Monthly Archives: December 2016

Road Trip #2: Portland, OR to Susanville, CA to Reno, NV

On November 8th, Mike and I were enjoying a relaxing morning in Salem. We were just hanging out with no particular agenda in store for the day. I was working at my desk on my laptop and Mike was getting dressed in his bathroom. All of a sudden I started smelling a peculiar smell of ammonia. I felt like it was getting stronger when Mike came into the front room and asked if I smelled anything. I answered with an emphatic “YES”, and we jumped into action. He started moving through the coach to try and determine where the smell was coming from. I got online and googled “smell of ammonia in a home”. My search turned up “burning plugs” and I told him to check for something like that. He went outside to check the exterior of the coach and saw that ammonia was dripping from the outside bay that housed the mechanics to our refrigerator. Yes, the same refrigerator on which we JUST spent $200 replacing the control panel.

When I saw that he had pinpointed the culprit, I googled “ammonia from Norcold Refrigerator”. This time I learned we were supposed to disconnect the fridge from the propane connection in order to prevent a threat of fire. I yelled at him to turn off the propane. It was getting hard to breath, so I started opening all the windows and turning on all the vent fans to try to get some air flowing. I kept thinking about how glad I was that we were home when this happened. If the dogs had been there without us, there is no telling how sick they would have gotten from the fumes going unchecked. Or there could have been a fire. Or we could have been asleep and not awakened before the noxious fumes made us all sick. We had a sucky dilemna on our hands, but our rig and our health were in tact, so the rest we could take in stride.

While Mike was trying to sop up the liquid chemicals on the outside, I kept researching the problem online. Long story short… we needed a new refrigerator. Most of the online forums indicated that we would be throwing good money after bad if we tried to repair the problem instead of just replacing the appliance. Our fridge was original to the coach, so it made sense that the end of its life had arrived a decade after the Monaco was built. This was really going to bum out our Captain. Mike returned indoors and I gave him a brief synopsis of what I had learned. I knew how frustrated he would be, so I took the dogs out for a walk so he could process that bad information with some peace and quiet around him.  He’s the boss and makes all final decisions regarding maintenance and repairs, so he was ultimately the one that would need to decide how we addressed the situation.

We had a couple of choices. We could replace the fridge with a full-size residential fridge, or we could buy another one exactly like we had. There is a difference between residential refrigerators and RV refrigerators. Our RV fridge is connected to both electricity AND propane. A residential fridge is powered by electricity only. I prefer the RV model because the propane back-up means it constantly runs even if we lose power, or are not hooked up to electricity at all. When we lived in a regular house, the first concern when the power went out was the food in our fridge and freezer being ruined. If we are without power in the rig, we never have to worry about that. If the electricity goes off for any reason, the appliance automatically switches to propane for its power. The storage space inside the unit is a bit smaller than a residential fridge, but not worrying about whether it is running outweighs the size constraints. I cook a bunch, and we always have an abundance of groceries and leftovers inside our fridge. The size of the unit has never been an issue for me. Lots of RV’rs prefer residential refrigerators, but I am partial to the convenience of a working appliance at all times. Mike knew my inclination would be to go with another Norcold. When the dogs and I returned from our walk, Mike told me a new Norcold was going to cost $3,700 (before labor) … and the Monaco had to go in the shop to install it. Oh joy.

Next step: find a place in the area that could take care of us. Our initial plan had been to leave Salem on November 14th and drive down to Medford for a week’s stay at Valley of the Rogue State Park. That plan was scrapped. Mike called a handful of places and no one could schedule us until the very end of November, the middle of December, or even the beginning of January. If we waited around Portland for such a long time, we were looking at two issues… no fridge for all that time; and, we would be well into the winter season by then – which would make traveling south through The Cascades a bit treacherous because of the inevitable snow and ice on the roads during the cold season. I felt like maybe I should take the dogs on another walk.

