STE1 Hop 3: Huntington OR to Jerome ID

STE1 Hop 3

STE1 Hop 3

200 miles, almost totally on I-84. Cumulative tow miles: 634. Truck miles: 224. Cumulative truck miles: 674.

Another easy navigation hop: get on I-84 east, drive about 200 miles, get off. There was a bit of construction, but the delays were minimal. Weather was good, scenery was gorgeous. A very pleasant hop. For me, anyway.

For Jett the hop was pure misery. She was not feeling well and it was all she could do to keep from vomiting while I drove. We got to Jerome (just a few miles from Twin Falls) and she fell into bed. Fortunately, after a couple of hours of sleep she felt better. In fact, she felt so well that she sent me out to get some Italian food for dinner. On the way I took this shot of an awesome sunset.

Sunset in Twin Falls

Sunset in Twin Falls

The gorge cut by the Snake River just north of Twin Falls is also pretty impressive. I don’t think my photos adequately captured its grandeur due to the twilight lighting, but if you ever get to Twin Falls definitely check it out.

Snake River gorge

Snake River gorge

We stayed two nights in Huntington OR at the Catfish Junction RV Park. When we arrived my first impression was that we were stuck in the middle of nowhere and was regretting booking two nights. But the setting, near a bend in the Snake River, is incredibly beautiful, with ever-changing cloud patterns. I think it is arguably the most beautiful place we have ever been. I got dozens of great photos, only a few of which are included here.

I had to travel to Weiser ID to refuel. I did this on Sunday around noon and found a city more tightly shut down than any I have seen in decades. Not a soul on the streets and not a single establishment open for business – not the sports bar where I was planning on watching the Patriots/Panthers game and not the gas station where I was planning on getting fuel. Fortunately the pumps at the gas station were operational so I was able to accomplish that goal. And I found a little bar over the river in Oregon where I could catch highlights of the game on the NFL Channel. But I have to say that Weiser was downright spooky.

Oh – the Patriots lost. That is twice now that I have sought out a bar to watch the game and twice that they have lost. I don’t think I will try to watch them in a bar again.

Sunset on the bend

Sunset on the bend

The bend, Tuesday morning

The bend, Tuesday morning

Sunshine and showers

Sunshine and showers

Rainbow

Rainbow

Sunset on the mountains

Sunset on the mountains

The bend on a sunny day

The bend on a sunny day

STE1 Hop 2: Boardman OR to Huntington OR

STE1 Hop 2

STE1 Hop 2

198 miles via I-84 and US 201. Cumulative tow miles: 437. Truck miles: 211. Cumulative truck miles: 450.

We started this hop at an elevation near 500′ and ended at 2100′. But in getting to Huntington we had a couple of heavy climbs, one topping out at over 4500′. It was a more strenuous hop than I had expected.

But the weather was fine and the road (I-84) was very smooth, unlike the I-84 in CT that we detest. And there was a conveniently placed rest stop on the first climb, just east of Pendleton, at the ominously named Deadman’s Pass.

This pass appears on the list of “most dangerous roads” in America. It wasn’t all that dangerous in good weather, but I sure wouldn’t want to traverse it in snow.

But it did have a nice view.

View from Deadman's Pass

View from Deadman’s Pass

Our home for one night in Boardman OR was the Driftwood RV Resort. This was an interesting park in certain respects. Most notably, it had an indoor pool – just the 4th park we have found with that amenity. It also had flies, which were really annoying. On the morning of our departure I killed over 20 flies inside the RV. I don’t know how they got in as I have never had that problem before or since. Maybe through the seams in the slides?

We were happy that we didn’t stay longer. Because of the flies we would probably avoid this park in the future.

Another view from Deadman's Pass

Another view from Deadman’s Pass

STE1 Hop 1: Tillamook OR to Boardman OR

STE1 Hop 1

STE1 Hop 1

239 miles via US 101, OR 6, I-405 and I-5 (in Portland) and I-84 through the Columbia Gorge, with a refueling stop.

