Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Roadtrip East: On to Pendleton

On to Pendleton

I have had this little dream, call it a mini-bucket list item. I want to go to Pendleton. I want to see the wild west part of Oregon. I want to go to the historic factory that makes the cool woolen materials for my blankets and spiffy handmade Jacket. I want to see the stage for the famous Pendleton Roundup and be awed by the mysterious Pendleton Underground.

And here I am, driving to Ontario, the perfect chance for an overnight pitstop in Pendleton.

You have to drive a lot. Just saying.

If you remember from my last post, my partner and I had just spent a rather parched couple of hours hiking the Deschutes river in 100 degree scorching sun light. We then took a quick shower (nice camp ground there at the confluence of the Deschutes and the Columbia), cranked up the AC in the Subaru and went on our way up river (Columbia). You leave the Gorge right about then and head out into the plains of Oregon. In fact, just up river from the Deschutes is the place where the Oregon Trail pioneers would have come down off of the plateau (that part above the river cliffs) down to the river. They came down to the Columbia where they would decide whether to float down the mighty Columbia (not a good idea with the dams not yet in place and Ciello Falls just around the bend) or take the nascent private railway down the river bank (pricey) or turn south and go around Mt Hood and down the route 26 highway (lots of graves that way).

The question you should be asking right now is, “How the hell does he know all this?”

The obvious answer would be that he was born and raised in Oregon and so had been taught the whole Oregon Trail and Pioneers thing ever year of his school boy life. Hell, he played the original “Oregon Trail” game every day for a year and only died of dysentery 37 times. He played the helpful Indian in the pioneer day play and lead the way across the Deschutes river, saving the intrepid pioneers nearly $10 !!. That would be the obvious answer.

Learning Stuff

These things are everywhere. Made from real trees.
But it would be the wrong answer. He was born in Beruit when his dad and mom were stationed there for a Navy assignment and only moved to Oregon when the job market went bad in Southern California. The right answer is: Kiosks.

There is an Oregon Trail Kiosk at ever park, trail head, rest stop, and byway all the way up the Columbia and through the passes to Idaho. They all look alike (here are a couple of samples) and inside of them are placards stuffed full of interesting tales and pertinent data. It is there that I read about the trail across the plateau coming down to the river at Biggs Junction. I also read about the helpful Indian that would lead the wagons through the shallow fords of the Deschuttes for $2 saving the settlers the $10 they would have spent on the ferry.

It is also where I learned about the terrible scar that the influx of settlers put upon the land they were moving through. Imagine it, thousands of wagons of settlers moving through and camping off the land. They would be following the instructions given them and the wheel ruts of the people before them. They would camp near water (where other people had camped). In a short period of time the arrid plains of the high desert were stripped of their game and their firewood. Every tree would have been cut down and burned. Every edible plant eaten (hell, many unedible plants eaten. Deadly Hemlock looks a lot like wild carrot, you know). They put a scar across the land that can still be seen in some places, if only as a narrow swale winding up the plain toward the next water. Still, you can easily see how it got to a point where the newcomers were not welcome and the locals were getting a bit angry about things.

But let's ask the meta-question. Why all of the hullaballoo? Why all of the Kiosks? After driving through the area I can pretty much tell you that the great Oregon Immigration is the last interesting thing that happened in the plains of Oregon. The thing before that was the retreat of the glaciers at the end of the last ice age. Wow. I just lost all of my Pendleton readers.

Perhaps they will come back if I tell you some about Pendleton.
View from our Hotel room of the Blue Mountains. 

First of all, the Red Lion Inn in Pendleton is a great hotel. It has great rooms with great air conditioning and a beautiful view of the Blue Mountains across those exciting plains. The restaurant is OK and they have a swinging karaoke. Though it is a sad Karaoke Night when the single woman gets up and can't convince any man to do a duet with her. She was relegated to “Stand by your Man”. Did I mention it was Country Karaoke? The Nipponese have insidious influence throughout America.

