Roaming Quebec 2017

 

 

As my husband and I pick our way along the cobblestone streets of Old Quebec, I am grateful to Madame Josef for telling me about this special city—”the most beautiful city in North America!”

Madame Josef loved France and all things French. We were scared of her black hair, black clothes and most of all her impossibly high heeled black ankle boots. She was my seventh grade French teacher and I barely knew where France was. When she asked me a question in French she would point her bony finger at me and say my name, and my mind would immediately go into a panicky blank state and no matter how much I had practiced– I would fumble the response.

However, she is the one who told us about Quebec City, “the most beautiful city in North America– and they speak French there!” And I wanted to see it and hear French spoken in real life. It was on my bucket list long before I knew what a bucket list was….

So here I am, decades later, finally wandering the streets of Quebec City. My French has all but disappeared—I am barely able to say “Bonjour”– but I am definitely enjoying this beautiful city.

Quebec City sits on a rock ridge high above the St Lawrence River. It was founded in 1609 by Samuel Champlain because of its strategic location at the narrowest point of the river. The river and the rock ridge made it easy to defend—and the French succeeded in defending it until 1759 when it fell to the English General, James Wolf. As things turned out General Wolf’s conquest there eventually determined the future of north America as an English speaking continent—except for Quebec!

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As you enter Quebec City you go under the arch of a big rock wall that surrounds the City—setting it apart from all other north American cities. The wall no longer serves a function in terms of defense; today the wall defines a city that has retained its unique beauty, history, language, as well as delicious food and drink.  Here is a huge mural depicting the city and its history–

Mural in Old Quebec

Once inside the wall you are greeted with cobblestone streets, flower bowers on old shop windows, amazing street performers and the most photographed hotel in the world, The Frontenac. It sits high on the ridge—a landmark visible from the land or the river—unmistakable.   Here are a couple of different views so you can get a feeling of its size and beauty.

And here’s a Salvador Dali sculpture on the plaza out front:IMG_1438

There are many fantastic street performers out at designated corners throughout the city–they have to audition to get a spot!  Some sing, some play instruments and many do acrobatics.  We learned that there is a circus training school in Quebec and that many of their graduates go on to perform with the Cirque du Soleil….   That’s a pretty high quality street performer!

Bicycling to Montmorency Falls

Just 8 miles outside of Quebec City there is a large waterfall that is actually twice as tall as Niagara Falls!  We rented bikes and followed our guide out on a beautiful bikeway, past the outdoor market and off to the Falls!

 

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Touring L’Ile D’Orleans

Right across the St Lawrence river is an island where much of the local produce, wine, cider and maple syrup is made.  We took a day tour and explored it–my biggest revelation was the maple syrup–most of the world’s maple syrup is made in Quebec because it has the right type of maple trees and the perfect weather conditions.  I now know how they make it, and I have wonderful recipes for using it.  You should never serve it warm!  And maple butter is WONDERFUL!  (and it does not contain any dairy…)

 

We also discovered this delightful contraption on the island that enables you to picnic outside while it moves as if you are on a boat!  They were all over the L’Ile d’Orleans

I hope you  enjoyed this quick tour of Quebec city.

When I get ambitious enough to blog again I will show you photos of some of the locations mentioned in the “Bury Your Dead” tour–focusing on Louise Penny’s book–based in Quebec City!  Dave and I both read the book and thoroughly enjoyed the tour.  In fact, I love her books–they start a little slow but definitely grow on you– and I am reading her whole series now…..  (That could impede my future blogging progress).

 

 

Baker to Union and back to La Grande

I didn’t sleep much last night.  First of all the person in the room above us stayed up nearly all night and we could hear every step.  But mostly I knew I really needed my sleep to handle today’s ride–45 miles with three consecutive challenging hills.  I was pretty concerned that this might be Too challenging.

We arose and had a healthy eggs, hash browns and coffee style breakfast (OK, Dave had tea).  Then we hit the road.  It started out pretty flat and easy.  Beautiful weather, no wind.  As we left town we heard a lot of mooing from the cattle coming in from the road on the right.  It turned out they were being herded down the road by several cowboys, a border collie, and a couple of guys on ATVs.  I was entranced.  Despite Dave’s insistent calling for me to hurry ahead of them I lingered to get a photo:

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What I didn’t realize is that they were going to turn right onto our road and if I waited too long we would be behind them for .IMG_0869

So now Dave was ahead of the herd and I was behind them.  What to do?  Well, one of the guys on an ATV said that if I followed closely he would clear a lane on the left so I could pass them.  I followed like I was glued to him–

Until…  he bumped the hocks of a huge Angus (a State Fair champion for sure) which startled and leapt to the side with a bucking bronco motion. He was out of control and knocking all the other cattle aside.  I dropped back–petrified, heart racing.  The ATV driver waited for me to get up my nerve and continue plowing past the herd–I had perhaps 8-12 inches between me on my bike and these huge, unpredictable Angus cattle on my right.  I took my feet out of the baskets so that if I was knocked down at least I would be free of the bike….

