After our Starbucks break, we were back on the road. As was mentioned in a previous post, La Grande is the biggest town that we visited on our “small towns” adventure; and as such, we decided to just drive through it instead of hanging around. Plus, we only had about two hours left before the sunset, and we wanted to complete our loop around the Blue Mountains. From La Grande, we got on I-84 West, with the goal of exiting at exit 216, which would take us to the Umatilla Indian Reservation, where we would get gas before heading to our last stop of the day, Athena, Oregon (Pop. 1,126). Exit 216 is also the exit for the Wildhorse Resort and Casino, which is an interesting attraction for slot machine enthusiasts and folks into table card games. On this trip we wouldn’t be going to casino, but from previous experiences, it’s worth checking out, especially if you feel the need to escape the rural-ness of Eastern Oregon and Washington. Wildhorse Resort and Casino stands out like a sore thumb, given its isolated location, though, I was impressed by its recent renovations. One more thing of note: you can pump your gas at the gas station on the reservation, which is exciting because in the rest of Oregon (along with New Jersey) an attendant is required to pump your gas.
What really surprised us was how far south and east we had traveled to get to La Grande. From La Grande to Exit 216 is close to 50 miles on I-84 West! Once on the freeway, we had no plans to stop until we got to Exit 216. But this quickly changed when we were alerted to a historic bridge near La Grande and a scenic viewing point closer to Pendelton, Oregon, which, of course, we had to experience.
The bridge attraction was a bit strange. The bridge – the Upper Perry Arch Bridge – crosses over the Grande Ronde River and was apparently rehabilitated in 2008. It sure is a beauty, although apparently so new that on either side of the one-lane bridge there was nary a description of the bridge or its historic significance. I managed to find a few more details about the bridge here. Interestingly, it was originally constructed in 1924 – so a true landmark, I imagine, for the region.
We walked across the bridge a few times looking for anything that would tell us a little more about the bridge. There is a plaque at the center, which at least gave us the bridge’s name. On our way out, we were met by a family who, funny enough, were also wondering where the information about the historic bridge. Where the information about the bridge should’ve been was just an empty place-holder. I wonder if this is a funding issue.
Our next stop would be a scenic viewpoint off of I-84 West. I am a sucker a for a good view, and the view point proved to be just that. From the scenic viewpoint, you’ll get not quite a 360 degree shot of the surrounding Oregon landscape, but really close to it.
When we stopped, there were several big-rig trucks stopped at the viewpoint as well. It was nice to see others appreciate the amazing panoramic view before them. Stay tuned for my post on our last stop on our small towns road trip: Athena, Oregon.
- A Weekend of Small Towns: Onwards to La Grande, Oregon
- A Weekend of Small Towns: Milton-Freewater and Weston, Oregon
- A Weekend of Small Towns: Dixie and Waitsburg, Washington