July 3rd, 2022 Washington State Drive
It was an overcast day in the Pacific Northwest when I spontaneously decided to drive up to visit a site I read about online- an abandoned nuclear facility. It is the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant- it was part of five units that were to be built in Washington State, with only one unit operational in Eastern Washington (at the Hanford site.) Originally these units were built to meet the growing energy demands of Washington state and Oregon, but were ultimately scrapped due to changing opinions on nuclear energy.
Trip as seen on Google Maps- 407 miles in total. Left at 7:00am PST, arrived back home around 9:00pm PST.
I left Portland at around 7:00am- first stopping at Starbucks to get my usual order, a venti cold brew with light ice and light half and half. The drive was going to be long, as I was not staying the night anywhere, so I needed to get up early and be energized. For the first portion of the trip, between Portland and the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant, I only stopped once in a town near Oakville, Washington to get gas since it was only $5.09 (only?!?) a gallon at a reservation. I utilized Interstate 5, then Highway 12 to Elma. The power plant itself is a bit outside of the town of Elma- ten minutes from the town's downtown area, but very easy to find as the cooling towers are visible from miles away. The main thing I noticed is how significantly different the terrain and climate is in the Olympic Peninsula from the rest of Washington State- it is far more wet and humid, and even coming from Portland it was noticeably different. It reminded me of drives through Pennsylvania and New Jersey- including many abandoned buildings both residential and industrial. This is definitely an area that was severely hit economically as logging and mining became an afterthought during the 1980's and 90's. While I didn't go there during this trip, I have stopped in Aberdeen previously on a road trip and can definitely understand why Kurt Cobain was so depressed and bored living there.
Several photos I took of the site. There were two cooling towers, what I believe would be the reactor core structure (the cylindrical building that doesn't have a top,) some concrete ruins and an abandoned metal-sided building. There were also several active businesses in the center, including the state's largest hydroponic medical marijuana facility and the Overstock.com call center.
I spent about forty five minutes exploring the grounds- it is clear that you cannot enter any of the facility legally, so I played it safe and just took a bunch of photos and videos. Afterwards, I headed out to visit a couple of friends in Seattle. This portion isn't terribly exciting, as I took Highway 8 toward Olympia- changing to Highway 101 which officially ends in Olympia, and then onto the boring slog that is Interstate 5. This time, however, I decided to get off at 599 in Fife and onto 99, so that I could try out the newly constructed State Route 99 tunnel that replaced the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle. While I personally like viaducts even though they are ugly and create massive amounts of noise and pollution, it was awesome to see a brand new tunnel which cuts traffic time going through Downtown Seattle. The toll was fairly cheap too, and you can pay by plate if you don't have the transponder sticker for your windshield (it was $3.20 for a weekend day.)
I had lunch with a good friend of mine at North Star Diner on 87th and Greenwood- I ordered the challah french toast, which was amazing and I wish I took a photo of it to share and post on Yelp. The service was excellent and the prices were on point- I was even able to find parking in the building's lot, which in Seattle is quite the accomplishment. Afterwards I visited the Starbucks Reserve in Downtown- it was great to see the roastery and how the beans are packaged, utilizing pneumatic tubes that work overhead. I ordered a grande cold brew and beans made only at the reserve.
I needed the cold brew for the long drive back to Portland- like I mentioned before, the I-5 stretch between Seattle and Portland is bland and I've driven it dozens of times before. The only times I stopped on the way home were at a rest stop, and in Kalama to get gas. I arrived home at around 9pm, ready for bed after an exhausting day. Today's trip was long with a lot of driving- mostly in urban areas, but it was still great to get out of the house and explore more of a city that I had visited previously (but not in a number of years.)