In Search of a Honky Tonk

High Order hits the road for a job and the possibility of a honky tonk.

In Search of a Honky Tonk

By: Amanda Sundvor

January 17, 2023

2,353.2 miles. That’s how far away High Order is from the Honky Tonk Highway.

2,353.2 miles away from guitar pickers singing songs for the broken hearted, from genuine Nudie suits, and from the southern comfort of bartenders calling you hun. The team was headed to an install job in Spokane, WA and since it’s a 5 1/2 hours drive from our Portland, OR HQ, we thought a road trip was in order. Despite all those miles between us and Tennessee, we were hopeful to find the Oregon version of a watering hole steeped in country lore - a Pacific Northwest Roadhouse of sorts.

Where the I-82 and the I-84 interchange sits a town called Hermiston, OR - known ‘round these parts for their watermelons. With a population of 19k it seemed like it’s big enough for us to find some fun, but small enough where that fun just might involve arm wrestling. On the hunt for a low class dive where one could still get a $2 beer and maybe hear tales of the open road from a long hauler, we pulled up to the main strip. A corner bar with neon signage from the 60’s beckoned, but we learned a thing or two about books and covers the moment we stepped foot in the building. The walls were suspiciously free of nicotine and the windows allowed the judgement of daylight to shine brightly. The bartender seemed to understand we had walked into the wrong place when we said, “think we’re in the wrong place”. About face and out the door we went. We decided to leave the rental where it was and journey by foot. After finding some railroad tracks, we promptly crossed them so we can get back to the “wrong side” of livin’.

Over the tracks and through a contraction site, we meandered our way to the Hermiston Tavern. Looking at it from the outside we were a bit skeptical, but there’s only one way to find out for sure in these kind of situations - open door, walk in. Immediately we knew this must be the place - a naive melody of sorts. Greeted by locals in hi-viz vests, it was clear that it was drinking time. A pitcher of beer was ordered as one of the regulars asked for one of our teammate’s hand in marriage. She politely declined and was somewhat surprised her overall’s didn’t communicate her gayness to the rest of the bar, but it was all in good fun. We had found our spot. Unfortunately, we missed the arm wrestling by about 36 years when that “Over the Top” rage was sweeping the nation, but they did have a Chicago Coin Bowling machine from the 60’s that had been out of commission for roughly a decade. As luck would have it, they had just got it fixed.

Regardless of a fistful of quarters and youthful enthusiasm, we were far from the 300 mark. Nobody’s perfect, not that day anyway. As the competition grew, our funds waned and just like that, bowling was over. The pitcher was empty and the road was calling our name. Our time in Hermiston was short, but we’ll always remember the Tavern. If you ever make it to those parts, tell them High Order sent you. They’ll have no idea what you’re talking about.