Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Eastbound: County Fair and State Park with No Signs!

Monday 7/30 Sweetwater County Fairgrounds, 
Rock Springs, WY


As I noted in the last post, sometimes changes on the fly work out well. We decided to bail on Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area on Friday and it turned out great. A nice place to stay, satellite hooked-up, a good dinner Saturday night, and an interesting visit to Crater’s of the Moon National Monument, something we might never have seem otherwise.

So again today we made some changes on the fly with good results. Yesterday I noticed something hanging underneath the truck. Investigation showed it was the rubber insulation from an air tank support strap that has broken loose! So I located Triple L Towing in Pocatello, called them this morning and a nice young man named Drew said they could look at it mid-morning. Perfect since we were about an hour and a half from Pocatello.

So instead of taking our time for a short drive to Heyburn we got going early. Left at 8:30 and got to Triple L just about 10 AM. Drew took a look at the air tanks. He determined there was nothing loose, they are still mounted solid and he thought we would be OK going on to Chicago where we can get the unique tank strap replaced. He also refused to take any payment for the inspection!

It was now 10:30 in the morning, we were only an hour or so from from our reservation in Heyburn - an hour back west! So …  we called the Sweetwater Events Center in Rock Springs, WY, our planned stop for Tuesday to see if we could get in tonight, answer was yes. So we headed on south on I-15 to pick up I-80 and head east.

Stopped at a Fresh Market north of Salt Lake and bought sandwiches for lunch, ate in the trailer and back on the road.

Arrived in Rock Springs just a little after 5 PM. The campground at the fairgrounds is huge and only about half full! Lady at check in said it was fine to stay two nights, told us what section to go to and take any site we wanted! Sites are good sized, graveled, 50 amp with full hook-ups, and spotty WiFi! For $24 a night!

Added to that the County Fair - “Wyoming’s Big Show” - opens tomorrow afternoon, which we knew before, thinking it would be interesting for an evening. Now we can check things out earlier in the day. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while!

In the evening we took a short walk around the fairgrounds, not much other than set-up going on. Appears that “Wyoming’s Big Show” is fairly small compared to the county fairs we have seen in the Midwest. Of course the population of Sweetwater County is only 44,000, a little more than half of the population of the tri-cites in Illinois and tiny compared to 530,000 in Kane County, IL! Looking a little deeper, Kane County is 520 square miles, while Sweetwater County is 10,491 square miles! So less that 10% of the people and they live a lot farther away! No wonder it seems small! We were also there the day before the and the morning before the show actually opened and a lot of the events and activity would not really get going until later in the week.

Tuesday 7/31 Sweetwater County Fairgrounds, 
Rock Springs, WY

Lazy morning, quick run into town for a grocery stop. Back home Nancy did some cleaning while I relaxed. After lunch we took a walk around the fair again, still able to get in without paying. Looks like things will not really get going until later in the week. Looked at the 4H exhibits and small animals. Nowhere near the size of the Sandwich fair in Illinois. As we were leaving they were opening up the ticket booths, so we saved $9 apiece by going over before they opened!

Relaxing afternoon and evening, back on the road tomorrow.

Wednesday 8/1 Curt Gowdy State Park, WY

Not a long day today, but we got going a little earlier than normal anyway and were on the road by 8:30. Easy trip across Wyoming to Curt Gowdy State Park. Arrived about 1 PM - then the fun started!

No one one on duty at the entry gate, not unusual, we ran into that a few times in Oregon. We had our site number and a map, so we’re good, right? Wrong! The road layout on the map bears no relation to reality! Besides that there are no signs - none! There are 16 camping areas here! After studying the map, which shows three roads to the left and one straight, and the actual roads, one left, one straight. We decided to try straight. If we see “Silver Crown” on the right we went the wrong way. Sure enough, the first loop we see is “Silver Crown”, but it’s on the left! What?

So through that loop we go to turn around and try the road that went left from the entry gate, nope, that goes down to the boat ramp, might be a road to the right down there, but cannot see anything. Nancy gets out and walks down to the ramp, yes a road, but no signs. Then she walks back up the hill behind me to a little refreshment stand where the lady tells her that “Tumbleweeds”, the one we are looking for, is down the road by the stand. Good! So I turn around - again! - and go down the road and low and behold … a sign that identifies “Tumbleweed”! Home free, right? Wrong!

