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Hunting for Dinosaurs
A vacation hunting for dinosaurs was just the type of adventure I had been craving lately. I was at my wit's end at work and at home. As a single mom, my son and I were going to take a vacation despite current problems with my car and my life. I wanted to do something bold, daring and inventive, something to get me out of my current doldrums.
While exploring the Internet for ideas, hunting for dinosaurs in Oregon caught my eye. Under Trips We Love in Oregon, I found the "Journey through Time Scenic Byway Tour." A 286-mile, 8-10 hour drive, the route takes you on the Oregon Trail Byway through the eastern part of the state in a gigantic U. With $300.00 in my pocket, I started out from Cheesaw, Washington . I had hoped that was enough money for a week's travel to another state and back for two people. All that mattered to me at the time of this vacation was a road trip as far as my car would take me. My car had been having problems stalling,but I took her anyway. I would take a chance on an opportunity of a lifetime.
From Highway 5 we looked for Highway 82 to Umatilla at the border to Oregon and on to Hermiston. We made it to Hermiston after 7 p.m. By that time, the sun was fading fast, and we needed to look for a place to stay the night. I was prepared to tent camp or to stay in inexpensive hotels.
The next morning we headed toward Pendleton, but while driving out of Hermiston my 1976 Dodge Aspen started to have problems. We must have gone ten minutes when my car choked and died on a deserted hightway. i waited ten minutes, started the car and the engine roared to life once more. Tears of trustration and butterflies fluttered in my stomach but we kept driving.
At Pendleton, we stopped at McDonalds to ear and found the nearest Napa Auto Parts Store. While at McDonalds I looked under the car and there was a huge puddle of oil. I thought I had a leak so at Napa, I bought Stop Leak and more oil and then filled my car with the appropriate fluids. We started back on the road and headed for Baker City where there is a museum about the Oregon Trail but due to car problems I decided it would be best if we skipped it. We continued through the mountain and valley ranges on the hunt for dinosaurs.
Taking Highway 17 we came across Sumpter, an old mining town where they used to mine the waters for gold with a dredge. A dredge is a huge boat with big paddles that spin around and separate the gold while spewing the waste out the back of the boat. They had restored one of the dredge boats and had tied it to a dock so visitors could go on it. The town also has a train that takes people back and forth between the towns on the old mining tracks. After half a day in the hot Sumpter sun, we continued on our journey.
After filling the car with gas at the only pump outside of town, we headed to Prairie. Whitney is a ghost town near Prairie. We arrived at John Day City around 7 p.m. We looked for a camp ground and /or a hotel but had a hard time finding either one.
Just outside the city limits, we came across a place to stay with Indian tepees. It was the mosquito's dinner time when we got there, but we decided to look around the site anyway after renting a teepee. There was a babbling brook that runs on one side of the campround with a walking trail next to it. We received free firewood with the rental of the teepee so we made a little fire and then went to bed.
We took off early for Dayville, looking for the historic monument, another sight to see. From there, the road led us to the John Day Fossil Beds, where we hoped to dig for dinosaurs. However, we did not get a chance to dig for dinosaurs at this juncture because the Monument museum at John Day in Dayville is for lookers only not diggers. The museum is one of the best fossil sites in Oregon. Behind the glass walls, we saw skeletons of dinosaurs and fossils. I took pictures thinking this was the only chance to see them up close and personal. After the museum, we headed up to Spray. There was not much happening so with an uncooperative car, we continued the journey to Fossil, where we hoped once again to find the public digging beds. We did not find them in this town as we looked along the main road for signs telling us where they could be. Seeing no clear signs we continued to follow the road which led us through the town.
We drove through Fossil and on to Shaniko, an old ghost town and the wool shipping center of the world in 1898 according to the guidebook. Here we heard that the public fossil beds were behind us at a local school in a small town before John Day city, which the printout from the Internet that we took with us failed to mention. Since we had passed it and my car was not cooperating with me, backtracking was out of the question. Getting stranded on this side of Oregon was not a good idea. So instead we explored the quaint shops and old jail cells and took pictures of ourselves in the local county jail buggy the city of Shaniko had on display. There were street vendors there too from whom we purchased a piece of history-a dinosaur fossil.
We took the last leg of our journey and headed toward Biggs and the border to Washington. Fond memories survive the week- long journey. $300.00 dollars and survival on McDonalds' food made the journey affordable for both of us. A journey I would like to take again someday only this time I want a car that does not keep stalling. Some of those deserted hills and valley's were a little disconcerting and yet the fear of stalling somewhere is probably what made the journey more worthwhile.
It was a journey filled with fear and luck. A trip we will never forget, hunting for dinosaurs.