The weather is deteriorating and there is a chance of snow overnight. We had planned to go home tonight or tomorrow, so the weather made the choice an easy one for us.
When we set out we thought we would only spend a couple of nights in the Yakima Valley, but we ended up staying 4 nights. Our planning was a little off this trip as we ended up winging our days, and probably drove a couple of hundred random miles because of our poor planning. But we do enjoy seeing things in the back country so except for the extra cost of gas it did not particularly bother us.
The nice part about the trip is each day we ended up finding a place that we really enjoyed and was memorable for good food, drink, and fun people. None of these places were on the agenda at the beginning of the day when we set out. So while it may not have been an efficient week, spontaneity led to positive experiences. This seems to happen to us very often and rarely do we have the opposite experience where things go badly. I think these kind of finds are what we enjoy about traveling.
Driving down the Columbia River Gorge Ton proposed we make one more stop before home so we pulled into one of our favorite Gorge Wineries, Idiots Grace. They had just reopened with a tented and heated tasting area. We had a quick lunch from Scout pared with a tasting of wine. The weather was crisp at about 50 degrees but it was a good end to a very nice trip.
Our first post pandemic trip ended today. We both have dental appointments tomorrow so we needed to head home despite the spectacular weather forecast for today and tomorrow that would have normally tempted me to keep going.
The drive home was uneventful as we took it in one long bound without stopping. Traffic seems to be back to normal on I-5 which was quite heavy all of the way home.
What did we learn about pandemic RV’ing. If anything campsites and parks seemed to be busier than normal despite it being shoulder season, and the kids are back in school. We had read that a lot of people had taken up RV’ing as a way to social distance while traveling, and our experience confirms what we have read. The tourist oriented places were as busy as ever, and while the stores and restaurants were doing a good job enforcing mask wear inside, mask wearing outside in crowded conditions were hit or miss at best. The restaurants and pubs were mostly making a good faith effort to keep people seated 6 feet apart. Many had converted parts of their parking lots to outdoor dining which was working well in good weather. We were much more comfortable with outdoor seating than indoor. It will be interesting to see what happens when the weather drives people back indoors.
I am hoping for one more trip before the cold weather really sets in. Stay tuned to see if we will be able to get back out.
Since we cannot spend the night in Brookings due to the state park being closed there we decided to get up early and do a round trip drive to Brookings. The weather is the best since we arrived on the coast with temperatures in the mid-60’s sunny skies and minimal wind. It is a perfect day for a drive.
We just meandered down PCH until we got to Harris Beach. Ton yelled stop at me so I swung into a pull out, and we spent the next hour walking up and down the beach. It is one of many spectacular stretches of nearly empty coast line. Ton took a bunch of pictures, and except for a haze that we think is from the wildfires in Napa California it was perfect.
As we worked our way down the coast towards Brookings, Ton yelled stop a couple of more times to take some more pictures, so there were a couple of shorter beach walks as we made our way south. We finally arrived in Brookings around 12:30 and started out towards the brewery that was our excuse for driving 80 miles.
Before we got there though Ton remembered a small hole in the wall seafood place she had read about. She said it was supposed to be good, fresh and simple seafood, so a quick reprogram of Greta Garmin and we were off. The food was as advertised, we split a seafood combo of 2 pieces of cod, 2 oysters, 4 pieces of calamari, 4 clams, and 4 shrimp, all fried. We substituted hush puppies for fries. The fish was all fresh and we enjoyed it.
The final stop in Brookings was at Chetco Brewing Company, which is our first Vegan Brewery. We are not sure what constitutes Vegan Brewing but we tried a taster of different styles of beer, and they were all pretty good. So I think I can say that this is the first Vegan food I have liked.
The return trip to Bandon was quick and the views were as spectacular going north as they were going south so we both enjoyed ourselves. We made one stop at Battle Rock park which marked the site where 9 white settlers were besieged on top of a rock by the natives who were not happy with the invasion of their land. It is now a pretty park in the town of Port Orford and we enjoyed our last walk for the day.
