June 15, 2007
Prineville, OR to Boise, ID
This was another driving day, taking us across eastern Oregon and into Idaho. We got a reasonably early start and hit the road immediately. There were lots of bikers on the road, particularly BMW riders (we saw signs specifically welcoming them, so there must have been a special BMW event going on). We followed U.S. 26 more than 80 lonely miles to Dayville before stopping to eat.
The cook at the Dayville Cafe said it was too late for breakfast, so we had to get lunch. My wife ordered the chicken salad sandwich special and I ordered a gigantic 2/3-pound double bacon cheeseburger. When the waitress brought it out, I wondered how I would stuff it into my mouth, it was so thick. Needless to say, the patties were hand-formed. It was the best burger I ate on the entire trip, and I ate a lot of hamburgers. It even had cheese and bacon atop each patty. Some restaurants put cheese on each burger in a stack, but I don't think I've ever seen bacon on top of both burgers. My wife wasn't so lucky. She put down her sandwich after a couple of bites. It had too much mayo, plus a few unusual ingredients including apple. The waitress came over. "Oh, if you didn't like it, then I won't charge you for it." Wow, that doesn't happen in the big city!
After lunch, we crossed the street to the Dayville Mercantile which dates back to 1896. We browsed for a while but didn't buy anything for a change.
We passed John Day Fossil Beds National Monument but didn't visit. Paleontology doesn't really excite me, and I think my wife was starting to get that "I just want to get home" feeling.
Our next stop was in the town of John Day where I wanted to get a Blizzard to make up for the dessert I missed the night before. It was a good place to stop because we wouldn't be in a real town again for a couple of hours. The Dairy Queen featured a large model railroad layout. On the way south on U.S. 395 out of town, I stopped at a creepy convenience store. The store was literally half empty with only a couple aisles of food and two reefers full of Coke and Pepsi products. The gaunt, greasy clerk stopped watching the baseball game on television and stared at me the entire time I was there. I bought a soft drink and hurried to the car.
My original plan was to drive down to Burns to catch U.S. 20 east, but the Oregon state map showed a shortcut that ran to Drewsey, meeting U.S. 20 some 40 miles east-northeast of Burns. Just how desolate is eastern Oregon? I missed the turn for the shortcut, but I was able to turn around in the middle of U.S. 395 slowly enough not to awaken my wife with nary a car in sight. Fortunately, the road was easy to follow once I was on it. There was only a short stretch of gravel, maybe a couple of miles, and the rest was paved. It probably saved me at least half an hour, and it was a nice drive through Malheur National Forest. At U.S. 20 I let my wife drive for an hour while I rested. We rejoined civilization in Ontario, Oregon and crossed the Snake River into Idaho on I-84. We were going to just take a quick bathroom break at the Idaho welcome center, but the woman behind the desk was so friendly that we ended up getting a bunch of tourist information as well.
A new Sierra Trading Post outlet store had just opened in Meridian west of Boise, so we stopped there to shop. We walked in just as they were closing, but unlike most retail stores, the clerks didn't try to rush us out. "Once you're inside, you're okay," said one clerk. I needed a lightweight jacket, but the store's offerings were sparse. A clerk whispered to me that her husband had found a jacket like I wanted at Cabela's, so maybe I should look there. My wife bought a few shirts, and we set out to find a motel in Boise.
I had a discount coupon for Super 8 near Boise Air Terminal. At first we went the wrong way, and my wife was concerned that we were "stuck" driving through the airport. "Relax, this isn't O'Hare," I assured her. Sure enough, it only took a few minutes. When I asked the Super 8 clerk about the coupon, she informed me that the motel was full -- it was Friday night, after all. I had another coupon for Inn America at the same exit, so we headed there. As I waited to check in, a young couple inquired about a room. The clerk quoted them $69.99. When it was my turn, I handed him the coupon and asked if he could honor it. He did, and we paid $49.99 for the same type of room. What a deal! The place looked almost new, and it had high-speed Internet as well as laundry facilities.
After my wife did some laundry, we went to Shari's for dinner. I figured it might be our last chance since they have few locations further east. While browsing our Idaho tourist guide, I found the World Center for Birds of Prey. Operated by the Peregrine Fund, the center promised up-close encounters with some of the most fascinating birds in the world. We had a little flexibility to insert it into our schedule, and with a little bit of arm twisting, my wife was eager to go. Tomorrow would be a busy day since I also wanted to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument.
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