Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Trip to Pendleton

Last weekend, while the folks in Western Washington were experiencing their first significant rain in 81 days, I was in  Eastern Oregon, catching a couple of extra days of sunshine. My Canadian friend, Lorie, who was my roommate in Japan long ago, invited me to travel with her to Pendleton.

Have you ever been to Pendleton? My two earlier visits were brief and left no lasting impression on me, but on this trip I came to really appreciate this town with its colorful history and friendly locals.

We stayed at the Pendleton House, just a block or two from downtown. It was built in 1917 and was as charming now as it must have been then. We ate breakfast with the other guests, and savored the delicious meals and opportunity to get to know people. One of the guests, a chef, entertained us with cooking stories, including how to make turducken

When we arrived early Friday evening the Farmer's Market, which set up in the middle of Main Street, was just breaking up. The produce we saw in some of the trucks were huge!

We planned to drive out of town on Saturday to get the lay of the land and visit some sights that were out a ways, but we never got out past downtown! Our first stop was the Underground Tour, which took two hours. If Brad, our tour guide, had slowed down his speech to a normal speed, we would have been there for a good three hours! His personal knowledge of Pendleton -- he's spent much of his youth exploring the 20 blocks of tunnel under the city -- and his obvious love of history brought his stories to life. Many business, both legitimate and questionable, made their home in the Underground over the century that it was in operation. I was  especially interested to learn about the Chinese workers who many spent years building the tunnels and living in them, and to hear stories of Lt. Col. Jimmy Dolittle and his airmen who trained in Pendleton for the raid on Japan in 1942.

Shopping is fun, no matter what town you're in. The Pendleton Woolen Mills, just outside of town, features beautiful, classic clothing and blankets made in the adjoining factory. We explored antique shops and a used book store as well as Correction Connection, a store selling work jeans and denim apparel made by inmates of Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute.

We were surprised at how many restaurants we had to choose from. The summer salad (loaded with sweet strawberries, even in October) at Sisters Cafe was amazing, and the food at The Great Pacific (pizza, sandwiches) hit the spot. But the best thing about The Great Pacific is that every Saturday night the large round table at the front of the building is saved for anyone who wants to bring a fiddle, guitar, banjo or bass violin. We found an open spot nearby and listened with delight to the bluegrass and country/folk music of those who gathered that evening. The man with a striking black violin seemed particularly talented. It turns out that he is a two-time winner of the national fiddle contest!

The rain had not yet come to Pendleton so the October leaves were especially stunning.

Lorie and I hadn't had much time together lately so this was the chance we needed to catch up with each another's lives. She is a dear friend who has enriched my life over the years, and our friendship grows sweeter each time we're together. Too bad that we didn't stop long enough to have someone take our picture.

Thank you, Lorie, for the trip and for your friendship.

Oregon grapes covered with dew

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