We had a leisurely start to the day. Once we got going we started south on PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). Our target today was my favorite town on the Oregon Coast. At one time I was an avid golfer and Bandon was my personal favorite golf course. Now that I am not golfing we visit a lot less.
Enroute to Bandon thru the miracle of satellite technology we listened to two English soccer games as we were driving. Both games were shocking with Tottenham beating Manchester United 6-1 followed by Liverpool losing 7-2 to Aston Villa.
As we entered Coos Bay Ton remembered that there was a brewery there she really liked and asked if we could stop. I of course said ok and so we found ourselves sitting at 7 Devils brewery for a light lunch and a nice taster flight of their beers.
Today we are staying at an Oregon State Park. Oregon has a very large and well maintained park system. Oregonians tend to be outdoors people and they support the parks. When the pandemic hit, the parks were initially shut down completely. Over time they re-opened the parks, but now all campsites are only available thru reservation. We usually like to select our sites on the spur of the moment, but now we are having to plan a little more. I was startled when I went to make the reservation last night as there were only 6 spots available in a park with over 90 spots. We had read a lot of articles about people taking up camping as a way to have social distancing and recreation and I guess we are seeing the impact of that.
After checking in we headed over to Bandon which is a cute tourist oriented town. We walked around town again watching people crab and fish. They have three little fish restaurants on the waterfront, but they were all mobbed and the mask wearing and social distancing was poor so we moved on.
As we drove into town we saw a new cidery and decided to check it out. We had low expectations as neither one of us are big fans of cider. This place however, knocked our socks off. We tried a sample tray of 4 ciders and liked every one of them, so we decided to get a second sample tray of the remaining ciders and were equally impressed. If you are in town I really recommend Bandon Rain Cidery. Ton and I agreed on a favorite which is apple cider with gorse flowers.
While we were at the cidery we decided to book our state park for tomorrow night. Our original plan was to follow the PCH from Astoria which is the northernmost town on the coast to Brookings which is the southernmost town. When I went to book a site the reservation system showed no availability in a park with 79 RV sites. I called to confirm and they said that the system was true. So we are going to drive down to Brookings tomorrow and return to Bandon for the night. When I went to book the state park here there were only 4 sites remaining for tomorrow out of 90!
We finished by walking along the Coquille River to the ocean. It is a nice walk on the other side of the river is a Wildlife Refuge, though we did not see anything particularly interesting. We did not linger at the ocean as the wind was blowing pretty hard and kicking up the sand.
Neither one of us was in a big hurry to get going in the morning. We slept in a bit, then settled down to watch the Premier League game of the week with Paul and Khun Jim. Khun Jim cooked a big American breakfast to go with the game and we all enjoyed ourselves. Finally it was time to take off for our destination for the day.
The entire trip so far has been fogged in as you can tell from our photos. For the first time we did get a couple of sun breaks as we were driving over Cape Perpetua which is one of the more spectacular parts of the Pacific Coast Highway. Ton did not take any pictures though as while we were in the sun, the ocean was still pretty fogged in as the marine layer was just off shore.
We planned on staying at a Forest Service Campground near Florence, but as we were driving we began to get nervous because all of the State Parks and Forest Service campgrounds we saw had full signs posted at the entrances. We are still surprised how busy the coast is this week.
When we arrived at Sutton Campground we were relieved to find they had a few spots, so we grabbed one before heading into Florence to do some exploring. We have fond memories of Florence as it is the first place we ever took our kids on a vacation in Oregon. It is a cute fishing town that now is more tourist oriented than fishing oriented. The downtown is pretty compact consisting of only about 3 blocks of restaurants and stores. We picked a riverfront restaurant and shared some chowder and a salad that was pretty good. The highlight of the meal was watching a family on the dock below us crabbing. They were pulling in a number of crabs, but most were undersized and had to be tossed back much to the frustration of the 6 year old boy in the family.
I woke up early to take a walk along the ocean front, Ton had stayed up late catching up with one of her friends in Thailand on line. The surf was still pretty rough and the rock in front of the condo was taking a beating. The rock is usually covered with different sea birds, but this time there were only two birds on it. When I looked closely I realized that they were a pair of Bald Eagles which explained where all of the sea birds had gone.
