In search of Baker City's coolest spot

July 22, 2003 12:00 am
Tubers keep cool on the Powder River. (Baker City Herald/Lisa Britton).
Tubers keep cool on the Powder River. (Baker City Herald/Lisa Britton).

By LISA BRITTON

Of the Baker City Herald

Jason McNeil sweeps the metal detector over the trampled grass at Geiser Pollman Park, waiting for a high-pitched beep to signal metallic treasures.

"I'm just killing time, looking for coins. I'm not one of the hard-core people. But it's too hot to go anywhere else in the county," he says.

"I've found 101 cents so far."

Suddenly he stoops and digs into the earth.

"No, I've found 111 cents," he smiles, tucking a dime into his pocket.

This is one way to stay cool — and occupied — on one of the hottest days of the year, McNeil says.

But even the shade couldn't shelter him too much — the temperature registered at about 82 degrees.

"I'm just trying to work the shady spots," McNeil explains. "I scan quickly over the sunny spots to the next shade.

"It's either this or hide in my basement. I might as well be out here moving around."

Don't have a metal detector?

Slip through the doors of the Baker County Public Library and revel in the refreshing air.

At a cool 77 degrees, patrons can sink into an easy chair to enjoy a magazine or search the stacks for a good book.

Quite a few visitors discovered this secret last weekend, said Candy Arledge, who worked the front desk alone on Saturday.

"Miners Jubilee we had an enormous amount of traffic in the library," she said. "I had people come in and say this is such an oasis in the middle of the desert."

Not all were seeking books.

She said the three most common questions were: Where's the bathroom? Where's the drinking fountain? and Can I use the Internet?

The library stays fairly cool throughout the day, too, she said, and by late evening the reading room on the northeast end is the best spot.

"If you're just sitting there, not moving around, then it's really cool," Arledge said.

For those who do feel motivated to move, one of the coolest spots in town can help.

The thermostat at Main Street Gym and Fitness stays at 71 degrees, said assistant manager Mandy Blake.

This is good for treadmills or weights.

Not so good for inactive tasks.

On Monday, Blake wore a sweatshirt as she worked on a computer upstairs.

"I freeze in here. It gets so cold," she said.

But that's nothing compared to the ice cream coolers at Albertsons.

Those frigid freezers are kept at 10 degrees below zero, said manager Rand Racey.

Dave and Margie Physher of Rosemead, Calif., made sure not to let too much cool air escape as they scanned the sweet treats on Monday afternoon.

"I might stand there and say, ‘Ah, this feels good,'" Dave said.

"But just to get what we want," Margie added.

Though the freezer aisles stay fairly cool, it's not the chilliest place in the store, Racey said.

That spot is in the back corner with the meats and cheeses, where all walls are lined with refrigerated cases.

The Oregon Trail Regional Museum doesn't have refrigerators, or even an air conditioner.

Usually this doesn't matter too much, said volunteer Bruce McMillan.

"I'm only here one day a week and this is the first it's been hot," he said.

Though the open door didn't entice much of a breeze into the entrance, the depths of the museum offered a break from the heat.

At 82 degrees, the old pool room — with a concrete floor and several ceiling fans — is the coolest room in the building.

The second story is a bit warmer, McMillan said.

"The building as a whole, it's pretty good," he said.

Tired of the heat and the sunny glare?

Enter the darkened theaters of the Eltrym movie theater and feel 75-degree temperatures.

"We get a lot of people who come in here saying they're here to beat the heat," said assistant manager George Tristan.

The building is cooled by swamp coolers located on the roof.

But when the mercury climbs above 95, those contraptions aren't very effective, he said.

To maintain a comfortable interior temperature, the coolers are cranked up during the night, then shut off around midday.

The theaters retain the chill until the coolers are turned back on in the evening, Tristan said.

If sizzling temperatures send you seeking a cooler destination, a stop for lemonade may make the journey a little more bearable.

Five girls at Auburn Avenue and Sixth Street think so, at least, and hope the sweet liquid lures customers to their lemonade stand.

Onoria Arteaga, 12, Rut Arteaga, 9, Blanca Ochoa, 7, and Hope Arteaga, 4, opened their business in June.

Most of their patrons brake to a stop to sample their offering, and weekends are the best, Onoria said.

"Last Sunday we got $29," she said.

Their prices are $1 for a large cup and "two quarters" for a small cup, said Blanca.

Though their location isn't too cool — 86 degrees at the shady spot — the girls hope the heat entices more customers their way.

The stand is open continuously from around 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"When it comes time to eat, we take turns. We don't close down till 5," Onoria said.