Everything went wonderfully. The weather for the drive down was perfect....high right around 82 for Friday afternoon once we made it down out of the hills, with a pleasant breeze. Beautiful doesn't begin to describe it. The drive took us from the rolling desert hills around the Tri-Cities, through the rolling wheat fields of the Oregon Palouse, and up into the Blue Mountains. I like the lush green of the western Cascades, and the golden rolling hills of the Palouse have their beauty, but in my opinion, the prettiest terrain there is can be found in the dry pine forests of the eastern Cascade Slopes and the Blue Mountains. It makes me realize how much I miss green where I live now. I NEED trees.
The Thomas Condon Center was neat. They make it very clear that you aren't going to see any dinosaurs there...everything in the John Day Fossil Beds is newer than 65 million years ago...the Age of Mammals. My daughters were both still fascinated.
The area was named Sheep Rock because of this rock formation, which doesn't look anything like a sheep, but at one time was covered with sheep, because the initial Scottish settlers to the area were sheep ranchers. Makes me question why MY Scottish ancestors stopped in New England when they could have come here.
Adventure for the day complete, we back-tracked a bit to the town of Spray, population 160. I had made reservations to spend the night at the River Bend Motel, named for the bend in the John Day River on which the town of Spray is located. It was a cute little motel...5 rooms. We rented the suite...which was nice. With wood paneling inside, it was decorated in North Woods Lodge chic, which is how my wife wants to go our guest room, if we ever have one. Check in was different...with only 5 rooms, the staff is not onsite all the time. I used the phone located outside the office to call the manager, who told us the door was unlocked, and the key was on the table. Different...but efficient, and very cute. At only 100 dollars, I loved it...two queen beds(in separate rooms) with a fold out sleeper love-seat in the entry room. Something with that square footage and that level of accommodation would have cost $250 a night in Seattle or Portland....gotta love rural trips.
For dinner, if we wanted to stay in town(Pop 160), our choices were kind of limited. Luckily, the River Bend Bar and Grill came pretty well reviewed on Yelp, so we gave it a try. With only 4 tables on the restaurant side, even with the good reviews, I was a little leery. The reviews all spoke highly of the bacon-cheese burgers, but something about the hostess/chef's southern accent caused me to ask if the chicken fried steak was any good. To her credit, she didn't knock me out of my chair, she just giggled and said 'of course'.
It was good...huge, and good...I had to ask though! With the grief SWMBO is going to give me for eating chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, it NEEDS to be worth it....and this was. Fork tender and big pieces of sausage in the gravy. Outstanding. My wife was even happier with her sandwich. She ordered the prime-rib dip, and it came out smothered in melted cheese and caramelized onions. She said it was the best french-dip type sandwich she had ever had...and since she defaults to french-dips the way I default to Ruben's, that is no small praise. If you ever find yourself cruising through north-east(or ANY of Eastern Oregon) it is worth going 50 miles out of your way for.
After dinner, before sacking in for the night, we headed out for a drive in the hills around the town. LOVED it....saw about 14, 15 mule deers, and over 50 quail. At one point, I had to slam on the break's HARD to keep from taking 10 of them through the windshield. Pretty, pretty country...and lots of 'affordable' looking property for sale...affordable if I wasn't still paying for a house I wasn't living in, and that kind of bummed me out.
My wife and I would love to buy property someday...for vacation, for retirement, and yes...for a 'retreat'. The area around Spray seemed perfect for the first two uses...but, not so sure about it's bug out potential. The way we got to the town, we had to go over a 4800 foot mountain pass, which is probably locked down with snow 4 months out of the year. Coming in from the other northern road, the mountain pass is 3500 feet...maybe a bit more passable...but, the big obstacle in a 'bug-out' scenario is the Columbia River...I am leery about to rely on being able to get over a fairly major bridge in a worst-case situation.
Maybe I'll just have to get a job as a waiter at the River Bend Bar and Grill.