Published: November 25th 2011November 25th 2011
Day One: Seattle to La Grande, Oregon
We left in sunshine, and hoped that the the prediction of light snow across the eastern part of Washington and Oregon would be correct, or even better, wrong, and that we would have a sunny drive. Not to be....
After a difficult day of snow, icy roads, being stuck on a pass with hundreds of trucks, chaining up, unchaining and getting a cable caught in the axel....(picture poor Bill on his back under the car, lying in dirty slush with giant semis rushing by at dusk...), we arrived in La Grande and found a hotel. We walked in a light snow to a restaurant filled with high school kids dressed up for the Harvest Ball.....nice ending to a hard day!
Day Two La Grande to Winnemucca, Nevada
We woke to sun and had a beautiful day of driving through Eastern Oregon and into Nevada. It was cold, and we were now up on the high plains. Hiked a bit, and scared up a jackrabbit....learned about Sarah Winnemucca...little-known Native translator and educator.
Arrived in Winnemucca ("and proud of it" they say at the entrance to town...), walked to
Moving into the "ugly" stage
Into Oregon....outside Pendleton
dinner on a cold, clear night in a Basque influenced town, past a beautiful white Mission style church, and rundown casinos.
Day Three Winnemucca to Baker, Nevada
We spent most of the day on Route 50, "The Loneliest Road in America". We were in the classic range/basin terrain, and were never below 4,000 feet. The highest pass was nearly 8,000 feet. The weather was perfect...went through near ghost towns, once rich with miners...past immense ranches, and beautiful rock formations. Ended our day in tiny Baker, outside of the Great Basin National Park, in a very old, very small, and barely OK hotel...the manager was finishing her first week there, and it was pie night....we slept soundly in our tiny, shabby room as temperatures dropped to below freezing over night...
Day Four Baker to Overton, Nevada
Another beautiful day...we began with a tour of the Lehman Caves....on empty stomachs and without coffee, since the manager of our hotel/cafe never showed up to open the restaurant as she had promised, and there was no other place to eat in town (I use the term "town" loosely here...). We were the only people on the 9:00 am tour, and
The really ugly stage
Spent an hour and a half surrounded by trucks on this pass outside of Pendleton, Oregon. Finally put the cable chains on....made it down to LaGande before dark....
spent a wonderful 90 minutes with our guide (who was impressed with our knowledge of geology). We then drove south, through Spring Valley (more range/basin landscape)...occasional cattle and too many mines. There is a plan to tap the giant aquifer under the basin to provide more water for Vegas....being fought by conservation groups, but the outlook is not good.
We ended the day in small town of Overton (near Ross Lake), in the one open hotel (very nice: free breakfast, quiet, new, coyotes howling nearby). Had a barely edible dinner, and slept...
Day Five Overton to Phoenix via the Valley of Fire
We got up early, breakfasted, and drove a short distance to The Valley of Fire Sate Park. It is not well known, even though it is close to Vegas. It is very beautiful, with intricate and spectacular formations of red and white rock. The photos barely begin to show the beauty! There is also an abundance of petroglyphs. We hiked three trails and drove the scenic loop before heading south again, towards Phoenix. We had hoped to see the Hoover Dam, but it is now blocked from sight from new bridge (homeland security concerns, I
Bill had a few hours of unpleasant driving on a mostly two lane highway, with a constant stream of headlights coming at us and several miles of construction besides. We arrived at Walter and Cindy's beautiful new home before 9:00pm....and sat out next to their pool....relaxing and catching up!
There are more photos below