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.