Oregon Mountain Cruise

Notes from my journal – Kris Rolstad

Oregon Mountain Cruise

Joseph Tour, June 2017


This is the Cascade Regional Groups’ 5th consecutive Oregon Mountain Cruise which while not as well attend as in previous years, but we had a solid tour group of nine cars that made the trek.  They were Tour Leaders Eddie & Barbara Akers in their modified ’28 Graham Fordor and original Mullins RedcapTrailer, Tom & Donna May Bewley in their ’37 Ford Tudor Slantback, LD Charf & Reneey O’Reilley in their ’40 Ford Tudor Modified, Bill & Sandy Michler in their ’39 Mercury Fordor, Robin & Paula Ordonez in their ’36 Ford Cabriolet, James & Rolstad in their ’39 Ford Tudor, Bruce Arnold in his ’50 Ford Coupe, Bill Ozeroff in his ’53 Ford Coupe and Chris Michler and Jacob Moore in a ’64 Malibu Convertible.

June 8, Thursday, 6:50 AM:  It's raining--it must be a V-8 road trip.

9:30: We leave our meeting place at the North Bend Outlet Mall with Eddie leading, eight old cars roll east on I-90, past a jack knifed semi truck 13 miles up, and to the first rest stop at Indian John by 10:35.

11:30:  The rain has left us. We grab a quick Burger King lunch and gas up in Ellensburg, then soon wave good-by til tomorrow, as Rolstads & Akers look forward to a leisurely drive to Pendleton and the rest beeline for Enterprise, Oregon.  But all is not to be as pleasant as we had hoped.  The Mother of All Thunderstorms hits the Pendleton group shortly beyond Umatilla. A dark-to-the-ground wall moves from the southwest and envelops us. Tree-bending gusts grab and jerk our little cars back and forth between the fog line rumblebumps and the speeding semis. Hard, huge, hand-holding rain-rocks pound the pavement and push into every opening of our cars, and the co-pilots soon are torn between catching the underdash flood and wiping the fogged windshield. The inches of water flooding across the lanes slow the cars as the tires grind and growl through. Down to 45 mph, we can't see the lines. Eddie says "don't pull over!" there's a line of cars following us in the slow lane and all but the crazy truckers are content to be there! 5.3 miles to our exit; 1.7 miles to go...finally off the freeway, we plow through a lake at the bottom of the ramp, the cars gurgle and cough, three more lights, more fording, at last to the hotel portico with the wind still tearing at our car doors.

3:30:  Time for a nap before our soup and salad and free wine in the hospitality room: we're all ready for an early night.

The day group decided to drive to Enterprise in one day continued through the Yakima River Canyon to Walla Walla and the further east we drove, the darker the clouds.  We had heard the Pendleton Group encountered heavy rains with thunder and lightning as well.  Unfortunately, we too hit the Mother of All Thunderstorms and torrential downpour.  That was the worst storm that I had ever encountered driving my V8.  The rain worked its’ way into our cars as well and a number of us had wet shoes and pantlegs for the remainder of the day.  LD & Reneey, Bill & Sandy and Paula and I got lost during the rainstorm and missed the turnoff for the mountain pass.  After about 15 minutes we finally caught up with the group and we were off on the climb to about 5000 feet at the summit. After the summit we cruised down into Elgin and then to Enterprise to our hotel at about 6:30.  

June 9, Friday, 9:20 AM:  The Pendleton group starts day two in sunshine! 

10:20:  Rolling out of LaGrande, north on I-82, through Island City, Alicel, Imbler, Elgin, and all points north and east! Beautiful drive through the Wallawa Mountains, and into Enterprise by 11:45, with a free afternoon to rest and have a snack in our rooms before driving the six miles to Joseph for the evening.

The day group awoke on Friday morning and after breakfast most of us washed our cars and split up and some folks went to Joseph for the day and some of us went to visit former Cascader, Roy Obenchain.  Roy is the son of long time members John and Geneva Obenchain.  Roy used to be member who had a 50 Ford Fordor in his early years.  Roy and his wife Valerie moved from Seattle about 3 years ago and bought 80 acres of pastureland with a house and several barns. Roy gave us a tour of his ranch and showed us what he had done with the place since moving there.  We also noted that there was a buffalo ranch right across the street from Roy’s place that had about 300 head of buffalo in their pasture. I hadn’t seen this many buffalo since our tour to Steamboat Springs for the V8 Meet in Colorado. The folks that decided to go to Joseph for the day enjoyed the day visiting the shops and many quaint restaurants in town.  In addition, there is a local museum that is located in what once was the towns’ bank.  It houses many local treasures as well as the towns’ many local antiques.