IMG_0870I made it.  Thanks to the ATV driver.

Our ride continued through miles of peaceful, wide-open vistas.  Truly wonderful.

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And then the challenging part began.  I had to start counting in French (that means it was tough).  Then I counted by 5s.  Then we made it to the store at Pondosa.  That was interesting.  The owners, Bob and Jean, have watched that store for 32 years.  Jean is now 92.  They have the only supplies for their neighbors for miles.  Here it is:

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This Store once housed the loggers for the area and when the mill closed Jean’s brother bought their bunkhouse.  He was a bachelor and he died young.  Jean and Bob moved there and started the store about 30  years ago.  They heat with wood.

As we left we mentioned we were headed for Union and Jean looked worried.  She said, “We have bikers and joggers who come by here now and then headed that way and they don’t know what they’re headed for–that’s a really big hill you have to get over.  Dave quickly said goodbye so I wouldn’t hear any more negative comments….

And so our climb began.  It went clear up into the Wallawa National Forest:  IMG_0897

And even when we thought we had reached the summit, we went along a level stretch and the toughest hill began…

IMG_0896I counted in French again and we did stop to take this photo.  It was a perfect day.  We had packed jackets because it can get cold up that high but it wasn’t cold–just cool enough so that we didn’t overheat.  And, we had a tailwind–that makes all the difference.  So we went over the summit and had a glorious 35 mph ride down the other side.  Here are some of the friends who greeted us as we entered the next valley:

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And in the valley we discovered Catherine’s Creek State Park.  It is so beautiful and all those empty camping spots right next to the creek!  We stopped for a celebratory break.  Since we didn’t have a blanket to lie down on I went over to a picnic table and lay down on top of it to rest–using my backpack as a little pillow.  Aaaaah….   (Sorry, no photo–too busy resting).  But here area few shots of the park:

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Now only 10 flat miles to our destination:  The Union Hotel.

We did get a headwind at this point but we were headed for the barn–no stopping us now.

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IMG_0905Count us in!  This is a beautiful old (1928) Hotel run by Ruth and Charlie.  It is richly western in its decor.  Check out our room-

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We went to eat at Brewskis and enjoyed a beautiful chicken salad (Dave had a burger) and some draft beer.  The waitress, Megan, came over to check on us and we found out her father owns the Rexall Drug Store that I raved about on Day 2 of our travels through Union.  Then Russell came to our table and played guitar for us for a couple of songs.  He played Tom Petty and   some other songs that I’m not familiar with.  He sounded really good–but he just wanted to play.  He wouldn’t take any money for it.

So now it’s bedtime.  Sleep well.  Dream of Angus Cattle surrounding your road bike….

Day 4  From Union back to La Grande

Dave brought me some coffee to get me going this morning–Thank You!  We packed up our things, and headed for the Rexall Drug Store for Stromboli for breakfast.  Today they were featuring Stromboli with ham and cheese inside–very good.  Megan was there working the counter–full of news about the area.  She’s going to nursing school in Roseburg!

We returned to the Union Hotel to get our bikes and Dave went out back to take a better look at the cars he had noticed there–one of them was a vintage white Rolls Royce in pristine condition.  Absolutely beautiful.  The owner, Charlie, also had a ’52 MG-TD for sale, in equally beautiful condition.  We went back to check out and that’s when we learned that Charlie has 25 of these collectible beauties….  He would have been happy to let us take a spin in the MG-TD but I was afraid we would end up owning it….

We got a late start–about 10 am– but that was ok because we were only going about 28 miles, there was hardly any wind, and it was a pretty flat ride.  We went through Cove where we enjoyed the scenery as well as the artistry.

IMG_0915  IMG_0921   IMG_0922 IMG_0923                                              IMG_0924 One more thing that I haven’t mentioned yet.  The drivers here were uniformly very courteous and very careful of bicyclists.  When they saw us they usually went clear around into the other lane–even when we were in a bicycling lane.  And, they were friendly–nearly every driver raised a hand to say hello.

Of course the weather here can’t really stay perfect all day–look at those clouds coming.

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And here’s the Case century farm about 5 miles outside of La Grande     IMG_0926

When we got back to La Grande we went straight to the City of Commerce building to personally thank Kristen Dollarhide for her help in transporting our bags between our stops.  She made this trip a success!

