June 26, 2015, Lakeview, OR- This day started in the sere brownness of Ontario, in the heart of the Great Basin, above the Snake River. It was not too hot, as I made my way over to Gandolfi’s New York-style Deli, the closest thing in the Riverside area of Ontario, to a coffee shop. The fare was satisfying, though the atmosphere was more motel breakfast room than comfy cafe.
The small village of Vale, southwest of Ontario, is the seat of Malheur County, of which Ontario is the commercial hub. Vale has a small historical museum, which was not open when I passed through, but was worth a look at the exterior. Eastern Oregon still has an Old West ambiance, in many places.
The Malheur River waters the area, gathering its tributaries, west of Vale, then heading towards the Snake River, south of Ontario.
After going through a barren section, once past the Malheur, there is a scrub pine forest that leads the way south, towards Burns. This area reminded me a lot of central Arizona, just as the Snake River near Ontario resembles the Colorado, in western Arizona.
Burns, named for the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns, is a quiet, but charming little town, about two hours east of Bend. I was warmly welcomed at Broadway Deli, a bustling local hangout with freshly-made soups and sandwiches. The ranchers also say it has great breakfasts. All I know is, I could have stayed all day.
Once south of Burns, and its smaller sister city, Hines, the desert takes over again. Ninety minutes later, I was in awe of the sere beauty of shrinking Lake Abert. This alkaline lake is inhabited mostly by brine shrimp.
There are numerous iron-oxide infused basalt boulders on its eastern shore, which the Oregon Outback Highway passes.
Just as Oregon and California meet, the Warner Mountains look over Lakeview. As I was coming into town, I spotted an Arabian horse, at the roadside fence, nervously shuffling on his back right haunch. Fearing he might be stuck, I went back to the driveway, where the owner went with me over to the pasture, and determined it was the beast’s arthritis acting up. He was grateful for my concern, and hopefully tended to the poor creature.
A section of California took me through the rest of the afternoon. Alturas is a small gateway community, with an Ag-Inspection Station, a dusty main street and Hotel Niles, an early 20th Century railroad stop.
I continued on, getting gas at the village of Standish and settling in for the night in Susanville, so named for the nearby Susan River. Both are named for Susan Roop, the daughter of an early settler. “Susan” was fairly lively when I first got there, as there was a country music festival at Lassen County Fairgrounds. It wrapped up at 9 P.M., though, and most of the people there were my age or older. It had been a lengthy drive today, and the car needed a good rest, so before checking out the tail-end of the hoedown, I had some fish fry at Kopper Kettle and took a room at nearby Frontier Inn. Tomorrow, I will head over to Reno, for a day or so, and catch up with the Nevada Family.