Cows & Sheep slow a mission for French toast in Central Oregon

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BURNS-HINES, Ore. — We pulled away from Rory and Ryan’s place in Hines at 7:04 a.m. in crisp early September sunshine.

Darlene and I had eschewed the gravy, biscuits, sausage, scrambled eggs, blueberry muffins, various cereals and waffles among the ample continental breakfast provender of the house.

We had nibbled thin-spread orange-marmalade toasted English muffins with O.J. and coffee.

Going light would add spice to a more lusty breakfast at the Frenchglen Hotel, 60 miles down the road.

The cook there featured thick, dreamy French toast and thick crisp bacon that my palate remembers warmly.

Nora the Schnauzer, however, gobbled her kibbled fare plus a spoonful of R and R’s scrambled eggs.

Then, according to plan, we went.

We no sooner turned south from Hotchkiss Road onto Highway 2005, still 58 miles from French toast, when a half-mile-long flock of ambling sheep spread across the road, leaving steaming dung in its wake.

We slowed to 1.2 mph.

Eventually, a car from the south passed, and the car ahead of us moved to the left and gently dozed sheep away.

I followed close.

“How many sheep are here?” Darlene said.

“2,000,” I muttered.

I measured the flock of woolies at .4-plus miles long and 15 sheep wide.

At the flat south of Wright’s Point, Darlene blurted “antelope,” and stretched a finger under my nose at the field of golden sage.

A buck and a doe stood 30 yards away, silhouettes lit by the rising sun.

I paused.

They posed as I leaned the big lens from the window.

Then, the fastest land animals in the country, burst into a full 45 mph gallop.

“Yow,” I whooped as clouds of dust sifted onto the sage.

The beasts skidded to a stop, thundered off into another direction.

In 25 seconds, they made a wide circle at full speed.

“What about that?” I said.

“They are playing,” Darlene said as I drove.

Next, at Malheur Lake and The Narrows, we ogled red-eyed grebes, great white egrets, American white pelicans, great blue herons, black-necked stilts, white American avocets, terns and gulls.

We drove slow, and paused often.

We skipped the detours to the refuge headquarters and to the Buena Vista Overlook.

We crested a hill and stalled at a heard of cattle meandering down the road and dropping smatterings of steamy dung. A cowboy hooded against the chill rode drag.

Then, near the Diamond turnoff, a hawk perched on a white-streaked boulder taller than a refuge one-holer.

I turned the truck to get the bird on my side. We waited until it flew.

Minutes later, six antelope stood on Darlene’s side. I turned back and paused. They watched us as we watched them until two ambled up the hillside scorched by a recent wildfire.

We reached Frenchglen at 9:32 a.m.

Breakfast ended at 9:30.

“We’re too late,” Darlene said

“No French toast,” I whined.

So we went to see the buzzards sunning on the tower at P Ranch.

I parked at the one-holer. Darlene opened her 70th Harry Potter book while Nora and I walked to the tower where a dozen lazy buzzards perched. Two dozen circled high above and more perched in cottonwood trees and on fence posts.

Nora and I stood beneath the tower.

The buzzards eyed Nora.

One launched, circled wide and returned to land.

We headed north on the Auto Tour Road.

We saw deer, pheasants and scant water birds.

A locked gate stopped us at Krumbo Lake road. Nora and I walked the half-mile to the Crane Pond (dry) Overlook.

Then, with rumbling bellies, we returned to Highway 205.

“We could lunch at Frenchglen or Burns,” I said.

We chose the Frenchglen Hotel. It served lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and we made it.

We dined in the shade, so Nora could join us.

My large bowl of vegetable beef soup with sweet, yellow cornbread and butter, spiced with hunger, may be the best I’ve ever eaten.

Darlene praised her world-class burger.

At a Hines car wash I sprayed the truck sides so we could get in and out without getting dung on our legs.

“It’s good when plans work out,” I said as we headed back to R and R’s place.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com. More of Don’s photos can be found online at www.tripper.smugmug.com.

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