Turn into “Tumbleweeds” and the road splits, straight ahead over a sharp drop and I cannot see over it (and I sit high in my truck!). To the left is the camping loop and if I make the sharp turn left I will be going in the same direction as the RV’s already there. Great!

So I turn into the loop and start around. We are looking for T29 and at T24 the track curves around to the back side of the loop and all of a sudden all the utilities are on the wrong side! Our site is a back in and we are facing the wrong way! What?

So I go down to the end of the loop and turn around for the third time, come back into the loop in the opposite direction so I can back into the site with is plenty long enough with a nice concrete pad. Except! … half of the length of the pad is taken up with a concrete picnic table! By backing within inches of the table I was able to get my tires on the pad, but our steps are in still in the dirt. 

Nice spot though, overlooking a lake. Of course about the only big tree in the place is right behind our site and while the satellite locked on we cannot get the locals which we wanted for the news. Oh well.

After we finally got parked we drove the truck on into Cheyenne looking for a place to eat. (We usually do not bother unloading the car when we are just stopping for a day or two) Settled on Wyoming Rib & Chop House, right downtown on the main drag - US 30! Can’t seem to get away from that road! We figured we would splurge on a good combo lunch and dinner. Nice place, food OK but nothing to write home about. In fact the French fries were particularly bad. Nancy had a nice rack of baby back ribs and I had a slightly above average steak.

Then we went on to the East side of town to Sierra Trading Post. We were a bit disappointed with the discontinued and thirds section, not as much stuff as the last time we were here, but we did manage to find a number of things for both of us on their clearance sale. When we came out it was pouring rain! First rain of any consequence we have seen since sometime last winter in Tucson!

Back home about 5:30 and settled in for the evening. Nice cool nights for sleeping. Last three nights we were high, Emigrant Springs was 3,800, Rock Springs was 6,750 and tonight we are at 7,430!

Thursday 8/2 Sunny Meadows, Elm Creek, NE

Long trip, but easy day, 322 uneventful miles to Sunny Meadows. A regular stop for us between Chicago and Denver, but a real misnomer, just an open gravel field with electric and water and quite a few semipermanent residents. Passport America, but they’ve started fudging the cost. When we first stopped here years ago it was $24/ night, so $12 for PA. A bargain. last few times it was $30/night, so $15 for PA. Still $30, but now they want $15 + $5 “for taxes & charges” Still cheap though. Only reason to stop here is location and east access. About the only spot we've found halfway between De Moines and Denver.

After parking the trailer I ran down to the Pilot down the road and topped up the tanks. Got a calculated 9.5 MPG since last fill-up! Pretty good! I think we had a tail wind most of the day. Good price as well, $3.159/gal versus $3.449 in Oregon.

We stopped for a late lunch at North Platte, picked out Whiskey Creek based on the parking lot and it turned out to be quite a good place for a light lunch. We’ll have to remember it. Last couple of trips we have not been going that way though, we have been taking state roads from Elm Creek to Denver and back.



Friday 8/3 Timberline Campground, Waukee, IA

Another uneventful day, good weather (it was a lovely morning in Elm Creek, in the 60’s with a light breeze) and light traffic most of the way. Stopped at a Cracker Barrel between Lincoln and Omaha for lunch. Traffic was crazy though Omaha and Council Bluff, lots of construction. Traffic was moving OK except for the overabundance of unconscious drivers who had no idea what they were doing! Slowing down and stepping on the brakes for no discernible reason. A good example was the idiot going 50 MPH in the left lane once we broke out of the construction zone east of Council Bluffs. I am thinking about dodging around Omaha on I-680/I-29 on the way back west in three weeks.

Arrived at Timberline Campground about 2:30. We looked for a place around Des Moines for several years, often ended up overnighting at Cracker Barrel the first night out from Geneva on the way to Denver. We like Timberline, not too far off the highway, nice folks and an open area where the satellite will connect. Temps in the high 90’s. Got parked and hooked up, relaxed for an hour or so and then drove east to West Des Moines to a Hy-Vee we had visited before to do some grocery shopping. Nancy says this one is an "awesome" grocery store - another reason to stop at Timberline! Back home and relaxed with pizza for dinner.

Sycamore, IL tomorrow and three weeks without moving! That will be a treat! 