The drama of this hop is captured in the map above, which is incorrect. Google insisted, up until the moment we left Tillamook, that I-84 was closed through the Columbia Gorge due to a wildfire. I could not find any corroboration for that. To the contrary, the Oregon DOT website reported that I-84 was open and had been open for nearly a week. I can’t explain Google’s inability to change the status because it is usually pretty good about this. But, because I couldn’t get an accurate map, we had to first route ourself to the refueling stop (a Love’s truck stop just east of Portland), then continue on I-84 east.

I-84 east was, indeed, open. However, it also had some significant construction that cost us about 30 minutes of nasty traffic. The result was that his hop took nearly 5.5 hours – one of our longest, time-wise, hops on this entire trip. And most of it was done in rain.

Not a fun hop.

I did get one decent photo at a rest stop in the gorge.

Columbia River in the Gorge

Columbia River in the Gorge

STW3 wrapup

The third and final segment of the Second Trip West ended at Tillamook OR. We spent 5 nights there at the Tillamook Bay City RV Park. This is a basic park that we chose because it was close to Tillamook and it had cable TV. Very good cable TV – like 90 channels. There were a couple of must-see shows scheduled for those nights. Besides, we stayed at a lot of parks on the STW that not only had no cable, but had no over-the-air reception either. There were quite a few nights when we used the TV to play DVDs. I guess we had a TV deficit.

Mega RV

Mega RV

Yurt

Yurt

The last night at the park our neighbors were a French couple traveling in a huge, heavy-duty RV unlike anything I have ever seen in person before, but which looked very much like a unit that was featured on one of those “mega RV” TV shows. If I recall, the unit cost upwards of $1 million and could travel just about anywhere. A ladder with 6 steps was needed to reach the door. The unit was brought over on a ship. I had to wonder how much it cost to transport it across the Atlantic, but I guess if you can afford the RV the cost of shipping it is not an issue.

The other interesting feature of the park was a new yurt – kind of a Mongolian teepee with a wooden floor. The one at Tillamook/Bay City was very nice, with a plastic cap that let light in and could be raised to let smoke out. Someday I am going to have to get a closer look at one of these. Just get a look – I don’t actually have to stay in one. But maybe I would enjoy it. We’ll see.

The numbers for STW3: 1095 tow miles in 7 hops and 16 nights. 1698 truck miles. Total campground cost: $801.60 ($50.10 per night). The most expensive park, by far, was Yellowstone Grizzly in West Yellowstone MT – $78.16 per night.

The highlights:

  • Yellowstone National Park.  Old Faithful was a treat, but the unexpected encounter with a huge herd of buffalo was even better.
  • Mt Saint Helens. This was a long day trip, but it was great seeing the mountain fully recovered after 35 years.
  • Tillamook.  I got in a nice round of golf at Alderbrook Golf Course and we had some great times with my sister and her husband.

The lowlights:

  • The weather. Starting with the 2″ snowfall in West Yellowstone, the cold, mostly dreary weather dogged us until we got to Mt Saint Helens.  It was more like late fall than late summer.
  • Missing out on seeing my niece and nephews in Tillamook.  I was really hoping to see some, if not all of them.  And I was very interested in meeting my new grand nephew.  But all were busy – and some were in Europe – so I completely struck out on seeing them.
  • The flat tire in Ennis.  This was not a typical flat tire due to a nail in the road; this was me kicking the valve stem and deflating the tire.  But AAA came to the rescue and put the spare on.
  • Nearly losing the spare while rolling down I-90 at 70 mph.  The AAA guy didn’t tighten the lugnuts enough and the tire came close – too damn close – to falling off while we were traveling.

I guess the fact that I have more lowlights than highlights mark this as the least “successful” of the three STW segments.  But we made it to Tillamook unscathed so I have to say that we did okay.

