Summer Travel Map

Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 25-30: A Great Family Visit in Puyallup

June 30, 2012
Puyallup, Washington

As I mentioned earlier, I’d made plans to be in Puyallup to visit Geri’s great-nephew, Mike, and his family this past week.  Our friends Wayne and Will had cautioned that the Puyallup Elks Lodge might not be open, but an advance inquiry suggested that it was still “alive”, so we headed there.  From Salem, it was back on I-5 all the way to Lakewood, then east on WA-512 to Puyallup.  We were soon parked at the Lodge, where the RV Park Host told us that the Lodge was coming out of a bad spell, with some new members and better finances.  It’s a 30 Amp-only place, with parking on the grass, but there’s water and a dump on-site.  We dumped before parking and I topped off the water tank; we did well during the week as we didn’t need to dump on the way out.  

By the time we were settled in, it was getting late so we headed for the local Outback Steakhouse for dinner (OK but disappointing).  As we were leaving the restaurant, Mike checked in after he got out of his night class at the local college, and we met up at a local brewpub (Mike’s a beer connoisseur) for a pint (or two).

Tuesday, we did some shopping during the day, trying to be careful to avoid having too much food on board because we’re headed to Canada next month.  Mike told us about a local grocery store, Tacoma Boys, that has great produce.  We found fresh Garlic Scapes there, and got some after having just seen them mentioned in a couple of the cooking magazines we get.  More on these later.  For dinner, we headed to Mike’s place for a Tri-tip dinner, which was great.

Mike’s boys, Brenden and Cameron, are big into baseball, so that was the theme for much of the week.  I’d gotten tickets for Wednesday’s Mariners day game against the Oakland A’s, so that pretty much took care of the day.  Thursday was a relaxation day and Friday we did some more shopping to carry us into next week.  On Friday, we went out to dinner with Mike and Cameron (Brenden was at a function with his baseball All-Star team; we caught up with him later) at a local restaurant, Crockett’s Public House.  Geri had Mussels and I had ribs; both were good.

The weather during the week peaked on Wednesday for the baseball game (roof open in Seattle!) then went down hill from there.  Today, we had lots of showers, but still managed to get to one of Brenden’s All-Star scrimmages.  Since the game was up in Redmond, we decided to stop at the Ikea in Renton on the way.  Apparently, so did half the people in Seattle; the place was mobbed.  But, we got to see Brenden play, and traffic had died down by the time we were headed back to Puyallup.  Since Mike and the Boys had another Mariners game scheduled, we got some advice on a good Pizza joint (The Rock Wood Fired Pizza) and had another “night out”.  Since tomorrow’s another travel day, we did our usual evening preparations and chilled out tonight.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

June 24: A Quick Stop In Salem

June 24, 2012
Salem, Oregon

We did something unusual for this summer’s travels: we scheduled a one-night stop.  That’s what happens when you need to get from Point A to Point B on somewhat of a schedule.

Shortly after I signed us up for last week’s Rally, I made plans with Geri’s great-nephew, Mike, for the middle of next week.  That meant we’d head directly from Coos Bay/North Bend to Puyallup, Washington (just southeast of Tacoma, south of Seattle).  Now, in days of old, we’d probably have been able to make this segment in one day, getting an early start and driving through, since it’s only about 360 miles.  Nowadays, though, we live a much more relaxed life.  A little map checking yielded Salem, Oregon, as a rough midpoint and a little online checking gave me the address of theSalem Elks Lodge.  A quick call and we knew we’d be able to get a spot for the night. 

It was a nice drive, retracing our route north on US-101 and east on OR-38.  In Elkton, we stayed on OR-38 and picked up I-5 in Drain (who comes up with these names?).  The rest of the drive north through Eugene to Salem was familiar territory, since we’ve spent quite a bit of time in the area (the coach was built in Coburg, just north of Eugene).

