Tens of thousands of cowboys descend on Pendleton, Ore., each September during Round-Up, the huge rodeo for which this town is best known. (It’s Sept. 13-16 this year.) But as I discovered during a winter visit, the boots, hats and saddles don’t disappear once the bull ropers and steer wrestlers have left. Pendleton, along Interstate 84 about 3½ hours east of Portland, has a genuine Western feel year-round. Visitors can watch as fine leather gear and the famous wool blankets that carry the town’s name are made. The tab for two, excluding airfare and car rental: $185 for a room with private bath at Pendleton House Historic Inn and $100 for a nice dinner at Virgil’s at Cimmiyotti’s.
is a refreshing alternative to the usual roundup of chains I drove past along the interstate. The rooms are well appointed, but repeat guests told me it’s the home-cooked breakfasts, which are included, that bring them back. I savored the eggs Benedict with crab, as well as granola, fresh fruit and a hearty side of bacon. A room with a shared bath costs $135 a night; rooms with private baths start at $185.
Hometown favorites abound, but I found is where movers and shakers gather for drinks and dinner. The house specialties include Virgil’s Oscar (beef medallions topped with crabmeat, bacon and béarnaise sauce for $29) and rack of lamb (with a garlic and rosemary sauce for $31). For a more casual meal, the locals flock to for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
See hand-tooled leather saddles being made (and sold) at or across the street at . Richard Stapleman, a former bull rider, told me he began making boots in 1999 for his own use; he now welcomes visitors to watch as he creates custom footwear in his shop, . continues to make the blankets it first sold to local Indians in 1909 and also offers tours. The mill provides exclusive patterns for sale in the gift shop at , home to an excellent museum.
The lesson learned
flies between Portland and Pendleton, but as I learned when planning my visit, there are no rental car companies in town. Taxis are the only way to get around for those who don’t drive there.
If you go
, 311 N. Main St., Pendleton;
137 S. Main St., Pendleton;
, 209 S. Main St., Pendleton;
, 30 SE Court Ave., Pendleton;
, 11 SE Court Ave., Pendleton;
, 7 SE Court Ave., Pendleton;
, 1307 SE Court Place, Pendleton;
, 47106 Wildhorse Blvd., Pendleton;