Week 8

Day 47 Sunday, September 18

This is the beginning of week eight, if were not there were pretty close to half way done. Today it's back to the track at Golden Gate, or the Giants have an afternoon game. You might be sick of both, so you could also check out the Raiders home opener across the bay in Oakland. The main reason for staying in San Francisco, is that tomorrow when we head north to Santa Rosa, we cross over on the Golden Gate Bridge. It seems a waste to be here and not go over that iconic structure. 

Day 47 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 50 150.00 400.00
Total 12,194 6,787.00 7,285.00

Day 48 Monday, September 19

Santa RosaWine Country Racing

 Were heading over the Golden Gate Bridge and were already ahead of the game, they only collect tolls in one direction and were not going that way! It's about an hour on US-101, The Redwood Highway to Santa Rosa and the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, the home of Wine Country Racing. Yup we're in Wine Country so I guess we should expect a classier venue and what could be classier at a fair track than a turf course. That's right turf racing, but we don't get to see any because the fair has already run. What else is new, but no problem like all good California Fairs, Santa Rosa's also has a golf course and driving range in the infield. There is also The Jockeys Club an OTB and lounge for betting. So maybe we can hit golf balls while sipping wine, remember easy on the wine it's a four hour ride to Ferndale and we don't want a DUI.

FerndaleMendocino Lighthouse

 Were going to stay on The Redwood Highway for most of the leg before turning off at CA-211 into Ferndale, the home of The Humboldt County Fairgrounds, not to be confused with the one we just visited in Nevada. Here in Ferndale we will finally see the light! or a facsimile there of. As you enter the fairgrounds, your greeted by a replica of the Cape Mendocino which once upon a time actually lit up with the original lens to beckon fairgoers(check the Ferndale Home Page) before the Coast Guard repossessed it. Unlike most other California Fair Tracks, Ferndale is the real deal, no mile track, golf course, or OTB Lounge here, just a good old half mile bull ring. The trademark of a real country fair. Again no live racing, but you do get to see the lighthouse. This is our last stop in California, we're on our way to Oregon.

Grants PassJosephine County Fairgrounds

Leaving Ferndale we once again hook up with US-101, for a scenic drive up the Northern California Coast till we hit Crescent City, where we take US-199 to Grants Pass, Oregon. Once in Grants Pass, we head for the Josephine County Fairgrounds, the site of Grants Pass Downs. The Downs is a half mile oval with a small open air grandstand, where racing was held for nine days over four weekends this year. Opened in 1979 Grants Pass is the only track in Southern Oregon. No OTB or golf course here. If the grounds aren't open no worry the track is visible from the road. We'll bed down here tonight, before heading north tomorrow.          

Day 48 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 446 223.00 180.00
Total 12,640 7,010.00 7,465.00

Day 49 Tuesday, September 20

SalemOregon State Fairgrounds

Our first leg today takes us from Grants Pass, three and a half hours up I-5 to the state capital of Salem. In Salem we will be heading to The Oregon State Fairgrounds, the former home of Lone Oak Park. Pari-mutual betting started there in 1933 and ended in 2000. Lone Oak, which ran during the Oregon State Fair started out a half miler but was later expanded to five eights. Check out the Lone Oak home page for the origin of the tracks name. When we get there not much to see, the grandstand was torn down in 2001, the only sign anything existed here is located behind the Foster Livestock Pavilion, where you can make out the curve of the far turn. From here we head out toward Tillamook Bay, and the town of Tillamook.

TillamookTillamook County Fairgrounds

Were heading out of Salem, going west on OR-22 for the hour and a half drive near the Oregon shore to the town of Tillamook. We pass through the Siuslaw Nation Forest before joining up with old friend US-101 into Tillamook. Once there we head for the Tillamook County Fairgrounds which was established in 1891. It's not clear when racing started here, but this year they ran four days in August. Tillamook is your typical half mile Northwest track with a small open air grandstand, unlike other fairs in the area Tillamook seems to focus on thoroughbreds. No casino no OTB, so take a quick look and were off to Gresham.