IMG_0927  Then we soaked in the hot tub at the hotel and rested.  They really have great beds here at the Best Western.    Up again at 6 pm to go visit the Potter’s Gift House–they are having an event this evening that features Christmas nativity scenes.  This is the outside of the Gift House.  The inside was even more amazing.  We would have bought an art piece but we have so little room to put anything–maybe we need another house?

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Our last dinner in La Grande was at Ten Depot which has been a restaurant under one name or another since 1904.  It is beautiful–Look at those doors!  and they had live music starting at 8 pm–if only we had the energy to stay and hear it….IMG_0936                               IMG_0935

Look carefully in the mirror to the right of the door–Dave is watching something–maybe me?

I hope you enjoyed our trip through wonderful northeastern Oregon–we sure did.

Day 3 –The Challenge: 45 miles and a summit elevation of 4178

I didn’t sleep much last night.  First of all the person in the room above us stayed up nearly all night and we could hear every step.  But mostly I knew I really needed my sleep to handle today’s ride–45 miles with three consecutive challenging hills.  I was pretty concerned that this might be Too challenging.

We arose and had a healthy eggs, hash browns and coffee style breakfast (OK, Dave had tea).  Then we hit the road.  It started out pretty flat and easy.  Beautiful weather, no wind.  As we left town we heard a lot of mooing from the cattle coming in from the road on the right.  It turned out they were being herded down the road by several cowboys, a border collie, and a couple of guys on ATVs.  I was entranced.  Despite Dave’s insistent calling for me to hurry ahead of them I lingered to get a photo:

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What I didn’t realize is that they were going to turn right onto our road and if I waited too long we would be behind them for .IMG_0869

So now Dave was ahead of the herd and I was behind them.  What to do?  Well, one of the guys on an ATV said that if I followed closely he would clear a lane on the left so I could pass them.  I followed like I was glued to him–

Until…  he bumped the hocks of a huge Angus (a State Fair champion for sure) which startled and leapt to the side with a bucking bronco motion. He was out of control and knocking all the other cattle aside.  I dropped back–petrified, heart racing.  The ATV driver waited for me to get up my nerve and continue plowing past the herd–I had perhaps 8-12 inches between me on my bike and these huge, unpredictable Angus cattle on my right.  I took my feet out of the baskets so that if I was knocked down at least I would be free of the bike….

IMG_0870I made it.  Thanks to the ATV driver.

Our ride continued through miles of peaceful, wide-open vistas.  Truly wonderful.

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And then the challenging part began.  I had to start counting in French (that means it was tough).  Then I counted by 5s.  Then we made it to the store at Pondosa.  That was interesting.  The owners, Bob and Jean, have watched that store for 32 years.  Jean is now 92.  They have the only supplies for their neighbors for miles.  Here it is:

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This Store once housed the loggers for the area and when the mill closed Jean’s brother bought their bunkhouse.  He was a bachelor and he died young.  Jean and Bob moved there and started the store about 30  years ago.  They heat with wood.

As we left we mentioned we were headed for Union and Jean looked worried.  She said, “We have bikers and joggers who come by here now and then headed that way and they don’t know what they’re headed for–that’s a really big hill you have to get over.  Dave quickly said goodbye so I wouldn’t hear any more negative comments….

And so our climb began.  It went clear up into the Wallawa National Forest:  IMG_0897

And even when we thought we had reached the summit, we went along a level stretch and the toughest hill began…

IMG_0896I counted in French again and we did stop to take this photo.  It was a perfect day.  We had packed jackets because it can get cold up that high but it wasn’t cold–just cool enough so that we didn’t overheat.  And, we had a tailwind–that makes all the difference.  So we went over the summit and had a glorious 35 mph ride down the other side.  Here are some of the friends who greeted us as we entered the next valley:

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And in the valley we discovered Catherine’s Creek State Park.  It is so beautiful and all those empty camping spots right next to the creek!  We stopped for a celebratory break.  Since we didn’t have a blanket to lie down on I went over to a picnic table and lay down on top of it to rest–using my backpack as a little pillow.  Aaaaah….   (Sorry, no photo–too busy resting).  But here area few shots of the park:

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Now only 10 flat miles to our destination:  The Union Hotel.

We did get a headwind at this point but we were headed for the barn–no stopping us now.

