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A pleasing discovery

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Ed Quillen | Aug 08, 2009 10:03 AM

    In general, I think it is no coincidence that the words "travel" and "travail" have the same root -- the Latin word "tripalium," a three-pronged instrument of torture. But on occasion, there are pleasant surprises.
 
    It was time for Martha and me to visit our daughters (and grandson) in Oregon. In the past, we've always flown, which is a pain when you live in Salida, 150 miles from Denver International Airport. Further it is hard to express just how much I loathe standing in lines and going through security just to jam myself into a cramped airline seat.
 
    This time around, though, we had more time available since we'd sold our little magazine (Colorado Central) earlier this year.
 
    As a railroad buff, I considered Amtrak: Catch the California Zephyr in Colorado, ride it to Emeryville, Calif., then board the Coast Starlight north to one daughter's home in Eugene, Ore. But that meant something like 48 hours each way on the rails, a bit much even for me. The logistics of a compromise -- flying one way and using the rails for the other -- got more difficult the more I pondered the matter.
 
    So why not a Great American Road Trip? We finally own a vehicle with air-conditioning, cruise-control and a fine stereo. We wouldn't have to meet the airline or train schedules. As history buffs who weren't in any special hurry, we could stop at all historic markers, scenic overlooks, and the like.
 
    My only worry was eastern Oregon. Several people had described it to me as boring, arid territory, fit only to hold the rest of the world together, and traversed by bad roads at that.
 
    But instead I found decent two-lane highways through scenic hills, mountains and forests, all pleasantly uncrowded. In ways, I liked it better than western Oregon, since in the east, the forests were seldom so thick as to block the vistas.
 
    On the way to Bend from Ontario, we took U.S. 20 through Burns and discovered the pleasant Malheur River valley, as well as Stinkingwater and Drinkwater passes, only a few miles apart. To return, we drove U.S. 26 through Prineville, John Day and Unity. Little towns, big views, abundant pullovers -- wonderful territory for a leisurely road trip.
 
    I'm beginning to think that those people who tried to warn me away from eastern Oregon were really just trying to keep it for themselves.
 

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