After several hours of online research and phone calls, we had an appointment at Camping World in Wilsonville – back toward the Portland metro area. The good news was that they could take us on November 17th. That was only a few days after we had planned on leaving Salem anyway, so it was workable. We called the State Park and cancelled our reservation in Medford, then I went to the office at our campground and extended our stay for two more nights. I bought a couple of bags of ice to try and keep the inside of the unit cold, then I called my aunt and asked if we could store the contents of our fridge and freezer at her house until we had a new unit. The next day we packed all of our perishable food into coolers and drove them to Lake Oswego. We put the frozen meats in my cousin Taylor’s deep freezer, and then we drove over to my aunt’s condo to store the rest of our cold stuff.

Our new plan was to leave Salem on Wednesday, November 16th. We would move the rig to the parking lot of Camping World and boondock there overnight, so we could be ready to hand over the coach promptly at 8:00 AM on the 17th. We planned to stay at Camping World again on the night of the 17th because we had no idea how long it was going to take them to finish the installation. No point in getting on the road during late afternoon rush hour.

Now, getting back to the big picture… Our route for the Lower 48 in 48 Tour has been governed by a very vague set of stipulations since we started our trip: North in the summers, south in the winters, east to west. We filled in the rest of the details as time went along. Each year of our trip during late fall, we found ourselves trying to out run the snow as we move from north to south. This year was no exception. The two states we had left after Oregon were Nevada and California. The two months we had left were December and January. We were getting nervous about getting over the Cascades and Sierra Nevada Mountain Ranges during winter months. Up until this point, we had a loose plan of traveling from Portland down I-5 toward the Sacramento area, then east over the mountains on I-80 to Reno. The more we dwelled on this route, the more we realized the mountain range that separates California and Nevada could get tricky when the weather turned cold. We revised our strategy and decided to go straight to Reno as soon as possible. We thought we could get through the mountains before the winter set in, make our way south through Nevada, and then spend our “month of California” in the Palm Desert area. Winter is very mild in those sections of the U.S., so we felt like this approach would be much less stressful.

Our revised game plan was to leave Camping World on Friday, November 18th and drive to Reno. The drive would take about 12-hours in total, so we would to do the trip in about three days… drive about 4-hours and boondock somewhere each night until we finally reached Reno around Sunday the 20th.

On Friday morning, we got up and started our regular routine in preparation for a travel day. I took the dogs for their morning walk and came back to start prepping the inside of the rig for the road trip. Mike was doing his thing: familiarizing himself with our intended route on google maps, and checking weather and road conditions along the way. It was about 8:00 AM when he came back to the bedroom and told me there was a winter weather advisory scheduled to begin at 10 that evening for portions of our route in southern Oregon and northern California. Snow and ice were coming. We had to get over the mountains before that night. He suggested we get on the road and drive all the way to Susanville, CA that day. I looked at the map. He was talking about a 10+ hour drive. No way. When he saw the petrified look in my face, he told me we had no choice.

Since I am a terrified passenger, a three or four hour drive in the Monaco is about as much as my nerves can handle. We’ve made a few trips that have lasted five or more hours, and it was all I could do to hold myself together toward the end of those journeys. I thought we would be risking a serious mental breakdown for me if we had to drive more than 10 hours in one day on mountain roads the entire way. However, he was right. We had no choice. I asked him to please eat a good breakfast so he would have adequate brain power and energy to pilot our rig. He told me to trust him. I told him he was a good driver and I knew he wouldn’t do anything that would infringe upon our safety. Then I put my big girl pants on and kept prepping the rig so we could get out of there as soon as possible.