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IMG_0905Count us in!  This is a beautiful old (1928) Hotel run by Ruth and Charlie.  It is richly western in its decor.  Check out our room-

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We went to eat at Brewskis and enjoyed a beautiful chicken salad (Dave had a burger) and some draft beer.  The waitress, Megan, came over to check on us and we found out her father owns the Rexall Drug Store that I raved about on Day 2 of our travels through Union.  Then Russell came to our table and played guitar for us for a couple of songs.  He played Tom Petty and   some other songs that I’m not familiar with.  He sounded really good–but he just wanted to play.  He wouldn’t take any money for it.

So now it’s bedtime.  Sleep well.  Dream of Angus Cattle surrounding your road bike….

On the way to Baker City

Day 2–First take a look at The North Powder Motel–modest but charming and well-kept.  Look at those petunias!IMG_0782 IMG_0783 IMG_0784

We slept well and headed back to the North Powder for its famous breakfast–I had the sausage scramble and coffee–must fuel up for another day of pedaling.  Do you think that will be enough food?

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This time the road was relatively flat and blessedly wind free and the Wallawas were magnificent-IMG_0802 IMG_0801

The cattle looked so pastoral that we stopped for a snapshot and look–they came over to see what we were doing!

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Whiteface on the left is the leader of the pack….

As we pedaled along I began to notice the creative mailboxes–the R on the right is made of horseshoes!

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When we entered Baker City at 11 am it was clear that we were on The Oregon Trail.  If you ever played that old video game you know that its important to pack enough provisions:

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You might think that this is a frontier Disneyland but no–its just a store–they sell provisions to the hunters in the area.

We went to lunch in the Historic District and discovered “The Lone Pine” cafe–it hits just the right note.   Leonard Cohen  was playing on a stereo hi-fi (one of many good albums available), Time magazine’s publication on the Roosevelts was on the coffee table, there were historic photos of Baker City happenings on the walls, and, most importantly, the food was delicious. What a find!

IMG_0831      IMG_0823        IMG_0821 IMG_0824Eggplant parmesan sandwiches to die for.

Still in the historic district we explored The Geiser Grand Hotel….It was built by the Geisers who made their fortune in gold with the Bonanza mine and it thrived for about a century.  Then it hosted the crew for the film, “Paint Your Wagon” and that was its final glory.  In the 60s it folded and sat empty and vandalized until about 1998 when it was finally purchased and restored.  Here is how it came out–

IMG_0830Gorgeous!

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We made dinner reservations immediately.  So now we needed to head back to our room and rest a bit–but on the way back we did stop a couple of times–first to see the Baker Museum and then to admire Geiser Pollman Park.

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Then we enjoyed a much-needed soak in the hot tub at our hotel and got ready for dinner at the Geiser Grand Hotel–I think we got a photo but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see.  I’m going to bed now.  Your good night photo is from the Museum:

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LaGrande Tour de Oregon

We begin our LaGrande Tour Cycling adventure

We begin our LaGrande Tour Cycling adventure

La Grande Tour de Oregon

Day 1

Dave and I finally took off for our bicycle tour of northeastern Oregon. Dave packed up the Chevy Silverado with our bikes and nearly every safety and navigational gizmo available. We drove along the Columbia River Gorge (highway 84) for about 230 miles to La Grande, Oregon. What a perfect day—75 degrees and sunny! A great day to start an adventure.

Our first stop was the Mitchell viewpoint. Back in the ’20s there was a famous beautiful narrow highway along the Gorge with a beautiful tunnel. The reason it was remarkable is that the architect (Mitchell) took pains to create arched openings along the tunnel so the Model T drivers could still see the beauty of the gorge and the Columbia River. Sadly, when they widened the road for more modern traffic they blasted the tunnel. However the Gorge is still just as beautiful as ever.

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The golden hills of eastern Oregon that cradle the Columbia River

The golden hills of eastern Oregon that cradle the Columbia River

The Columbia River is a deep blue and as you go east the hills along its side gradually change from mountainous fir-covered rocks to gentle slopes with infinite shades of gold and brown grass. The country here looks more like desert than hay country.   If you look closely along the skyline you’ll see large white wind turbines guarding the gorge–slowly generating energy for PGE—and for us.   They’re outlined cleanly against the sky and hillside—testimony to mankind’s inventive progress.

As we went past Boardman there was a sign—“Dusty winds next 40 miles”. Oh boy-at least we’re not bicycling through that!

About 4 pm we arrived at our hotel, a Best Western Ramada Inn—predictably clean and welcoming—all the modern amenities included.  I was, however, surprised that the pool was inside—the online photo clearly showed an outdoor pool. I thought maybe they had enclosed it but when I asked about it, the young woman at the front desk explained that the picture of an outdoor pool had been an error that Corporate hadn’t managed to get fixed!   Really?