Oh. The Red Lion also has a great pool. And it is Dog Friendly. The building is on a hill, so you enter on the second floor. On the back side of the building (down the hill and facing the view of the Blue Mountains) is a wonderful little green lawn. All of the rooms that open onto that lawn, essentially in the daylight basement of the hotel, have their doors opening onto the lawn and the back of the building. These are “dog friendly” (and I suspect smoker friendly) rooms. You park out back, walk along the grass to your room and bring your cannine companion with you right to your room without ever going through the hotel. And you can play catch right there !! What a great idea. Not sure I would want to lay in the grass and sun, however.
Editor's note: People in Pendleton must love their dogs more than people in Portland.  How do I know this? I was so excited to see what Pupcakes were, until we got close enough to read the signs.  Check out the cupcake store we found:

I had mentioned the “Pendleton Underground” earlier. I have heard about this on NPR and that it was a “thing to see” in Pendleton. So I wanted to see it. That and the Pendleton Mill. Well, I got me some free WIFI so I looked it up. I could find a reference to a paid tour of the Pendleton Underground. That is nice, but I would rather wander around and do a self tour of whatever it is. But I couldn't find one. As far as I can tell, the entire endeavour is sort of like an ad hoc Ripley Believe it Or Not show. You know, like the ones you find at the boardwalk on the beach. Some sort of commercial affair through the basements of downtown Pendleton where you hear about the bad things that happened to the Chinese laborers that were housed there and moon shining and other stuff. OK. Might be fun. But it isn't open on Sunday. What? A tourist attraction that isn't open on Sunday? How does that work. OK. Plan B.

We want to go boot shopping. We are in the Wild West of Oregon (which, you may note, is in the East) and we want to find a place that sells real cowboy boots. Well, not too real. I don't want to ride horses, but I don't want to be walking around in Ostrich Skin line dancing boots either. The nice restaurant lady recommended we go to Hamley's. Looks interesting. Gotta find it first.

So we head downtown. I see signs all over the place pointing to “Pendleton Underground”. Sort of pisses me off, it being closed and actually a commercial enterprise and perhaps not still existing at all. But I missed the turn anyway and ended up on the other side of town and, Hey, lookee there. The Pendleton Mill !! The Mill is sitting where it has always been, right next to the railroad tracks running through town.

I borrowed the following link from Pendleton Woolen Mills:

Notice anything similar about these pictures?
Note that these pictures are referenced links from the Pendleton site. 

I fell in love with Pendleton Woolen Mill blankets when I first moved to Oregon. At first, all I had was a simple camp blanket which I used in the winter to keep warm while watching some evening TV. But later I found their beautiful Jaccard patterns and ended up getting Chief Joseph blankets for my bed and for pretty much everyone in my family. Then I had a winter coat made from my favorite black Chief Joseph. I love wearing this coat to go walking in downtown Portland on a cold winters day (or night). I always get comments. Most of them positive ones.

The current Pendleton Mill is also a museum and factory outlet. It is a pretty good factory outlet, they have damaged blankets and unwanted runs (like leftovers from some University Logo run) on sale for about half price. Something to think about.

But we were actually on a trip to find Cowboy Boots. At Hamley's. Well, that is only a few blocks away down the main drag. Big old historic building with a cool 50's electric sign out front. We parked in the already blistering heat and went inside to check things out. They certainly had a lot of saddles and art of naked indian princes, but their supply of boats was pretty negligible.

We walked around and looked at lariets and Winchesters and such for a while. My kayak partner used to jump horses as a teenager (she won some big local awards) so she could explain what the various strange looking dookers were. 
I love old American Town Buildings

My Dad used to drive one of these

Afterward we walked around the main blocks some. It was very, very hot. And very deserted. Nothing much was open beside Hamley's. Even the bakeries and such were closed on Sundays. There were a lot of brass statues and Western themes and closed or under construction buildings. Pendleton very much has the feel of a town that had a renewal and rebirth.... about 20 years ago. Perhaps if we were to come back during the Roundup. There is this HUGE rodeo collesium (closed on Sunday) that we drove by on our way out. If they can fill that sucker up for a couple of weekends, that might make the town more jumping. Probably on Friday.

Coming up Next:
Back on the Oregon Trail to Ontario.

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