Stranded In The Southland

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Granger, Where Dinosaurs Roam

While sampling wines in the Yakima Valley, we wound up stopping by the little town of Granger to top off the gas tank. M. noted a strange-looking sculpture on a building across the street from the Chevron. When we checked it out, we were amazed to find out that it was a dinosaur!

It turns out that the town is full of full-sized renditions of a variety of dinosaurs. The over-all quality varies from atrocious to not very good, but the effect of a little town full of these dinosaurs is just great. They poke out from behind houses, from the back of the library, and seem to have been placed on just about any scrap of public land that folks could find.

The city fathers apparently hit on this scheme in an attempt to draw tourists to the town. It doesn't particularly seem to have worked, which is kind of a shame -- it's a wonderful story, and I'm delighted to see folks who can follow through on this sort of big idea! If you're in the area, and, like me, you appreciate the charm of big ideas and a strong do-it-yourself attitude, check it out.

[I think that most of my photos are on M.'s camera (who knows if I'll ever get 'em?), but I'll include one lousy iPhone shot just to give a flavor for the place.]

Wine and Beer in the Yakima Valley

[Okay, so I'm somehow determined to obsessively chronicle this summer's vacation, even though it's been months since we got back. I just need a few more posts to finish up:

* We went wine tasting in the Yakima Valley, with some beer tasting mixed in, then drove down to Madras.

* We spent two days in Bend, went white-water rafting and checked out more volcanic scenery.

* We visited Crater Lake, then stayed the evening of July 4 in Grants Pass.

* We zipped down the coast to Mendocino, then left the next morning in one last big push home.]

M. is far more of an oenophile than I, but even I enjoy stopping by the odd winery. And, to my delight, the wineries of the Yakima Valley were all just a little bit odd.

Actually, they were just small operations with enthusiastic owner/operators, and those kinds of wineries are fun to visit even if you're not that enthused about wine. We visited several places that just had a big ol' barn or warehouse in the back, surrounded by vineyards, and a proprietor who hustled out when we drove up. Everybody was terrifically friendly and full of interesting suggestions, including our fellow wine tasters.

We finally wound up in Prosser, sampling a few wines at a storefront tasting room. When we expressed our dismay at the fact that the next-door beer tasting room was closed, the locals all pointed us at the new brewpub in town opened by the same folks.

It turned out the be an unprepossing cement-block building with a suspended ceiling, but a bunch of great beer quotes on the wall and really fun staff. The owner/brewer's wife served us a great sampler of their beers. When I casually asked her about whether a particular tiny road was a good way out of town and on down to the Columbia River, she insisted on carefully drawing us a map showing the three or four turns along the way, despite the fact that she simultaneously taking care of several other tables. Yow!

I'd definitely like to spend some more time in central Washington, if only to investigate up-close the fabulous hops farms that we rushed past.

We had a great drive down our tiny roads to the Columbia, although we had a moment or two of doubt. Mid-way down, M. wanted to take a picture of the sun setting over the wide fields of wheat, and I suggested that she roll down the window to get a clearer shot. Now, I'd've thought that "And why don't you make sure that you put away the hand-drawn map so it doesn't blow out the window?" was kind of assumed. Not so much, I guess. :-)

Anyway, we bopped by a wacky (allegedly) full-size model of Stonehenge on the river, and then hauled ass south until it got dark, when we just kind of pulled into a motel in Madras and settled in. What a day!