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Vale, Oregon…

Posted by on July 5, 2014

The little western town of Vale, Oregon is as close to Idaho as you can get without crossing the border.

JULY 5, 2014.

VALE IS A TINY WESTERN TOWN on the extreme eastern side of Oregon, only about 15 miles from the border with Idaho. The population is less than 2,000. Rodeo is “where it’s at” in Vale and we stumbled upon this town on the final night of the annual Vale Rodeo. What luck! After having a pulled pork sandwich at the local BBQ joint, and meeting “Hoppy” out front, we drove to the Fairgrounds and joined the entire population of Vale to watch some rodeo. I doubt that a man, woman or child residing here was not in attendance. The wholesome excitement of a small town cheering for its local heroes on a Saturday night was a sight to behold. Heartwarming. Americana. Seems as if it’s what the country was all about a long time ago. We saw barrel races, calf roping and a shooting event, where the cowboy (or cowgirl) rides at break-neck speed around the arena shooting at balloon targets. Impressive.


We had dinner at the Sagebrush Saloon. I’d not have been surprised to find Marshall Dillon, Chester and Dolly sitting inside!

“HOPPY” THE SALOON BOUNCER: Now, as to “Hoppy.” When we pulled into the parking lot for the BBQ joint, a huge heavy-set cowboy was sittin’ on a chair outside the saloon part of the place. I guess he was the bouncer. He saw our California plates and asked us about home. Turns out he lived in Salinas for awhile, before moving to Vale “a few years back.” He made us feel like VIP’s…explaining all about the rodeo and telling us about his town. Here’s an example of how it works in a little place like this: Hoppy said that a few years ago an elderly lady’s house burned to the ground. She wasn’t insured. She lost everything. She was old, infirm and in serious trouble. The local townsfolk “took her in.” They raised money for her, constructed a small house on her lot…took care of her. She never had to ask for a thing. Hoppy almost got tears in his eyes telling us the story. Hoppy’s the real deal. A big bruiser in a small town with a heart of gold. Neat place. Neat town. We’re going to stay a day or two.

IT’S RODEO TONIGHT: What a nice stop. We had no idea that there even was a Vale, Oregon. We had no plans to stay. But…we’re retired, we have no itinerary except what we chose to make and we’ll stay and explore this place because we can. There are lots of neat things about motor-home travel…this is one of them. We’re not tied to reservations or plane schedules. We go where we choose and stay as long as we want. Perfect.


Rodeo night in Vale, Oregon. July, 2014. The arena was hot and dirty…there were bugs in the air, but guess what? We had a blast! It’s fun watching how folks who live in “the rest of the country” live and play.


Downtown Vale, Oregon. We stumbled upon this little western town and liked it so much we decided to stay a couple of days. Everyone greeted us warmly and made us feel right at home. Small town America. Very cool!


The Oregon Trail…a big part of American history. When you walk down Main Street in Vale, you’re walking on the Trail.

EASTERN OREGON HISTORY AND THE OREGON TRAIL: The Oregon Trail is a 2,200 mile historic east-west large wheeled wagon route and emigrant trail that connected the Missouri River to the Willamette River Valley in Oregon. The eastern part of the Trail  spanned part of the future state of Kansas and nearly all of what are now the states of Nebraska and Wyoming. The western half of the Trail crossed the future states of Idaho and Oregon. The Trail was laid by fur trappers and traders from about 1811 to 1840 and was only passable on foot or by horseback. By 1836, when the first migrant wagon train was organized in Independence, Missouri, a wagon trail had been cleared to Fort Hall, Idaho. Wagon trails were cleared farther and farther west, eventually reaching all the way to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. What came to be called the Oregon Trail was then complete, as improved roads, cutouts, ferries and bridges made the trip faster and safer almost every year.

MURALS DEPICT THE AREA’S HISTORY: The town of Vale is rich with Eastern Oregon history. Incorporated as a town in 1889, it was used  for many years by explorers, trappers, travelers and emigrants along the Oregon Trail. The town boasts a hot mineral springs, which made it a popular destination and it was also a stage stop between Boise and the Willamette Valley. Today, Vale is still a popular stopping place for travelers. Besides exploring the history of the Oregon Trail, there are many places to hunt, fish and camp.When you are on Main Street in Vale, Oregon, you are walking on the actual Oregon Trail. There’s an outdoor art gallery reflecting Vale’s heritage: Several dozen huge murals are painted on walls throughout town. The city commissions an artist each year to paint another mural, depicting an aspect of the town’s history.


These colorful murals are painted on walls all around town.  The town commissions an artist to create a new mural each year. There are currently 28 of them. This one is called “Patriots on Parade.”


“The Escort”


“Japanese-American Contributions”

 We’re glad we found Vale…we liked it. The Rodeo was fun, the barbecue food was good and the people were friendly.

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