They told us we got the last room at the inn (and only because of a cancellation). It’s that busy time of year—summer vacation—here in recreation-happy central Oregon. After some excellent camping and some arduous driving we found an oasis in Prineville, namely the Ochoco Brewing Company. They make a fine pilsener, I must say. The bad news is the VW crapped out and we have to stay an extra night while we wait for a part. The good news is we get to keep our motel room. Road trips have their own crazy logic, it seems.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover beautiful mountains and forests emerging from the vast arid volcanic wastelands that characterize much of the eastern part of the state. I suppose that’s a bit harsh, the river valleys are filled with irrigated fields and pastures and quite a number of prosperous-looking farms and ranches. And I don’t think I’ve been anywhere with a higher percentage of four-door, four-wheel drive F-250s. Those aren’t cheap, man.
As far as the eclipse goes, I think we’ve got a couple of good spots pegged. I feel like a fisherman who has a secret fishing hole and is loath to tell anyone about it. So I won’t—yet. My notion of a good spot is someplace isolated, in the woods, with water nearby. Key word: isolated. I can see the appeal of the wide-open spaces along highway 26, the moon’s shadow racing across the tablelands and prairies would be quite dramatic. Some of the landscape, especially around John Day, is freakishly bizarre. The flat-topped buttes are ringed with dark basalt columns that look like a monk’s tonsure. Goofy formations of blocky lava chunks like a kindergartner’s art project are pasted capriciously on the cliff sides. Throw in the sweeping vistas, a hundred or more miles in every direction, and I can see the appeal. A forested site would lack those broad views but I’m in the mood for isolation, like I said.
A staff person in the USFS station in Prairie City which is very close to the centerline said they were expecting “50,000 people” for the event. There can’t be more than a thousand residents! There are a lot of ranches and farms in the surrounding area and several are renting out their fields to campers. We spoke to a clerk in a grocery store in town and she said her husband was planning to “stay inside and close his eyes!” That was my favorite reaction to all this eclipse hype. I’m wondering if the numbers are exaggerated. On the one hand, an eclipse is pretty cool, and gas is cheap, and if the filled motels are any indication people are on the road in big numbers this summer. On the other hand, it’s a bit of a nerd-fest, don’t you think? Are there really that many nerds and nerd-wannabes in this great land of ours?
It’s bloody hot here today. We took the vehicle this morning to a shop in town a little less than a mile from the motel and we were soaked in sweat on the walk back. This was before ten o’clock! I think I’ll enjoy the air-conditioning in the room for a while and then go for a swim in the pool. Yes, they have a pool. Thank goodness for the little things. I want to go back to the Ochoco Brewing Company and try that unusual pale ale again, they seem to have a creative brewer. But it will be REALLY hot by this afternoon. Fresh brew, though. Sacrifices may have to be made.