We made it back to Washington, and luck would have it we were just in time for the wine and chocolate event in Yakima Valley. Before we moved to Alaska, Nicole and I would wander over to central Washington for this event every February, and it was great to be able to spend a few days in the area to wrap up our trip. South and east of Yakima is a wine growing area called Rattlesnake Hills, and depending on the year there are anywhere from a dozen to twenty wineries that share resources and put on the Valentines Day/Presidents Day weekend wine and chocolate event. We weren't quite sure how it would go with Madeline along, but thought we should at least give it a try. Turns out Madeline was not the hindering factor in our weekend at all, but a quick death of the fuel pump in our van was.
We arrived in the area Friday afternoon, and had arranged to stay just outside Sunnyside, WA so we headed that direction. Family of friends had recently inherited a homestead and vineyard and offered to let us stay there while we were in the area. (Thanks Bill and Lynn) We stopped off to do some laundry, and the van decided not to start, so we camped out in the parking lot of the laundromat and talked with AAA about our options. The next morning, the van started and ran fine, so we went on our way with fingers crossed. We made it to three of the area wineries for tastings before calling it a day. We had been without showers for a few days so before continuing our wine tour we thought it would be good to get a motel room and freshen up a bit. The next morning we were off again in search of more wine, had a fun tasting at our first stop, then returned to the van to find it would not start again. It was Sunday and none of the repair shops in the area were open, so I caught a ride into town with the winery owner and picked up a rental car. A while later I was back at the van driving a well worn Hyundai, loaded up Nicole and Madeline and a couple days worth of clothes and such, and we headed off to visit a couple more wineries before the end of the day. Another motel room for the night, then I was off to meet the tow truck driver to get the van transported into Yakima to the Dodge dealership. That done, it was back to the motel to pick up my passengers and we were off for more wine tasting. The wine and chocolate event is held over Presidents Day weekend so visitors can take advantage of the three day holiday weekend, so most places were still open on Monday. After another enjoyable day, we got word the van would be fixed and ready for pickup the following morning, so back to the motel we went. After a relaxed morning we checked out of the motel and headed for Yakima to pick up the van and drop off our rental. Once that was done, we found the mountain passes were again closed from heavy snow, and we were in no hurry to leave, so we stopped by a couple more wineries that happened to be open on a Tuesday. That done, we finally headed out to our friends vineyard to spend the night. After imposing on folks to set up our staying there, we hadn't actually had the chance to return and wanted to spend at least one night there. The next morning the weather was gorgeous and we had run out of local wineries to visit, so it was time to head over the mountains and back to the Seattle area to wrap up our trip.
We are hoping AAA will cover some of the costs during our breakdown, but regardless the repair bill exceeded our wine buying expenses, making this an unexpectedly expensive stop for us.