 3:30:  This is the "theme dress up " night, and most of us are decked out in our flowered version of "Surfin' USA". Registration for tomorrow's car show begins at 4PM, and there is a line at the Community Center well before that, because we all look forward to the "snacks" (pulled pork sandwiches, barbequed chicken, and salad!), the free refreshments, and the 50's dance music of  "The Senders", who have played at this event for several years. The dance crowd is not large, and there's plenty of room on the floor for swingin' & swayin', but we're all done in by 9:30, with only enough stamina left to find our way back in the total country darkness with old-car headlights--big day tomorrow starts early! 

June 10, Saturday, 7:00 AM:   Our group parades out of the parking lot in a light rain, on the road to Joseph once again, hoping for a short wait in line for our places together on Main Street for the car show. As soon as we're parked towels appear, raindrops and the remains of yesterday's mud are wiped off, and the weather improves! The day is chilly enough for a coat in the shade, but there's no howling wind as in other years, and at least we don't need our gloves! We have a day filled with shopping, eating, picture taking, car gazing, and engine talk. A few of us even checked out the Stein Distillery at the north end of town, leaving them with some of our money and taking away five year aged bourbons and the story of this family's migration from grain farming to distilling, right here in the Wallawa Valley. Throughout the morning James encouraged a voting frenzy in our group on behalf of our cars, hoping to help us snag a few awards--we'll find out tonight if it worked!

3:40:  Clouds hovering over the Wallawas to the southwest finally arrived to dump a hailstorm on the valley, but we were all safe in our rooms after the parade from Joseph to Enterprise.

4:30:  Our first "breakdown" of the weekend: Tom and Donna May got all the way to Joseph, but are discovered at the curb two blocks from the Community Center. The toolbox on the sidewalk is all Eddie and James needed to notice, so they drop off Barb and Kris and return to help. Along with Bill Ozeroff it doesn't take long to change the coil and get them to the banquet on time! And that was a meal not to be missed! Prime rib slices as big as the plate, crowding the baked potato, beans, salad, and roll into a pile, then an assortment of cheesecakes at the end, and of course more free refreshments. The evening is topped off perfectly when our group wins four awards! Bruce Arnold gets his first ever plaque, at his first ever trip to Joseph, for 3rd place in "Original Class";

LD receives a 3rd Place award for "Best Hot Rod"; James is awarded first place in the "Moonshine Runners" class; and one of the two most prestigous trophies of the show is received by Eddie Akers: he is "King of the Mountain" for 2017! This is a category that is voted on by participants at the show, rather than chosen by the committee, so this is a real honor! His ’28 Graham and Mullins trailer will be featured on the poster, advertisements, and T-shirt design next year, and will be displayed in the center of Main Street at the 2018 Oregon Mountain Cruise! Let's all tour to Joseph next year!

June 11, Sunday, 9:00 AM:  This morning's frost on the windshields has warmed to shirtsleeve temperature and the sky is blue! We enjoy a beautiful drive north through the Blue Mountains, Walla Walla and Waitsburg, and arrive in Dayton about 12:30. Too early for rooms to be ready at the hotel, so most of us end up at the Moose Creek Cafe downtown, with our cars in plain sight along the curb. And that soon provides the answer to the question: what will we do this afternoon? All those shiney old Fords attract the attention of local resident Gary Lowe: with his permanently attached cowboy hat, silver-buckled jeans, and big smile, he saunters in to "talk car"! And of course he is excited to lead us all to his garages and show us his cars! We follow his 1957 red Thunderbird convertible a mile or so south through town, past tree shaded streets of 1800s homes, then rolling wheat fields, to a left turn up a gravel road, and the first right at 110 Davis Hollow Rd. A 1960s ranch style home overgrown by its landscaping sits beside several garages; he and his wife Donna recently returned from winter in Texas. Locked shed doors are cracked open and we step past a pecking chicken and tall dry grass to peer at dusty cars and cluttered interiors. Inside he hides a 1932 Ford Tudor that I believe he purchased for $200 when he was about 14.  He converted it to a street rod in about 1990 and he also had a 1965 Datsun Fairlady (sports car) along with a various assortment of tools and parts.  In another garage he has a 1987 Buick Grand National and several other vehicles including a couple of Studebaker Larks.

He opens the house garage door for his finale presentation: a 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, the next to the longest car ever built. He purchased the car along with another identical Coupe de Ville from a lady who had gotten both cars from her father who had bought them new.  He had to buy both cars and take them away.

Upon request it is carefully backed out so pictures can be taken. He shows photographs, tells stories of his four helo side gunner days in Vietnam, and passes around a painting of Jesus on black velvet. There is an afternoon of old-car-guy talk that soon includes his Harley-driving neighbor, who couldn't resist the parade of antiques past his house. Donna arrives home, not at all surprised to find a yard and driveway filled with vintage cars and meandering guests. Groups of strangers regularly follow Gary home, we learn.

3:30:  We're ready to find out if our rooms are ready, so we say good-by, agreeing to see Gary in an hour or so: he wants to show us a couple of local special features!

