Once across Brownlee Dam you work your way up to Oxbow Dam before turning and heading inland through Oregon proper. First stop / main stop is the town of Baker City – not sure why most places are called cities – was more ‘town size’ to what we know back home. Baker City is a bit of a junction town – the I86 we had cut across on intercepts with Interstate 84 at this point. The main street of Baker was interested – it had a selection of large safari themed animal sculptures on each of the street corners – lion, giraffe, zebra, hippo etc. We had a walk round and took some pics – not something you would see every day. Our chosen path across central Oregon was to be the I26 so we had to cut through the I7 to link up with it. The day was getting late so we found a pull off on the side of the road and parked up for the night. We were entertained by some great rolling thunder and lightning – and rain. The following morning we joined the I26 proper and started trekking across Oregon. The landscape varied from rolling countryside to forested canyons and hills. We took the I26 all the way to Redmond where we stopped to refuel – both petrol and wifi courtesy of the local Starbucks. We ‘sat’ on our cuppas and charged devices and caught up on some bits and pieces online.
It was not Friday afternoon heading into a holiday weekend (Labour Day on Monday), and the road post Redmond started to get very busy. Fortunately for us most of the traffic was heading south in opposite direction to us, but we still have a steady stream going our way and had to pull over from time to time to appease the faster road users. The I26 became the I22 as we headed up into the hills. We were going through state forest areas and soon came to Detroit Lake. At the head of the lake was a road down to the dam so we made our way down there to park up for the night – much quieter. Saturday morning had us on the road early and we moved on through to the east of Salem. We went through a settlement of Silverton – was proclaimed to be the Garden City of Oregon – it was full of cropping, horticulture, grapes, hops, hemp, fruit and vege production etc. Our destination this morning was Wilsonville – our ‘outer suburb’ of Portland. Wilsonville is home to the World of Speed Museum. As we arrived we were greeted to the added bonus of it being the end of month Portland Coffee and Cars run that congregate at the museum – added bonus of a car show for us to take in. Just sitting in the camper watching all the vehicles come in was a pleasure. We headed around to have a look at the cars on display and got to talking to a couple from Portland (well fairly new to Portland) – we had a good talk about the area, the cars, the food, travel etc. So much so that we lost track of time and a load of the cars started pulling away from the event before I was able to do justice to them – not to worry.
The rest of the day was spent in the museum – Carol joined me for this one. There was a great collection of cars and memorabilia on display and it took literally all day (to just on 5pm) to cover all that was on offer and be confident that I hadn’t missed too much. The displays change from time to time – current display was honouring Mario Andretti so lots of his cars and achievements were displayed (he’d actually been at the museum for an event the day prior – an evening with Mario). Pretty wrapped with the day / experience on offer, we headed a bit south towards McMinnville. Just outside of McMinnville is the Evergreen Aviation Museum – the home of the Spruce Goose and they provide / allow RV / Camper parking on site for 2 nights – a real handy way to ensure you can get an early start on the museum the next day. We made our way to the museum and parked up out back with probably around a dozen other campers – a popular spot.
Sunday was all about the museum and trying to take in what was on offer. Since a young boy I had read about the Spruce Goose in one of Dad’s old (late 1940’s) Popular Mechanics magazines and have had a fascination with this plane every since. For many years the Spruce Goose (which is actually made out of Birch and not Spruce at all) was the largest aircraft ever built. It’s only in recent years that the Spruce Goose has been surpassed in length and carrying capacity, but pretty sure it still has the widest wingspan of any aircraft every built, and is certainly the world’s largest and greatest every ‘wooden plane’. You walk into the museum and you aren’t disappointed – the museum was specially built to accommodate the Spruce (the Spruce was built by Howard Hughes and sat for many years on display next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach Los Angeles, but was relocated to Oregon in 1994 where it took the best part of 7 years to ‘tidy it up’ and get it set up for static display).
The Evergreen facility consists of 4 similar shaped buildings – the main one houses the Spruce Goose Display, another houses their Space display – and needs to be talk to accommodate the height of the Titan Rocket on display, the third is a movie theatre complex and the 4th separate building is a large water park that has an actual 747 jet on the roof with hydro-slides coming out of it – looked like it would be a pretty cool experience. Also around the outsides of the wider complex there are a number of other static aircraft displays to take in. Again both Carol and I spent all day studying all that the museum had to offer – I kept being drawn back to the sheer size of the Spruce Goose – was really an impressive site and was one of two planes on my ‘must see’ list that I have now seen (number two is on the agenda for November). The Evergreen museum is a wonderful facility that I would encourage every aviation buff to put on their list to see (Evergreen Air were a large helicopter and air transport provider – the son of the founder of Evergreen Air came up with idea of bringing the Spruce Goose to Oregon and they subsequently won the bit to do so – a few years later before the Spruce was to be put on display, the son who was an Airforce pilot was killed in a traffic accident – the museum is a dedication to his visionary ideals).
Monday was Labour Day and time for us to move again. We made the call we weren’t really interested in heading into the heart of Portland so instead we headed west on the I18 and then branched north on the 122 up towards Tillamook where we are greeted with our first views of the Pacific Ocean – it’s been a few weeks since we had seen the sea – well since San Francisco. Once you hit Tillamook you then follow the I101 which you can effectively drive from the top of Washington all the way through California hugging the Pacific Coast – hence its known as the Pacific Highway. We worked our way up the coast enjoying the views on offer and then you come to Astoria which sits on the south side of the mighty Columbia river. This was the area where the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803 / 4 came out before they turned around and headed back across the US the opposite way. I think I heard / read that the Columbia is the second largest piece of water / river system in the USA. For us Astoria is the junction between Oregon and Washington State on the other side of the river so it’s up on over the big high bridge and the sweeping causeway as we say goodbye to all that Oregon offered, and hello to Washington.