We pulled out onto I-5 before 9:00 when the weather was still nice. The roads were flat and straight for a little while, then the terrain changed. We spent the rest of the day climbing and descending. We stopped in Medford, at the same park where we had hoped to camp, so we could walk the dogs and stretch everyone’s legs. We got back on the road and drove another 1.5 hours to Weed, CA, where we stopped for diesel. The skies were only partly cloudy at this point, but the wind picked up on this stretch and it got a little scary. We were heading into 40 – 50 knot gusts and the Monaco was getting blown all over the road. Mike clutched the wheel with both hands and held on tight. We would have normally just pulled off and waited it out, but we couldn’t. This was just the beginning, the weather was going to get much worse. By the time we pulled into the truck stop for fuel, it was so windy I didn’t even take the dogs out to pee. All three of us would have been blown to the ground before we finished our business. The wind was howling so much that people outside had to literally yell at each other to be heard.

After Weed, we turned east onto Highway 89. The wind abated after this turn because we were back in the forest where the trees blocked most of the gusts. We then turned onto Hwy 44 and made our way through Lassen Volcanic National Park until we hit Highway 36. We drove for a short distance on 36 until it dumped us out of the mountains at Susanville. During a brief moment when I had enough cell service to make a phone call, I had called Susanville RV Park to see if they could take us for the night. The lady in the office arranged for an after-hours arrival and we were happy we had a destination that included full hook-ups. We pulled in around 7pm… about 10.5 hours after we had left Susanville. We were all exhausted. I took a long hot shower in the campground laundry because we didn’t have enough energy to hook up the water connection until the next day. Mike cooked us some chili cheese dogs while I was in the bath house. We ate, walked the dogs again, and collapsed into the bed. I spent a few minutes meditating on prayers of gratitude for a safe travel day before I fell into a deep sleep. Mike was snoring before I even had my pillows situated. I can’t imagine how tired he must have been. He did all the work while all I did was fret.

The weather came in behind us that night, and we ended up spending three nights in Susanville. We needed all of that time just to decompress. On the third morning, the sun came out and it was time to hit the road again. We had a quick 90-mile drive to Reno and it was time to go when the highway was clear. As we were hooking up the Honda to the tow bar before we left the Susanville RV Park, a lady in a rig next to us stopped to ask us a question. We started chatting and she said she and her husband had gotten caught in the weather. They had also come from the same direction as we had, but they were traveling a day later than we were. At one point, they had reached a closed highway and had to turn around and find another thoroughfare that was open. Then she told us that the motorcoach parked next to them had gone AROUND a barricade on a closed road and ended up sliding off the highway. A tow truck had to pull him out of the ditch. Once again, we counted our blessings for listening to warning signals and taking action to ensure our safety.

We checked into Sparks Marina RV Resort on Monday, November 21st. I cannot tell you how happy I was that our spot there was reserved for 28-days. I was gonna need that much time before we had another travel day. We accomplished our goal though, we beat the weather.

The online reviews for Camping World were marginal at best, but we didn’t feel like we had any other option regarding the installation of our new refrigerator. In the long run, Camping World did a fine job. They let us buy the Norcold ourselves and have it shipped to them (so we didn’t have to pay an upcharge), they got us in when they said they could take us, they got us out within only a few hours, and the fridge still works. No complaints from the Martins.

The Winter Weather Advisory in the blue highlighted section on the map was directly over a large portion of our intended route to Reno.

Siskiyou Summit on I-5, just near the Oregon – California border, is the highest point on that interstate. The elevation is 4,310 feet. The clouds were below us.

The theme of the day was Mount Shasta. Our route had us turning onto CA Highway 89 as we passed by the western side of the mountain. Then we would drive east and skirt the south side of the giant peak. We were going on a modified version of a “Bear Hunt”. Couldn’t go over it. Couldn’t go under it. Couldn’t go through it. Had to go around it.

I didn’t realize Mount Shasta is a potentially active volcano. I just thought it was a regular ole mountain. It last erupted in 1786.

The second highest peak in the Cascades, from Highway 89. I’m glad we made it through this leg of the trip while the weather was still clear enough to enjoy such a pretty view.

