NorthWestern US travel camping
Loading the variety of all weather clothing, filling the fresh water tank and checking the supplies for at least a night of travel. We left from Albuquerque NM a little late, like usual, and arrived 200 miles northwest later at Farmington Sam's Club, just before it closed. Fueling was done with no lines.
Our usual evening 'camping' spot near the trees and grass, was already taken by another coach, due to our late arrival. We settled for another nearby, with the help of a friendly man who moved his car a bit. Close by, was a carry out Taco Bell meal, with a quiet night for a reward. Picking up a few essentials at Walmart, was in order of course. We feel it is compensation for the great overnight parking spots along the Walmart travel routes. I made several hiking trips back and forth to always busy Walmart near the Sam's Club.
Breakfast was a brisk walk to McDonald's for sausage and egg biscuits with coffee. Brought them all back to the coach for co-pilot and myself. Lift off was vectored for the westward portion of our journey. Four Corners and Shiprock, then turned North past Cortez Colorado and on north toward Salt Lake City Utah.
Nice to see the mini version of the Monument Valley along the way, passing through Cortez Colorado. Another nice, more agricultural route, is heading north from Farmington toward Hesperus Colorado, then west into Cortez. Irrigation is the attraction for the many hay farms along the way.
Agriculture is only possible with irrigation from the reservoirs. Utah has a lot of interesting small towns on this route out of Cortez. Many are bare remnants of the years past, when travel was limited to only nearby supply centers. Surrounding Moab Utah, is the recreation playground for countless numbers of fun and adventure seekers. The 4x4's and their little convoys, lined the roadways leading to the vast Canyon Lands National Park surrounding Moab. With a Parks Pass, you may dry camp in the National Park.
The Arches National Park can easily take up a day on fast tour of the loop road. More if you stop and hike the trails in abundance. Many days, if detailed exploring is your goal. In the past, I hiked to several of the exotic shapes of rock formations. Always was impressed with what was just around the corner.
Helper Utah is where the 'helper' engines push and pull the loaded coal and freight railroad trains over the pass westward. Train buffs enjoy watching and recording the action. The little museum shows classic pictures of history.
Green River Utah is the Melon Capitol of Utah, as well as the John Wesley Powell Museum, with it's video presentation. With only one arm, Powell surely conquered the Grand Canyon, with it's Colorado River Power. Green River was his launch site for the extended wild ride of his historic contingent toward Arizona.. Agricultural, Price Utah Walmart was our evening destination with another quiet stay over. Of course there were a few items still on our list of provisions. My nightly hikes always include a few trips into the Walmart store.
Provo Sam's Club was our fuel fill up, and unintended purchase of 2 TV's. The original coach TV's no longer worked with the latest broadcasting systems. Salt Lake City was bypassed on the highway to keep momentum northward. A quick visit to the Smith and Edwards Company
Jerome Idaho was our evening stopover at the noisy Walmart. Lots of heat and the generator shut down. No AC for the afternoon cool down. Boise was our refuel and purchase another TV at Costco, just around the corner from Cracker Barrel..yum.. The smaller of the other two TV's, purchased at Sam's, was not to our satisfaction. It went back into it's box for refund later in the trip. Boise is always busy. They welcome any business driven away from Liberal controlled Oregon by high taxation, regulations and restrictions.
Boise is always doing construction of new commercial buildings, especially manufacturing. The Asian market still enjoys the U.S. export of Ore-Ida French Fries. The loads of them are seen on ships further down the Columbia river route to the Pacific Ocean. Hermiston Oregon Walmart, just off the I-84 is our evening campsite.
Pendleton Oregon is the home of the Pendleton brand of woolen products. It also is the location of the famous Pendleton Roundup, a Rodeo in the top classes of competition.. Last trip was so populated with tourists, the Walmart had traffic attendants, and no remaining vacancy for overnight camping. Next day travel was along the Columbia River south side highway, with it's railways visible along both sides of the river. The Washington side got most of the freight action on this trip.
Just west of The Dalles, is a small Oregon State Park. It's name, Memaloose, refers to 'death' in the Indian term for the burial island. Only 'Sam Hill' is buried there today. The Island is very small now, with the dam raising and taming the wild Columbia River.
I hiked the interesting surroundings and attended a popular evening Ranger talk that explained the area and it's countless hiking and biking trails. The Columbia River Gorge is just one of the exciting side trips. The massive waterfalls are too numerous to describe. Even the interstate highway has a pullout for one of the most famous. 4x4 trails are everywhere. Oregon is rich in back country exploration and history. A State Park guide book is worthwhile for anyone intending to stop and visit this national treasure of a state.
