Love And Loss In The Dalles, Oregon
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Our second-last day aboard Un-Cruise Adventures’ S.S. Legacy has come all too soon today, as we arrived in The Dalles, Oregon for a morning and afternoon of complimentary excursions that explore the unique local history of this very important region.
Following breakfast, we boarded our coach for a trip to Stonehenge. No, not the more famous “Stonehenge” in England, but a recreation created by eccentric pioneer Sam Hill.
The recreation looks surprisingly like the real deal, just with a little less erosion and with a somewhat more desert-like setting. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, that’s when you find a little bit of ancient England in the middle of nowhere.
We got to see more of Sam Hill’s handiwork at Maryhill, his mansion “folly” overlooking the Columbia River. It’s built in the style of a palatial mansion that you might see in Scotland or Ireland, but exists today as an art museum in a very off-the-beaten-path location.
Hill had the mansion constructed for his wife, Mary as something of an eccentric-but-honest testament to his love for her. And the mansion is quite beautiful, with art deco styling, ramps that cascade attractively up either side, large bay windows overlooking the Columbia River, and ornate balustrades lining the staircases leading to the entry hall.
There was just one issue: Mary had no interest in the house – or Sam Hill.
This little tidbit of information is glossed over in every account I read today. It’s passed over on the information booklet at the Museum. It’s barely mentioned in a biography of Hill on sale at the Gift Shop. And it warrants only a passage in a story of the Museum’s construction.
Personally, I found Mary Hill’s rejection of the mansion that her husband built for her to be the most interesting part of the museum, despite its wonderful collection of objet d’art. They say that behind every great man is a great woman. This wasn’t the case here.
Mary Hill’s rejection of the Maryhill mansion is the ultimate unrequited love. She’s dismissing both Hill, the man, and Hill, the architect. She’s dismissing Hill, the lover. It’s three-in-one, and it must have hurt like hell.
Hill’s marriage all but fell apart after that. Though the two remained married, Sam Hill was – by modern standards – divorced from that point on. The sadness he must have endured is unimaginable. Men have created great things in the honour of the women they love; clearly, Hill created something magnificent for the woman he so desired.
She tossed it away like a bit of garbage. Hill – and his mansion – were completely unworthy of her love, affections and support.
But before you feel too bad for ol’ Sam Hill, it’s worth noting that he was still busy between the sheets afterwards, fathering several children that, at the time, would have been considered illegitimate. But, being the gentleman that he was, he supported these children financially and even fixed the women up with husbands – as was apparently the style at the time.
But Maryhill-the-mansion remained unfinished until the 1940’s, when it was purchased and turned into a museum of art. And it’s an admittedly interesting one, but personally I found the backstory of the museum’s construction to be infinitely moreso.
I skipped this afternoon’s scheduled touring in favor of strolling the historic streets of The Dalles – which you’re always welcomed to do. The tours that Un-Cruise has put together are not only inclusive, they’re also very comprehensive. But, should you elect to do your own thing: that’s totally fine, too.
In my case, I had three afternoon objectives: find some shaving cream (I ran out); find the local bookstore; and find some free Wi-Fi internet.
The latter was the easiest to solve; The Dalles just happens to play host to a massive Google server farm, and one of the ancillary benefits is that the whole town is wired for wireless internet access on any street.
I found the local bookstore on my way to find some shaving cream; a nice joint called Klindt’s Booksellers. I purchased a copy of the local newspaper and a cheery little nonfiction book by James Ellroy called My Dark Places, about the unsolved 1958 murder of his mother. Honestly – did you think I’d escape a local bookstore without spending at least $20?
I could have used the town’s free Wi-Fi, but the ever-increasing heat (temperatures hit about 92°F, or 33°C by the time I was walking through town at 3:00p.m.) drove me to seek both a place to get out of the sun and a cold drink. And I found both – plus the Wi-Fi – at a local pub called Clock Tower Ales.
Their name is fairly appropriate; after all, the pub is visible for miles around thanks to its clock tower which literally dominates much of the skyline of The Dalles. So, for the rock-bottom price of US$5 per pint, I availed myself of some of the local Oregonian Amber ales – in the name of research, naturally. In two hours, I managed to use the local Wi-Fi to complete a photo-preview post of the journey thus far; answer 15 important emails; invoice one client; and enjoy two pints of local beer in the process.
I got back to the ship just as the clock struck five, pleased-as-punch with my afternoon progress. Until I looked in the mirror of my stateroom bathroom. S**t. I forgot the shaving cream.
So, it’s the stubbly-faced life for me as we ease into our second-last evening here onboard the beautiful S.S. Legacy. Not that I mind so much; the atmosphere here onboard is so relaxed and informal that most guests still come to dinner in their shorts and flip-flops. That might change tomorrow; temperatures are supposed to cool off significantly for our final port of call of Astoria, Oregon – located smack on the Pacific Ocean.
Tonight, the crew of the S.S. Legacy held the traditional end-of-cruise talk, complete with disembarkation and tipping information. Housekeeping matters out of the way, a “Talent Night” was also held this evening, and I’m a bit proud to say I was one of only two guests to participate, telling one of my favorite travel tales about “a man and his duck.” Though I was no match for the talented crew of the S.S. Legacy, who sang and danced their way into the hearts of each and every guest here onboard.
It’s too bad Sam Hill didn’t have the opportunity to sail aboard the S.S. Legacy; had he been able to, he probably would have found a fantastic group of folks – guests and crew alike – who would have appreciated him for who he was.
S.S. Legacy - Columbia & Snake Rivers
|Day 1||Portland, Oregon|
|Day 2||The Columbia River Gorge, Bonnyville Dam, Multnomah Falls|
|Day 3||Cruising the Snake River|
|Day 4||Clarkston & Hell's Canyon|
|Day 5||Walla Walla, Washington|
|Day 6||The Dalles, Oregon|
|Day 7||Astoria, Oregon|
Our Live Voyage Report aboard Un-Cruise Adventures’ S.S. Legacy continues tomorrow from our final port of call: Astoria, Oregon! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.