It's about two hours to Gresham, we start back east on OR-6, till we come to US-26, The Sunset Highway, this will take us into the Portland area where we pick up I-84 till exit 14 into Gresham. We're looking for a place called Gresham Town Fair, where you will find absolutely nothing to do with horse racing. It seems like a wasted trip but home many people can say they visited the site of Gresham Park, where horse racing ended in 1969. When we leave we backtrack to Portland, the home of the only commercial track in Oregon.

PortlandPortland Meadows

In Portland we head for Portland Meadows, now this place has history, it's seen fire, it's seen rain, it's been robbed! Opened for night racing way back in 1946 Portland Meadows is still around today, in fact were a little early as the meet will start in a couple of weeks. At least we can stop in and do some simulcasting. In 1948 the meet was wiped out from a flood, in 1970 the grandstand burned down shutting down the track for a year and in 1976, the track payroll was robbed, quite a resume. We'll stay in the Portland area for the night before heading out to Washington State in the morning.

Day 49 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 380 190.00 150.00
Total 13,020 7,200.00 7,615.00

Day 50 Wednesday, September 21

Harbor ParkGray's Harbor Fairgrounds

Today is day 50 of the odyssey and we're heading up I-5 for Washington State and a two hour journey to our first stop. We get off I-5 at exit 88 and take US-12 into Elma here we're looking for Gray's Harbor County Fairgrounds, that was once home to Harbor Park. This little known gem was in existence from 1982 to 1997, it was probably part of the Blue Mountain Circuit. Racing was usually held for four days in the month of July, featuring thoroughbreds and quarter horses. Today the site is one of those horse tracks converted to car track. There is a grandstand, but it looks to have been modified for car racing, anyway you can say you were here. Record attendance was a little over 3,000, so you should be in a select group. From here it's off to Auburn and the only commercial track in the state.

AuburnEmerald Downs

We leave Elma, and head east on WA-8, till we link up with I-5 again, in about an hour and a half we come to Auburn, the home of Emerald Downs. Emerald Downs was built in 1996 to replace Longacres, it is a modern six story structure featuring a one mile oval. The racing season is April to September and yes another near miss as racing closed out about ten days ago. They do simulcast, but here you have to pay to get in for that, it's worth it to go look around. Emerald Down re-instated the Longacres Mile the most famous of races in the Pacific Northwest. We're going to head north for about fifteen minute to the ill fated predecessor to Emerald Downd.   

LongacresAll That's Left

As we're driving north on WA-167 heading for Renton, it finally sinks in "I'm burning out" were a few miles from Seattle where we should at least stay the night and have dinner at The Space Needle, but I just want to keep going. The good news is I discovered we can catch the final day of racing at Energy Downs, bet you never been there! Anyway were headed for poor Longacres the beloved track of Seattle. When we get to Renton we're looking for Boing Longacres Industrial Park, there isn't much to see. It looks like Boing destroyed the place for only a portion of the land, the pad the grandstand stood on is still there, as well as some of the legendary Lombardy Poplars, which still outline the first turn. The only real sign it was there, is a sign, a road sign for Longacres Way, but it wasn't out of respect, it was there since the track was built. From here we leave one sad story to see another.

YakimaState Fair Park

Our next leg is a little over two hours and significant to me, as I finally turn east and head for home, but it's still going to take a while. We start out on I-90, which ironically would almost take me to my front door. At exit 110 we turn off on I-82 and head into Yakima. In Yakima, we're heading for State Fair Park, the former home of Yakima Meadows. Yakima Meadows, became the third commercial track in Washington in 1961, it had a thirty seven year run before being shuttered in 1998. Today the grandstand is still intact, but like many other venues the racing surface has been modified for car racing. Yakima's claim to fame is probably that it was the place where North America's all time leading jockey, Russell Baze rode his first winner back in 1974. From here were going to continue east for about an hour and a half, to the site of the last fair track in Washington.