It had been a LONG day by the time we reached Weed, CA. We refueled at a truck stop there and checked the map. We were two hours and twenty-five minutes from our hopeful destination of Susanville. It was late in the afternoon, but the eminent storm had us motivated and Mike said he could make the last leg of the drive with no problem. The highway was narrow with only two lanes and no shoulder. We were still in the mountains, so there were lots of ups, downs, twists and turns. There was one passing lane at the beginning and then another one toward the end. There were no other opportunities to pass on this stretch of our path. We got behind a beginner truck driver that drove about how I would – slowly because he was scared. He never went more than five miles UNDER the speed limit. Now you can be sure I don’t love riding in the Monaco on mountain roads, and a slow progression would normally make me very happy. However, it was getting dark. No street lights anywhere. Once the sun went down it would be pitch black out there. I started thinking I would rather us drive the speed limit and get out of the woods while we could still see, as opposed to making our way when we could see NOTHING ahead of us. No such luck. Mike did an awesome job of keeping a good distance between us and the newbie trucker. He never lost his patience. He took it all in stride. It did get dark. It was hard to see ahead of us. We were both intently watching for deer or other wildlife to run out on the road in front of us. Eventually we turned off of Highway 89 onto Highway 44 (The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway) at an intersection called Old Station. There was a short passing lane after the turn. Mike gunned it and we were able to make it around Mr. Brakelights. By this time the dogs were in serious need of a pit stop. We stopped at a rest stop outside of Susanville because they could not wait any longer. As we were walking them around the parking lot, our trucker friend pulled in to use the facilities. When we saw him, we told the dogs their time was up. We scurried back to the rig and got on the road before the new driver ever made it out of the men’s room. Under no circumstances was that truck coming between us and the Susanville RV Park.

After we were settled in Susanville, the storm arrived as predicted. I had no problem watching the wind and rain from inside our PARKED house.

Big deer roamed the campground in Susanville.

When the rain cleared and the sky turned blue two days later, we pulled out of Susanville and drove a short 1.5 hours to Reno.

Highway 395 heading south into Nevada.

A straight and flat road, my favorite.

The traffic was light and the road conditions were great for our arrival into the Silver State.

 

 

Oregon Part I: Salem

Since the beginning of the trip, our plan for Oregon was to get to one spot in Portland and stay there for a full month. You have heard me talk about my Aunt Sharon and her two sons with their families. Her oldest son and his family live in Spokane, WA (you’ve met them if you read any of my posts from Washington). She lives in Lake Oswego, which is a suburb south of downtown Portland, as does her second son and his family. She is my mom’s younger sister. We are super close. She was single when I was a little kid and my folks would put me on a Southwest Airline flight to Houston from Harlingen so I could go visit her. There are tons of baby pictures of me dressed up in all kinds of crazy outfits because she loved to do that. They are still good for a laugh when I pull the pictures out of the box to reminisce. I was so excited to be able to visit with this clan of mine that I started looking for RV parks in the Portland area way back when we were in Montana. Mike is usually in charge of finding where we stay, but I couldn’t stand waiting… I wanted to line up the details as soon as possible so I could have something concrete to look forward to.

Well, it is a good thing we started looking for a campground extra early. This simple task turned into a full-fledged quest before all was said and done. Apparently there is an affordable housing shortage in the Pacific Northwest. We couldn’t find anywhere to stay because all of the RV parks were crammed full with people who had moved to the area for work but could not find an affordable place to live… so they were setting up residence in their travel trailers. Everything about our logistics became a huge barrier. We would locate places that were big enough to take our rig, but they had no monthly spots available – only daily or weekly, at two weeks max. We found another location near Lake Oswego, but they did not allow dogs over forty pounds. (When I asked why the 40-lb limit, they actually told me it was because people with big dogs did not pick up after them. Morons). The next place we found put the dog size limit at 50-lbs. Another place we were willing to settle for capped the dog’s weight at 75 pounds. I told Cessna she was going to have to go on a crash diet and loose about 15 pounds. She laughed at me, then rolled over so I could pet her big belly.