Continuing west down the Columbia River highway to Portland is our goal. Fuel is much cheaper as you approach and pass through Portland. The same goes true for Astoria. The Astoria-Meglar Bridge is a creative engineering feat with it's five mile trip across the mouth of the Columbia River, to Washington State. We enjoy a few evenings at the Cape Dissapointment State Park on the Long Beach Peninsula of Southern Washington.
Being as it was a holiday weekend, we stayed at Ft Stevens State Park in Oregon for the night. Crossover the long bridge and arrival at Cape Dissapointment State Park the next morning was perfect. We got a nice campsite with only one move necessary.
The day trip to famous "Jacks" 'everything' General store, on up the Peninsula, was a nice day in spite of the unseasonal rainy weather. Fish and Chips are getting to be our daily routine now, along the Pacific Coast. The little family owned cafe across the street, north from Jack's is always great. The north side of the Columbia River is home to a busy US Coast Guard Station, as well as historic big gun emplacements and lighthouses along the trails.
At night, their sweeping beams of light are eerily cutting the mist for miles out to sea. Makes an 'after dark' hike on the beach exotic. Leave the resting seals alone. Take a flashlight. The campsite entranceways are difficult to find in the dark. Note the little identity sign to the area you plan to return to, or you may end up in the wrong circle of campers.
The Lewis and Clark interpretive center is a nice diversion near the campground main entrance. After exploring the shoreline villages and the local attractions, we returned to our evening seashore hikes at the quiet campground. Bring bicycles to these interlinked campgrounds. They are cycle friendly for families.
Found the old Singapore based lifeboat had moved a little southward during last winters storms. It always ends up a distance up onto the dunes, amid the log debris after it's little north and south sea voyages along the beach from North Head to the north jetty. The neccessary, endless dredging of the Columbia River by the U.S. Corps of Engineers contractors, is placing ever more sand on the north side of the jetty. The constantly increasing land mass is now drastically reshaping the coastline from when the remarkable Lewis and Clark expedition first saw it.
Violent Winter storms in return, always take away a huge share each year. Evening Ranger Talks are scheduled near 'Waikiki Beach'. A small pizza and snack coach are positioned nearby during the summer months. When near the jettys, explore them in detail. The immense size of the 'Armor' basalt rocks (individually transported from Idaho by barge and rail) can only be seen to be appreciated. Amazing engineering to control the harbor entrances and river passages for navigation.
We spent two nights at wonderful Cape Dissapointment State Park, before returning to always interesting and well kept Ft Stevens State Park on the Oregon side. Advise you aquire an Oregon State Park guide book. Good details of each campground and nearby points of interest saves wandering in the wilderness.
Be sure to take in the fine little tours around historic Ft Stevens. The Massive old Gun Emplacements on the south side of the Columbia River, like the north side, are quite interesting, especially when they darken the big 'gun room'. The litle museum gift shop with it's automated model layouts, is nice as well.
The old railroad trestle of the engineers building the south jetty, is still visible across the wetlands. Nature trails lead in every direction around the parking areas along the river. The infamous shipwreck on the ocean beach is slowly rusting into oblivion and history. Evening Ranger talks are fun and informative. New subjects are covered each evening around a fire.
Side trips back to interesting Astoria are always fun. Fred Meyers Stores are Oregon's competition to Walmart. They do a great job and have really nice facilities. Their Fuel costs are on par with Costco (now moved south to a new location). Even better with their 'rewards' card and easy access to the fuel station. Finding a nearby Mr Fultano's Pizza restaurant is always a great discovery for me.
The world class U.S. Coast Guard Museum and gift shop in historic Astoria, is a definetly 'do not miss' attraction for anyone. Learning about the River Pilots that often risk their lives to bring cargo ships through the dangerous Columbia River Bar, is another interesting piece of information.
Lewis And Clark's adventures are a good way to mentally relive the impossible conditions faced by this intrepid group. They have now rebuilt their winter fort according to drawings, and its history is told in detail during the tours.
Cannon Beach, near where the Lewis and Clark party boiled the seawater for their salt, is a touristy destination. Boutiques and upscale beachside resorts are the attraction, as are near several other quaint Oregon coastline villages. Mr Fultano's Pizza is the best in Cannon Beach.
