Condon, Oregon….The Long Way Around

A road trip seemed to be inevitable on this beautiful spring day in NE Oregon, but to where? After throwing out a few ideas we settled on Condon. We planned on going from Hermiston, down Highway 207. We knew there was a turn or two involved before we would arrive. Neither one thought to keep Google maps live…afterall, how hard could it be to find Condon?  Well, actually, it turns out when a couple of people are just chatting away and watching the wheat fields go by, it can be almost impossible to find Condon, especially when we discovered, after about an hour of driving that we were coming upon the Columbia River, a body of water that should have been at least an hour from our rearview mirror.

We weren’t sure where the mistakes were made, or where the turns were left unturned; we did know, however, that we messed up. We chalked it up to ‘meant to be’ and ‘no regrets’, simply because we came across the unincorporated city of Cecil, which had one grain elevator and a general store that looked as if it hadn’t been shopped in for at least a few decades. Peeking in the window was like taking a step back in time. Old scales with ornate steel sat on the counter. Wooden rockers sat on the rickety porch and when I sat down in one and began to rock, I couldn’t help but imagine how many tall tales had been told on this very porch over the years. We stood on the porch step and took a selfie of our reflection in the window. Little did we know at the time that we were heading in the wrong direction, but truthfully, it was one of those moments during the day that helped to make the entire trip.

We walked through the entire town of Cecil (which simply meant we walked back across the dirt road to our rig) and headed toward the Columbia River, not knowing we were in fact heading toward the Columbia River. The shock we both felt when we saw the oh so familiar Interstate that travels alongside the Columbia, was priceless. Without a second thought we headed toward Arlington which was just about nine more miles down I-84. We were fairly certain we could find our way to Condon from Arlington, and sure enough, within about 35 minutes we were heading down the city’s main street. Condon was absolutely nothing like I expected it to be.

I am certain I have been to Condon in the past, but as we traveled from one end of town to the other I did not recognize a single building, everything was completely new to me, so I am sure that I have just seen a sign to Condon so many times that I actually thought I had been there before.

Condon is amazing. We stepped into the Select Market and had a wonderful conversation with the lady behind the counter, who was very welcoming and made us feel right at home. Once we left the market we came across a group of motorcyclists who had ridden from their home in Seattle to Moscow, Idaho, then up Highway 3, which would be amazing on a motorcycle this time of year. From Highway 3 they went to Enterprise, through Elgin and on to Baker City. Today they had traveled through Union and La Grande and ended up in Condon at the exact time we were there. After our short visit they told us where to find great ice cream, said their good byes and thundered, single file, down the road.

We walked on. Two women stepped through a door near us. Instantly I knew I had met one of them and had actually just spent a little time with her at the 2017 Travel Oregon Conference in Salem. After a quick hug we both introduce our companions then began talking about how amazing Condon looked. Condon seemed as if it would have been a tumbleweed town in decades past, but with the help of windmill money the citizens were able to revitalize it. The results are phenomenal. Another quick hug, a few good byes and promises to talk again soon, and we were on our way again, this time across town to the Gilliam County Museum.

Once inside we visited with the curator, Sue, before heading to the extensive collection. A bookcase filled with bound newspapers caught my eye in an instant. I grabbed the one from 1901. The first article I saw said, “DYNAMITE EXPLOSION, Three Men Were Blown to Atoms in a Cartridge Factory”, a tragedy that happened in Philadelphia. I thought it interesting that they had news all the way from Philadelphia. I wondered what mode of communication they used…I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Google.

The museum was very nice and had so many interesting things to see. Including what seemed to be a printing press as well as a safe unlike any I had ever seen. Outside they had placed the original City Hall, the jail, a one room school house, a barber shop, which at one time was a one-woman bordello, and finally a cabin built from rough cut timbers.

As it turns out, spending a day exploring Condon is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Our trip home was made without any unexpected wrong turns, but we did make some deliberate detours. The first one led us down a dirt road where we came across a lone antelope buck and a lot of wheat stalks…thousands upon thousands of wheat stocks. We pulled in beside some small silos and stepped out of the rig to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. My traveling companion was a little too relaxed to the point of almost falling asleep. I was pretty sure the fresh air would do us both some good.

The colors that stretched out before us were amazingly placed. From green to gold and purple to blue all under a blanket of blue, dotted with puffed up cottony clouds. It was amazingly peaceful watching the green heads of wheat dance across the field in the gentle breeze. It was one of those moments where I was truly glad I was alive, and on the earth, in that place, at that moment.

Back in the rig we went. On to our next adventure, which was just down the road a few miles and once again involved a narrow dirt road, but boy was it worth it. We pulled in under one of the enormous windmills and just experienced it. Until you are lucky enough to stand at the base of one of the behemoths, it is hard to fathom the size of them. And only if you have seen the separate pieces drive by on a semi-truck will you really understand just how big the windmill really is. We listened as the blades sliced through the air time and again, and worried a little about the possibility of one of those blades flying off and wreaking havoc with the land and the people who stood below it. Turns out we had nothing to worry about. The entire windmill, along with the hundreds of others we could see, stayed standing the entire time we were there.