We were soon parked in a full hookup site and the tanks were emptied.  We headed over to the Lodge for a brew and Geri was able to get another Lodge Pin for her collection.  Although there seem to be more than the average number of perma-rigs (aka, long-term residents) for an Elks Lodge, we’ll likely stay here again if we’re passing through.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 19-23: FMCA Northwest Area Rally in Coos Bay

June 23, 2012
North Bend/Coos Bay, Oregon

On Tuesday, we headed for the Coos Bay area, out along the coast.  It was another easy driving day, taking OR-138 to Elkton, then following the Umpqua River on OR-38 west to Reedsport and eventually US-101 south to North Bend.  We were heading for the parking area at The Mill Casino - together with several hundred other RVs.  The place filled up quickly; the locals were wondering “who are all these people”...

Well, it was another RV Rally for us.  This one was medium-sized, and we weren’t particularly interested in “rallying”.  In fact, it was more of a “place to be on a specific date” when I was laying out our travel route in April.  I was hoping that there would be a vendor selling LED upgrades (there was and I finished off the halogen replacements I targeted for this year), and wanted to talk to some of the interior renovation specialists about my ideas for a desk (replacing one of the couches), plus get some ideas on a refrigerator upgrade.

While there were several vendors present, I found a team that had done work on our coach before.  I was pleased with their work and made arrangements to have them come out to the coach for analysis and an estimate.  All the pieces fell into place and we now have a target date of July 30 to be back in Junction City (just outside Eugene) to get the work done.  We’ll look to have a couple of windows tightened up and a slide adjusted while we’re in that area.  So, overall, it was a successful stop!

The Rally itself was OK, with a relatively small cadre of vendors and about 75 (mostly used) coaches for sale by dealers.  There were more than the usual number of meals included, but the “Dining Tent” was chilly and leaky as the weather was typical for the Oregon Coast in June: wet.  We did have a little sun on occasion, but the rain gear got a good workout.  It’s a good thing we don’t melt (we learned that when we lived in The City).

There’s something about a Rally that reduces the urge to cook, so we took advantage of local restaurants on Wednesday and Friday nights.  First we went to “Porta” which was great and came highly recommended on the Trip Advisor and Yelp websites.  On Friday, we took advantage of a special discount offered to Rally participants by several restaurants, and went to Ciccarelli’s, also pretty good.  As always, we eat well no matter who cooks...

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 12-18: Escapees Timber Valley Park

June 18, 2012
Sutherlin, Oregon

We continued our meandering through Southern Oregon with a week’s stay at the Timber Valley Park in Sutherlin, Oregon.  It was an easy drive up I-5 from our last stop.  

This park is a coop, owned by the lot holders and associated with the Escapees travel group.  As members of Escapees, we can stay for limited periods in these coop parks at really advantageous rates.  Very good for us retirees!

The sites are quite large by RV park standards and each has a small concrete pad and a storage shed (for use by the leaseholder, of course).  We were able to deploy the dog pen and our chairs for afternoon relaxation and wildlife viewing.  Yes, the wildlife actually comes to you!  There’s a small herd of deer that live on the property and wander through, usually in the mornings and evenings.  I think they have “special” lots that they visit, just to torture the occupants (there were several residents who seems to always be chasing the deer away, probably to protect their investment in vegetation).  There are also some rabbits that are especially large, almost as big as Merlin and Maya Lynn.

There wasn’t access to a walking trail here, but I was able to continue my 5-mile walk regimen by walking through the “downtown” area (using that term loosely, as it’s a pretty small town), down to the I-5 interchange, and back.  The weather’s remained mostly nice, although I did get sprinkled on a few times.  That’s what rain gear is for!

We didn’t “do” as much this past week, for a couple of reasons.  First, there’s not as much to do in this area but, second and probably more important, it’s nice to chill and catch up some times.  In this case, I caught up on finances, Geri caught up on laundry, and we had a few nice dinners, including another pork tenderloin with roasted potatoes and a rack of lamb with mushroom risotto.  Yes, we eat well no matter where we are!

