Yesterday, we visited the Tillamook Cheese Factory in rural Oregon. And by “rural Oregon,” I mean oh dear Lord I had no idea that 70 miles north of Portland meant meandering for hours up and down mountains and through dense forests at 45 MPH behind a huge camper.
Still, it was worth every minute and mile. The only downside was that by the time we reached our hotel in Government Camp (near the entrance to Mt. Hood National Forest), we were pretty much fagged out, and unwilling to make the 100+ mile trip to Columbia River Gorge. So we’re doing that today. We’re going to try and squeeze in Mt. Hood and Columbia both, since we’re California-bound tomorrow morning.
So, Tillamook — best cheese in the world. They have a great tourist thing happening up there, too. They don’t give tours inside the actual plant; instead, the sunken factory floor is completely encased in glass, and you can just walk around the periphery and watch the workers. Brilliant, because not only do they not have to pay tour guides and charge admission, they don’t have to deal with safety regulations attached to bringing the general public onto a food processing floor. Yesterday, they were packaging their famous Cheddar Baby Loaf.
Talk about an assembly line. The aged cheese is first cut into huge blocks that travel down a conveyor. They’re shaved, cut into loaves, wrapped, labeled and boxed for transport, all on that one floor. It was quite the sight to behold.
Afterwards, the best part: tasting! The samples are put out buffet-style, with toothpicks at every trough, enabling the tourist cattle to graze at their leisure on the flavor of their choice. My fave — the garlic cheddar. The Thriller dug the colby.
And of course, the reason the tours are free is the presence of the ice cream parlor and huge store, where everything under the sun is for sale. And judging by the hundreds of people who were there yesterday with us, waiting in line to be called up to the next of six cashier registers, the free tours are worth it for them.
Of course, we absconded with a few treats for ourselves.
And after the drive to Government Camp, it was close to dinnertime, so we holed up in our awesome room — complete with full kitchen, bonus — and made our own meal.
With cheese and crackers for dessert, natch.