Sun DownsSun Downs

From Yakima we head back on I-82, for the town of Kennewick. Besides being known for the "Kennewick Man"  a 9,000 year old Native American, whose remains were found in the Columbia River there, it is also the home of Sun Downs. The track is located at the Benton County Fairgrounds, racing is held in the spring on the five eights mile oval and is the last of a handful of fair tracks in the state. The track is your typical Northwest Fair Track setup with a small open air grandstand and a rodeo ring in the infield. We'll spend the night in Kennewick, there's no simulcasting here, no loss it's been a long day. Tomorrow we check out the ghosts of the "Blue Mountain Circuit".  

Day 50 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 434 217.00 80.00
Total 13,454 7,417.00 7,695.00

Day 51 Thursday, September 22

unionEastern Oregon

We're going to start out today with a return trip to Oregon. This may seem strange, but everything is going to seem strange for a while. I'd say this trip is sixty, forty, sixty percent has a logical flow and the forty percent which we are now in, that doesn't. We leave Kennewick, heading south on I-82, till we get to I-84 which we follow east to exit 265, for our destination in Union, Oregon. After the two and a half hour drive, we're looking for the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show, another half miler with a small open air grandstand. Racing happens three days a year in June, not a biggy, but it's racing. When you get there you may think your in someone's back yard, but your not, it's the right place. Spend a few minutes, then it's back to Washington.

Walla WallaWalla Walla

We start back on I-84 for a two hour ride to my favorite named town, Walla Walla, how can you beat a name like that. After fifty miles or so we turn on OR-331 to OR-11 into Walla Walla. Here we're looking for the Walla Walla Fairgrounds, what I would call the largest of the golden triangle, which includes Waitsburg and Dayton, not one of these tracks has raced since 2010. Walla Walla still has a larger more modern grandstand than most fair tracks in the region, which was used five times a year for horse racing. Take a good look and were off to Waitsburg.


We take a quick twenty five minute drive up US-12 to Waitsburg, the home of "Days of Real Sport" at least that's what they called the two days of racing there. Waitsburg is another half mile track with a small grandstand. Not much else to see here, so take a look and it's off to Dayton.

 We stay on US-12, for the quick twelve minute trip to Dayton, here were looking for The Columbia County Fairgrounds, the Home of "Dayton Days", the name given to the two days of racing there. Another half miler with an open air grandstand. When you get there don't go to the clubhouse, because you'll be at the golf course across the street. Another quick stop and we head off to Spokane.

We're going to head north on US-195 for about two and a half hours till we reach Spokane, our final destination of the day. Here we're looking for Playfair Commerce Park, where there is absolutely nothing to suggest that a race track ever existed here. Opened in 1901, had it survived, Playfair would have been one of the oldest tracks in the country. Overall a pretty depressing day, five tracks visited, with three days of racing a year between them all. Tomorrow we head into Idaho and Montana.    

Day 51 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 390 195.00 100.00
Total 13,844 7,612.00 7,795.00

Day 52 Friday, September 23

Coeur d'AleneCoeur d'Alene

We're leaving Spokane, heading east on I-90 for Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Here we're looking for the site of the former Coeur d'Alene Turf Club, which held races at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds still exist and the grandstand is still there, but now it looks out at a rodeo ring, the race track is long gone. Coeur d'Alene was one of two commercial tracks in Idaho, both opened in 1970, both are closed now. Coeur d'Alene closed in 1983, after a thirteen year run, again the original track buildings are still there, so we can take a look around before heading to Montana.