Now we begin our Oregon State Park adventure south in earnest. Brighton Marina is our next stop. It is small but fun. They will prepare a couple of Dungeness Crabs for your 'in coach' dining or at their tables. Nice new owners (Kelly and his wife) and striving to please.
Rent a boat or crabbing traps, whatever pleases you. Reservatios are advised, or you may find a campsite away from the action. We moved foreward to the bayside on the last evening. Watching the gulls jockey around before nightfall on the dock, is interesting. They take a bath before bedtime..
The next scenic area is the Cape Meares tour of 'The Three Capes' and a stay at the State Park. Two nights are better, due to the attractions such as the lighthouse tour. We noticed the highways arund this area are in desperate need of a 'redo'. The southern coastal highways are far better.
Did you ever hear of Tillamook Oregon? Fine cheese, dairy products and icecream. All products of the nearby small farms (and a few very big ones) Nice tours of the factory and busy everyday. Fun to watch the assembly line wrap the blocks of cheese. Sometimes it 'train wrecks' fun to see.
'Terrible Tillie' is the famously dangerous Lighthouse located on Tillamook Rock. Quite a story of her creation that even killed the first engineer. The Oregon Coast is lighthouses all aong the coast within site of each other. Visit all (but Tillie) along your trip.
Take advantage of every pullout along the 101 hwy. Each offers a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean..... far below at times.
A museum, previously a Dirigible Hangar, is nice for a nearby break south of Tillamook. It houses a collection of vintage aircraft. Last year a twin engine alomost made it to the runway. Bumped down in a pasture north of the field.
Motorcycles and biycles, including a few really bizzare mechanical creations, are traveling all along this scenic 101 coastal route. Be careful and give them clearance as you pass. They each have their own story about their personal adventure. Enjoy talking to a few along the way. They, like other visitors along this magical journey, are from many different countries. Many post blogs about their trips.
Tillamook is always a fun stopover. Spending some time sightseeing the 'Three Capes' and checking out the Tillamook Cheese Factory tour is fun. Great icecream in dozens of flavors, to sample as well. The old Dirigible Hangar south of town is still housing the Air Museum as well.
The lighthouse tours are still open to the public. Not the 'Terrible Tillie' of lighthouse fame (it is planned as a repository for ashes of the deceased). Scenic, scenic and more scenic is descriptive of the entire Oregon Coast. That is one reason we return. The weather patterns are much cooler than previous years of our travels.
The entire tortured and serene coastline of Oregon has fascination at every curve in the 101 highway. The camera will be busy, but it never does justice to seeing it with your own eyes and emotions. Crossing the high basalt mountain cliffs, and looking down at endless miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, is never to be forgotten. You will want to return again and again, always seeing some view you almost had forgotten.
I walk the harbor and docks several times nightly. The Newport Belle, Bed and Breakfast
He fondly refers to 'Keith' as their local 'Popeye'. Keith, my old seafaring aquaintance from years past, still is docked and living aboard his pacific ocean sailer with his wife. Keith has worked at the recreational marina RV park for a few years now. His stories of international adventure at sea, will entertain anyone for hours.
He now owns a refurbished and beautiful Lifeboat for his own unique 'fishing craft'. Powered by it's little Perkins Diesel, it putts along the river, finding some solitude for it's Captain and his wife. Keith periodically sits in river, in the shade of his new deck cover, picking out a few tunes on his guitar (seafaring?:>).
Keith says there are way too many Sea Lions for the harbor to support. They have taken over the commercial docks and harbor jetty, to the entertainment of tourists. We often are serenaded to sleep by their distant 'barking'. One aggressive Bull, grabbed and submerged a small child from a low floating dock. Luckily she surfaced with only a serious bite to her legs.
Environmentally protected Sea Lions are in huge numbers unequaled in relative history. They make sport of the Salmon runs, killing for the fun of it. Hopefully someone of influence in the 'Pom Pom Press', will have the foresight to limit the 'Soft Cute Cuddly' aspect of this top predator. The migrating Orcas periodically inflict their natural 'control', but not nearly enough.
After driving more of Oregon's beautiful and memorable coastline, we arrived in Brooking's Harbor
I walked the docks and jetties no matter what. Had to do something to pass the time, and hiking the interesting territory is great. The marina and jetty 'cats' are still surviving due to the daily dillignce of the 'cat ladies'. While I am wearing the red LED headlamp, it makes their eyes glow like red embers in the darkness of my nightly hikes.