We did make one day trip, south to Roseburg and then east along OR-138 following the Umpqua River.  The Umpqua and Rogue rivers both have headwaters near Crater Lake toward the center of the state and flow to the Pacific.  The Rogue ends in Gold Beach and the Umpqua near Reedsport.  We’ll pass by/through both places on our way south in the fall.  In any event, we saw lots of rapids along the upper Umpqua but not really the waterfalls I was looking for.  No matter; we had a good day and the pups enjoyed the ride in the Rover.  

There are a few wineries in the Umpqua Valley and we did attempt a couple of stops on the way home.  One was having a huge event and was too crowded and the other apparently changed hands and, hence, names, and was impossible to find.  I figured that was life’s way of telling us “not today on the wine tasting, fella”, so we just continued on our way.  Maybe “next time”...

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 5-11: Valley of the Rogue State Park

June 11, 2012
Rogue River, Oregon

We had a nice week at this Oregon state park, right along the Rogue River.  It’s not often that we stay at state parks, mostly because so many were constructed before motorhomes, much less ones of our size.  But, there seems to be a growing trend toward modernization that hasn’t been completely sidelined by recovery economics and we were happy to have a nice long back-in site with water and 50 Amp electric for the week.  The park has a mixture of full-hookup and water/electric sites (with a few tenting sites as well), but I selected ours based on using Google Earth to see if I could guess which sites would be “satellite friendly”.  I guess that means that TV is more important than a sewer connection.  Who knew?

The park is fairly large and, even though it’s sandwiched between I-5 and the river, it was relatively peaceful.  We had a visit from a lone deer that was grazing in the pasture right behind us several nights, so were able to check the “wildlife” box.  Actually, I watched a bald eagle fishing in the river one morning as well, but I was too far away to get a good picture with the phone.

The park also features a set of nice, paved walking trails along the river, stretching all the way to the little burg of Rogue River downstream.  I found that a walk to there, turning around at the Rogue River Bridge (actually at the loo in the city park by the bridge) gave me just over the 5-mile brisk walk I’ve been aiming for on the exercise front.

We did make a few side trips this week.  Since Medford is the largest “population zone” nearby, we used that as our shopping base as needed.  Costco, Walmart, Freddie (Fred Meyer) - all the biggies.  We picked up a camp oven that we’ve been eyeing, saving almost 10% in tax-free Oregon, so that led to a Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Risotto dinner (Mmmm).  We also visited the Rogue Creamery, specialists in Oregon Blue Cheese (yes, we tasted and loaded up) and found, much to our surprise, a wine tasting room right next door.  Bonus!

Keeping an eye on the weather, we made a trip down the Redwood Highway (aka US-199) from Grants Pass to Crescent City, just across the border into California.  It’s quite a scenic drive, and we were able to park and have lunch on a bluff overlooking the Pacific.  It was pretty breezy and a bit cool, but there were still a few people out on the beach and feeding the seagulls.  Crescent City is right on US-101 and we’ve passed through several times over the years but never stopped.  We might check it out for a few days on our way south later in the year.  On the way back, we made several stops in the Redwoods, and Geri checked out one of the Burl Wood shops.

I mentioned watching the weather because our other side trip was up to Crater Lake.  The day I’d planned to go there it was snowing, so we decided on the ocean instead.  But, today the forecast was for clearing and warmer temperatures so we headed off, backroading (is that a word?) across OR-234 to OR-62, one of the main access roads to Crater Lake.  We’ve been there before in June, about 20 years ago on one of our RV rental vacations, and found similar conditions: snow melt incomplete and several sections of the Park not yet open for the season.  But, that wasn’t a problem, as we had some fine weather for pictures and a picnic lunch.  We definitely got our “snow fix”, with drifts still quite high in some places.  The altitude was getting to Geri, so we limited our time at the top.  I have a few pictures that I’ll try to work into composite panoramas when I have the time and inclination to play around with Photoshop.

