Saturday, June 27, 2015

Chapter 18 - Pendleton to Toppenish, Washington

Friday, June 26th:
As Kathy pointed out this morning, today is kind of special since we have been on the road exactly one month. We both agreed that it hardly seems that long as we are still having fun and still looking forward to tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. That is kind of special and we hope that the feeling will continue for many more days.  Our plan now is to go all the way to Seattle, Washington before returning to Oregon and spending time with my sister Joan.  Joan has planned a two week camping tour of Oregon and as Joan is a professional camper we are very much looking forward to what she has planned.

Today we are headed for a campground located just outside the city of Toppenish, Washington set in what is known as the Yakima River Valley. The scenery as we headed out of Pendleton was pretty much what we had grown accustomed to, but not long after we crossed the Columbia River on the Oregon/Washington state line and soon entered the Yakima River Valley near Benton City, Washington, the scenery dramatically changed. We had suddenly entered a major Washington State grape growing region and on both sides of the highway for miles were hundreds of acres of vineyards.  Here and there we drove by wineries some with buildings that looked like French chalets. In addition to the many vineyards there were also acres of apple, pear and cherry orchards as well as cornfields. Obviously we were entering a new phase of our trip westward.  The photo of Kathy and Cabo was taken in front of a tent within our new campground. Believe it or not the tent is a "Rental Unit."

Our campground for the next two nights is to be the Yakama Nation RV Resort which is located within the Yakama Indian Reservation and a few miles from the City of Toppenish which is also within the reservation. The Yakama Reservation is huge containing 1,130,000 acres and it was granted to the Yakama tribe by treaty way back in 1855. Today the population within the reservation is approximately 6,300 and not surprisingly almost everyone that we encountered both within the RV park offices, the nearby Indian cultural museum, the Casino, and in the stores in downtown Toppenish, were all of American Indian descent. While most of the homes in the area and in the city were not luxurious, it was still clear that the tribal residents were living comfortably.

The temperatures in the area when we arrived were already in the low 90s and they were expected to rise to the high 90s by mid-afternoon.  We both decided that it was better to confine ourselves to air conditioned space rather than playing an outdoor tourist role.  We did however, drive downtown to pickup a few supplies and then on the way "home" we stopped at the Yakama Nation Cultural Center where Kathy wanted to explore their gift shop. She must have figured that lots of culture can be found in gift stores. She quickly discovered that everything in their gift store was grossly overpriced so Kathy left empty-handed (much to my delight).

While we were downtown we looked everywhere for a bank or an ATM machine but without success. After we left the Cultural Center we decided to go over to the Yakama Legends Casino where we were convinced that they would have an ATM machine. Since Cabo was not allowed in the casino and the temperatures were much too hot to leave him alone in the car, I ran inside the casino by myself. The outside of the casino was not much to look at as the photo shows, although they are in the process of building a new addition to the casino and a large hotel next door. The inside however, was a lively and crowded typical casino.  Lots of noise, blinking lights, and cigarette smoke. I located the ATM immediately, requested $100, and to my surprise, out came a $100 bill from the machine. It has been years since I have touched or even seen a $100 bill, and I knew that outside of the casino a bill of this size is unwelcome at most stores. So I found the cashier and requested five twenties. She obliged, maybe thinking that I was a small time gambler.  I then hurried back out to the car and we returned to our cool tin box. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing to the roar of our overhead air conditioner and occasionally glancing at the outside lawn sprinkler that as it turned out continued to water the grass in front of our trailer all afternoon and then all night. The next morning I no longer felt sorry for the grass and I shut the sprinkler off without receiving the required permission from the tribal lawn caretakers.              

Saturday, June 27th:
This area is noted for a number of things, two of which we planned to explore today.  The City of Toppenish, population only 9,000, is noted for its wall murals that seem to cover most of the walls of the buildings in the downtown area.  There are now 75 murals in total and every June the city sponsors the painting of another mural.  These murals for their uniqueness, were a must see for us. Kathy was reminded of the number of theater sets that she has helped paint over the past dozen years, although some of these wall painting were very much larger than most typical theater stages.

We took at least a dozen photos of the different murals and it would serve no real purpose to include all of them in this blog. These two photos capture the beauty of the murals that in total seem to tell a pictorial history of the area.  Who would have ever expected to find such a wonderful outside display in an Indian reservation city in southwestern Washington State.  What a special surprise.

Our other must see are the hundreds of acres of vineyards located just to the east of the reservation. Since just looking at grape vines growing is a bit weak on its own, we naturally had to visit at least one of the dozens of wineries in the area and of course, visit their wine tasting room, taste the wine (of course), and then purchase at least one bottle of the local wine. This was going to be a great day. The vineyards covered the land for miles in every direction although here an there between the vineyards were apple, pear, and cherry orchards. Hard to imagine that we had never heard of the Yakima Valley until a few days ago.  What a country!

This photo shows some of the many acres of grape vines growing in the Yakima Valley.  Kathy and I drove for probably 45 minutes through the back roads of this wine grape growing area near a small town by the name of Zillah.  We must have driven by 15 or more wineries before we finally selected one to visit and taste their wines.

We chose as out winery to visit the Bonair Winery.  Our reasons for selecting this particular winery were purely speculative based almost entirely on the winery's location down a long gravel road surrounded by vineyards, plus we liked the look of the tasting building.  We did not regret our choice as their wine was excellent and we ended up purchasing two bottles, one dry white and one dry red.


The smile on the face of this happy wine buyer either means he is delighted with his purchases or he is a bit tipsy from sampling five different wines before noon, or, perhaps both.  

Tomorrow morning we are headed for Seattle.  What's next?

1 comment:

  1. I am really enjoying your blog! Say hello to Joan and Terry.