By this time, we had been looking for several months and we were getting desperate. We still didn’t know where we were going to stay when we got to Maryhill State Park in the Gorge. We located another option called Willamette Wine Country RV Park and called them to inquire about availability. They told us that we would have to submit to a background check, along with a fee of $17 per person, and if we passed they would put us on the list. When I started asking questions about if they had room for us after we passed the check, the young girl on the phone was very vague. By this time I had started acting like an addict desperate for a fix… I would play any game and ignore any red flags if I could just secure a reservation somewhere. We filled out the application (complete with social security numbers and driver’s license information) and returned it to the campground. They called a few days later to let us know we were number THIRTY on the list. There was obviously no way we would get a space there in a matter of days. I was fuming! There is absolutely no reason they shouldn’t have told us the timing was off and they weren’t going to be able to accommodate us.  I am actually still planning to contact the Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce in their area to report this dishonest business practice. If either of us have our identities stolen within the next few months, you can bet I’ll be calling the FBI! I feel in my heart these people were nothing but dishonest thieves. I’m not worried about the $35 we wasted on the scam, but I am very concerned about the personal information they have on us.

In the end, Mike saved the day and found us a place at Premier RV Resort of Salem. It was about a 50-minute drive from the campground to my aunt’s house, but after all of the problems we had encountered, that drive was nothing. We were in our second half of our fourth year on the road and we had never encountered such difficulty with finding somewhere to stay. If I hadn’t been so committed to being close to my family for the month, we would have skipped Portland all together and gone down to stay in Medford, or something. I would have never dreamed we would not find anywhere to camp between Hood River, in the Gorge, and all the way to Salem. It was insane! I guess the moral of the story is that all business investors interested in pursuing projects related to affordable housing or RV Resorts should look into opportunities in the Portland area. We’ve done the market research. The need is real.

We pulled out of Maryhill State Park on the morning of October 12th, and drove three hours to the park in Salem. The first half of the drive through the Columbia River Gorge was amazing. We felt like we were driving through a virtual postcard.  When we got to the Portland metro area, we took Hwy 205 South and merged onto Interstate 5 at Wilsonville. At this point we were in the Willamette Valley so the highway was flat and straight. Mike did a great job, as usual, of navigating the Monaco through traffic. We arrived at our destination with no incidents – just as planned. We started setting up around 1:00 and spent the rest of the day relaxing. We were feeling thankful that our travel day had been planned for that Wednesday, because the weather forecasters were calling for a huge weather event to descend on the area beginning Thursday. We felt fortunate that our travel plans had us parked and set up before the rain, wind and cold blew in.

The rain started earlier than expected in the evening, and lasted through the night. Actually, the rain started that evening and didn’t stop. Ever. (We are in Reno now, but our DirecTV is still set to local Portland stations… and it is STILL raining). On the last day of October, the news reported that Oregon had missed logging the month’s weather as the wettest on record (since the beginning of keeping records) by only 1/10th of an inch. It was wet and grey the whole time we were there. Oregon is an enchanting place. The rain makes everything green and lush, but the dismal atmosphere had me fighting off the blues by the time we left. When it was not raining, the fog would envelope everything – and it wouldn’t lift until mid-afternoon. Which means we had only a couple of hours of sunshine before sunset arrived. I don’t know how those Oregonians take it in stride day after day.

Our month flew by in the blink of an eye. We put a bunch of miles on the Honda driving up and down I-5. Sometimes I would drive in to spend the day with my aunt. We went downtown to the Portland Saturday Market for shopping and lunch. Another time we went back to downtown so we could visit Powell’s Books. Lots of days we just ran errands and did family stuff. We went to lunch, we went to happy hour, we cooked. I tried to spend the night with Sharon one night a week. Mike came in with me to hang out at my cousin Taylor’s house on several occasions. My other cousin, John, flew in with his family over Veteran’s Day Weekend and we had an early Thanksgiving together.