Final tally for the STW:

  • 4158 tow miles
  • 6933 truck miles
  • 59 days
  • $2896.32 in campground fees ($49.09 per night)

 

Second Trip East (STE) preview

The Second Trip East (STE) will start in Tillamook OR and will terminate in Naples FL, out home for the winter (if anything is left after Hurricane Irma). It will pass through, among others, the four states that are missing from our map: Utah, Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas. It then drops down to southeast Texas (if anything is left after Hurricane Harvey) and ends with a trip along the entire US coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The plan is to travel the distance – just about 5300 miles – in 28 hops and 52 days. That is more than one hop every two days, so there will be a lot of traveling and no long-term stays.

Like the STW, the STE is organized into 3 segments.

STE1: Tillamook OR to Moab UT

STE1 Plan

STE1 Plan

9 hops, 1555 miles, 18 nights.

This segment will add Utah to our map and will give us opportunities to see some great national parks.  It also gets us further south, to reduce the chance of seeing more snow.

Highlights:

  • Columbia River Gorge. I have never been up the Columbia River before.  It is reportedly beautiful. Or was, before the recent forest fires.
  • Salt Lake City. I hope to check out the Mormon genealogical archives, to see what they can offer. If they are good (and everyone says they are), maybe we will come back this way to do some research sometime in the future.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park.
  • Zion National Park.
  • North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park.  This will be a long day trip, so it might not happen if I am tired of all the driving.
  • Monument Valley.
  • Arches National Park.

STE2: Moab UT to Corpus Christi TX

STE2 Plan

STE2 Plan

9 hops, 1936 miles, 16 nights.

This segment will complete our 48-state map by adding Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.  It will also give us a day in Denver and a chance to visit an Indian reservation.

Highlights:

  • The Rocky Mountains. Hopefully I will be able to enjoy them without dodging snowflakes.
  • Denver.
  • The Osage Nation Museum.
  • Austin TX and possibly a dinner at Café Malta, the fine restaurant owned by Jett’s nephew.
  • Corpus Christi and the Texas coast recently ravished by Hurricane Harvey. If the damage is too severe we may have to bypass this area.  Hope not.

STE3: Corpus Christi TX to Naples FL

STE3 Plan

STE3 Plan

10 hops, 1871 miles, 18 nights.

This will be a lot of miles in relatively few hops.  I expect that we will be exhausted by the time we arrive in Naples.  But we will have at least 5 months to recover.

Highlights:

  • South Padre Island. We want to check out the RV parks in the area.
  • Mission TX. Ditto.
  • Galveston TX. Again, we may have to bypass this area if the damage is too severe.
  • New Orleans.  Jett has been there but I haven’t.  It will be a nice day trip.
  • Gulf of Mexico parks in Gulf Shores AL, Port St Joe and Cedar Key FL.

STW3 Hop 7: Castle Rock WA to Tillamook OR

STW3 Hop 7

STW3 Hop 7

130 miles via I-5, WA 432, WA 433, US 30 and US 101. Cumulative tow miles: 1095. Truck miles: 212. Cumulative truck miles: 1361.

This was a relatively short hop and I thought it would be relatively flat. Wrong. A lot of up-and-down, starting with a steep 500-foot climb as soon as we crossed the Columbia River. But it was a route that I had never traveled before (as opposed to the most likely alternate route – down to Portland then over the coastal range on OR 6 – which I have done many times before). Jett didn’t like it much. But I believe there is no way to get to Tillamook without going over some roads that she wouldn’t like very much.

We did get some spectacular views of the ocean as we headed south along the Pacific Coast Highway (US 101), including the great vista overlooking Nehalem. Even Jett liked that view.

This hop ended both the third segment of the Second Trip West and the full coast-to-coast STW trip as well. But I won’t do the wrapup until we leave Tillamook on the start of the Second Trip East (STE). I will give a preview of that trip as well. It is in a state of flux, mostly because we are unsure whether south Texas is in shape to receive us (it is still recovering from hurricane Harvey) and because we feel a need to get into warmer weather ASAP (that snow in Montana really spooked us).

Our two days in Castle Rock WA were spent at the Toutle River RV Resort, just off of I-5 and conveniently located for my day trip to Mt St Helens. It is a very nice park, but is sandwiched between I-5 and the major rail route between Portland and Seattle, so there was a lot of noise. It had no pool (not that we would have used it with temps in the 60s). It had a 9-hole disc golf course which was only the third park we have seen with one, but this was the worst of the three. Not well marked and not very interesting. It did have something that was unique: a large-scale croquet course played with large wooded mallets and soccer balls.

