild turkeys are… they’re pretty scrawny,” said Renberg.
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