Ellensburg, Washington (Again, why?) July 14-17, 2011

Reminders: 1. Posts are in chronological order with most recent on top. 2. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and then using the back button (not close) to return to the text.

Ellensburg was what we call a “Whistle Stop.” Allow me to explain. It is our goal to limit our single day travel to 250 miles. If we wind up with a destination that’s much longer than that, we make a whistle stop in between. A whistle stop is supposed to be a single night; we don’t intend to even unhook the truck – just pull in, do minimum setup, eat, sleep and head out.

Ellensburg was meant to bisect a 360 mile journey, but we made it more than a whistle stop. As it turned out, we had more to see than we did at the previous one.

The Red Horse Diner

Raise your hand if you remember the Socony Vacuum Company. How about Socony Mobil? They were an evolution from Standard Oil Company Of New York when Standard Oil was broken up in 1911. The Vacuum Oil Company contributed the name Mobiloil. Socony contributed the flying red horse, the heart of its logo starting in 1933.

The Red Horse Diner can easily be mistaken as a 1950’s Mobil station if you pass by too quickly. It’s got two real signs and a real pump from that era. Instead, it’s a large, authentic 1950’s diner with an even larger parking lot. The parking lot hosts two annual shows: a Bike Run and Show and a Classic Car and Truck Show. We just happened to be there for the latter.

The breakfast Saturday morning was super. The car show was actually setting up while ate, and we were even videoed by the local TV station. The cars had to be 1972 or earlier, either restored or modified, and American. Put on your poodle skirt or pegged jeans and feast your eyes.

This might also be a good time to mention that the average age of cars on the road in the Pacific Northwest appears to be considerably older than in other sections of the country. One would think that road conditions and snow clearing chemicals would cost them. But it’s unusual when you drive down any street and don’t see at least one sixties through eighties car, lookin’ great and runnin’ fine. In addition, it’s impossible to look around, especially in eastern Oregon, without seeing a Prius.

The Kittitas County Historical Museum

This is a neat small but growing museum. It’s growing slowly, because it started in 1963! But it’s expanded from one room in the County Hospital, to an historic intown building, to two enlargements of its space in each locale. There is something of interest for everyone. But there’s a lot of organization required. A group of young people were there that day actually cataloging the collection. A sampling is below.

The Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility

On the road to Ellensburg, we spied a huge wind farm along the highway and even more generators ahead of us. Our campground reported that the Wild Horse was accessible to the public and even gave tours. So we drove about 20 miles to their Renewable Energy Center and signed up for a 2 pm tour. The building itself spoke to the company’s philosophy; it was naturally done and energy efficient. After having us all on hard hats and safety glasses, Andrea, a four year veteran of the company and extremely knowledgeable, led us outside to narrate a story about the company, the site and the mechanisms they used. We know how they are built, what they can do, and how much power the farm of turbines (149) can generate (273 mW). The turbines can generate in winds as low as 9 mph, reach their peak at 31 and shut down at 56. The multiple anchor bolts that keep the towers upright – more than 100 per unit — are embedded 28 feet into the ground. The facility has a major solar array at the consumer site and a considerably larger array elsewhere on their 10,000 acre reservation, which remains prime grazing land for wildlife.

Andrea showed us an actual sail; it was one of a matched set that was slightly damaged in shipment and therefore discarded as potentially out of balance. She also marched us down to a tower and allowed us inside in groups of four. Here we learned the maintenance process. That tower had an elevator, but most do not, so the crews have to climb a 221 foot stairway and climb outside on top to get to work. Not for me; thanks. My legs are rubbery just typing this!

While we recognize that company-speak portrays a slanted story, we were mightily impressed.

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