Join the bull ropers and steer wrestlers on a weekend escape to Pendleton, Ore.
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.
Pendleton House Historic Inn 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 Virgil’s at Cimmiyotti’s 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 Rainbow Cafe for breakfast, lunch and dinner.