I had a long list of daytrips planned, but the weather was completely uncooperative. In the end, we only got “out and about” a few times. We did spend one day at Silver Falls State Park. We drove to the coast twice – once to Lincoln City and once to Newport. We visited the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville. We did the 4T Trail within the City of Portland. We ate out a couple of times in Salem. Other than that we strayed from our typical tourist selves and just enjoyed the basics of family time. It was great!

Our drive through the Columbia River Gorge was delightful. The skies were clear and the wind was light until we were about half-way, then the gusts picked up (as to be expected).

The American Empress Riverboat heading east on the Columbia. We saw the same vessel docked in Richland when we were in the Tri-Cities area of Washington.

More Gorge views from our drive.

Even Cessna was impressed with the scenery during our drive to Salem.

Our spot in Salem was TIGHT. So tight that Mike had to back out when we left. However, we were greeted by a blazing red tree when we arrived. All the leaves were gone on the day of our departure.

The Willamette River in Salem.

Double love.

The beginning of our trek on the 4T Trail.

One of the views from Council Crest Park in Portland. We passed through the park on our 4T Trail expedition.

Council Crest is thought to be the highest point in Portland at an elevation of 1,073 feet. The view offers the sight of five mountains in the Cascade Range: Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Jefferson and Mount Rainier. In this photo Mount Adams is to the right and Mount St. Helens is on the left. Mount Rainier can be seen very faintly behind Mount St. Helens.

Mount Hood from Council Crest Park.

Mount Saint Helens from the OHSU facility in Portland (where we went from trek to tram on the 4T Trail).

The Tram. There is a charge going up, but going down is free.

The view from the tram.

We picked up the trolley at the bottom of the tram.

The trolley dropped us into downtown where we would catch the train next. It was time to stop for a drink! While we were at the bar, Mike had been texting his friend Doug (a fellow retired ATC) in Austin. Doug kept asking us exactly where we were and what our bartender’s name was. Mike didn’t think anything of it… until our server presented us with a second round of drinks. We were confused because we hadn’t ordered anything after we first sat down. Then the bartender informed us they were compliments of Doug. What?!? That goof-ball had called the restaurant, talked to the bartender, and paid for our drinks over the phone. What a fun and thoughtful surprise!

Sidewalk Food “Trucks” (more like stands) in downtown Portland. I could have sampled something from each one.

Taking the train back to our car in Washington Park.

When they said the weather would be nice, we planned a road trip to the coast. We waited for the fog to clear until 12:30, then gave up and left anyway.

The 101 Bridge in Newport.

Surfers at the Pacific Ocean. There was no sand in front of them. I was standing on rocks. I was in front of them. These Pacific Northwest People are hardcore. Surfing… except in cold and windy, totally depressing grey conditions…

Napping sea lions.

Oh Dear, the diver is in trouble.

Port of Newport on a “clear” day.

The Mayor of the Newport Sea Lions. He has some good points. And Swagger. He has that too.

Sea Lion Selfie.

The actual beach at Newport.

Highway 101.

Well, good morning Sun!

Fall in Oregon.

Powells’ books claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the WORLD.

We decided the best way to while away our time on the afternoon of the 2016 Presidential Election was to spend it drinking in Independence, America (Oregon). It was the cutest little town on the Willamette River. We had drinks and appetizers at the Three Legged Dog; where we obviously toasted our own tripod in Heaven now, Lilly Belle.

Thanksgiving 2016 Family Photo (taken Veteran’s Day weekend… because that is what worked for us). Not shown in photo: Mike [taking picture]; Payton [being Payton]; Mya [Doing baby stuff until a big person realizes she should stop]; Jake [watching the baby, so no big persons have to get involved]. Cheers to Turkey, Dressing, Crescent Rolls, Mashed Taters, Green Bean Casserole, Olives, cranberry salad, and other stuff that made us fat and more happy!

THE Spruce Goose.

The water park was closed when we visited the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, but I’m thinking this attraction with slides initiating from the inside of a 747 would be sort of cool.