KalispellNorthwest Montana Fair

We're heading out of Coeur d'Alene, once again heading east on I-90, heading for the town of Kalispell, Montana. On the roughly three and a half hour drive we exit I-90 at exit 33 and eventually taking US-93 into Kalispell. I'm sure by now we're not expecting to see any G-I racing here, in fact there is no racing at all. Montana seems to be the whack-a-mole of racing, you never know which if any of the five tracks in the state will appear for racing. Of the main road in downtown we'll find the Northwest Montana Fairgrounds, where racing was held a few days a year, until 2012. It's your typical Northwest half mile oval with a long quarter horse chute, it features an open air grandstand that looks out at the rodeo ring. Everything there looks like they could race tomorrow so there's stuff to see before heading to Missoula.

MissoulaWestern Montana Fair

From Kalispell, we do the opposite of what we did to get there, we start out on US-93 and end back on I-90 into Missoula. Besides being the home to the University of Montana, Missoula is also home to the Western Montana Fair, where horse racing started in 1914, not quite making it a hundred years racing ended in 2010. Missoula is pretty much a carbon copy of Kalispell, the half mile track with the long chute, small open air grandstand facing the rodeo ring, I'm afraid things will start looking really familiar for a while. When we leave here we're off b to Great Falls, the last stop of the day.

Great FallsMontana Expopark

It's going to take a little under three hours on MT-200, through the Scapegoat Wilderness to get to Great Falls, one of two tracks still open in Montana. Great Falls holds four days of racing during the State Fair in July, actually in the whole big State of Montana there is only eight days of live racing. in Great Falls we're looking for Montana Expopark, where racing is held. Racing started here in 1946 and ran till it was discontinued in 2011, but in 2013, racing returned and is still running. Another cookie cutter half mile fair track, except here if there is a rodeo, it's not as obvious as the others. It's been a long day so we need to rest, another burner tomorrow, with good news, bad news.

Day 52 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 526 263.00 100.00
Total 14,370 7,875.00 7,895.00

Day 53 Saturday, September 24

BillingsYellowstone Downs

As I said good news, bad news. The good news live fair racing today, the bad news, we need to get started before the sun comes up. We need to leave Great Falls by 4 am to make post time at Energy Downs, in Gillette, Wyoming at 1 pm. We start out heading south on MT-3 heading south for the four hour ride to Billings. In Billings, were looking for MetraPark, site of Yellowstone Downs. Yellowstone Downs, the largest of the Montana Tracks and the logical choice to consolidate racing in Montana, hasn't raced since 2011, when in hosted eight days of racing over four weekends. Like most western fair sites it's still intact, so take a quick look before we head to Miles City.

Miles CityMiles City

It's another two hours from Billings to Miles City, but at least it's all Interstate driving on I-94. Once in Miles City, we'll be heading for the fair grounds, where in 1914 the Miles City Roundup began it's run. In 1950 the only track in Montana to run every year since it began, was renamed the Bucking Horse Sale and Racing, going by that I don't think racing is the big attraction! This year four days of racing were conducted over two weekends in May. The standard Northwest Fair half mile track, featured mostly quarter horse racing, with a few thoroughbred events contested. It has a small open air grandstand and the telltale quarter horse chute. Don't spend too much time if you want to make the double at Energy Downs.

First thing before we leave Miles City, is fill up that gas tank. Then we head south on MT-59 for a little under three hours to Gillette, Wyoming. In Gillette, were looking for a place called the Cam-Plex a multi entertainment center that includes Energy Downs. It's closing day of the three day meet here where racing had not happened for almost twenty years, before last year. Actually this track is not even included on my web site. Energy Downs is a carbon copy of what we've seen the last few days, with the exception that it's actually open. Enjoy the live racing, after the races we can go to the National 9 Inn and book a room for the night, it also doubles as the local OTB, if we can stay awake that long?

Recapping, it was a very grueling week, probably the worst so far. We visited twenty four tracks but only saw live racing at one and that was unexpected. Tragically that's how it will be till we cross back over the Mississippi River and that still a ways away, at least were heading toward home!  

Day 53 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 534 267.00 70.00
Total 14,904 8,142.00 7,965.00

Tracks Visited Live
Week 8 24 1
Total 134 18

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