One of the most fun things about being a full-time RVer and having a sister who works as a flight attendant is the number of places she’s been able to visit me on the road. Let’s see, she has stayed with me in Fredericksburg, TX; Desert Hot Springs, CA; Long Beach, WA (the first time I visited). She was also able to fly into Nashville to be with me during Solstice’s last days. And, most recently, she visited during my workamping stint in Sumpter Oregon at the gold dredge.

As with previous visits, it was tons of fun. (Obviously, Solstice’s last days are not associated with the word fun though I was so glad to have her there and that she had the chance to say goodbye to my most beloved dog.) Her visit to Sumpter gold dredge might have been the most fun of all the visits simply because it lasted more than a couple of days.

As I mentioned in the post about the gold dredge workamping experience, one of the perks was access to a small cabin. With space to spread out and a beautiful setting, her planned couple days with me extended into 10. It was lovely. And, of course, 10 days didn’t seem near long enough.

Sending Me to School

My sis arrived on the last day of September. While she was there, the weather began its seasonal transition. It meant the days were adequately warm so we could sit outside in the afternoons. It also meant, temperatures dipped enough that evenings and early mornings were nippy. Since she lives in Mexico, my sister will tell you it was cold the entire time and to prove it she wore a long thick coat most of the time. But it wasn’t. It’s all relative, right?

Every day we went on a morning walk. Then, on the days I didn’t work at the gold dredge Visitor Center, we hung out, worked online and took several trips down the mountain into Baker City for adventures in adult beverages and shopping.

On the days I worked, my sister walked me to the dredge before heading back to do her online work. She said walking me to work felt like she was walking her child to school. So, to complete the experience, I was occasionally sent to “school” with a little love note of positive affirmations.

Adventures in Adult Beverages

Adventures like wine tastings, to me, are fun only with others. I never mind going alone to museums or on walk tours–in fact, I prefer it–but there’s something about eating and drinking alone. It feels lonely to me. You might remember in the 2021 List of Firsts, I went to a bar alone for the first time in my life. It was a big deal.

During sister visits, it is always a treat to explore the culinary and adult beverage side of an area. Since Sumpter’s population is 200, exploration meant heading to Baker City. Baker City isn’t large enough to offer a wide selection so we visited the best brewery and the best wine place.

Ask any local for a brewery recommendation and they will send you to Barley Brown’s. As any local for a wine place recommendation and they will send you to Cooper Belt Winery. In only 10 days, we managed to make two visits to Cooper Belt and three trips to Barley Brown’s.

Cooper Belt is a winery outside of town that has a tasting room in the historic downtown area. They share their space with an artisanal cheese company called The Cheese Fairy. Both times, we ordered a tasting flight and a cheese/crackers/olive plate. And, you just know, we left there more than a few bottles. We also found they had one of those ice breaker games. We sat and went through every card, laughing the whole way through.

The best question? I’m still asking friends (and please share your answer in the comments)…

Which of the seven dwarfs are you most like?

Neither my sister or I are huge beer connoisseurs but, obviously, three trips to Barley Brown’s means we don’t hate it either. The weather was still warm enough during the first two visits that we were able to sit outside. We needed jackets and the sun had set, but it was still nice to sit and watch the world go by.

Two women each with a glass of wine.
First trip down the mountain. We started with wine tasting…..
Two women sitting at an outside table, each with a beer in her hand.
…and ended with beer.
Two women each with a glass of wine.
Another day, another trip to the wine shop. Yes, it was followed by a trip to Barley Brown’s.

Side Story About the Winery

You know from several of my slow travel posts, I love Harvest Hosts. I might be biased as I also work for them but since we have 200,000+ members (up from 5,000 when I started four years ago), I don’t think I am. If you aren’t familiar with Harvest Hosts, there is a few sentences about it at the bottom of this post along with a coupon code for 15% off membership.

My last workday at Kam Wah Chung was on August 30 so rather than sticking around until the first day of September to then drive 60 miles to Sumpter, I drove away on August 31. And drove straight to a Host in Baker City for the night. The Host? You guess it, Cooper Belt Winery. Not the tasting room, but the winery itself.

So, by the time it was recommended as a wine tasting place in Baker City, I’d already had a lovely experience with them. Their location, in the hills above Baker City, is just gorgeous and I had an enjoyable time tasting wine, getting a tour, talking to the owner about the winery’s history, the grapes and their name.

What a nice way to transition from one workamping assignment to another, from Kam Wah Chung to the Sumpter gold dredge.

The barrel room at Copper Belt Winery. They don’t share this room with most of their visitors but since I told them I worked for Harvest Hosts, I got the extended tour.
Purple Quill in the morning after overnighting at Copper Belt Winery. When I look at this photo, do you know what I see? I see Kitty. She loved going on a little morning walk. I miss her.
A view from the winery in the morning. I’ll say this for eastern Oregon…it’s darn pretty.

Train Ride

I shared general information about the Sumpter Valley Railroad in the post about events in Sumpter. One of the perks of being a workamper is a complementary ticket for a train ride. I was lucky enough to ride twice.