It was a pretty quiet day for us as we spent most of it catching up with our friends and watching the ocean crash on the rocks. We were hoping for a whale siting as the whales are migrating and this area is famous for whale watching. Despite a couple of whale watching boats going by we did not get to see any whales.
In the afternoon Ton and I drove back to Lincoln City to check out a brewery there. The beer was just ok and the setting was nice overlooking a golf course and a creek. The problem was it was a little chilly so we did not enjoy the setting as much as we would have liked.
After our beer taster we headed back to the condo for a nice dinner Khun Jim prepared, and an evening of watching old comedies on the TV.
We had a very good nights sleep at a very quiet and serene Camp Rilea. I got up for my morning stroll and met one of my neighbors who told me that a herd of elk usually came to feed on the grass on the rifle range behind the campsite. After spending a few minutes looking for the elk it looks like they decided to go somewhere else for breakfast this morning.
We got under way around 9am heading towards Depoe Bay. Good friends of ours Paul and Khun Jim are staying at a time share condo overlooking the ocean and we are going to spend the next couple of days with them.
We thought that October on the coast would be pretty quiet. Yesterday in Astoria seemed to confirm that idea, but today as we were driving south on the Pacific Coast Highway the traffic was extremely heavy with a lot of RV’s. One of the reasons became evident when we went thru the town of Garibaldi as the river was covered in fishing boats. One of the biggest salmon runs of the year is happening now so all of the fishermen are out trying to get their fish for the year. We stopped and watched the slow parade of fishing boats go by using their trolling motors.
The traffic continued to build as we headed south and we were really startled when one of the larger state parks had a full sign for the campground. It looks like our hope for a quiet off season week on the coast is not going to happen.
We arrived at Depoe Bay around noon and shifted into the luxury of the condo. Paul and I entertained ourselves talking and watching the surf crash on the rocks on the beach, while Ton and Khun Jim chatted at the kitchen table and planned the Thai meal for the evening.
When Paul turned in for a nap I headed to Depoe Bay for a cup of coffee and received final confirmation that the coast was not quiet but actually very busy. While I was gone Ton decided we needed to visit one of her favorite breweries which is near by so we were off to Wolf Tree Brewery in Lincoln City. The beer was as good as Ton remembered and after trying a sampler tray we decided to purchase a couple of cans of each beer on the tray.
We ended the day with a Thai fish meal prepared by a local restaurant with fish provided by Khun Jim. She convinced them to cook a couple of dishes not on the menu while we were gone sampling beer. Ton and Khun Jim were gone to the restaurant longer than Paul and I expected because as they explained when they returned the place was mobbed with customers and it took a while to get the special dishes done
It has been a long time since we have been on the road. Packing Scout seemed to be a little more difficult as we kept remembering things we forgot to pack and were running back in constantly. Eventually we got almost everything loaded, (except for wine glasses) and got on the road for the coast pretty early.
The trip over to the coast was uneventful, and we started by stopping into Camp Rilea to get a spot for the night. Camp Rilea is a small Oregon National Guard Post that allows retired military to camp in an area that is much like an aire in France. The only difference is it is next to the rifle range where soldiers do their annual qualification. Luckily for us no one is shooting today so it is nice and quiet.
Once we got checked in, we decided to head over to Reach Break Brewery which is one of our favorite breweries in Astoria. We got there just as they were opening, and like many places in Oregon they have closed off their inside dining room and are serving everyone in outdoor seating. We prefer outside seating, but today was one of the first cold days of the year. The marine layer had set in and refused to go away so it was pretty chilly and damp.
We tried a taster tray of 5 of their beers. They were doing a fresh hop sampler where they took three different hop varieties and applied each of them to the same beer. We could taste the fresh hops in the beer, but could not really taste any difference between the three different hops. We also shared a fish and chips.
Our next planned stop was Ft. George Brewery where we planned on having a pint. When we got there they had a sign saying that they were only seating people by reservation. The next reservation was in 30 minutes and since we only wanted a beer we decided to move on.
