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Published: August 8th 2010
Along the highway
Trees line the rural highway through the arid regions of Oregon.
Pattie and Ron's Vacation 2010 Day 1 The long awaited day had arrived. August 1, was our departure date. We started our two week auto touring vacation, a journey departing from Pocatello, Idaho. Our first scheduled stop was La Pine, Oregon. My oldest son has never been to Crater Lake, Oregon and I thought what could be a more inspiring way to start a vacation than to have him experience the lake for a first time. We quickly approached the Idaho Oregon border shortly after leaving Caldwell, Idaho. The exit took us into the town of Ontario, a quaint small county town obviously proud of their pioneer heritage. The artwork on many exterior walls throughout the town depicted pioneers and the local Indians; scenes showing various stages of settlement. A two lane road took us though the town and rapidly led us through rambling hills, all dotted with small farms and gazing livestock. The speed limit was 55 mph so we had ample time to enjoy the scenery and some very interesting farmsteads. We soon arrived in Vale and decide to top off the tank. We pulled into a Fletcher Sinclair station and were soon reminded that self serve is not permitted in Oregon. You must have the attendant pump your gas. AS a plus, they will even wash your windshield if you want. We had departed Pocatello at 7AM with only a light breakfast at a local McDonalds. Now we were hungry again. We decided, since we were already stopped, to have a light lunch. We pulled into a vacant parking lot and popped open our cooler. After making two sliced turkey and cheese sandwiches with chips we started off again on our venture.
The road remained a two lane, 55 mph, 126 mile stretch of rolling mountains, sparse vegetation and arid landscape. The road was a winding cacophony of ups and downs, this way and that, so much so that you almost had the feeling of vertigo and sea sickness at the same time. As we climbed to reach the summit we were reminded that the arid desert-like landscape was capable of icy conditions. We passed chain-up areas for truckers. A rather swift river meandered along our route. The road followed the risw and fall of the land while the river continued its downhill run to the sea. We climbed hills and the river was far below. Descending, the river was soon alongside the road again. At a convenient pull-off, we stopped so my son could walk to the river’s edge to see just how cold the water was. To his horror, as soon as he stepped on the sparse vegetation that bordered the river’s edge, he was quickly attacked by every winged insect in the area. He made a hasty retreat to the safety of the car.
It was at this point that he decided it was my turn to drive. Normally I would have had have had no reservations but this was no ordinary automobile. Allow me to digress to yesterday at the rental car office. Since we had estimated a journey of between 2600 to 3000 miles, we decided to rent a car instead of amassing that many miles on our own vehicle. The car rental agency knew my son and offered us a good deal for the two week trip. While we were signing the papers, the agent asked if we wanted a Toyota Prius, a vehicle said to be capable of 50 mpg. We were sharp enough to realize it would be a good deal. We jumped at the chance to save money at the gas pump. That is when we were told we would have to relearn how to drive a car. The rental agent said, “Let me show you how to drive the car.” This is what I learned. There is no key, only a fob of some sort that signals the car it can start. You push the start button but hear nothing, absolute quiet, no engine sound no revving sound, nothing. A ready light comes on signaling you can proceed. Then there is the gear shift. It is not really a gear shift. It is a little knob with a working area of a tea cup. Your choice is R (reverse) D (drive) N (Neutral) and B, which is for engine braking on steep terrain. You don't move a lever like a conventional car, you grab the knob move it to the letter of your choice, let go and you are in that gear. Depress the accelerator and the car moves off quietly like the Disneyland electric cars. The instrument panel display shows a diagnostic diagram of your car, much like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. I remembered my lessons and happily I now had the opportunity to drive it. After a rather quick refresher, I was off. I started slowly at first, to get the feel of the car and its small steering wheel.
I was soon cruising down the road. We crested yet another summit and found ourselves in a wide valley of yesteryear towns, towns that once hosted weary travelers, but now only offer ghostly reminders that everything has it's time. The vast desert soon gave way to some farm land but that all too quickly vanished. A roadside sign proclaimed we were now entering the Oregon Bad Lands. One look and you knew why. A region of massive, ancient volcanic activity, the area is laden with volcanic rocks. Scattered cedar and spruce trees, about 10 to 12 feet high, block your vision, reducing forward visibility. On foot, you could wander for days and not know what was in front of you.
I had planned this trip with the help of AAA and had the TripTik® with detailed instructions. We also had Lola, the GPS, and our destination entered. To that point both matched exactly, calling out each of our turns. Our TripTik® said to go to the 97 exit and proceed to point A. Lola, in her remarkable tone, said, “Turn now!” Being good listeners, we did. We have all heard stories of GPS units guiding people into lakes, rivers and even over cliffs. We started for a moment wondering if we were one of those unfortunate people. We had turned onto a dirt road bordered on both sides by cedars and spruce trees as far as we could see. We debated retracing our path back to the highway. But Lola was insistent and told us to continue 2.5 miles. We took a leap of faith, trusting soles that we are, and followed the GPS instructions. To our delight, we started seeing signs of life. We saw numerous for sale signs on vacant lots. Soon the road turned into a two lane paved lane lined by some rather impressive gentleman’s ranchettes. Lola continued to be insistent and said drive on. We did and soon we reached point A. We were exactly where the TripTik® would have eventually brought us. Lola took us a shorter, a somewhat more scenic rooute. We traveled through pine tree lined roads for another 26 miles until we reached the small town of La Pine, Oregon. In the 1800’s it was a wagon train stop. In the 1900’s it was a lumber producing town. It now hosts a variety of recreational venues and serves a gateway for Crater Lake National Forrest.
Our hotel was the Best Western Newberry Station in La Pine. It was quite nice. All rooms are inside entry, but there is no elevator so we had to haul our luggage up a flight of stairs. The room was nice, clean and beds cozy after a long day of travel. They offer an expanded continental breakfast in the morning but no other food service is in the hotel. Because we arrived at 5pm on a Sunday, we quickly learned most of the cafes closed at 3pm. Luckily, we did find the La Pine Inn was open. It has a lounge and restaurant and offers a good selection of food items in medium price range. The owners are of oriental decent so some of this western theme establishment has some of the trappings found in most Chinese restaurants. We were seated at a booth and I must say I have never been at a booth with such a large table. It was almost 4 feet wide. They offer traditional food items including steaks, ‘burges, sandwiches, salads and several sea food dishes. The food was of acceptable quality. We had a nice dinner except for the uninvited fly that continually buzzed out table. Our hunger satisfied, we returned to the hotel to plot our next day’s journey. It would be onward to Crater Lake and then down Route 62 towards Eureka, California via the magnificent Redwood Forrest.
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