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Chris & Allyson vs. Oregon (2018)

Day Four: Salem: Oregon Capitol and Oregon State Fair. Drive to Crater Lake.

Mankind cannot tame the primal forces of wild Oregon.

But mankind can easily slap around other members of mankind. So Oregon does have a government, and the capital is Salem. I was all, "let's do something fun," but Allyson was all, "no I demand to see the Oregon capitol!" So I took one for the team.

Oregon was in need of a capitol in the mid-1930s, as the existing capitol was destroyed by fire. America was mired in the Great Depression, so they kept the new building simple. It's an Art Deco palace with a 22-foot gilded statue on top. Tasteful AND reserved. Bravo, Oregon.

There are several tours available, and if your timing is right you can do more than one. We hopped on the afternoon Tower Tour. The Oregon Capitol has a rotunda, but not a dome -- instead, the center of the building is a tower with a flat top. The tour takes you into the tower, up some spiral staircases and outside to the roof. The reward? Excellent views of Salem, and an up-close visit with the Oregon Pioneer.

Many capitols are topped with symbolic figures. The people of Oregon decided that their essence was a ripped lumberjack, complete with beard and moustache, casually holding an ax in one hand and slinging a tarp over his shoulder with the other. He's posed like a Abercrombie model, looking into the middle distance. Don't mess with the people of Oregon, is the point. Every 18 years or so, he gets a fresh coat of gold: apparently 10 ounces is enough to get the job done. It's a wonderfully badass statue and everyone should fear it.

The standard capitol tour covers the great seal -- carry the magic chalice of Oregon past that point and Mt. Hood erupts instantly -- the rotunda murals, the house chamber, the senate chamber, and the ceremonial governor's office. The features are pretty much standard for state capitols. The beauty is in the decor, which is on point for Oregon. The legislative chambers have beautiful wood paneling; the carpets of the House have a lumber motif; and the Senate carpets have a pattern featuring wheat and fish. They do not show you the secret chamber where legislative ties are broken with logrolling contests and axe fights. But they almost certainly exist.

Our state fair is a great state fair

You should always chat with your tour guides when you have the chance. One of the very nice ladies showing us the Oregon Pioneer statue found out we were from Washington, D.C. She immediately started gushing about the quilted Christmas tree skirt that Oregon would be sending our way, for display on one of the national trees. She had seen it the day before, at the Oregon State Fair.

That led to our next question: Where's the Oregon State Fair? Strangely enough, it's at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, which are in Salem just a few miles from the Capitol. A quick glance at our schedule confirmed that we had the necessary time to be impulsive. So we checked it out.

Outside of Portland, Oregon is an overwhelmingly rural state -- and it has the state fair to match. Our first stop was the sprawling animal pavilions, where people from all corners of the state convene to enter their farm animals in beauty pageants. There were rows and rows of holding pens for pigs, goats, sheep, alpacas, llamas, horses and cows. We rubbed elbows (more accurately, knees) with prize-winners and met an alpaca who was clearly the reincarnation of Prince.

The midway features classic state fair fun: Pig races, fried food of every variety, and a lot of carnival rides. You can survey the grounds and plan your day by using the fair's chairlift. (We used our sky journey to decide that the only ride we wanted to try was … the chairlift.) The Forest Service has a nice wildlife display, there's a "small animals" pavilion where chickens are on display, and some visitors enjoy the concert venue or the equestrian-event stadium. (It was Monday afternoon, so no bands or cowboy sport shooting events were on the schedule for our visit.)

As for the tree skirt? It was at the back of the craft pavilion, past the robot-fighting arena (really), the collection of mutant vegetables, the award-winning cake designs and some kind of Q-and-A session with Oregon-based authors. The quilting ladies were very excited to tell us about it, even as we politely tried to move on. But it was pretty awesome, as were all the quilts on display. Oregon’s needlework game is on point.

On to Oregon Day Five

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