At the end of a beautiful drive from John Day, we settled in for two nights at Eagles Hot Lake RV Park a few miles south of La Grande, Oregon (click here to read our review and see photos). As we drove, we rehashed the details of our car troubles and found that we had both come to the same conclusion: this is more than just a dead battery, and probably more than a problem with the electrical connection between the Jeep and the motorhome when towing. We think the likely culprit is our dying “neutral safety switch”, which has already caused us a few problems.
BUT, the day was beautiful, the wheels were turning, and there was nothing to be done about it right now, so we rolled along and ohhh’ing and ahhh’ing over the scenery. I already wrote about our minor mis-adventure when we arrived in La Grande (we had to unhook to turn around on a gravel road), but we eventually were settled in time to visit La Grande’s tiny farmers market.
We’ve seen Farmer’s markets of all sizes, some in permanent spaces, others in temporary booths set up for just a few hours. To me, the very best farmers markets, regardless of size, are those that concentrate on LOCAL growers – which means only seasonal produce. La Grande’s market was very small, definitely local: three vendors of produce and eggs, two booths selling only strawberries, a vendor of baked goods, a local wine maker, a jeweler, a soap maker and one or two others. The produce was all cool-weather crops: greens, root vegetables, spring onions and early squash. I find it such a pleasure to hand my money directly to someone involved with the growing, someone who will proudly show you the moist cut end of the broccoli to emphasize how fresh it is.
Dinner that night was a huge salad with four different lettuces and blanched, chilled broccoli florets; sliced French bread with butter; wine from our Umpqua Valley tasting adventures; and a brownie for dessert. It tasted particularly good on what was the first really warm (around 80 degrees) day we have experienced this year.
On Wednesday, we ranged out into the countryside around La Grande on the Grande Ronde Scenic Route. The route was planned to “showcase the diversity and history (think Oregon Trail) of the Grande Ronde Valley”, and it does it well. We passed through rolling range land, past historic old town sites and ranches, along narrow paved roads and dirt/gravel roads. At one point, we passed a wind farm high on a ridge, looking down on the dilapidated remains of an abandoned ranch. Imagine the pioneers on the Oregon Trail confronted with this sight!
The second half of our loop followed an almost overflowing (seems to be the norm this spring) river through tall pines, wild and beautiful. We noticed a change in the weather – a steady drop in the temperature – and saw thunder bumpers billowing in the direction of our campsite… just before big drops of rain turned to hail all around us. Thus ended our short hot spell!
We pulled out of La Grande yesterday morning, heading northeast to Joseph, in the Wallowa Mountains… our target since we left Crystal Crane Hot Springs less than a week ago. Once you leave the interstate, the road is mostly narrow and winding, including a climb over a summit above 5,000 ft. Summer is the time for road work, and signs alerted us well in advance that a road crew was working on the curvy descent from the summit. No problem, we just sat and waited patiently while the pilot car lead opposing traffic through the one-lane stretch under (re)construction.
Our flagger conferred several times on her radio with the work crew, then finally motioned us through (we were at the head of the line). Oopsie! Looks like a little miscommunication: this is what you DON’T want to see when you are on a steep downgrade with a Jeep hooked on your rear end!
Fortunately, we encountered this vehicle BEFORE the point of no return, so waited until it – and the three huge construction trucks behind it – negotiated the single lane. The famous line from Cool Hand Luke echoed in my head: “What we have here is a failure to communicate!” :)
We eventually made it over the pass into the Wallowa Valley. The elevation here is a couple thousand feet higher than La Grande, and it was very cool and cloudy when we arrived – but the clouds cleared later and we enjoyed the sunshine. We plan to be here for a week, longer if it works out (we’d like to stay through the July 4th holiday). Hiking, scenic drives, and the interesting little town await… oh, and a farmer’s market on Saturday morning!
Looking south over Wallowa Lake.
View of the Wallowa Mountains from our campsite.