As I watched a skiff of snow begin to form outside late Monday night, I wondered if the traction on my Nikes would be enough to safely transport me from the newsroom door to my Jeep.

I should have worn my Vibram-soled Merrell shoes. The weather report indicated Old Man Winter was blowing in, but I chose comfort over practicality.

I like to think I make rational decisions based on information available. However, there was that time when I was stranded during a winter storm in Imnaha.

Friends who travel with me are convinced that I put a capital O and C in obsessive-compulsive disorder when it comes to preparing for trips. So, it still baffles me that I actually hit the road with minimal planning.

It was nearly 15 years ago when Bonnie Kessell and I volunteered to help Charlotte Jeffries move her sister’s belongings out of a remote Wallowa County house. We didn’t even have overnight accommodations arranged.

Before heading out of town, we stopped by Les Schwab. Charlotte was sure that her tread-bare tires would be just fine — meaning it would be cheaper to merely buy chains.

I was having none of that — I had seen the bald tires AND the winter storm warning. After much contemplation and Les Schwab caramel corn, it was decided I would get SkyMiles for the privilege of putting the tires on my American Express card. That was the first of many purchases that contributed to my next free airline trip.

As we headed up Cabbage Hill, it became apparent the windshield wipers were lacking. Two sets of wiper blades later, they still weren’t functional. Charlotte decided to head to a gas station to find some chivalrous man to install them.

Starting up the engine, the bladeless wiper arms began wreaking havoc on the windshield. The simple thing would be to merely turn them off. But no, Charlotte jumped out, pulled the arms away from the windshield and we proceeded to the gas station with them protruding like Martian antennas.

Of course that wasn’t the only technical difficulty we experienced during the trip. A big chunk of ice disconnected some of the wires between the U-Haul and trailer we had rented. I surmised we had a 50-50 chance in correctly matching the colored wires. Charlotte decided green should go with red.

“They just go together, like Christmas colors,” she reasoned.

I suggested it could be black and blue because that’s what our bodies were going to look like when we short-circuited the system, causing a wreck and resulting in contusions and massive hematomas.

It was well after dark when we arrived in Imnaha. Luckily, the owners of the Imnaha Store & Tavern also managed a small motel and RV park. Room No. 2 would become home for the next couple of days.

In the morning, we hobnobbed with the coffee klatch before driving 23 miles on the treacherous snow-covered mountain road. More than an hour later, we arrived to find that Charlotte’s sister hadn’t loaded anything into the U-Haul.

It became apparent as the day wore on that we weren’t going to make it home that night. Between all the crap in the house and the storm warning, which had become a full-fledged storm, we were stuck in Oregon’s easternmost settlement.

We were grateful that Dave and Sallie had saved our room for us — not that anyone else was venturing to Imnaha during the storm. We hung out in the store/tavern, getting our fill of food and Imnaha stories.

It was an adventure, but I’ve never been back to Imnaha. I’m afraid our pictures are on the wall as Charlotte wrote a hot check to these kind country folks who carry big guns.


Tammy Malgesini is the community editor. Her column, Inside my Shoes, includes general musings about life. Contact her at or 541-564-4539.

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