The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

July 17, 2008

All This for a Hot Dog? – More Yakima Valley Sightseeing

Filed under: Wanderings, Washington — Tags: , , , , — Brian Lutz @ 3:05 am

This is a continuation of the post below, in which I highlighted some of the natural and agricultural sights that are found along Interstate 82 in Eastern Washington.  Of course, as with any sufficiently long stretch of road, there are bound to be a number of interesting sights along the way.  Travelers so inclined could probably spend days along this stretch of road, hopping from one winery to another (preferably with someone else to handle the driving for them, of course)  but even for those people that prefer to prefer to enjoy their trip down I-82 in sobriety, there are a number of interesting sights to see.  Of course, even for a slightly impulsive and easily distracted person such as myself, there’s not much point in heading out for a nice long drive like this without having at least some sort of destination in mind (trivial though it may be.)  In this case, the destination was the city of Kennewick,for reasons that soon be made apparent. Before we get to that though, let’s take a look at some of the interesting sights to be seen along the way, which you will find after the jump.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the evening before this journey was spent camping out with my ward at church at a place known as Ensign Ranch, a few miles west of Cle Elum.  Given the state of the available restroom facilities at the campsite, a stop at the rest area a few miles into the journey on I-90 was the first priority.  There’s nothing particularly unusual about this place, with the possible exception of a name guaranteed to get the kids and/or immature cartoon characters chuckling.  At least it was clean and surprisingly graffiti-free.

As you approach Yakima, you see this rather prominent building appear near a freeway exit in Selah, offering the promise of fruit antiques.  Although I tend to prefer my fruit to be a bit more modern, I hadn’t ever actually stopped into this place on any of the trips I have taken down this road (usually with someone else driving,) so I figured it was worth a look.


Judging by the really old (and apparently defunct) refrigeration units in front of the building (not shown) and by this sign on the side of the building, I’m guessing that this place has probably been around for a while…

…But not nearly as long as this building across the street, which I would presume to be their former location.It does look like the building is still in use in one form or another though, and the decay seems to be limited mostly to the old signage.

Shockingly enough, as you venture inside the building, there is fruit and there are antiques.  If I had the slightest clue what I was doing when it comes to antiques, I’d probably spend hours in places like this, but more than likely I’d just end up with a bunch more junk cluttering up the house, so I just stick to browsing.

Not only are there fruits and antiques here, but apparently they even manage to combine the two as well.  I managed to resist the temptation to ask what the vintage of the pears was though.

But it’s not just fruit and antiques, it’s PRECISION fruit and antiques.  Apparently they water each tree with exact, scientifically calculated quantities of water each day, and measure each fruit with calipers to determine the optimal diameter before picking.  Even with the shamefully limited knowledge I have of agricultural sciences, I know enough to realize that precision doesn’t seem to be a term that would be often applied to farming, but apparently these people have the whole thing down to a science.  Either that, or it’s just a catchy name.

Moving down the road, we eventually reach the quiet little town of Zillah, roughly 20 miles past Yakima.  Although much of the town is relatively unspectacular, there are a couple of interesting landmarks found within this town.  This is the town’s main drag, showing a classic rural downtown, although a number of the buildings along this stretch of road currently sit vacant.)

Not that the town of Zillah provides much opportunity for one to get themselves lost, but this sign, found across the street from where the previous photo was taken, doesn’t seem like it would be all that helpful.

Nearby, a community bulletin board shows this leftover advertisement for a nearby fireworks stand, which seems to be going just a little overboard on the quotation marks.

Zillah’s most notable landmark is actually found a couple miles down the highway from the town itself.  The Teapot Dome Service Station was built in 1922, in response to a political scandalthat had befallen the Warren G. Harding administration.  Although this structure is a federally recognized historical landmark, it ceased to operate as a service station many years ago, and currently sits vacant.  For some time now, Zillah’s Chamber of Commerce has been working to raise funds to move the former service station into Zillah proper and convert it into a tourist information booth.

The old gas pumps still remain at the site, showing prices that have not been seen on any functioning gas pump in quite a long time.