The impromptu trip was just what we needed. We met a lot of great people, saw what an economically vibrant community can accomplish, watched nature whisk by us as we drove the backroads of NE Oregon and had a great time enjoying each other’s company.

Loving Life Like Lori….life just gets better every day.

Little Mermaid at the Elgin Opera House

By Lori Kimbel

Without a doubt the Elgin Opera House is the place to be on Fridays and Saturdays throughout September as the Little Mermaid graces the stage. Opening night jitters seemed to be non-existent as these well versed actors and actresses took to the stage time and again after each and every set change. It was completely obvious that the audience enjoyed the show, with the laughter, gasps and cheers that came from both the main floor and the balcony throughout the performance. During intermission the play-goers could be heard exclaiming how amazing the quality of the show was.

Madeline Hale, an Opera House favorite for nine years, does a phenomenal job in her first lead role. She was completely believable as Ariel and her acting and dancing were spot on. Madeline is a high school sophomore and has dedicated much of her spare time to perfecting her acting skills. One of my favorite moments of the play was when she was trying to explain why she could not talk to Prince Eric. All the hours of practice she has spent on the Elgin Opera House stage comes through loud and clear, with or without a voice.

Of course every princess needs a villian, Ursula was all that and more. Her tangly tentacles and evil ways caught Ariel up in an instant. Meegan Anderson, the woman behind the villainous creature was absolutely amazing. She filled the Opera House with each and every note of her strong, well-tuned voice. The Little Mermaid is her first play at the Elgin Opera House, but hopefully it will not be her last. She was simply amazing and it was obvious she is a seasoned actress.

Sebastian, played by Brian Monger, was the surprise of the night. Who would have thought a Reggae-singing Jamaican crab could have so much personality and add so much to the show. Monger, a native Oregonian, was raised in a musical family and seems to be a perfect fit for the Elgin Opera House.

Quentin Durfee played Prince Eric. His love for Ariel was obvious, even before he realized she was the one he was searching for. The Little Mermaid is Durfee’s fifth musical production, yet it still amazed me how comfortable and flawless he was in front of the live audience.

 

Flounder was absolutely adorable as he skated across the stage in almost every scene. Brady Morgan was the young man inside the bright colored costume and really did a fabulous job. I’ve noticed he tends to stand out in every show he is a part of. I first saw him in Christmas at the Opera House and then again in Ring of Fire and let me tell you the boy plays a pretty mean fiddle. Brady is going to continue to stand out at the Elgin Opera House as he will take the lead in “A Christmas Story” this coming December. There is no doubt in my mind he will do a great job.
King Triton, played by Russell Buckley, definitely came across as the King of the Sea. His commanding voice put everyone on edge as the search for his missing daughter carried on into the night, and if he wasn’t known to be such a nice guy, he would have definitely put the fear into many in the audience. Buckley is no stranger to the Elgin Opera House stage as he has performed in eight shows over the last several years.

Then there was Scuttle….wow! Not really wow, that was amazing, or wow, he stole the show, but wow has there ever been a sea gull that loud, that high-spirited, that flamboyant, that talented, that absolutely entertaining kind of wow. Alan Stogin claimed his seagullness and had the audience enjoying every minute that he was on stage.

The always entertaining Chad Rasmussen played the rambunctious Chef Louis. He has performed at the Elgin Opera House in a variety of shows and it is always fun to watch as he brings his characters to life on the stage.

Samuel Shown plays Grimsby and even though this was not the biggest part in the play, Shown really did a great job with it. This was his first time performing at the Elgin Opera House, but I really hope to see him come again. I think there is a lot of untapped potential here and I am looking forward to seeing his next performance.

The next two that I am going to mention did not have leading roles, but I thought they played their parts wonderfully, and were actually two more of my favorites of the night. The electric eels, Flotsam and Jetsam were played by Abby Hale and Jeremiah Dockweiler and they did such a great job as Ursula’s sidekicks. In addition to their evil acting they also wore amazing costumes.

The mersisters, played by Aubrey Slaughter, Emily Carman, Naomi Medley, Sonja Adams, Ashlee Zaugg, and Tess Cahill entertained the crowd with their singing and dancing as well as with their jealousy of Ariel.

This show just kept getting better and better as the night continued. The tap dancing sea gulls were amazing with their tap routines that were absolutely flawless, and the more than two dozen little sea gulls were adorable.

The one thing I can always count on with a Terry Hale production is that there will be something that blows away the plays that came before. With Beauty and the Beast it was the Beast that was slowly lowered down to the stage floor, with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang it was the car that had everyone talking. With the Little Mermaid it will be the musical number Under the Sea. The stage absolutely came alive with the most colorful sea creatures and flowers you can imagine.

There is so much that goes into an Elgin Opera House performance each and every time. From the sets, to the paintings, to the costumes, to the welcoming committee, the lighting, the choreography and the ticket sales, it is obvious the people involved in the Elgin Opera House love what they are doing and lucky for us they just keep on doing it.