Saturday 8/4 Sycamore RV Resort, Sycamore, IL

Another good day with fairly light traffic, a light overcast so we didn’t have to deal with bright sunshine all day which makes the driving a little more pleasant. Stopped at the Culver’s in Rock Island, IL for lunch around one. After lunch we drove US 30 (again!) straight East to I-39 instead of getting on the toll road, and arrived in Sycamore RV Resort about three.

Settled into a spot we have had before, unloaded car; Nancy did some laundry; and after dinner I ran over to the nearby quarter car wash and cleaned off the smart.

Off to Joan’s house tomorrow for most of the week. We had a wonderful time in Oregon with glorious weather. Never even broke out the rain gear we were so careful to pack, We both want to go back again.


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Yeah! RV Park WiFi!

Sunday 7/15 RV Resort at Cannon Beach, Cannon Beach OR

Headed into Cannon Beach early, a little after 7 AM in order to see the tide pools around Haystack Rock at low tide. Easy to find a parking place near the beach access this time of day! Walked about 3/4 of a mile up to Haystack Rock. This was a minus tide (level below mean sea level) and we were able to walk on the sand right out to Haystack Rock.

We had been shown a schedule of naturalists there Saturday and Sunday morning. We anticipated a lecture of some kind, but it turned out that were just there to answer individual questions.

The tide pools were not as varied as the ones we had seen at Sunset Beach. A lot anemones, some quite large. 






We only saw one to two tiny crabs, but we did see several very large and colorful sea stars (starfish). 






It was a really pleasant morning, high 50’s, light breeze, and plenty of sunshine! We spent almost and hour just walking around and looking at the tide pools. Lots of birds on the rock, mostly sea gulls, but no puffins that we saw.

Back home for breakfast and mid-day we went back into the north end of Cannon Beach to pick up our cinnamon rolls that we had ordered - took then hime and they were yummy! Took a walk around the shopping area and then back hime for a relaxing afternoon. Temps up into the 70’s today, locals are complaining about the heat! 


Monday 7/16 Nehalem Bay State Park, OR

Took a walk around the park first thing in the morning and scoped out a spot to load the car. Short trip today, but the state parks require the “towed” to actually be towed into the park “with a legal tow setup” in order to have a pass for the towed. Otherwise it is $7 a night. So, for 28 bucks I’ll load the car!

Only 20 miles to Nehalem Bay State Park, traffic was light and it was not a twisty road, but there was a lot of climbing and downgrades as we worked our way over and around 
Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain. Stopped at a large overlook to spend some time watching the surf on the rocks far below, and kill some time since we were way too early to get into the park.

Fortunately they have a large parking lot right past the check-in booth, so we parked there and I unloaded the smart while we were waiting. About noon we drove in with the smart and the people in our spot were in the process of packing up (check out time is 1 PM in the state parks). So we drove into Manzanita to look for lunch. Turns out there is a back road into town along the ocean front that is shorter than the drive into the park from101.

Had lunch at the Sand Dune Inn, as usual good beer on draft and pretty good food. Walked through the small town (population 650), bakery closed on Monday and Tuesday! Some nice small shops and coffee shops and a few eating places.

Back at the park we moved the trailer into our site. Once again there was one tree right where I needed to swing the front of the truck while backing in, but after realigning I was able to get around it. A passing grade, but not as good as I’ve done the last few times.

After setting up we settled in and then took a walk to the beach. About 650 yards from our trailer to the beach, but you have to climb over a sand dune to get there! Pretty beach with good surf as it was just getting close to high tide. 

Spent quite a bit of time on the beach, walking quite a ways and then just standing and watching the surf which is mesmerizing. Back home we had dinner and then took a short walk on a path through the woods.

No satellite again here, looked like it might hook up, but it did not. Able to get over the air TV so we can get the evening news and PBS if we are home to watch.

Tuesday 7/17 Nehalem Bay State Park, OR

Nice walk this morning through the woods on the Nehalem Bay spit, across from the RV park to Nehalem bay. Low tide and the amount and size of the timber washed down by the Nehalem River was pretty amazing .
Overcast this morning as the marine layer has moved onshore. Sun broke through in early afternoon to make it another pretty day, temperature in the 60’s. Have I mentioned that we are loving this weather! On Friday we head inland and then east, so we are soaking up the last of the ocean and the cool temps. (In hindsight on 7/29. After we moved inland it stayed cool on the coast, but almost every day they were socked in with clouds and fog! Our timing has been great for weather this trip!)