PCH overlooking Nehalem

PCH overlooking Nehalem

I included a photo of Rusty just because he can be so damn cute.

Mega croquet

Mega croquet

Getting the truck washed

Getting the truck washed

Nehalem

Nehalem

Rusty looking damn cute

Rusty looking damn cute

Mt St Helens and Coldwater Lake

Mt St Helens

Mt St Helens

I first visited Mt St Helens about 2 weeks after the roads were reopened to the public following the disastrous 1980 blast that blew out the side of the mountain. I think that was probably 1981, about a year after the explosion. I recall a scene of utter devastation – millions of trees blown flat as far as the eye could see, all pointing in the same direction, away from the mountain. Ash covered everything. No living plants anywhere. It was like a forest turned into a desert.

So I was curious to see what the area looked like after some 35 years of recovery. Well, the change is remarkable. The mountainsides are densely covered with evergreens. Not a flattened tree in sight. The snow-capped mountain is still beautiful, if ominous.

I got my first look at Coldwater Lake, too. This lake did not exist in 1980 and probably was just forming in 1981. It is a large lake that was created when millions of cubic yards of earth from the mountain were blown into the valley, damming the river. It is a beautiful mountain lake and arguably now provides more spectacular vistas than the mountain itself.

Getting to the lake is no easy chore. It is about 60 miles from I-5, elevated about 3,000 feet. It took me about 90 minutes to get there, with all the picture-taking stops. But it was worth the trip.

My biggest disappointment was that the volcano itself is now off-limits to the public. You can get some nice photos, but you can’t get onto the mountain itself. My recollection from 1981 was that the public could drive up the mountain. Not to the cone, but close enough that you could get some very close-up pictures. No more.

Coldwater Lake

Coldwater Lake

New growth forest

New growth forest

Coldwater Lake

Coldwater Lake

Valley below Mt St Helens

Valley below Mt St Helens

The mountain from a distance

The mountain from a distance

STW3 Hop 6: Ellensburg WA to Castle Rock WA

STW3 Hop 6

STW3 Hop 6

206 miles via I-90, WA 18 and I-5. Cumulative tow miles: 965. Truck miles: 214. Cumulative truck miles: 1149.

This hop was only slightly more difficult in terms of navigation than the preceding two. Over half the trip was on I-90 and that segment involved some pretty significant climbs, including the Snoqualmie Pass, followed by a long downhill that brought us nearly down to sealevel (altitude: 49 feet). The weather, which started with a few sprinkles, improved and the hop ended in sunshine (yay!).

This hop reached the outskirts of Seattle and took us down the heavily-traveled I-5 corridor through Tacoma and Olympia. The traffic on that segment was very heavy and didn’t really let up all the way to Castle Rock.

Now let me tell you about our night at the Yakima River RV Park in Ellensburg WA (which put the 44th sticker on our map). On our way to Ellensburg Jett read some reviews of people who had stayed at the park previously. Most were critical, both of the park and the owners who some called rude. So it was with some trepidation that we arrived at the gate (after having called from a couple of miles away, as instructed). As we pulled up to the entrance a white pickup truck came toward us, then turned to block our way. A tall bronzed cowboy got out, came to my window and, with no greeting, asked who we were. I gave him our name and he walked away. He dialed a number on his cell phone, had a brief conversation on the phone, returned to his truck, got in, backed it up, then turned into the park. Jett and I had absolutely no idea what was expected of us. Were we admitted? Was there an office that we were to go to? And then the cowboy put his arm out the window and signaled us to follow. He led us to our site, had a brief conversation about rules (no dog poop on sites, don’t let the dog bother the goat, no sewer for overnighters) and drove off. Very strange. Jett: “I think we are in Deliverance.”

