A day in The Dalles

Many adventures begin in The Dalles, the end-point of the main Oregon Trail, a small city on the banks of the Columbia 85 miles east of Portland. The wide open roads just outside of town, sparsely trafficked and surrounded by rolling farmland, make for some excellent cycling. dalles

When it's pouring in Portland, you can usually find sun in The Dalles.

While I'd used The Dalles (rhymes with "pals") as a departure point many times, I'd never actually stopped to get to know the town. And so Donnie and I decided to visit without bikes in tow. Rather than clipping on our helmets and pedaling off as soon as we arrived, we lingered for an afternoon, wandering  up and down the streets, observing the details we never noticed when we were on our way somewhere else.

We discovered a working-class city struggling for a comeback from the long-ago collapse of the aluminum industry — and succeeding in quite a few instances. We encountered a thorough mix of elaborate and gritty: ornate, turn-of-the-century properties sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with plain, uninhabited storefronts with "for lease" signs in the windows; a fancy French bakery, a brewpub in the old brick courthouse building, and recently renovated Moorish-style theater down the street from an empty car dealership, a cheap steakhouse, and a shop selling bedazzled tangerine-colored prom dresses.

The city is certainly trying: an urban renewal agency has invested in the port district, a snazzy underpass that connects the city with the river (formerly separated by Interstate 84), and various buildings downtown, including an historic hotel, a flour mill, and a Masonic lodge. (In 2005, Google established a server farm in town as well, but not much as changed as a result, because the company keeps its operation top secret.)

Here are a few of the sights we came across during our ramble:

madison lane

Sunshine Mill, a 130+-year-old wheat mill, which still contains the old flour milling equipment — and apparently now a wine bar, bocce ball court, and performance venue as well


A functioning-since-1905 blacksmithing shop, with a particularly cool sign.


No better recreation than bowling and prime rib. Amiright??

The ticket booth for the old, Moorish-style Granada Theater, which, built in 1929, was the first place west of the Mississippi to show movies with sound. It reopened in the last few years as a live performance venue. (Historic pics here.)



One of many vacant properties downtown seeking tenants. (You'd get jazzy windows!)

White and wires

A back alley

A shadow and its fire escape.

window lines

Oh, you know: air conditioners!

Steaks, burgers, beer

Down by the river-side train tracks.

While I'm sure we'll still frequently breeze through The Dalles on our way to the open road, we're also likely to hang around longer after we return — for coffee, pastries, beer, or a quick round at the bowling alley.