From Zillah, it took about 63 more miles of driving to reach my ultimate destination of Kennewick.  Until now, I haven’t ever actually been to the Tri-Cities (with the possible exception of a gas stop or two in Richland before heading into the self-serveless wastes of Oregon where you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas,) and as as someone coming from the other side of the mountains,  the look of the city surprised me a bit.  The climate of Eastern Washington is very different from that in the Puget Sound region where I make my home, with much hotter summers and colder winters.  As such, a much more desert-like climate prevails over this area than what you might find in Western Washington, and in some ways the architecture and design used in buildings around here seems more reminiscent of what you might find in Arizona than what you would expect to find in the Seattle metro area. 

Sure enough, the temperature outside during my visit to Kennewick reached as high as 95 degrees.  Thank goodness for air conditioning.  But what exactly was I doing in Kennewick, you may ask?  I was there to sample some of the culinary delights on offer that you just can’t seem to find on the other side of the state…

Well OK, it’s actually just Sonic, but it’s been ages since I’ve been anywhere that had one of these.  I may not be quite as obsessed with Sonic as some members of the family might be, but I still have fond memories of the Sonic in Los Alamos where I grew up, and have to make sure to drop in whenever I’m near one.  Since they haven’t gotten around to opening one of these things anywhere near Seattle just yet, this is just about the closest one of these you’re going to find to Seattle (actually, it’s the second closest one.  There’s one in Vancouver WA that’s only about 175 miles from Redmond, but I figure I was already 70 miles in this morning, so I went to this one.) 

I could tell that this Sonic was fairly new, especially compared to some of the other ones I had been to, with nice features like the ability to pay with a credit/debit card right from the car.  They even had carhops on roller skates when I was there.

Here’s my standard order whenever I happen to be somewhere that I can find a Sonic:  An extra-long Cheese Coney, an order of tater tots, and a large Ocean Water or Cherry Limeade (not pictured.)  Given the fact that I haven’t been to one of these in a while, and the fact that it was so freakin’ hot outside when I was there, I actually ended up getting both the Ocean Water AND the Cherry Limeade.  Somehow after drinking all that, I even managed to somehow make it all the way back to Redmond on only one bathroom stop. 

While I was in the neighborhood, I figured I’d also go check out the local mall, just a couple of blocks away from here.  The Columbia Center Mall (Mall  homepage, Wikipedia Entry) is a fairly large regional mall owned by Simon, which benefits greatly from the relative lack of competition in the area.  Beyond this, the closest competing malls are found in Yakima and Spokane, and this mall attracts shoppers from hundreds of miles away, especially along the I-84 corridor in Oregon which offers few opportunities for shopping.  The mall is anchored by two Macys stores (one being a Mens and Childrens store in the space where this mall’s Lamonts used to be), Sears and JCPenney, with another former anchor space being divided into a Barnes and Noble Bookstore and a movie theater.  The mall opened originally in 1969, and in spite of fairly extensive renovations that have taken place, there is still a fair bit of late sixties and early seventies style in evidence here.   I’m not going to bother going into detail on this one, since it’s a bit too far from here for me to do much research or photo-taking.

Before heading back across the mountains, there was one more order of business to take care of.  Before embarking on this trip, I was asked to bring some Sonic Blasts back for my mother.  Being the kind, obedient (sometimes) son that I am, I was able to locate a small ice chest and some dry ice at a Fred Meyer a few miles away, which I was then able to use to keep three Sonic Blasts (a couple for my parents, and one for myself since I was probably on way too much sugar at that point anyway)  frozen for the 220 mile journey back home, which was done relatively quickly and with only a single gas and restroom stop in a not-so picturesque area of Yakima.  All in all, I put in somewhere around 450 miles on the round trip (including the drive across Snoqualmie Pass to the campout on Friday evening.)  All that just for a chili dog and a cherry limeade.  Now if we could just figure out how to convince someone to open up a Sonic up here…



  1. Oh man! You were in our old stomping grounds! Jeff and I have done that drive from Ellensburg to Yakima more times than we can count.

    Comment by Aunt Valerie — July 17, 2008 @ 8:39 am

  2. So you elected to use a state highway reststop restroom over Ensign Ranch’s!? Wow, those must have been bad.

    Comment by Jeff — July 17, 2008 @ 8:55 am

  3. Hey, this is Valerie’s sister. I currently reside in the lovely (ha ha!) town of Yakima. Just wanted to let you know that we are getting a Sonic here soon, so you won’t have to drive all the way to Kennewick…unless you want to, of course!

    Comment by Keri — July 20, 2008 @ 5:30 pm

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