Monday, 1 September 2014

Book Ends

There are discoveries to be made on a road trip, things to find in place you would never expect to find them. Yesterday was a bookend day of those discoveries, a day with one in the morning, followed by a long drive, and one in the evening.

The morning discovery was in McMinnville, Oregon. David wanted to see the "Spruce Goose", the largest wood frame airplane ever built. It is a creation of the genius of America's mad aviator, Howard Hughes, housed at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum, on Highway 18 just outside of town. In our plan to go there, I was think "amusement and road side attraction", not "incredibly impressive aviation and space museum". If our stop at Boeing, north of Seattle was a 3 out of 10, this place is, without doubt, and 11 out of 10. It is probably the best aerospace and flight museum I have ever seen, a place completely worth the drive.

Our original plan, or rather David's original plan, suggested we might spend an hour at the museum; we spent two hours just walking the floor before even getting close to looking at the Spruce Goose, which, by the way, has a frame made mostly of birch. The media dubbed it the Spruce Goose, most likely because birch rhymes with almost nothing aviational.

The EASA Museum, the "Air and Space Association" Museum, hosts dozens of aeronautical and space displays, many original and many replicas. The displays are static but extremely well documented and presented. The curator has done a fabulous job of documenting the exhibits and that documentation, in summary form, is there beside every exhibit. The reader boards include information on the history of the artifact, whether the display is real or replica, the provenance of the artifact and the list of previous owners. It is an amazing walk down the lane of flight history.

This museum is large, encompassing three separate buildings that include the air museum, the space museum and a theatre. We spent a couple of hours in the air museum before we had to rest, having a low budget lunch in their onsite cafeteria. It was airplane food in an airplane museum. Then we spent another 90 minutes in the space museum before finally running out of energy. We didn't even get to our free film presentation in the theater.

On top of all this historical excitement, something that could hold me for endless hours, there is an aviation themed waterpark in another building, the fourth on the site, set up with waterslides and pools to entertain the young while those of us who revel in the past can wander for hours to our hearts content. This is a place I will remember and recommend.

We spent so long at the EASA Museum that we were late in our final departure, well behind in the time it would take to get to Boise, our intended destination for the night. Instead we arrived in Pendleton, a dusty cowboy town in north central Oregon, at about 9:00 PM, where we tied up our iron horse and wandered into a nearby saloon. We knew we were in a real cowboy town when our waitress said proudly that "we got a nice big little rodeo here".

This particular saloon, Hamley's, is a cornerstone business here in Pendleton; it's been around for nearly a century. It started as a saddlery. Then, some years back, they added a cafe. In 2006 they added the restaurant and saloon. This is no dusty beer and whiskey hall in the dry prairie. This is a beautifully built interior inside a refurbished exterior that has been around for nearly 75 years.

The whole of the re-finished inside is oak lined. They have a world-class kitchen and an incredible wine cellar. Unfortunately for me the wine cellar is in the basement, down stairs that I cannot climb. David, however, could climb, so down he went, taking photographs for me so that I could see this wonderful room below. We ate our dinner of simple, good food. David had a beer and I had a glass of local red wine. Between that and our long day, we were done.


  1. I might be doing a road trip out this way in late November, just when the roads to all the mountainous sights (St. Helens, Rainier, Cascades highway 20) will be shut for the season. This post is making me seriously consider the I-84/historic US99 corridor along the Columbia as an alternative. I'll make sure Anisa knows who she can blame if I decide to go, and she stays home ;)

  2. I miss Oregon. For about a decade it was tradition to make the trip to the Oregon coast every couple of years. I haven't been back since 2010 and I miss it a lot. I'm most excited about the chance to show it to Emily (she''s never been). Maybe in 2016 it will finally reach the top of my list. In the meantime I've greatly enjoyed following along with your trip.