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!