Ginger and Ken drive to Alaska from Texas, through Wichita, Madison, Chicago, Corpus....

We decided to make a lifestyle change and move. Following are tales of our trips, packing mishaps, beautiful drives, visitations and more! This is Texas2Alaska2 because it is my second time to make the drive.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pendleton, Oregon

Buck and Sharon have several horses, dogs, and the occasional herd of elk and deer that cleverly find their way into the barn to partake of the horse feed. Buck has made a comfortable home away from any city noise and in what I think is a lovely place. Ken and I are so excited for the opportunity to travel and to be able to visit them while we both are able and healthy. 

Considering our destination of Alaska, it is also a benefit to visit with Buck to talk about his life in Alaska. Several decades ago, Buck was a teacher and coach in Galena, Alaska. I know from my trip to Alaska in 1999, that Buck’s life there was a much different experience than it will be now or was on my first trip. The advances in digital technology alone would be amazing, much less the options of travel and clothing technology. I don’t mean to imply he was there during the gold rush days, he did after all, fly with his teams to play other schools. In fact, that is one of the reasons he left the state, so much traveling by plane and being so far from other family. Galena, like many small towns in Alaska, is not connected to any other part of Alaska by a paved road. It is on the Yukon River, north of Anchorage, north of Denali National Park, north of most civilization, yet short of the Arctic Circle. We ask him about darkness, snow, caribou. He’s a rather matter-of-fact guy. His answers are basic, its not dark as much as you think and he stayed busy with school; you just get used to the snow and cold; and yes, there is a lot of hunting. As much as he likes to live in place that is a long arms reach away from a big city, he does like to be able to drive to a store, or to the mountains, or to his brother’s. (below, descending to Pendleton off the Blue Mountains)

To his brother’s, my other second cousin’s, is where we are headed now. This part of Oregon (really all of the state) is beautiful. On our way in from Nampa on Interstate 84, we skirted Hell’s Canyon along the Snake River. In 2002, on my western travels with my Great Uncle Andy, we thoroughly explored the area because he had spent many years in the region mining and just plain trying to survive. One of Andy’s younger brothers, Kayo, whom I only met when I was a baby, was Buck’s dad. All the brother’s and my great-grandparents toiled in these and nearby mountains after a bust of trying to dryland farm on the Montana prairie. Andy and I visited some spots he had not seen since the 1950’s. And before that it was World War II that took him away (round-aboutly). Yet, in the year he and I were together, at his age of 91, he could sniff out every hand wrought hole in the ground that he dug gold out of, incredible! We made many stops on that trip, enough for a whole other story. What I am most happy about in the differences of that trip and this move (besides by loving companion) is the weather! November is so much nicer a time of year than when we visited in the summer of 2002. Andy was hoping to escape the heat of Scottsdale yet we were punished with extended days of 100+ here in eastern Oregon. (below, cut in the rolling foothills of the Blue Mountains)

Ken and I drive Interstate 84 from La Grande to Pendleton. This stretch of 84 from Baker City to Pendleton is part of the historic Oregon Wagon Trail and the Blue Mountain Forest State Scenic Corridor. There is one rest stop in the mountain section where Uncle Andy and I took our lunch one day. There I learned this scenic corridor is home to intermittent stands of stately old-growth ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, western larch, and Engelmann spruce among others. An uplifting thought considering how the settlers thought everything was put here for their taking. My sister and I stopped along the road at a few national monuments where the wagon ruts are still visible in the ground today. Why our contemporaries are oblivious to the many “marks” we leave on the earth confound me when these from over 100 years ago are plainly visible. Again, I could digress. 84 cuts through the Blue Mountains before dropping into the flat lands of Pendleton, location of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and acres and acres of farm land. The Blue Mountains this month glow golden with deep basaltic rock underneath. To me, this color combination hints at a deep purple-blue. The highest pass we cross between La Grande and Pendleton is just above 4,000 feet. There is a light snow on top today, but dry air once we drop into the city. It seems an easy cross in our 200+ horse power car, we will traverse it twice in one day. A wagon train would be relieved that it is their last mountain crossing for most who settled what is now the Hermiston Valley or any other spot along the Columbia River. 

Pendleton is home to the Pendleton Woolen Mills, not much is actually made here anymore but the historic mill is open for business and tours. A world famous rodeo, the Pendleton Round-Up is held here late each summer. I can only imagine how the city swells at that time of year. Cousin Mike grew up here, coached baseball for years, and married his lovely wife here. They live in the house that he pretty much grew up in. I had a lot of fun visiting with Uncle Andy the hot summer we stayed. Mike’s wife Carol collects lots of neat things and one I really enjoyed was costume jewelry. We talked a lot about thrift store shopping and ebay selling. This year, we again compared re-sale stories, neither of us works much with ebay anymore, too many large businesses and so many reproductions available now. Otherwise, we had a great visit with Mike and Carol, they both have a great sense of humor, are hugely warmhearted, friendly and just plain good folks. 

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