After breakfast we drove south to Tillamook. Stopped in the huge exhibit and dining hall at the Tillamook County Creamery. Really crowded, cannot imagine what it must be like on a weekend! Huge line for the eating area, we each had some ice cream where the line was a little shorter.

Headed on into the city center which was a serious mess with construction on southbound 101, which is split between north and south in the city center. Dodged off to a side street where it was easy to park. All the parking is free, but there is a two hour limit throughout the whole city. Not sure that would be long enough for the museum, shopping and lunch, but that turned out to not be a problem. Walked a couple of blocks to the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum that was touted in the guide books. Nice museum but nothing really special, somewhat superficial coverage of a lot of things and a huge amount stuff that you would see in an antique store. We both agreed that the little museum in Bandon was much better.

There is a new market we found on the city tourism website, FarmTable, that Nancy wanted to see, but the sidewalk in front of the store was dug up and blocked off! Guy working there said there was a sign on the door to use the back entrance, “but no one has been able to find it!” We walked around the block and there was no sign of a rear entrance, or even any other business that might provide access. That was disappointing. Tillamook seems to be doing their best to discourage tourists. The only restaurant that look slightly interesting had an offensive right wing sign in the window essentially denigrating liberals and saying we were not welcome, so we did not patronize them.

Stopped at an auto parts store and picked up a new air hose for filling up tires from the truck as one split last week when I was filling the tires. Then a RV parts store for a new sewer outlet cap that broke last week, so at least that part of the day was a success.

Our reliable book recommended a restaurant in Wheeler, which was almost all the way back to Nehalem. Called to see if they were open on Monday and the phone was disconnected. When we drove back north through Wheeler there was no sign of it.

So we ended up at the Big Wave Cafe in Manzanita, another recommendation from the books that was good. We both had huge Caesar salads with bay shrimp for a late lunch.

So Tillamook was a bit of disappointment, but it will save us another day going back there that we had kind of planned on.


Wednesday 7/18 Nehalem Bay State Park, OR

Went through the little village of Manzanita on the way out so we could stop at Bread & Ocean Bakery. Picked up a cupcake, a big cinnamon roll and a small baguette. Stopped back at the trailer to drop them off then went looking for the Nehalem Fish Hatchery. There was a sign on 101 that said “Fish Hatchery, Left 1/2 Mile” that we had seen a few days before. So we headed up that road, after about a mile there was a sign with just a fish that said 11 miles! We had thought about taking this road, OR 53, as a cut through to US 26 on Friday, but my truckers atlas said commercial traffic was “restricted”. No idea what that meant so we figured it was worth taking a look at the road. Turned out to be pretty bumpy with a lot of tight turns, scratch the idea of going that way on Friday.

The fish hatchery was interesting, with an informative display and a few ponds with fingerlings and small salmon. Not really the right time of year for much activity. Walked down a path in the woods to a small waterfall, it was obvious that it is much bigger during the rainy season. The information boards said they get 126” of rain a year there! 

Speaking of rain, it has been 95% dry and mostly sunny during our entire time in Oregon. A couple of days with a slight drizzle, but nothing we even needed a jacket for! Sunny and cool in the 60’s most days on the coast with a couple into the 70’s. Always in the 50’s at night. Next week we are headed into hot weather east of Portland.

Drove back through Nehalem and Manzanita to see if we saw any eateries that looked inviting, but we ended up back back at the Big Wave Cafe in Manzanita for a late lunch and then back to the park. Back home we took our folding chairs and headed for the beach about three o’clock. Very windy, 20-25 MPH and the sand was blowing quite a bit! We decided to stick it out since we had struggled over the sand dune with our chairs and backpack!

Fortunately we had put a small blanket from the truck in the back pack. We put the chairs side by side facing away from the wind and wrapped the blanket around behind us. Not too bad other than the accumulation of sand on us and our stuff! Other than the wind it is was beautiful, bright sun with a nice surf as the tide was coming in. Sat and read our books and watched a few wind surfers and body surfers for about an hour before we called it a day.

Light dinner at home since we had had a big, late lunch.