The Black Bird.

May favorite quote in a LONG time.

The Space Museum portion of the Evergreen complex. Super impressive.

Downtown McMinnville, OR at dusk.

Mike’s friend.

Morning coffee with a view of Lake Oswego in the Portland area.

The Premier RV Resort in Salem. The owners made a very concerted effort to keep the campground tidy and groomed at all times. They also offered a multitude of amenities like a pool/hot tub, game room, etc. In the long run though… it all comes down to money: How many spots can we fit on this piece of land? More spots, more money. Super cramped quarters.

A portion of the walking trail that circled the borders of the campground. A loud and busy highway was on my left side, but the scenery still made for a pleasant stroll.

Food trucks at the Portland Saturday Market (we went on a Sunday). My aunt and I shared a papusa and a gyro. YUM!

I wanted to visit the original Voodoo Doughnuts while we were in downtown Portland, but the line snaked through about four layers of barricades. Oh well, there is one I can visit in Austin when we get back to Texas. Or Taipei… if I ever get there.

One good thing (maybe the only good thing) about all the rain we saw in Oregon was the frequent appearance of rainbows.

Dinner with one of my tennis team buddies and her hubby. Nancy and Andre recently moved back to the Northwest after being in the Houston area for a few years. I was glad I got to catch up with her while we were near.

One of the trails at Silver Falls State Park.

The forest seemed to take on a life of its own.

South Falls at Silver Falls State Park.

The dogs also enjoyed their hike at Silver Falls State Park. They weren’t allowed on all of the trails, but we got a good workout on the sections where we were legal.

More fall color.

Pacific Ocean Selfie. Another benchmark for the Lower 48 in 48 Tour.

The beach at the Pacific Ocean in Lincoln City.

The surf was very violent and there were giant boulders at random spots where the waves were breaking. I don’t think I would really want to swim in that water, but it was beautiful to watch from a distance.

Lincoln City sunset.

My second cousin, Rapunzel.

My cousin and my aunt. I come from good genes, huh?

Washington Part IV: Maryhill State Park

As we have visited with other RV’ers throughout our travels, people have routinely shared suggestions on things to do and places to stay for locales on our agenda.  Maryhill State Park in Washington has popped up regularly. It is a 99-acre state park with 4,700 feet of shoreline on the Columbia River. State parks don’t always have full hook-ups and big enough spaces to accommodate our size. This one had both of those compelling amenities. We had looked into reservation details when we entered The Evergreen State back in August. It is a popular place, obviously, so the park was booked. The prices were high at over $50 per night too, so we took that location off our radar and didn’t think much about it again.

As we were planning our route from Kennewick to Portland I saw that we would be driving right  by Maryhill when we were heading west on I-84. It’s location is at the beginning of the Columbia River Gorge, and it also turned out to be just about half-way between Kennewick and Portland. I looked online one more time and was pleasantly surprised to find we were now in the “off -season”. Reservations were no longer required and the prices had dropped too! We took our chances on finding an available spot and left the Tri-Cities on a Thursday morning with Maryhill as our intended destination. It was Columbus Day weekend and we weren’t sure if the park might be extra full with campers that had a three-day weekend. We didn’t really have a Plan B, so I was really hoping it would all work out.

We pulled into Maryhill after driving two hours on good roads in light traffic and with nice weather. The park wasn’t full, so we picked a giant open spot facing the river and got ourselves set up. We felt lucky to have secured a spot we selected instead of settling for an alternate site. We filled out our paperwork at the self service box and wrote a check for six nights. More campers arrived after we did, and others continued to show up on Friday, but the park was never at full capacity during the weekend.