My sister and I were gifted tickets for the train ride called a short run. The train left from the Sumpter Railroad Depot, chugged out a ways, stopped and then returned to the station. The fall colors were just beginning to show themselves.

Two women in front of a train engine at a train station. One is holding up their tickets.
All aboard! Standing at the engine car at the station, waiting to board. This is their steam engine (one of three different engines they use). We had to stop mid-trip to load wood on to the train. Free labor as they asked passengers help load it all..
Two women sitting in an open car of a train as it goes through trees.
We took advantage of the nice day by sitting in the open car.

Gold Dredge History: Granite, Red Boy Mine & Freemont Station

Visitors to the gold dredge often want to know how the dredge was powered. They can be surprised to discover it was powered by electricity that came from the Freemont Power Station about 15 miles away. (Truth be told, I had to write “about” because I can’t quite remember…it’s been too many months since I was saying it daily.)

The ranger took us around the area along a small section of the Elkhorn Scenic Byway. We made stops at the landing spot of the first gold dredge that worked in the area. There isn’t much to see, a few wood stumps in a pond. (As a side note, I failed to mention in the previous posts that the gold dredge where I worked was the third and final dredge that mined in and around Sumpter.)

Then we headed further up the mountain to the ghost town of Granite, across the road to Red Boy Mine. Without a guide to tell us, we might have driven right by the old mine. It was big at the time it operated but the buildings have fallen down so these days there are just a few walls and an information sign.

The final stop was the Freemont Power Station. It was neat to see though, to be honest, not really that much to write home about. It would be hard for to recommend someone driving out of their way to see it unless you have a particular interest. The historic building doesn’t have regular hours. I think if you want to see it, you have to make arrangements ahead of your visit and it seems like they mostly open it for tour groups and school groups. But the windows are big and you can peek in.

Highway sign that says, "Welcome to Granite, Don't Take Us for Granite."
First stop, the ghost town of Granite.
Large stone building with large windows in front of lots of pine trees.
The Freemont Power Station. It doesn’t have regular hours so we could only look through the windows.

Rangers Send Us on a Scavenger Hunt

One day the rangers asked if my sister and I wanted a accept a surprise challenge. Of course we did. Before they told us the challenge, they told us to make a bet. The challenge was a competition between my sister and I.

The bet: if my sister lost, she had to go into one of the two Sumpter bars and bark like a dog; if I lost then I had to go into one of the two Sumpter bars and cluck like a chicken.

With the bet established, we were each handed a gallon-sized plastic bag. Inside was a pencil and a list. It was a scavenger hunt. The rules were pretty simple. Find as many items on the list as possible. We could go anywhere inside the state park, including the gold dredge, within the 30 minute time limit.

We synchronized our phones for the 30 minutes and we were off.

A piece of paper titled "Outdoor Scavenger Hunt" with a list of 25 items.
My sister’s score.
Two women each holding up a clear plastic back filled with leaves and grasses.
Displaying our booty.

Now you would think having worked there for a month before my sis arrived would have given me an advantage. Well…it didn’t. My sister found 21 of 25 items on the list. I found 20.

Not funny.

Two nights later, we went to the Elkhorn Saloon for me to pay off the bet. All the way up until the moment I did it, I wasn’t sure I could go through with it. We sat at the bar and each had two glasses of Amaretto over ice (a nice alternative when you don’t feel like wine or beer).

As we got up to go, it was do or die. I told my sister to stand by the door and hold it open so I could cluck and run.

Sis went to the door and I got off my barstool. Now, some may consider this cheating but there were no rules around how I needed to pay off the bet. It was a weekday and, for all intents and purposes, there were two groups of people in the bar. First there was a big group who pushed several tables together and were eating dinner. Second, there was a group of friends lined up on one side of the bar drinking. Since they were closest and drinking (so, perhaps more good humored about what was about to happen), I walked up to them and started talking. They turned on their stools to look at me.

I said, “Excuse me. I recently lost a bet. Please forgive.” Then I belted out, “Cock-a-doodle-do. Cock-a-doodle-do.”

Then I ran.

Wooden saloon with Halloween decorations in front. It says, "Elkhorn Saloon."
The scene of the crime. And by crime, I mean me acting the fool in front of a bunch of strangers.

Bet paid off, laughing hysterically as we walked the two blocks back to the cabin, my sister said, “You know that was a rooster, not a chicken.”

Until Next Time…

Six months have past since I arrived at Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge. Five months have past since my sister visited. And, guess where I am writing this post from? Yep, another sister visit. This time, for a change, I traveled to visit her. I am in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

While I love RV travel, I have said when I no longer had pets, I would begin to explore more non-RV travel, including international travel. So, it has begun.

A Word About Harvest Hosts

If you don’t know what Harvest Hosts is, it is a RV membership program where RVers visit small businesses such as wineries, breweries, farms, museums and other places. They patronize the business and overnight at their location. It’s a fun unique alternative to a campground.

If you want to learn more, go to their website HERE. If you’d like to join, use THIS LINK and the code for 15% of membership. At checkout, use the discount code HHFRIENDS15.

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