Thursday 7/19 Nehalem Bay State Park, OR

Took our time getting going this morning, took a nice long walk around the loop by Nehalem Bay. Headed out about 11:30 to the Garibaldi Marine Museum in Garibaldi. Museum didn’t open until noon and only Thursday through Sunday. Turned out to be much more than we expected, quite new which may be the reason it was not mentioned in our primary guidebook. Quite a nice museum and well worth a visit.

Then we headed north toward Cannon Beach to hit Mo’s Restaurant for one last seafood meal, headed east away from the coast in the morning.

On the way through Wheeler Nancy spotted a sign for Rising Star, the restaurant we were looking for on Tuesday! Decided to stop. Turns out they are only open Wednesday though Sunday! Unfortunately Thursdays are “pasta Thursdays” No seafood on Thursday! Too bad as it was a cute place, but we wanted seafood on our last day on the coast.

So, back to our plan to go to Mo’s which was great. Even though they were busy we snagged a table right by the window overlooking the beach and we both had a nice meal. Nancy had halibut fish & chips while I had a shrimp medley - two cooked bay shrimp skewers, one butter and garlic, the other cajun spice; a medium size bay shrimp salad; and a large bay strip cocktail! 





Both lunches were delicious, with local beer of course! Then, since we were in Cannon Beach we decided to stop back at Simply Cakes and pick up two more of their delicious cupcakes! Embarrassingly the owner recognized me!

Back in Nehalem State Park we took the truck and car out to the parking area and loaded the car. Several guys from the campground saw us leaving and figured out what we were doing so we had an audience. Fortunately I got it right the first time!

Dinner at home and a quiet evening.

Friday 7/20 Ainsworth State Park, OR

Got on the road about 9 AM after dumping our tanks. Headed away from the coast today, bummer.

While I was hooking up this morning I started hearing a soft click, click, click. Determined it was coming from the car - oh, oh! Investigation showed that I had left the ignition on after I loaded the car yesterday afternoon! Battery is flat dead! Double bummer! Along the way into Portland Nancy spotted a Fred Meyer store so we stopped and bought a battery charger. I had not brought my old one along on this trip since it had not been working well and I had planned on buying a new one at some point anyway.

Easy trip with light traffic until we got to the SE side of Portland. They have ramps from I-5 to I-84 closed for construction, so traffic all around the area is a nightmare. Traffic southbound on OR 217 was quite heavy and slow, southbound on I-5 as well. I-205 north to I-84 was running free until north of Oregon City where it plugged up and became literally stop and go the last 10 miles to the I-84 junction. All of the traffic that would usually go straight through Portland on I-5 is using the I-205 bypass on the east as there is no bypass on the west. Southbound I-205 was worse than the northbound. Once onto I-84 we traveled at the speed limit 20 odd miles to the exit for Ainsworth.

Old US 30 west past Ainsworth has been closed since the Eagle Creek Fire a year ago which has closed all of the hiking trails in the area and some of the natural attractions. The barriers are right at the exit from the highway and we were stopped there while they checked and verified our reservations. Then we were allowed to drive into our site. Pretty tight park, narrow roads with a lot of up & down and lots of trees. All of the hiking trails in the area are also closed due to the damage from the fire. Enough trees so no satellite service again, so no F1 race this weekend.

Fortunately we have a long pull through that has room for the truck and car. Not too hard to get parked. Pulled through and then backed the trailer into position. Able to get the truck a bit to the side of the trailer with room to get the door open on the smart, and eventually park it beside the truck.

Once we were settled we had lunch, then I crawled up in the car and managed to get access to the battery. A bit difficult since it is located under the floor on the passenger’s side. Able to drag the floor mat out (cannot open the passenger door  while the car is on the truck!) and get the battery cover moved enough to get under it and connect the battery charger.

Not as hot as we expected here, a bit into the mountains so it its only about 75. Supposed to be hotter tomorrow.

This is to be the noisiest park we have been at on this trip, we are close to I-84 and we can hear the traffic. On the other side of the park, quite nearby is a railroad! Thankfully no crossings, so no whistles! Turns out the railroad on the Washington side of the gorge does seem to have semi-regular train horns! During the nights though there were train horns quite often, maybe wildlife on the track.

By late afternoon the battery charger had dropped from a full 25 amps to around 4 and by nightfall it was float condition, meaning the battery is fully charged. 


Saturday 7/21 Ainsworth State Park, OR

First thing we walked around the loop of the campground, not a large place, only 45 sites, but they are all full hook-up.