The Palace Cafe

The Palace Cafe

His name was Randy and he actually turned out to be quite nice.  Taciturn but communicative if engaged. He gave us a dinner recommendation (The Palace Cafe), which turned out to be an exceptionally good meal.  We thanked him when we saw him the next morning.  He actually smiled.

Other facilities include a very nice dog park (with a view) and a funky clubhouse full of farming antiques.

Clubhouse inside

Clubhouse inside

Clubhouse outside

Clubhouse outside

View from the dog park

View from the dog park

#44 - Washington

#44 – Washington

STW3 Hop 5: Post Falls ID to Ellensburg WA

STW3 Hop 5

STW3 Hop 5

202 miles via I-90 and local roads. Cumulative tow miles: 759. Truck miles: 224. Cumulative truck miles: 935.

Another very simple hop for the navigator. Pretty much follow I-90 west for 200 miles. The only hard part was finding our destination, which was a bit off the beaten track. But we made it, despite the rain.

Ah, the rain. There were periods when it wasn’t raining, but there were many more when it was. Cloudy, dreary, damp. Not great for sightseeing. Not great for photo-taking. Except for the spectacular crossing of the Columbia River. There were a few sprinkles, but the view was still breathtaking.

The i-90 crossing of the Columbia River

The i-90 crossing of the Columbia River

Fireplace

Fireplace

Lake Coeur d'Alene

Lake Coeur d’Alene

Downtown park

Downtown park

Our site

Our site

Indoor pool

Indoor pool

Our home for two nights in Post Falls ID was the Coeur d’Alene RV Resort, a very interesting medium-sized park (about 200 sites) just off of I-90 and just west of its namesake city, Coeur d’Alene. What made it interesting is that it clearly accepts long-term renters and is clearly open all year because dozens of the RVs were prepared for snow and coldd. Insulation, taped seams, plywood around the base. But there were also clearly no rules about the ages of the units or how the winterization was done. There were some truly ancient and very ugly RVs in the park. It was reminiscent of the Circle Cg Farm Campground in Bellingham MA, which we regard as one of the tackiest campgrounds we have ever seen. Yet Coeur d’Alene calls itself a “resort” and does so with some justification. It has an indoor pool – only the third we have ever seen – and a wonderful community center featuring a fantastic fireplace. The place is a bundle of contradictions.

Despite the lousy weather, I made the trip into Coeur d’Alene because I had heard that it is a beautiful city. Well, maybe it was the weather, but it just didn’t strike me as anything special. Yes, it was very clean and yes, it does have some very nice public spaces downtown. But overall it didn’t strike me as a place I would want to come back to. It was not, for example, as interesting as Burlington VT.

With our stay in Post Falls we were able to add Idaho to our map. Our 43rd state.

#43 - Idaho

#43 – Idaho

“A Wanted Man” by Lee Child

Delacorte Press, New York, 2012.

It has been quite a while since I posted my last book review, which is both a statement about how much traveling/driving I have been doing and how this particular book just didn’t demand that I finish it. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t one of the best in the Jack Reacher series.

This book begins with Jack hitchhiking in Nebraska, trying to get to Virginia to see a woman. The book ends with Jack hitchhiking in Kansas, trying to get to Virginia to see a woman. Obviously this book is not about his hitchhiking progress. Rather, it is about who gives him a ride and the adventure he has, first as a hitchhiker, and later as a suspect in the murder of a mysterious man who interests the local police, the state police, the FBI, the NSA and, apparently, the CIA.

The book is also about some long car trips. First eastward toward the Mississippi, then back to where Reacher was first picked up, then south, then north, then east to Kansas City. I got tired just reading about all the travel. Probably not a good book to read as I was driving my rig across the country.

Anyway, the plot eventually results in a big shootout involving Reacher and two FBI agents in a situation in which the odds were heavily against him. Just the way he likes it. The final body count approached 20. Not the bloodiest Reacher story ever, but up there.

The plot is pretty far-fetched but is well-constructed. I didn’t see a lot of flaws, just a lot of implausibility. But if implausible plots offend you, you probably won’t be reading the Reacher books anyway.

Not bad but not great. 6 out of 10.