The previous recommendations we had received were spot on. The place was gorgeous. We had been cooped up in tiny spaces for a string of recent campgrounds and it was wonderful to have some elbow room again. I loved looking out my window and seeing grass, water and mountains rather than into another traveler’s camper. We were down in the Gorge, so we did not have any WIFI reception. It wasn’t too much of a bother. We just drove into Goldendale (at the top of the mountain walls that surrounded us) to get connected when we really needed to conduct any business. The dogs got good daily walks. We had campfires. Mike didn’t get to fish because he couldn’t print his license without WIFI. I went on little driving explorations throughout the area. We drove into The Dalles one morning for breakfast and some scouting. The rest of the time we sat around and watched the Columbia.

We left Kennewick on I-82 south and took it until it hit I-84, then we turned west. We were only on I-84 for a short while before the highway lined up with the Columbia River. The views just kept improving from that point forward.

We left Kennewick on I-82 south and took it until it hit I-84, then we turned west. We were only on I-84 for a short while before the highway lined up with the Columbia River. The views just kept improving from that point forward.

Our spot at Maryhill State Park was the roomiest we've had in a LONG TIME. Maybe ever.

Our spot at Maryhill State Park was the roomiest we’ve had in a LONG TIME. Maybe ever.

This enormous wall of rock near the entrance of the park captivated me.

This enormous wall of rock near the entrance of the park captivated me.

Happy hour and a campfire (which we hadn't been able to have in forever... due to weather, campground restrictions and fire danger)!

Happy hour and a campfire (which we hadn’t been able to have in forever… due to weather, campground restrictions and fire danger)!

We were only in town one week, but that didn't stop us from becoming regulars at Hot Rods Bar. AKA: free working wifi.

We were only in town one week, but that didn’t stop us from becoming regulars at Hot Rods Bar. AKA: free working wifi.

A calm Columbia River.

A calm Columbia River.

This happy garden was next door to a farm stand down the road from our campground. I bought some delicious fresh freestone peaches, pear sweetened cherry jam and jalapeno jam. Gunkel Orchards knows what they are doing!

This happy garden was next door to a farm stand down the road from our campground. I bought some delicious fresh freestone peaches, pear sweetened cherry jam and jalapeno jam. Gunkel Orchards knows what they are doing!

Peach trees from www.gunkelorchards.com

Peach trees from www.gunkelorchards.com

Commercial transportation on the Columbia.

Commercial transportation on the Columbia.

Mount Hood from the Maryhill Museum of Art.

Mount Hood from the Maryhill Museum of Art.

Across the river, at the location of the exit to the campground off of I-84, was a conglomeration of truck stops and fast food places. It was messy during the day, but at night the lights looked pretty on the water.

Across the river, at the location of the exit to the campground off of I-84, was a conglomeration of truck stops and fast food places. It was messy during the day, but at night the lights looked pretty on the water.

We met a space alien that came down to earth in the mid 60's. He's been carrying his ship with him this whole time. He says it holds firewood, but I'm not buying it.

We met a space alien that came down to earth in the mid 60’s. He’s been carrying his ship with him this whole time. He says it holds firewood, but I’m not buying it.

The landscape is so dramatic near the entrance to the Columbia River Gorge.

The landscape is so dramatic near the entrance to the Columbia River Gorge.

Mount Adams on the way to Goldendale.

Mount Adams on the way to Goldendale.

Mount Hood in the distance on our drive to The Dalles, Oregon.

Mount Hood in the distance on our drive to The Dalles, Oregon.

Columbia and Snake Rivers Voyage on the National Geographic Sea Lion. Retracing the Pacific Northwest portion of Lewis and Clark's epic expedition. The small ship was docked in The Dalles when we went for a visit. Looks like fun to me!

Columbia and Snake Rivers Voyage on the National Geographic Sea Lion. Retracing the Pacific Northwest portion of Lewis and Clark’s epic expedition. The small ship was docked in The Dalles when we went for a visit. Looks like fun to me!

The Columbia River from the Maryhill Museum of Art. The views are spectacular even before you enter the building of exhibits!

The Columbia River from the Maryhill Museum of Art. The views are spectacular even before you enter the building of exhibits!