We went back to Reach Break and asked one of the brewers what place he would recommend that would be open. He recommended a brewery on the other side of the Columbia River in Washington called North Jetty Brewery. We had been there once before several years ago, so we were off.
Astoria is located near the mouth of the Columbia River, and the bridge across is an impressive structure. The river here is over three miles wide, and ocean going ships have to pass under the bridge so it is quite tall near Astoria. We always enjoy crossing it. The views from the top are spectacular when it is not fogged in.
When we arrived at North Jetty, they had indoor dining available that looked effectively distanced so we had another taster tray indoors. They were serious about mask wearing as Ton and I both stepped away from the table a couple of feet without our mask on and were admonished by the bartender.
We were hoping for a break in the marine layer, but we did not get it. So after our taster tray we decided to head back to Camp Rilea to settle in for the evening. We took a walk down to the ocean but the fog and the damp drove us back to Scout for the night.
We realized that Scout has been lonely in the driveway and has not moved in nearly a year. This is definitely not good for a RV so we were looking for an opportunity to take a trip before we take our spring trip to Europe. Ton has a much more active social life than I do and she was having a hard time freeing up time, and she is also not a fan of cold weather camping. On the other hand I had time on my hands and was going a little stir crazy at home so we made a decision for me to take Scout out on a trip by myself, this means the pictures are not going to be as good. I do not have an agenda besides getting out of the gloom of Oregon and finding some sun. The initial thought is to head towards Arizona.
Today was about getting over the mountains before the next storm runs thru and makes crossing over the passes difficult. Ton and I spent the last couple of days stocking up Scout for the trip. She was even nice enough to cook some of my favorite meals so I can microwave them. So I was ready to make an early start as the best stop for the first night was Burns which is about 330 miles. Last year we took a different route home thru central Nevada and it was really beautiful, so I decided to head south that way and this long drive would get me in position to do it.
The weather was clear and pretty warm on the west side of the mountains, but as I climbed up the temperature began to fall until it reached freezing and a there were a couple of accidents. One of the accidents involved two cars and was pretty serious. Some people get careless and try to drive too fast. One fool even tried to pass two snow plows that were spreading cinders until the guy in the plow made it clear that was not going to happen. Between the accidents and the snow plows the trip over the passes took a while.
Once I descended down the weather was good and the skies were clear. Eastern Oregon was its’ rugged and remote finest for the last three hours of the trip. I love the emptiness of the high desert. Last winter the campground we usually stay at was closed when we went thru here and we ended up in a hotel. This year I checked and their website indicated they were open, and sure enough they were. So all ends well today and I hope my longest drive is behind me.
We almost did not make this trip. Ton has been battling a rash that is making her very uncomfortable, she decided to push thru. Then the day before we were going to start, right after we completed loading Scout for the trip, Ron’s back went out. We decided to push down to Klamath Falls and see if we felt like continuing south. The drive was pretty easy though we did run into some unexpected snow coming over the cascade mountains.
To make it a little easier on both of us we decided to use some of our hotel points for the first night to allow for a little easier access to the bathroom and the bed. Somehow it feels like cheating on Scout.
The final day of “Good Brew Hunting” had us dealing with some disappointment. The first two breweries we had planned to visit were not going to open until 4 pm which was too late if we were going to get home at a reasonable hour.
We did visit 7 Devils Brewing in Coos Bay. We enjoyed their IPA a great deal. This is another first class facility. The owner is an artist and has done a first class job of decorating the place.
We had planned to make Yachats brewing the last stop for the day. The beautiful weather we had been having had finally broken and we had more typical Oregon Coast weather, a mixture of sun and rain. The drive from Florence to Yachats is really spectacular and we enjoyed the views. When we got to Yachats we found the brewery closed despite their website saying they were open, there was a note on the door reflecting limited winter hours that was not reflected on their website.
At this point we punched home into the navigator. As we were driving thru Newport we came to a seafood place we had always talked about stopping at, so we did. We split a Captains Platter of fish, shrimp, scallops, and oysters. After our late lunch we headed to the house.
