Vagabond Lodge grows, stays connected to ‘50s origins

TWO-STORY, 9,000-square-foot new wing goes up along the east side of the Vagabond property on Westcliff Drive.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea.
TWO-STORY, 9,000-square-foot new wing goes up along the east side of the Vagabond property on Westcliff Drive.


VAGABOND OWNER Grant Polson is working throughout the fall and winter to improve the grounds and Columbia River overlook on the north side of the 7-acre property.

Vagabond Motel only looks like a classic motor court motel like those popular in the 1950s.

Of course, the landmark Gorge lodging was popular in the 1950s, when Lucy and Clarence Cranmer built the place, but after 40 years of occasional additions, it’s getting a third larger this winter, with the addition of a two-story, 15-unit wing.

Project: Vagabond Motel, Westcliff Drive, Hood River

Owner: Grant Polson

Who’s Building It: Dana Hale Construction, Hood River

Expansion size: 9,000-square-foot, two-story, 15-unit wing on east side of the 7-acre property

Completion date: certificate of occupancy expected by mid-March, or earlier


The Vagabond lodge.

The 1950s look largely remains in the original one-story building parallel to Westcliff Drive and Interstate 84. More units were added in the 1960s and 1980s under Lucy’s tutelage (Clarence died in the 1960s). A two-unit cottage was added in 1998, but despite the popularity of the Vagabond that was the extent of the growth; Lucy liked the Vagabond the way it was.

Polson explained, “We had nothing computerized until 2010; everything was done on paper in the system she had had for decades, and she knew if we got larger we’d need to get a computer and a lot of modernizing. She was pretty well set and comfortable in what she had going, and that was fine.”

Liking the routine, Lucy would come to work each day even after retiring. She died in 2007, and the late Jerry Cranmer took full ownership along with his nephew, Grant Polson, who is now overseeing the first expansion of the Vagabond in nearly 20 years, a two-story wing with oversized rooms. It’s a project he and Jerry Cranmer dreamed up 10 or so years ago. Jerry was murdered in the hotel office in September 2010.

“We’ve been doing a lot of upgrades over the last few years but Jerry and I were going to do an expansion in 2008, and a lot more in 2009, and start construction in 2010, but then he was murdered and that derailed all that. A few years later, we went back and started working on this. It’s plans we’ve had a long time and had worked on a long time together. It’s nice do the things we wanted to get done, even if I’m the only one left to do them.”

How much of Jerry does Polson feel in this?

“It’s not just him, or my grandma, but everyone who’s been here for 20 years or more,” he said. Many of his employees have worked there at least 15 years, and Polson considers them, and his guests, as partners.

“It’s not just me or the family but everyone else. Everyone has been involved in one way or another, and it’s more for them than it is for me or anything like that.”

“A lot of it is a sense of things; we get guest feedback all the time, we hear a lot about what guests would like and how they’d like to enjoy the space,” Polson said.

“If (employees) have ideas on whatever they would like to see, I try to incorporate them as best I can. I brought in the carpet samples and other things, and it’s nice to get their input.”

The new wing has seven units on the first floor plus storage and housekeeping, and eight units up, each with a balcony view of the courtyard.

“They’re definitely larger than standard hotel rooms, and they’re well-made,” Polson said. “On the top floor, halfway into the room it tips up, with a second set of windows, so there is more light and openness out into the corridor area.”

You can see the new wing from Westcliff but Polson is making other improvements on the north side of the 7-acre property, between the lodgings and the cliff overlooking the Columbia River. He cleared out a large blackberry expanse, where he will plant a lawn this spring. He added plantings and landscaping, and built a new pathway to an overlook that provides a panoramic view of the Columbia, and upgraded the fence along the cliff.

“It’s a little deceiving because from the front you can’t really see the rest of the property. There is plenty of space out back,” Polson said.

However, there’s another improvement that will be visible along the road this spring, when the addition is expected to be finished: Polson will rebuild the split-rail fence, removed in the 1990s, that graced the front of the motel when the road was known as “Highway 30 State Route Frontage Road.”

Polson said, “My grandma renamed it Westcliff, sometime in the 1950s.”

He said the fence will restore part of the motel’s original look and “tie it into other improvements being made on Highway 30.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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