OR-62 follows the upper Rogue River, so we had a chance to stop for some pictures on the return trip as well.  With snow still melting at the upper elevations, water flow was still pretty strong.  Several parts of the Rouge River National Forest were identified as off limits, though, or we’d have spent more time exploring the area.

Monday, June 4, 2012

June 1-4: Off the grid along the Klamath River

June 4, 2012
Blue Heron RV Park, Hornbrook, California

OK, we’re not really “off the grid” since we’re at a nice RV Park with full hookups, but having no cell phone service and very spotty Internet access makes it seem that way!  It’s probably therapeutic, though...

Since we’re not in any big hurry on our way north, I decided to book us into the Blue Heron RV Park for a few days.  Only about 20 miles north of Yreka, we were able to take our time getting ready and still be parked before Noon.  Our pull-in site puts us facing the water.  The namesake blue heron was fishing along the water’s edge as we set up, and we saw a few skiffs of fishermen and their guides float past.  Excellent!

This park costs a little more (OK, a lot more) than we like to pay, but their pricing scheme gives one night free for every three paid.  OK, it’s still more than we like to pay, but here we are.  It’s a well laid out park right along the Klamath River, with large sites, concrete pads, and lots of grass all around.  And, we found it almost empty with only five other rigs parked.  And, two of those belong to the owners and two more are housing people who work here.  So, the owners have more money than they know what to do with, they need a tax write-off, they wanted a place for their two hounds and colt to roam, and/or there are some really busy times of the year that we missed.  Everyone is super friendly, so it’s a generally pleasant place.

After checking in, we walked the pups around the grounds and settled in for a relaxing afternoon.  Being about 6.5 miles off the Interstate, we’re out of cell phone range but their Wi-Fi was working so we were able to communicate with the outside world.  As the weekend progressed, connectivity diminished to the point of failure, but we survived.

In addition to the RV facilities, they have an on-site restaurant where we ate for Friday dinner (not bad prime rib) and Sunday brunch.  It wasn’t any busier than the RV Park.  We asked about the lack of people and were told that things get really busy when the salmon are running later in the summer, and during fall hunting season.  I suppose, but it seems like most people looking for a fishing or hunting “camp” would be expecting a more rustic environment.  Whatever; we decided to get over our curiosity about the business model and enjoy our stay!

On Saturday, the weather was still beautiful and we took a ride further up-river.  We soon came to the Iron Gate Hydroelectric Dam and, behind it, Iron Gate Lake Recreation Area.  This whole section of the Klamath River is managed by the local power utility and there are seven hydroelectric power plants between here and Klamath Falls in southern Oregon.  Iron Gate is the furthest down-river and has a 1.7 megawatt generation capacity. 

Iron Gate Lake is several miles long and has quite a few access and camping points along the shoreline.  We took a ride as far as the road seemed to go and saw quite a few groups camping and fishing.  We also passed a fish hatchery that generates over 6 million small fry each year, so fishing is probably good at times.  This kind of environment attracts birds of prey as well, and we saw several large nests mounted on top of utility poles along the road.

In addition to the RV Park and restaurant, the development includes plans for a number of cottages built into the hillside overlooking the river.  There’s a private road in place even though further development seems to be “on hold” for now.  I walked up to the top, about 3.5 miles round-trip, and was able to get a nice view of the surrounding area.  It looks like they have some of the utilities in place, and even have a flagpole mounted right near the top. 

Sunday, I took a walk up to the dam, also about 3.5 miles round-trip, but the weather started to turn and I was soon returning in a light rain.  Even though I wasn’t prepared for rain, I didn’t melt.  As the day progressed, it turned cooler and the rain was pretty steady but light until Tuesday morning when the showers turned spotty but the wind really picked up.  No matter; we can’t really complain because we haven’t seen much rain at all this year.

This afternoon, we’ve relaxed, watched some Food Network and Cooking Channel, and Geri’s finished up laundry, as we won’t have full hookups at our next stop.  Tomorrow, we’ll finally make it to southern Oregon.

Oh, and just for luck, I found Geri a 4-leaf clover while out “exercising” the pups...