LaGrande is very welcoming.  We were here once before when Chris was swimming in high school and they hosted the State Championships.  They have a great aquatic facility and they put on a beautiful meet.  Now I have the chance to take a look around:

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After unpacking and carefully locking the bikes in the room we drove the start of our first day’s cycling—a good thing too. Despite many signs marking our “Scenic Bikeway” we managed to make some key wrong turns that easily could have turned tomorrow’s trip into 70 miles instead of 34. By the way, did I mention we are going 34 miles tomorrow—not the 23 miles I was told—and 5 are uphill. David….

We dined at the Golden Harvest Restaurant which recently celebrated their 25th year in Union County and is the #1 restaurant in LaGrande on Tripadvisor—and rightly so. Beautifully clean and decorated, Chinese music, homemade barbeque sauce on ribs, and the cook greets you with a smile. Loved it! My fortune cookie said that, “If you stay on course you will achieve your goal”. I certainly hope we stay on course tomorrow!

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Day 2

We awoke early, eager to get started. After a filling breakfast we left our bags to be shlepped to North Powder for us and we took off on our bicycles. I optimistically put on my sunglasses and you will notice in the photos that we did have sunshine-initially. As we exited Riverside Park I suddenly couldn’t pedal across the road—I looked down and saw that my shoelace was wrapped into the gear. Fortunately I wasn’t going fast or I would have done a “Peggy”—that is an term of affection that David coined—it means a one bicycle collision with the pavement for no obvious reason!

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After half-an-hour we suddenly had a very heavy mist. A non-Oregonian might even call it rain. But a native would reply “It’s only spittin’.” Anyway, we stopped and put on our rain jackets and took off our sunglasses and got going again. At this point we realized that not only were we getting a bit wet but we were bucking a 14 mph headwind (according to Weatherbug.com). After about five miles of that we stopped at a local airport for shelter. You can see a photo of the beautiful bronze sculptures they had inside. Those were made at the foundry in Joseph.

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The weather is extremely changeable here because of the Wallawa Mountains and the desert.   It seemed to be clearing so we hit the road again. We had about 10 miles to get to Union for lunch. With that big headwind (it peaked at 17 mph) it seemed like 20 miles.

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Along that stretch we passed an old hot springs and I took a photo of a large house that had partially collapsed.

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That got me to thinking about the economy in eastern Oregon (it’s wonderful how a headwind stimulates the brain). I think that they should preserve every shred of the old west that they have and build new buildings in the old west style too—something like they’ve done in Sisters, Oregon. Then, for money I think they should see about raising agave and cannabis. I think they might do well with those crops augmenting their ranching and haying. In fact, there seem to be many different strains of cannabis for different medicinal purposes. We have only legalized it for medicinal purposes right now but this may hold great promise for the future.

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Anyway, once we got to Union we really enjoyed it. It has many turn of the century buildings and Victorian houses. We asked where we should have lunch and were directed to a Rexall Drug Store with a soda counter. Walking into it was wonderful. The soda counter appears to be original and it is beautiful. They make all their bread so the smell was amazing. They also have a peanut roaster with warm peanuts for sale. We carbo-loaded for the afternoon ride—another 17 miles to get to North Powder.

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Ok, now we have a headwind as well as 5 uphill miles to go. Did I mention that I’m not in very good shape? I was completely inactive in May and June because of foot surgery and I was sick for about 3 weeks in August. Uphill against stiff winds? That was tough. Finally we reached North Powder and it is really small—our Motel is very old but the owners take loving care of it. The petunia baskets by every door are glorious. We cleaned up but couldn’t get dressed—our luggage had not arrived and did not arrive for 2 hours. I got under the covers and watched Twilight on TV. Dave put his cycling clothes back on and walked to the little convenience store and got a beer.

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Finally our clothes arrived and we walked over to the North Powder Café.  We had heard good things about it. It is clean and well-loved. Unfortunately they ran out of the prime rib open face sandwich just before we ordered. I ordered a Portobello mushroom burger and was surprised to discover that they put breaded Portobello slices on top of the meat! And there was a choice of potatoes—curly fries, home-baked fries or some other kind of fries. Well, I guess I’ll have fries then. Everybody was nice and it was very homey—just holler at the cook or waitress by name when you want their attention. We were the strangers so we tried to fit in.

Time for bed—another big day tomorrow. This time we’re headed for Baker and our clothes will be picked up for the trip at 7:30 so we’re definitely leaving early.  Dave arranged for our bags to be taken from town to town–actually Kristen and Derrick Dollarhide helped us with that as a little extra from the Union County Chamber of Commerce.  Thank you Kristen and Derrick!

David tells me tomorrow is a shorter trip—much easier. We’ll see.

Major thunderstorm this evening!