The “Good Brew Hunting” trip was now over with 11 breweries visited in three states. Ron’s favorite brewery was Arch Rock and his favorite beer was the lager from Arch Rock from Anderson Valley. Ton’s favorite brewery was Anderson Valley with Arch Rock a close second, and her favorite beer was Anderson Valley and her favorite beer was also from Anderson Valley their Brother Davids Triple.
The “Good Brew Hunting” tour was a total of 3818 miles over 20 days and Scout averaged 13.26 mpg. One thing we have noticed that with the heavier tires we put on in Alaska we are averaging almost 1 mpg less, but I think it is worth it for the extra weight capacity.
Today we started our trip in our rental RV which has been named Elephant for the trip. It is a 30 ft Cruise America Rental RV. It is certainly a different driving experience than Scout, much wider and also slower to turn.
Joining us on the trip this time are three of Ton’s best friends from Thailand. They are three sisters Jeap, Noi, and Dang. This will be their first time traveling in an RV so it should be an interesting experience for them.
We left early expecting a slow start with Portland traffic, but got a lucky surprise and shot out of Portland pretty much without slowing down. As we left Portland we ran into the after effects of the major fire which had burned in the Columbia River Gorge for a significant part of August and September. It has left quite a mark, and roads and parks in the gorge are still closed due to the after effects.
For the day we made stops in Hood River at a nice orchard, and walked around downtown Pendleton. The girls enjoyed the cowboy town and the turn of the 20th century architecture in Pendleton. We also stopped at the Pendleton Woolen Mills which is one of the landmarks of Pendleton.
Tonight we are staying at Emigrant Ridge State Park where it apparently snowed seven inches last night. The camp host assured us that things were going to return to normal, even though it was flurrying when he told us this. We are going to give the Cruise America heater a good test tonight.
We had decided to drive the Owyhee National Scenic Backcountry Byway. On the way we were running out of steam and decided to stop for the night in Burns. Ton had heard that an old friend of ours sometimes spent time in Burns so when we checked into the park we asked for Gary, and not only was he there, he was about 4 spots down from us. We spent the evening catching up with Gary, it was nice to see an old friend and we were glad to see he was doing well.
Gary gave us some of his home roasted coffee, and it was awesome. Ton has a new idea to try when we get home.
Paul, Dee and their girls were going to head off to Crater Lake despite the smoke that was still lingering. Ian and Julie were going to go swimming and Julie was going to prepare a proper English Roast Meal. Ton and I decided we would contribute by heading into Medford to get some beer.
Medford and Ashland between them have 8 breweries now. We decided to check out 3 of them. The first stop was Walkabout brewery. This was the one we were most interested in, but when we pulled up the parking lot was empty, we got out to verify it was closed and it was, as we were walking back to Scout a guy walked out and said sorry they were closed. We asked when they were open and he asked if we were from out of town, we said we were and he said come on in and try a sampler. You have got to love people who are passionate about their business. We had a great chat about beer in the area, and enjoyed some good beer. Of course we took some back to share later. The other two breweries were ok, but we picked up samples none the less. Mission completed we headed back to the park.
While we were gone Julie had cooked up a wonderful authentic English Roast meal. Good food and good beer made for a great night.
Good friends made a tough day enjoyable. Besides the smoke from the fire which was about 20 air miles away, the high temperature for the day was 104 degrees. Not exactly ideal camping conditions. But with our friends there we all made the best of it, and surprisingly the park was almost at capacity. I guess Oregonians are a tough lot. Dee cooked up a fantastic Thai meal on cookstoves, Ton and I were thoroughly impressed.
We are starting the trip out by joining some friends of ours on a weekend outing to Southern Oregon. The state park we are staying at is halfway between Medford OR and Crater Lake. One of our good friends from Portland has never visited Crater Lake during their time in the US, as they are English. They are going to use the State Park as a base for a trip into the National Park.
It was an uneventful drive until we got off of I-5 at Canyonville. As we were heading east out of Canyonville we began to see smoke from a forest fire and quite a bit of fire fighting equipment. We decided to press on using the logic that they would close the road if the fire was a threat. After a few miles we could actually see the flames and several helicopters attacking the fire. But as there was no one stopping us we pressed on. The smoke was very thick at times reducing visibility to less than half a mile.