Took the truck out to the paved area by the highway exit and the park entrance and unloaded the car. Started right up and does not seem to have suffered any damage from the ignition being left on. First time I’ve done that in 12 years of loading smarts! Of course there was one time in Denver where I left the engine int the smart running while driving from Cherry Creek to Connie’s house, but we won’t mention that incident!

Hopped up onto I-84 and headed back west planning to visit Bridal Veil Falls, turns out there is no westbound exit there. Exited at Rooster Rock State Park, big line from the highway exits to the payment booth! finally got there and turned around, got back on the highway to Vista House at Crown Point, which was also jammed! No parking at all. I squeezed the smart into a small space at the end of the row and waited while Nancy went in to get some info at the visitor’s center.

Then we went on into the town of Troutdale where we arrived just as they had reopened the road and parking after the Summer Festival Parade through town!

Stopped at the West Columbia River Gorge Visitor’s center to pick up some brochures and maps. By this time it was almost Noon and there was a good looking restaurant right next door. So we had an excellent lunch at Troutini! Best burger of the trip!

We had been heading for the town of Sandy, about 15 miles away, where we had located a Safeway and a Fred Meyer. While waiting for our lunch and studying info and maps we discovered a Fred Meyer just a mile and a half from where we were and on the way there after lunch we spotted a Safeway, so we did not have to drive as far a Sandy after all.

After a stop there we headed back home in mid-afternoon to finish our sightseeing plans for the next few days. Supposed to be hot on Sunday and we figure everything will be just as, if not more, crowded than it is today. We are planing on hitting Multnomah Falls first thing in the morning. Our park host told us they have good breakfast there and you can get into the parking lot early in the morning, avoiding having to ride a shuttle bus from the remote lot. Then we will go on into Portland for another visit to Powell’s Books!

Sunday 7/22 Ainsworth State Park, OR

Out a little after seven this morning and arrived at the parking lot for Multnomah Falls about 7:30. Plenty of parking places and time to walk top to the bridge between the lower and upper falls before the restaurant opened at eight. Had the place almost to ourselves that time of morning, only a couple of other people on the bridge while we were viewing the falls and no foot traffic on the trail up to the bridge. 





Must be pretty crowded latter in the day. We could see the remnants of fire damage along the trail and one new footbridge that replaced one that was damaged. All of the other trails around the falls, including the trail to the top, are closed due to the Eagle Creek Fire. Really pretty spot with a pretty impressive waterfall, even in the dry season.

The brunch at Multnomah Falls Lodge was impressive. It is a good sized stone building built in the 1930’s right on the Columbia Gorge Highway (Old US 30). The highway is closed here though. Quite a buffet spread for the brunch! Lot’s of choices and lots of fruits. There were cinnamon rolls and doughnuts; fresh raspberries; bay shrimp w/cocktail sauce; granola & yogurt; several hot dishes including pancakes, scrambled eggs w/cheese, bacon and sausages; beignies with blackberries and blue berries; and on and on!

After a huge breakfast we drove on into Portland, light traffic all the way, to Powell’s Book City for the second time this trip. Spent a couple of hours there and came away with another eleven books between us! Necessitated a repacking of our book box and book cabinet in the trailer! Sometimes we just cannot help ourselves. After a stop to pick up some coffee beans for Nacy we headed back east. The inbound lanes for I-84 were backed up solid for miles due to an accident, fortunately we were outbound! 

Stopped at the Pendleton Store at the Factory Outlets in Troutdale, then jumped onto old US 30 and went back east the way came yesterday to the Portland Women’s Forum Overlook. We had skipped this when we went by yesterday, but read last night that it had one of the most spectacular views down the Gorge - which it did - but without the crowds at Vista house. On the way back to the highway from there we stopped at a u-pick  lavender farm and Nancy picked a couple of bundles.

Unfortunately we had to jump back onto I-84 to get back to the park instead of the scenic route on old 30. Of course I’m sure that we also avoided bottlenecks at Vista House, Bridal Veil Falls, and Multnomah Falls!

Back home mid-afternoon to relax and start digging into the books we bought on two visits to Powells. Looking at race results on our phone apps this afternoon it appears that we missed a pretty eventful F1 race today. Looking around outside the park it is obvious that it was not just trees blocking our satellite dish, there are towering cliffs to the south of the park that would accomplish the same things without the trees!


