After visiting pubs in six European countries on a 21-day Rick Steves’ Best of Europe Tour this summer, a return to basics was in order. What better description of “basics” could one devise than a four-day road trip through Eastern Oregon – visiting taverns, pubs and bars along the way. (This post is the first of three installments…)
Thus, three of us – Thebeerchaser, brother-in-law, Dave Booher and Pendleton teacher and coach, Steve Larson, completed a 1,346 mile four-day trip in August.
We camped three nights and stayed at the wonderful Diamond Hotel, in Diamond, Oregon on the fourth. Diamond, with a population of five, is so small that the “Welcome To” and “Come Again” signs could be on the same telephone pole. Anyone who has not experienced this historic inn, should make it a bucket-list item.
As one can see from the map, we circled through the “God’s Country.”
This trip was a great opportunity to either visit or photograph some of the colorful and historic local watering holes that are institutions in cities such as Prineville, LaGrande, Baker, Fossil, Burns, John Day, Mitchell and Sumpter.
Solstice Brewery – Solstice celebrated its second anniversary in July and with a play area for tots (which we did not try) is a family oriented venue. Shelby, our waitress, was friendly and helpful as was the owner, Joe, who told us it was the only brewery in Prineville and that they have a five-barrel capacity.
They bought their five-barrel brew kettle from Terminal Gravity Brewery in Enterprise. Their beer was good and we tried the War Paint Red Ale, Show-me-the-Honey Wheat Ale and Walton Lake Lager, three of six Solstice’s own brews. We also had a good Sunday lunch.
Horseshoe Tavern – Just up the street from Solstice on Prineville’s Main Street we met native Pennsylvanian, Heather, the bartender, who did a great job filling us in on the history of the bar, which is over 70 years old – a fact substantiated by the picture of the original owner, Howard Bose, on opening day.
Heather told us that her most challenging customers were the off-duty state troopers, who made the trucker patrons look tame.
They have seven beers on tap and we enjoyed the Bombshell Blonde from Cascade Lakes Brewery in Redmond. This review from “Urban Spoon” summed up the Horseshoe pretty well, “Good food, huge portions.$1 beer, friendly staff. What more could you want?”
Heather convinced Thebeerchaser to have an “Angry Balls” cocktail which is Angry Orchard Hard Cider (5% alcohol) and a drop of Fireball. It was very good although evoked no emotional or physical reaction implied by the name.
The Hideout Saloon – Our next stop was in “downtown”, LaGrande, where Cindy, the gregarious bartender who has worked at the Hideout for ten years, hailed from the Land of Sky Blue Waters as did the “Beer-of- the-Day” – a draft Hamm’s.
Cindy didn’t know exactly when the bar started operating, but said without equivocation, “It’s older than anybody here.”
We noted that a number of patrons – other than ourselves – reminded us of some of the Old Testament characters so we knew the bar was old.
Because they had cheap PBR and Dave was in a nostalgic mood, he harkened back to his days in the Navy’s Submarine Service and used the phonetic alphabet and ordered a “Papa – Bravo – Romeo,” which Cindy understood.
The LongBranch Saloon – Just down the street, we discovered our final LaGrande bar – one that had no lack of character and ambiance. Patsy, the bartender didn’t know how old the bar was, but said that her grandmother worked there at one time.
One young guy came in and she asked for his ID which he didn’t have. He left – came back and showed his ID – then just got a glass of water….! The Long Branch also has a quant diner attached that looked like it was from the 1950’s.
We then debated where we should camp that evening. Steve advocated flexibility, but I told him, “Spontaneity on this trip takes a lot of planning…”
We stopped at the Dairy Queen in John Day to assess our options, while I had a chocolate malt, Dave a Dilly Bar and Steve a DQ Sundae. We couldn’t figure out why Dave told the Drive-thru waitress to make sure that our orders were “To Go.”
We headed east on Highway 26 and about half way between John Day and Sumpter, we ended up at one of Oregon’s wonderful State Parks – Unity Lake State Recreation Site.
“Camping” may be a stretch to describe our accommodations because we stayed in a cabin with bunks, but as you can see from the photos, it was a perfect ending to a day of exploration.
And this post should end with a short tribute to the man who instilled my appreciation of God’s Country when I was in my teens and he was a carpet salesman for Mohawk Carpets.
My Dad – F. Duane Williams – on whom we lovingly bestowed the moniker, “FDW”, grew up on the East Coast and thanks to his courage and that of my mom (Frannie), we moved to Oregon from Ohio in 1960 after a three-month camping trip (a VW bus hauling a Nimrod pop-up-tent trailer) across the US. We missed three + weeks of school in the fall because FDW wrote the superintendent of schools that we were getting an outstanding education on the road.
We all fell in love with Oregon on the trip and FDW quit his job and moved to Portland while Frannie sold the house and then drove the four kids across the country to our new home in Oregon City. From that point on, FDW was imbued with “The spirit of high adventure.”
Although he did not make much in commissions from his Eastern Oregon territory, he loved the trips. From the geology to mingling with his dealers such as Doc Mosier of Mosier’s Home Furnishings in John Day – founded in 1955 and now operated by Doc’s son he relished the adventure.
I still have a personally autographed copy of famous Oregon cattleman, Herman Oliver’s autobiography, Gold and Cattle Country, with whom my dad had many visits in Grant County.
And no trip was complete without navigating a little-used Forest Service road in his VW Bus. (We once spent the night sleeping in the VW when we took the wrong turn got stuck on a new spur in the Mt. Emily Road and had to be pulled out the next morning by a bulldozer that was excavating for the new road!)
Good one. I lived in John Day for two years (1969-1971) practicing law with Roy Kilpatrick. I met Doc Mosier. Read Gold and the Cattle Country before I went over there. Have been in all those towns many times. Had lunch at the Diamond Hotel a couple of years ago while exploring the Steens and Kiger Gorge with retired Circuit Court Judge Dickerson (Corvallis). We met at Willamette Law School from 65-68. He grew up in Burns as did his wife. Great Country. I go to Ironsides every year to shoot varmints (not far from Unity). Best Regards, Bob Dayton
Great comment, Bob. And stay tuned for Part II as I have a picture of Kilpatrick’s Tavern in Mitchell. While I did not get to have a beer there because it was in the morning, I talked to the bartender who is married to Roy’s son and the owner of the bar. Roy was on the Board of Governors at the Oregon State Bar when I worked there and an institution in God’s Country. I have a picture of a sign from his law office that I will post on the blog.
Glad that you met Doc Mosier. He took me on my first and only deer hunt in the Strawbeery Mountains when I was 15 and it was a great experience. A real gentleman.
Hey, now you’re over in my home territory, my beer chasin’ friend. Born in LaGrande and raised in the wilds of Eastern Oregon. LaGrande was always the “home in my heart” and my grandparents lived there all their adult lives. We had some great family reunions and I know the Long Branch well. (Don’t get the wrong impression – we were just a fun-loving bunch of folks and the Long Branch had a good dance floor at the time.) Your column is aa great ride through a lot of interesting places. I also enjoyed the tribute to your dad. The Mt. Emily story reminded me that my own dad was known in the family as Dead-end Dave. If there was a dead end road to find, he’d find it. We had a lot of adventures!
All best…and thanks for another great read.
Thanks Molly – you are one of Thebeerchaser’s most loyal followers – and between Portland State and your experiences while you worked in Portland and your affinity for God’s Country, we have a lot to catch up on next time we meet in Seattle.
Amen to that!
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