The Importance of Blue Highways

F and I (and Sprocket) have done our share of road tripping. We’ve had boring days on the road, stressful ones, action packed ones, and the elusive blissful travel days. I’m starting to come to the conclusion that the blissful travel days really aren’t all that elusive, it’s the ability to put all the necessary ingredients together that’s a bit tricky but not elusive.

I alluded to this yesterday but this weekend we stuck to Forest Service Roads, county routes, and minor state highways a lot of the time and it was awesome. It’s just a wayyy better way to actually experience a place rather than passing through it. Have a good travel partner, only a general destination, avoid interstates (and major highways), explore, don’t be afraid to talk to locals, and take a walk or hike…you’ll have an awesome trip

Anyway, we left Thursday after work heading for Pendleton, Oregon. We took the interstate and Highway 395 because, well, sometimes you just need to get out of town, fast. We arrived in Pendleton ready to have dinner and sample some beer at The Prodigal Son Brewery. Unfortunately, they were over at the Oregon Brewers Festival and were closed. Instead we went to The Great Pacific and ordered a pizza and pints of Beer Valley Brewing Co. (Ontario, OR) Leafer Madness Imperial Pale Ale and Terminal Gravity (Enterprise, OR) IPAWe enjoyed them at an outdoor table with Sprocket curled up on our feet; what a perfect start to the weekend. (By the way, the pizza and the beers are all recommended.)

Cruisin’ in the Blues

We spent the night in the back of the Cherokee near the Battle Mountain summit. Bright and early we headed south. We stopped in Ukiah for coffee and hung out for awhile. It was fun to hear some of the stories about life in Ukiah (it didn’t sound any different from life in Mullan). After our coffee, we headed up into the Blue Mountains. We took our time, stopping to watch some elk cross the road, to let Sprocket play in a creek, and to take a hike into the edge of the North Fork John Day Wilderness.

After a brief stop in Granite for an ice cream bar, we went to the Fremont Powerhouse and checked out the historical electrical generation equipment. From there we cruised out to the highway and headed for John Day. On the way there we were treated to great views of the Strawberry Mountains. All of the Strawberry peaks are located in wilderness but we took another Forest Service route on our way to Seneca and Burns to try and see some more of them up close. We went up to Canyon Meadows Lake to discover that it is no longer a lake and is just Canyon Meadows… We headed a bit further up the road and took a  short hike along Buckhorn Meadows Trail in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness.

Strawberry Mountains

Stopping in Burns just long enough to get a 6-pack of Firestone Walker (Paso Robles, CA) IPA and some yummy fruit we headed south to the shores of Lake Abert (this lake smells distinctly salty…almost low tide like) where we spent a hot and miserable night in the jeep.

The boys at Lake Abert

We’d originially planned on heading southwest out of Lakeview to Lava Beds National Monument but over breakfast we decided it wasn’t really worth it because it would be too hot to leave Sprocket in the car so instead we headed directly for Klamath Falls to pick up our stove. On our way, we called Forrest’s friend Tom in Bend and found out that Tom’s annual Car vs. Horse Picnic (aka slot car races and horseshoe competitions) happened to be that day so we headed right up after securing the stove atop our platform.

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument—Clarno Unit

We hung out at the picnic for awhile but it turns out that Forrest hardly knows anyone there anymore so we decided to head north. We detoured through Antelope and hit up one of the units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (the pretty red cliffs made me think of Moab…).

Doesn’t F have some sweet shorts?

When we got into Fossil, we heard some sweet music drifting through the streets. Fortunately, we decided to check out the downtown so we found the band playing in front of the little one room schoolhouse. Quickly we decided there would be no getting home that night (driving to arrive home at 1am or listening to music, getting a motel room, and taking our time on the way home? Easy choice). We relaxed and enjoyed the music before checking into the Fossil Motel.

Music in Fossil, Oregon

F and I have been together for nearly 3 years and we have never paid for a hotel/motel room (we stayed in one together once, but it was paid for by a prospective employer). The Fossil was the perfect place to give in: there were motorcyclists for Forrest to talk to, an owner who when asked how much cheaper if the dog stayed in the car said “Twenty-five more,” clean but retro fab, and it had DirectTV (whoooohoo!!! VH1 “NWA: The World’s Most Dangerous Group” documentary, heck yes!!).

We got a good nights sleep and in the morning we took the long way back to Pendleton through Condon and Heppner. In Pendleton we had lunch at Prodigal Son (we made it in the end!). The beer was okay but nothing too awesome; I thought the food was pretty great though. From there we ambled north to the Walla Walla area where I tasted wine at Tertulia Cellars (favorite taste: 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon) and Tamarack Cellars (bought a 2009 Chardonnay but again the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was my favorite).

Camel in Oregon? (Waitsburg)

We decided to stop at one more before heading north. We chose Patit Creek Cellars and boy was I glad I did! It was one of those awesome tasting room experiences where you have someone pouring who is deeply connected with the wine, usually either the winemaker, or in this case, the owner. They treat you like you’re worth talking to even if you might not buy a whole case of their wine AND they have a free tasting (I always think of it as “Here, my stuff is good and I want to show you”). On top of this, he let Sprocket come in and lay on the cold slate floor of the beautiful tasting room. I really liked their Riesling and we’re pretty seriously considering buying some of their red blend (The Creek) for the wedding.

The trip still wasn’t over, however, we headed home through Waitsburg and Dayton. As we passed through Waistburg we saw a hand painted sign that read, “Caution: Brewery ahead!” Now how do you not stop there? The Laht Neppur Brewery had a pretty good IPA (WARNING: their pale is NOT a pale ale but really a pale beer aka lager).

Finally, it was time to book it home where Blaze and Kelsey were waiting. It was an awesome weekend. Truly just awesome.

3 thoughts on “The Importance of Blue Highways”

  1. You make me want to take a road trip! It all sounds beautiful. And heck yes, Forrest’s shorts are sweet! I was going to comment on his shorts even before I saw the caption! I’m so glad you guys had a wonderful time.

  2. I came back on such a high. When we were sitting in the brewery on Sunday (we were waiting outside for them to open at noon) talking about how awesome a time we’d been having and I just got this RUSH of happiness to know that I’m going to be with someone who shares my excitement in cruising the backroads for the REST OF MY LIFE.

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