5:00:  Gary and Donna and the Caddy rumble in under t portico, usher Robin and Paula into the back seat, and lead us east out of town to a Lewis and Clark heritage site. From an overlook onto a few grassy acres by Patin Creek we see where the Expedition camped on their shortcut to the Snake River. Two talented Daytonites have recreated the scene in life sized standing steel cutouts, all silhouetted against the yellow grass below us. There's time in the warm late afternoon sun for more exchange of stories. Gary soon produces a well-worn scrapbook and the men gather around the red hood. Size of the Caddy impresses the men so they decide to park Tom and Donna May’s ’37 Tudor slantback next to it and find that the Caddy is a full 5 feet longer and about 18 inches wider than the Ford! The women chat with Donna, enjoying her Texas drawl and southern-marinated stories. Our tour hosts join us for dinner at Fiesta en Jalisco, and lots more conversation! After gas stops there is still daylight left for one last sight. We drive a short distance back toward Walla Walla to investigate an image that tourists passing through Dayton might attribute to a visit from aliens. But we know the truth: a number of years ago our new friend Gary made an homage to the once huge employer in this area, the Green Giant Vegetable company, by building a hillside-sized Jolly Green Giant out of green paving brick. The Jolly Green Giant is 300 feet long and was built on the hillside with the help of some local high school students over about a 3 year period. And at night his image is outlined in lights

June 12, Monday, 9:00 AM   Our train is once again rolling, north on two lane blacktop past more fields and farms. A beautiful day, slight overcast to start, then warming to blue. Across the Snake River and up the hill toward Palouse Falls we hear Donna May's voice over the radio: their car is missing badly. Eddie says "don't stop!". Then she says the car has quit! Coast down this hill, there's a pull-out at the bottom. The guys know: it's the coil again.

9:50:  Hood up, trunks and doors open, tools out. Bill Ozeroff offers a coil, James provides a tube coil adaptor, tarps and fender covers appear, and Robin and Eddie dive under the hood. It's a peaceful farm road, the morning is warm, and we know the fix will happen. Sandy Michler wanders up a dusty drive and discovers colts in a corral over the hill.  Near the other side of the road is a ranch, where a young boy is perched on a fence. It isn't long before our encampment draws him to saunter down the drive and across the field for a closer look. Not more than a dozen vehicles pass in our hour and a half here. With windows open, drivers of trucks give us a wave. Windows up, car drivers go on by. And then one stops. The man approaches with two cameras draped on him, greets James, and asks if he can take some pictures. He is from Minneapolis on his way to a convention in Moscow, Idaho, taking the scenic route. We become part of his scenery: photos of all our old cars, interiors, hubcaps, and us!

11:20:  Driving on toward Washtucna, where we coast to a stop along the main street curb. We invade the one cafe, where they kindly allow us to use their bathrooms, but agree that if we want to eat lunch there it would be a long wait for our large group. Meanwhile Tom's hood is up again, and Gary Duff evidently is agreeing by phone: something about bypassing a wire and cutting the voltage!

High noon:  out across the field-land on Route 26. A misunderstanding about a rest stop: Eddie and two others don't, the rest of us do. But we meet up for gas in Othello and lunch at the Burger King.

1:30:  Struggling west at 55mph against gale force winds: small old cars bouncing back and forth, pushing ten miles UP the Vantage hill, arms aching, rest stop at the top.......WHEW! Ahead of us is an afternoon of fighting that wind.

3:15:  Gas stop at Ellensburg, where it isn't Tom and Donna May who need help this time! Approaching the on ramp we hear from Robin: LD's car is leaking, no spraying, water and antifreeze everywhere, including all over poor Reeney, who has retreated to the relative safety of the back seat!  LD and Robin check the radiator and found that it was at least a gallon down.  The passenger compartment has water/anti-freeze all over the carpet and upholstery.  Eddie calls and was wondering why we hadn’t caught up to them for the trip home.  First we try to block off the heater hoses and then Eddie asks LD to drive up the ramp to Eddie’s car and tool box.  Eddie jumps in on the passenger side and understands why Reneey was in the backseat.  After a little investigative work, Eddie discovered that one of the heater hose clamp is loose.  Eddie laid down on the seat but didn’t want to lay on the anti-freeze soaked carpet so Robin grabbed his feet and Eddie tightened the cla

4:00: We 're all functioning and westward bound. Over the pass about 5PM. A few take an ice cream break at North Bend, the rest wave as they roll on home. Despite rain torrents to begin this road trip, and headwind to end it, the 2017 Joseph Tour has been another one to remember. A bunch of old cars and a bunch of old friends pretended it was the good old days out on the road; we had fun, helped each other, drove over a thousand miles, and got home safely once again!

We had a fun and challenging tour and suffered only a couple of minor problems on our 1000+ mile tour.  Eddie was not only the King of the Mountain, but was the King of the Tour as he was not only the Tour Leader, but the chief mechanic as well.  Hail to the King!