Monday, July 20, 2015

Chapter 29 - Oregon to Walla Walla, Washington

Saturday, July 17th:
We said goodby to Joan and Terri early this morning and we were "on the road again" by 7:30 am headed for Walla Walla, Washington. We learned last evening that the temperatures in Oregon were again on the rise and a quick check of what we were to expect in Walla Walla revealed the same, highs expected in the mid-90s. You know this is ridiculous. The high temperatures in Estero, Florida on Saturday are projected to be lower than in Walla Walla, Washington. Who would have thought. Anyway, our drive to Walla Walla will take us a little over 4 hours and most of the drive follows the Columbia River.  This photo was taken only a few minutes before we finally left the Interstate and the Columbia River and we turned east on to Hwy 12 that soon took us into Walla Walla.

Our destination in Walla Walla was the RV Resort Four Seasons which thanks again to Garmin we easily found. While this RV park was a highly rated, full service, and very clean RV park it was a bit of a disappointment visually particularly after spending two weeks in scenic Oregon.  Nevertheless, we were determined to get back into the rhythm of staying in nice places and moving every several days.  Incidentally, in this photo of Kathy next to the fountain our travel trailer can be seen way in the distance behind and to the left of the red car.

The owners of our RV park must have inherited a whole bunch of animal statutes for they were placed all over the park.  We took a lot of photos of the statutes but this one of Cabo admiring the panther is our favorite one.  Cabo doesn't seem to fear other animals (made of concrete.)

We spent most of our early afternoon studying a list of the historical and other tourist sights in and around Walla Walla as frankly, I had never heard of Walla Walla until recently.  Kathy on the other hand knew that Walla Walla onions were famous. Really?  What we learned about this city in our brief study was quite interesting. Walla Walla has a population of around 32,000 much larger than we assumed.  The name Walla Walla is Native America and means "place of many waters." The Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through the area in 1805 and the area was first settled by fur traders back in 1818 and by missionaries in 1836. Many of the downtown area businesses and stores occupy buildings that were originally constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s and the buildings still retain the charm of the original architecture.  And finally, in 2013 Walla Walla was recognized by Fodor's as one of the "10 Best Small Towns In America," and in 2011 Walla Walla was voted "America's Friendliest Small Town" by USA today and Rand McNally. We also learned that there are a few historical buildings in the town including at least one historical museum.  What a surprise Walla Walla.

One problem with visiting Walla Walla this afternoon was that the temperatures had now risen to the high 90s which would make walking around the city very uncomfortable.  We decided instead just to tour the city briefly in a car and then quickly stop by a supermarket to shop for a few needed supplies and then return to our air conditioned "home" to relax this afternoon.  We will put off exploring the downtown area until tomorrow morning when it will be cooler.  One store that Kathy immediately noticed as we drove downtown was Macys. If a town as small as Walla Walla has a Macys then there must be something special about this place. Incidentally the highrise building in the background of the photo of Macys is the Baker Building built in 1911. Don't ask.

Sunday, July 19th:
One of the brochures that we picked up yesterday at our RV park was a "Downtown Historic Trail Guide" which basically consisted of a detailed description of a 1.5 mile walking tour of the downtown area of Walla Walla.  The guide gave us the age and a brief history of some of the older and more historic buildings. We were also informed by the guide that the Sunset Magazine had named Walla Walla as having the Best Main Street in the West.  Even I, the proverbial I hate shopping guy, was a bit gunned up. Fortunately we started our walk around 10 am Sunday morning before many of the stores had opened so that our walk was just an historic tour. 

I remember when I was in my early 20s in Niagara Falls when the New York State Urban Development Corp sponsored the demolition of almost all of the old buildings in our downtown area in the name of "urban renewal." I was working for a general contractor at the time so the prospect of lots of new construction projects should have uplifted me, but it did not. What was built to replace the old historic and charming buildings was awful especially architecturally. Niagara Falls never recovered from this huge error in judgment.

On the other hand, Walla Walla took a different approach and kept and restored their old buildings. I use the word restored and not improved as for the most part the original appearance of the buildings has been maintained.  One of the other features of this downtown area that both Kathy and I loved was that the Main Street was tree lined and potted plants hung from each of the lamp poles. Considering how dry the climate is around here and the fact that has been very hot in this region so far this summer, it is obvious that the City of Walla Walla is devoting the necessary time and money to maintain these flowering potted plants.

Another very unique thing that we observed during our almost two hour walk, was that Main Street had numerous restaurants, coffee shops, and winery tasting rooms and most of them had little fenced in outdoor eating or wine tasting areas. It was not apparent from our drive into Walla Walla yesterday but apparently the surrounding county is filled with vineyards. I did not try and count all of the tasting room we passed on our walk, but I would guess that there must have been at least two dozen.  Too bad it was a Sunday morning or I might have had a few sips of Walla Walla Valley's finest dry white wines.

Not to be outdone, Walla Walla also has tried its hand at mural painting but in their case it is going to be hard to improve on what we found in a small park area right on Main Street in the middle of the shopping area.  We took maybe two dozen photographs of this city during our walking tour and it would be impractical to try and place them all in this blog. I must say that I never thought that I would admit that I enjoyed walking through a downtown shopping area, but Walla Walla has proven to both Kathy and I that history and modern shopping can be blended together to make something special.  Walmart - eat your heart out!

Our plan for this afternoon was to stop at the Kirkman House Museum followed by a visit to the Fort Walla Walla Museum.  We did visit both museums although in both cases we were not allowed to enter the facilities because dogs were not allowed.  We did take this nice photo of the Kirkman House which was built in 1880 and Kathy did visit the Fort Walla Walla Museum only to get as far as their gift store (while I waited outside with the rejected Pomeranian.)  On our return to our RV park we noted a large sign on one of the local banks showing that the outside temperature was now 101 degrees.  That is way too high to play outside. We spent the rest of the day in out air conditioned travel trailer, writing this blog, reading a book, having a cocktail, eating dinner, watching TV, and finally going to bed early.  What a life!  Tomorrow we head east again to the combined cities of Clarkston (Washington) and Lewiston (Idaho).         

No comments:

Post a Comment