Met up with Ray on the docks once again. He always has stories to tell. Ray is an old salt that is a 'live aboard' on one of his sail boats. Ray owns about five or six at any given time. He buys and sells them to earn a little profit and pay the slip fees. He was also a pilot before retirement.
Ray left the army after the WWII years. Spent a little time in South America doing some quasi-mercinary work. Returning to th east coast, he bought an old sail boat and Zenith Transoceanic battery powered radio. Set the antenna for a station in England. Turned it on for a few minutes each night while adjusting his course. Ray ended up in Wales, sold the boat to a local Barrister and booked his flight home on a TWA Constellation.
I have just returned from my nightly prowl. Been raining steadily the last days. Cabin Fever got to me. I had to get out and patrol the harbor. Security you know.. :>)
Found out that after windbreakers are washed, they are no longer waterproof. Got soaked clear through my other clothing. Eveerything is hanging up to dry now. Have to re-spray the windbreakers again with water repellent.
The harbor was 'breathing' tonight.
All of the moored boats were drifting in unison from one end of their slip, then back to the other end. Sort of got me seasick just watching the entire fleet do their waltz. :>) I walked on out to the middle of the docks to get the full effect in surround visuals...
Even the big boats that were moored alongside the docks, waltzed from side to side, to the throb slosh of the tidal swells. Any 'Live Aboards' will be rocked to sleep. The ocean waves are increasing in intensity. Should be a nice roar for us seawall 'front liners' to sleep by tonight.
The U.S. Corps of Engineers is dredging the harbor and entrance with a massive piece of equipment. The process continues for an around the clock matinee. The daily parade of 'shore watchers' are interested in the goings on. It is like NASCAR for coast watchers.
Reluctantly left our front row moorage and headed south. The remaining southern coast of Oregon has much to see. Bicycle and motorcyclists never stop their voyages along this scenic highway 101. They stay in motels or camp near the attractions, depending on their wishes. The Oregon 101 highway to the south is in much better condition than the Cape Meares area around Tillamook.
Coos Bay and it's surrounding area
Free parking in the big lot works for us. A quick tour of the casino shows us how fast dollars can disappear into the mesmerizing machines. During my extensive evening hikes, I found the ancient harbor dock timbers and concrete logging mill remains from a far more prosperous time, more interesting.
Restrictions and regulations drive away entire cultures and prosperity, not only environmental concerns.
More History abounds around the beautiful Simpson estate land and it's gardens, now a State Park. The pioneering family had grand visions for Coos Bay. Many were eventually fulfilled, many were not. The Simpson family lost some and won some. Mostly lost his fathers and his wealth to personal disasters on a grand scale.
The ocean artists always congregate at the nearby scenic cape near the river entrance, with it's interesting menagerie of Sea Lions and Seals. Cool ocean breeze, so take appropriate clothing just in case. Good beach hiking down through the rocks.... like a Deer. Remote River Lighthouse (automatic beacon) along the drive, is inaccessible, so don't even try. Private property surrounds it anyway.
The sand dunes around Umpqua, further south along the coast, are always interesting. How trees can grow in those huge sand mountains, is fascinating. The fact that the environmentalists have not stopped the 'off highway vehicles' from enjoying the fun in the sand, is one good sign in an ever more restrictive society. The economy around the area would suffer greatly if the 'enviros' had their way. The famous lighthouse is in danger again.
This time from politics and cost cutting resulting from overspending in other Federal areas. The US Coast Guard station high on the hillside, maintains it presently. The lack of Federal funds now threatens to remove the Coast Guard Base
A remote State Park near the lighthouse, has great hiking trails through the heavily forested sand mountains. Finding a small hidden lake, highlights the hikes.
While camped at the pleasant and interesting Winchester Harbor marina, we of course went for great Fish and Chips at Cassie's Unger's Bay Floating Restaurant
Leaving the last of the Oregon coast, we cross into California. Always vigilant state border guards asked about our 'produce' on board. Coming aboard for 'an agricultural inspection' and satisfied, we were allowed to proceed through this corner of California, to get to Medford Oregon. Suggest you ask for a California State Park guide at the checkpoint, if you intend to camp in California parks.
The Redwood Highway across the northern part of California is a fine way to drive without getting bored. Camp in the parks for the true Redwood Ambiance. They smell wonderful. You will want to get out and walk among the giants of the forest. The John Muir Forest was our campsite during one trip. The little information office and interpretive building, had a beautifully restored RV mounted on a 4x4 Nash truck chassis. It was made from a Redwood Log....back in the early 1900's.