Eventually we arrived at a smoky Stewart State Park. Several people were leaving, but we all decided to stay and see how it went.
Today we headed south towards Eastern California. As we had a little bit of time during the day we swung thru one of our favorite National Parks, Crater Lake. It was a small detour to run the rim road around the lake. As always it was beautiful, but Ron had forgotten that the forest around the lake is almost 100% evergreen. So no fall colors.
For the night we stayed at a small Air National Guard Base near Klamath Falls. Maybe the quietest military installation we have seen. I am not sure there are any permanent personnel on the base even though there is a barracks. It should be a quiet night.
Today we planned to do the Steens Mountain Loop on our way to Idaho. When we went out to Steens Mountain in June the loop was closed due to snow so we settled for staying in a nice campground on the mountain. This time we made it around and the drive was great. It is about a 50 mile gravel loop where you climb from about 3500 feet to 9800 feet at the summit. It is the highest road in Oregon. Steens is a fault block mountain which makes it different than most of the mountains in Oregon which are volcanic. One side of the mountain is pretty wet by Eastern Oregon standards, resulting in Malheur Lake and the wildlife refuge there. The other in the rain shadow is the driest in Oregon with only 6” of rain per year. The dry side is called the Alvord Playa and is reminiscent of the Bonneville Salt Flats.
After leaving Steens we bit off a long drive to Mountain Home Idaho. This is what happens when you let the destination drive your day. As a result of forgetting about the time change we didn’t arrive at the campground until after 7pm, a ten hour day. We are going to try to slow down a little for the rest of the trip and limit the driving hours per day to something a little more comfortable.
Today we began heading west with a plan to visit the Painted Hills National Monument. Oregon is running a tourism promotion touting the seven natural wonders of Oregon. The Painted Hills are one of the seven wonders, as is the Wallowa Mountains, The Columbia Gorge, the Coast, Crater Lake, Smith Rock, and Mt. Hood. We are having a debate with Ron saying that Leslie Gulch needs to be in the list, but Ton saying that of the six we have seen none of them should be dropped. Tomorrow we are going to visit Smith Rock which will need to be spectacular or Ron is going to drop it in favor of Leslie Gulch!
We arrived in the evening at Painted Hills and the light was quite nice for pictures and for viewing of the colors. We have been here many times and the colors and the formations are quite beautiful.
Tonight we are spending the night in a Forest Service Campground on the crest of Ochoco Mountain. Nice and quiet surrounded by 100 foot plus Ponderosa Pines.
Today we headed over to Joseph. Our plan for the day was to do as much of the Hells Canyon Loop as we can. We knew part of the road was closed for construction and the detour was closed due to snow, but we knew we could make it to the Hells Canyon overlook. When we stopped to fill up the guy at the gas station got our hopes up when he told us the road was open. We had our doubts but we were going to head that way anyway. The drive up the mountain is on a Forest Service Road which has pavement about one step ahead of gravel.
As usual the scenery was spectacular and quite different than the terrain we had been driving thru earlier in the week. The Wallowa Mountains get quite a bit more moisture than the Hart and Steens Mountain, and the Owyhee’s so this had a much more of an Alpine feel with evergreens up to the tree line as opposed to the high desert feel of the other mountains. Also, the wildflowers were out which is always a treat for Ton who really loves the mountain wildflowers.
We stopped at the Hells Canyon overlook for lunch and a view of the canyon. Hells Canyon is on the border of Idaho and Oregon. The canyon was carved by the Snake River and is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon. It is not as beautiful because the sides of the gorge are not quite as steep so the views into the Canyon while spectacular do not match up with the Grand Canyon.
After lunch we headed on to the loop, and as we guessed the guy at the gas station was wrong and the road was closed just past the turnoff. We headed back to spend the night at Wallowa Lake State Park near Joseph Oregon. It is a well developed State Park on the lake which is also the grave site of Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce Tribe.