Ketchum, Idaho to Bend, Oregon (~470 miles)
We got an early start from Ketchum and had US20 pretty much all to ourselves as we went west toward its merge with I-84 at Mountain Home, Idaho. US20 departs from I-84 from time to time between Mountain Home and Ontario, Oregon but we just stayed with I-84 through Boise, Idaho to Ontario. Boise has become an increasingly interesting place to visit but not so much so early on a Sunday morning, so we skipped it this time. After Boise, we crossed the Snake River after almost exactly 3,000 miles of driving and were home again in Oregon! We picked-up US20 in Ontario, went through Vale (where the rain started up again), along the Malheur River to Drinkwater Pass, and then on to Burns, Oregon. We’ve been to Burns numerous times over the years but have never warmed to it. It’s at the intersection of two major U.S. highways (20 and 395) and is the gateway to a major bird watching wildlife area, but seems uninterested in offering much more than one good hotel, one decent sit-down restaurant (the redoubtable Pine Room – good steaks!), one coffee shop, and [now] one brew pub (but no bookstore). All but fast food was closed on Sunday anyway, so we settled for Subway. The long stretch of US20 between Burns and Bend has few services and no towns of any size, making it the most remote leg of our entire journey. But traffic was light, speed limits pushed by all, and we were in Bend in time for a coffee at Thump, a stroll around the touristy downtown, and, later, a dinner at Brickhouse (good but possibly over-priced). Bend is certainly no longer the dusty little town on the edge of Oregon’s eastern desert that I first visited back when dinosaurs walked the earth.
Bend, Oregon to Newport, Oregon (~180 miles)
We were so close to the end of this trip that we could almost smell the Pacific Ocean. So, after caffeinating at Thump shortly after it opened, we were once again on the road at morning’s first light. We went past the Sno Cap Drive-In in Sisters, which I remember fondly as the place for a burger and ice cream after climbing in the Three Sisters Wilderness. From Sisters, we went over the crest of the Cascades at Santiam Pass, crossed the Pacific Crest Trail (thus completing our trifecta of continental trails crossed), and went down into the Willamette Valley. Along the way, we stopped at the Dwight Huss plaque. Huss made automotive history when, in June 1905, he (and his mechanic Milford Wigle) drove past here (on US20’s dirt predecessor) to victory in the first transcontinental automobile race in the United States. It took them forty-four days to drive from New York to Portland, Oregon. In 1931, Huss repeated the trip, only to find hard surfaced roads (US20) and service stations everywhere. In 1905, Huss’ car, “Old Scout,” was the first car to travel North America from east to west, the first car on the Oregon Trail, and the first car to enter Portland on its own power from out of state. Once in the Willamette Valley, we made the big mistake of stopping at Browsers’ Bookstore in Corvallis, Oregon, where our cellulose addiction finally got the better of us. So, with the car burdened with yet more books and our wallets lighter, we started west over the coast range, only to find the going easier than expected now that a new, straighter stretch of US20 was open. We were soon on the outskirts of Newport, Oregon and then at the low-key sign on U.S. Highway 101 that marks the end of U.S. Route 20. We’d driven 3,444 miles to get here and were darned glad it was DONE!
We celebrated the end of our journey at the Rogue Brewery (fish & chips!) in Newport and then spent the night in Reedsport, Oregon before heading home the next day. We’re happy to report that our marriage survived us being wedged in a car for 11 days and 3,689 miles across 12 states, through 4 time zones, and over 3 continental trails. In the end, we think it a considerable privilege to inhabitat a time and place that permits average persons such as ourselves to just get in a car and drive 3,000+ miles across their country without serious concerns or limitations. It’s a privilege perhaps best not taken for granted.