Leaving the pleasant and busy town of Medford, after one night at the newest and most pleasant (for us) Crater Lake hwy Walmart, The drive south past Mt Shasta is one of the most scenic routes in America. The snow capped mountain plays a game of hiding and reappearing on various quadrants of the compass. along the entire day's journey.
The Sacramento valley is well irrigated this time. Shasta reservoir, though down from it's peak, is filling nicely after last winter's snow melt. Already Mt Shasta is snow capped, foretelling a heavey snow winter, if it continues as predicted. So much food is produced in the valley, that a major problem would befall the USA if politicians have their way and divert the water to flush toilets in the densely populated cities.
When asked where their food comes from, the 'no clue' uneducated but 'voting' city dwellers, just reply 'Safeway grocery store'...
Black Butte Reservoir
This time the drive back toward our NM home, was done over California's historicaly famous Donner Pass
The rig's descent down the east side, from the top of Donner Pass, is far faster than the gradual climb up the west slope. First gear overreving prevention with lots of braking were required. Stops at intervals to allow brake cooldown, are advised for heavy vehicles. Fortunately, before this trip, I had replaced the brake fluid with the latest DOT 4 and it's higher temperature limits.
The condition of the heavily used and ice tortured eastbound lane of the Donner Pass highway, is akin to a decayed infrastructure of a war zone. Tire chains and winter ice salt, take their toll. Pavement is severely cracked into large fissures that even affect the oversized tires of the coach. The concrete barriers, narrowing the highway to one lane, allow a 10 inch margin on each side of the rapidly descending MH, as well as for the big trucks. A tenseness while driving 'the gauntlet' is unavoidable.
Heavily traveled Interstate highway 80 across Nevada and Utah is worth enjoying. The long expanse of good pavement has lots of different things to observe. The Great Salt Lake
We stopped and I walked across the damp but still crunchy surface. The taste of that salt is like non ever tasted before. It burns like fire in your mouth. Spit and spit and spit. Fence posts are salt encrusted into a ball just above the surface of the flats. It sucks the moisture from your pores if you get immersed in the heavily brined water. The saltier end is understandably away from the water runoff from the mountains. An engineered flood control system pumps water away from this very busy industrialized city, in rare high water years that periodicaly threaten flooding.
A causeway engineered across the Great Salt Lake, isolates the fresh water used by the inhabitants of Salt Lake City. Wiper Bass, a non-breeding hybrid is stocked for recreational use in this fresh water lake. Great fishing and water sports are easily accessed from the marina. We camped there on one past trip. The Dead Sea salinity exceeds the rest of the saline portion of the lake.... by a margin.
The ancient Lake Bonneville
Bonneville Salt Flats, on the state line between Nevada and Utah, had no major speed trial event on the day we crossed nearby.
Wendover is now a gambling site and is on the state line, as is Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah. This day Dugway was active. Co-pilot noted the contrails rapidly winding and weaving through the sky. A series of rocket powered guided missile tests were our entertainment worth stopping for. Fast and agile, fired in rapid succession, climbing, looping and diving, they put on qute a show. If they ever lock-on to any aircraft, it would be interesting.
Provo Sam's Club was our overdue refueling stop. The GPS co-ords were set to the wrong address. We ended up in the center of the University campus...during game day. A fast re-do by our co-pilot, followed by intricate waltzing through the heavy traffic and we found the Costco instead.
Price Utah was our destination for the night stopover at Walmart. Passing through 'Helper' is interesting. The heavily loaded freight trains needed a Helper engine at this point to get over the pass. the little town was created to support the engines and crews. Green River Utah is a nice place to start a voyage down the Grand Canyon. At least Major John Wesley Powell thought so in the 1800's. He did a remarkable job considering he only had one arm. The othe lost in battle.
Moab Utah is a destination in itself. It would take years to see the canyons and rock formations surrounding that little tourist motel town. Jeep trips and canyon tours are endless no matter what the weather.
Our destination of the day, was the last stopover at Walmart in Farmington New Mexico. Quite the busy small city, it is on the perimeter of the Indian reservations. We dumped the Black holding tank and transferred the gray as a rinse while driving back to home port in ABQ NM.
200 miles later we arrived safe and sound at our terminal, the front yard where we unloaded and did the required maintenance. Now to plan the next trip. Time is short and no way to know when we will be unable to see the sights of this great nation.
One Nation Under God, The United States of America.