The Dalles, OR (July 10, 2022)

Although we are only 80 miles east of Portland, it is like day and night. The landscape has transitioned from lush green to lots of green with a little brown to considerably more brown than green. The landscape reminds me of the Western Slope in Colorado. I wonder what awaits us upriver.

Every minute of every hour on the Columbia River so far has been peaceful and serene, even when we were tied up at the various docks. That is, until we got here. A six-lane highway runs right past the dock and is Very Noisy, in part, no doubt, because there is no vegetation barrier. The dock is within walking distance of town and we have wonderful views of Mount Hood and Mount Adams as small compensation. No quiet nap for me on the upper deck this afternoon.

Once known as the Gateway to the Inland Empire, The Dalles became a jumping-off spot for pioneers, soldiers, gold miners, trappers, and adventurers. The Oregon trail ended here. It became the Las Vegas of the Old West where living large and loose was all part of the vibrant, lawless atmosphere. As a throwback to those days, our tour bus was met by a costumed ‘floozie’ who gave us a warm welcome to her fine town and said there were plenty of women of questionable intent waiting to get acquainted with fine folk like us. The saloons of days gone by are hard to spot, but large red dots are on some second story windows marking where women known for their negotiable affection use to corrupt those passing through. French-Canadian fur trappers in the 1820s gave the town its unique name which is pronounced The Dal-z. Rhymes with gals. Lewis and Clark camped one night just out of town at what is now called Fort Rock. White men were lured West by the promise of 320 acres if they were single and 640 if married. There was no mention by our government of the fact that they were doling out land that had been the domain of local Indians for millennia.

Modern The Dalles, with a population of 16,000, is the land of maraschino cherries, a Google server farm, basalt retaining walls, biking, fishing, wineries, birding, and kiteboarding. We passed on all of those and chose to visit the Discovery Center which we thoroughly enjoyed. We spent most of our time learning about Lewis and Clark as well as the 30 men who went along on the expedition and became known as The Corps of Volunteers for the Northwest Discovery. We saw a large medicine chest like the two that accompanied the men and a huge clyster used to administer enemas! We learned that the group made camp 600 times in the 863 days they were gone and that on average, each man ate eight to nine pounds of meat A Day! A chart telling how many of each animal was consumed by the group ranged from 1,169 deer down to a single fox. It included the expected elk (392) and bison (259) as well as the unexpected dog (190), bear (28), horse (12), porcupine (5), and 20 other meat sources. The expedition encountered 50 Indian tribes, so we learned about gift exchange protocols and trade items. The exhibits made the lectures we had attended on board ship come alive.

The small Discovery Center highlighted the Oregon trail also and had a life-size mockup of a covered wagon on a raft. Its wheels were removed for the dangerous trip necessitated by the mountains that were smack dab in the way. The Columbia River, not yet damned, was a dangerous white water river back then, so count me out. Indian fishing platforms were explained with pictures to illustrate. We have seen them along the river already (as you know) and there are more here, but we left knowing how dangerous it was to construct them and how equally dangerous it was to fish from them. We learned about forts that were built to protect and assist pioneers coming West on the Oregon Trial. All that remains of the one built here in the 1850s are a couple of buildings that are now part of Fort Dalles Museum. This particular fort was put in place to keep the peace just in case the locals decided to take the side of the South in the Civil War. They didn’t and the fort eventually faded away.

Our attention did a 360 when we went from there to the National Neon Sign Museum. A short film explained how glass tubing is bent into interesting shapes, how the tubes are electrified, where the color comes from, and how to separate words, letters, and shapes in a sign. It was fascinating. A docent guided us through the museum and explained where this wild idea came from and how it changed advertising, branding, and signage forever. There is an impressive collection of old signs lit up which were doubly impressive now that we knew how complicated they were to make. Cleone and I were drawn to the Buster Brown sign in particular since we had recently visited Buster Brown’s grave in Hugo, OK.

It was an easy stroll through town, with one stop at the oldest bookstore in Oregon, to get to the boat where lunch was our first priority followed by a bit of downtime and a lecture on the medicines of Lewis and Clark.

From the sounds of it those guys, one gal, and a baby were lucky to have lived through their two-year ordeal. It was a common practice to ‘get the bad stuff out’ by blood letting and forced sweating, vomiting, and purging of the bowels. Medicine from all over the world consisted of live plants and herbals, mercury-infused tonics, spices, and opioids. Lewis and Clark had so much faith in the thunderclapper, a pill used to purge the bowels, that they left with 50 dozen of them! No thank you. There was no actual doctor in the group, so it was left to Lewis and Clark, as the leaders, to doctor those who fell ill from anything from venereal disease to poison ivy to malaria. It’s hard to believe that only one man died, and he fell ill early on before the going got rough.

We skipped happy hour and had an early dinner and later entertainment. Another wonderful, if noisy, day. Between dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow morning we’ll go through three more locks raising us an additional 273 feet.


There is no sales tax in Oregon.

The first neon sign in the United States was orange and blue and spelled out PACKARD.
The year was 1923.

In 1984, The Dalles was the site of the first and single largest bioterrorism attack in U.S. history.
Hoping to incapacitate a significant number of the voting population in the upcoming election, followers of Rajneesh deliberately contaminated the salad bars at ten local restaurants with salmonella.
As a result 751 people got sick; 45 were hospitalized; none died.

The Indians living near The Dalles were forcibly relocated by the U.S. Army
to an Indian reservation elsewhere in the state.

Dutch Brothers coffee is from Oregon.


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