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?

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