Northeast Oregon

On the road again:

And in my favorite kind of country — wide open, breath-giving, sky everywhere. This is a grain elevator near Pendleton, Oregon, on Interstate 84. We made the mistake of going into the city of Pendleton, trying to find the courthouse to photograph. It is the 100th anniversary of the Pendleton Round-up (big rodeo, carnival, street fair, and general hoopla, even when it isn’t an anniversary). After driving into the wrong way in a parking lot, where street carts were selling cotton candy, and after appraising the crowds, mostly in cowboy or cowboy-wannabe clothes and all on foot, mostly in the middle of the street, we decided not to ask where the courthouse is located. I suspect that the entire population of east side of Oregon, no small thang, was in Pendleton.  We headed up the Blue Mountains with its huge rolling hills cloaked in tawny grass, and at La Grande abandoned the Interstate and took Rt 82, the main road to Joseph, Oregon.

Joseph and its sister city Enterprise (county seat) are touted as Little Switzerland. The road took us through all sorts of pleasant small towns and hamlets

Along the way we stopped at Imbler, where grass seed is grown. We hit it during a harvest, and the golden fields were full of cutting rhythms.

One of my favorite small towns along the way was Elgin. Elgin has a couple of nice old brick buildings, an “opera house” that was advertising a new play (the building had “City Hall” engraved in concrete on its front) as well as some other fun brick and stone structures. But the most important thing about Elgin was actually two things:

All over town were cut-outs of male and female cowguys, leaning against posts and beside the doors to stores, each having its own colorful kerchief. As if this wasn’t enough, all over town, generally in different places (but near the cutouts, since it’s a pretty small town) were bicycles, painted black. Elgin, it seems, was hosting Cycle Oregon, a large crowd of crazed bicyclists. We saw evidence of this at an enormous parking lot full of vehicles in the outskirts of the town (the support team, I assume), and “Welcome Cycle Oregon” in every store window.

I always like reading the Oregonian about Cycle Oregon and felt a bit of pride that we west-siders (west of the Cascade mountains, I mean) were so welcome here, so far from home.

And so we ambled toward the mountains, enjoying being somewhere we had never been before. After 20 years in Oregon, it was time.

I took my usual overload of photos, but I’m trying to be better about gleaning the best. Be glad I didn’t show you the railroad bridge at Perry or the rain in the Gorge or the Mighty Columbia from Hood River. I did not photograph the Hood River Courthouse — it has beautiful views from its windows but is sort of American Concrete Style, looming over the town. I liked the black bikes better.

Cheers, June

By the way, you can follow my residency blog, which is about painting rather than travel (although they overlap) at

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4 Responses to Northeast Oregon

  1. We hope you will come back and photograph some of our beautiful town. It is normally a lovely laid back city full of well maintained historical buildings.


  2. Carla says:

    If you look at your photo of Imbler and then were to travel to base of the hill and turn left for about 3 miles, you would be where we first lived in LaGrande while we waited for our house to built.


  3. Lia says:

    I love this post! Lots of nostalgia for me. I used to go out to Imbler to visit and interview Freda Cant, the elder matriarch of the Cant family (of the ranch & house that are now part of John Day Fossil Beds). Then she’d get me to drive her over to Elgin so we could have lunch there.


  4. Del says:

    Be careful out there. And have a fabulous time. Love….


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