Grant County’s newest tourist attraction is parked on Highway 26, at the west end of John Day – but just for the day.
The Omega Morgan megaload transport is expected to set out again Monday night, heading east through John Day, Prairie City, and Austin Junction on Highway 26.
Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) officials said the hauling crew hopes to get as far east as possible toward Unity.
The huge transport – 19 feet tall, 23 feet wide, and 380 feet long, including pusher and puller trucks – is allowed to travel only at night. The next stops depend on weather and road conditions, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.
The load’s arrival in John Day on Sunday night culminated a slow weekend journey from Dale at the north edge of Grant County. With snow falling, the load left Dale last Thursday night, parked a few miles south on Highway 395, and then continued Saturday night to a spot about 11 miles north of Mount Vernon.
County Judge Scott Myers was among the sightseers checking out the rig in daylight on Sunday afternoon near Beech Creek.
“It was just a steady stream of traffic,” he said.
That night, the load moved south, negotiated a tight right turn at Mount Vernon, reversed course on nearby private land, and headed east on Highway 26. The turn-about was scheduled after the hauler determined that the load couldn’t negotiate a left turn onto the highway in Mount Vernon.
“We have to turn right to go left,” Omega Morgan project manager Erik Zander explained earlier.
Getting there was not without event, however. Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer said several carloads of protesters were at the megaload’s starting spot on Sunday night, but many dispersed into the woods, as deputies and police arrived on the scene.
Palmer said the protesters eventually rejoined their vehicles and followed the load into Mount Vernon, merging with a growing crowd of spectators. There were no arrests or confrontations, the sheriff said.
Once the load reached John Day, the crew pulled over at the weigh station across the highway from the Shell station for the day.
The slow pace in recent days was a little disappointing for organizers of the Timber Truckers Light Parade, the annual event held on Saturday night in John Day.
Parade organizer Leslie Traylor said she called Omega Morgan last week to invite the load to participate, and company officials were excited.
“I said they could just follow us through town,” she said.
Even without the delay, a parade entry was unlikely due to Omega Morgan’s travel time restrictions and safety factors.
Since leaving the Port of Umatilla on December 2, the load has been hampered by icy roads and steep curving stretches of highway.
It is headed through eastern Oregon, across Idaho, and then north through Montana to the tar sands oil region in Alberta, Canada.
The load is a 96-foot-long vessel known as an evaporator, which uses steam to salvage water that otherwise would be lost in the oil extraction process.
(By the Blue Mountain Eagle)