Monday 7/23 Ainsworth State Park, OR

Headed out this morning to do the scenic loop around Mt Hood. I-84 to Hood River then South on OR 35. Very pretty drive with great views of the mountain and a number of fruit stands (this route is half of the Fruit Loop), but there is not really much in season other than berries.



We had looked at a place in Government Camp for lunch, but apparently drove right through Government Camp without even realizing it! These place are kind of small. By that time we were on US 26 headed back northwest. Stopped at Zig Zag Lodge as a last bet and it turned out to be a pretty good choice. We wanted to turn north in Sandy to go to Wood River and do our laundry. US 26 was a four lane highway with no scenic value at all, so after a couple of attempts we managed to find the connection to the Barlow Road. This small, winding road through the woods road follows the original route across the Cascades that allowed settlers on the Oregon Trail to avoid the Columbia Gorge and go almost directly to Oregon City. A much slower and prettier way to get across to Sandy.

Traffic in Sandy and from there on north was quite heavy, and on a Monday afternoon. On the fringes of Metro Portland. After a stop to do our laundry; use our hotspot to do some banking; and a stop at the grocery store, we opted to avoid I-84 as far as we could and drove through Troutdale and onto old US 30 as far as the last highway entrance before the road closure, then on home.

Hot today, around 90, but the humidity is fairly low which makes it bearable. Cooling off into the 60’s most nights. The weather along the coast was so nice that this week is the first time we have had to run the AC in the afternoon since we left Barstow, CA! Have not had to run the AC overnight yet, but it’s probably coming.

Tuesday 7/24 Ainsworth State Park, OR

After a walk around the campground we went four miles east to the Bonneville Lock and Dam and the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. The fish hatchery grounds are beautiful, large trees and lush grass and shrubs. It was a pretty morning in th 70’s with a nice breeze. Walked all through the hatchery, including the underwater  viewing area where you can see Herman the Sturgeon! An estimated 73 years old, Herman is more than ten feet long and weighs 300 lbs! There is also another sturgeon in the tank almost as  large along with rainbow trout and smaller sturgeon.

No real activity in the hatchery itself this time of year, just several tanks of fingerlings and a trout pond. They have a viewing area where you can watch them sorting the salmon - which swim right up into the facility when they return from the ocean because they were born there! - and removing the eggs and milt to fertilize them, Not as gross as it sounds as the salmon die soon after the egg laying and fertilizing is accomplished.

Then they incubate the eggs, sorting the viable ones by hand (millions of them!) and them putting them into the holding ponds until they are large enough to be returned to the river in order to head out to sea.

After the hatchery we went over to the Bonneville Dam, where you drive right across the sing bridge at the locks and the road across the downstream side of the powerhouse to the visitor’s center. Quite a lot of interesting info there, along with a talk from a Corps of Engineers ranger.

One info board on the observation deck answered a question that had been puzzling us since we got to the Columbia. All the way along people and signs keep saying the Columbia is the only river that was able to ‘cut’ through the Cascade Range and to the Pacific. Our question? How the heck can a river ‘cut’ through a mountain range? It sure did not climb up the eastern slope and then cut the gorge on its way down to the west!

Well, it turns out that the river was there first! As the volcanos and plate uplift created the Cascade Range the Columbia continually cut down it’s channel as the ground under and around it rose! That is part of the reason that it is so large, all of the other rivers on the eastern slope (like the Willamette) cannot make it over the mountains so they drain into the Columbia! 

After Bonneville Dam we drove into the small town of Cascade Locks for a quick looky-loo and then across the Bridge of the God’s to Washington. The name comes from an Indian legend. Short version, the Creator knocked down a mountain on the north side of the river to create the Cascade Rapids as route for the natives to cross the great river, called by the “Bridge of the God’s”. Around the year 1260 the slopes of Table Mountain and Greenleaf Mountain on the north side of the river collapsed in a catastrophic event covering an area of 14 square miles, displacing the river more than a mile to the south and creating a massive rock dam. The lake it created eventually washed over the southern end of the dam and created a major cascade, or rapids.  Bonneville Dam and Cascade lock and Dam were built on these rapids.

Lewis and Clark, and later travelers on the Oregon Trail, reached the Columbia east of these rapids and the indian portage around them was considered the most hazardous part of the entire Oregon Trail. The Barlow road that we traveled on yesterday was laid out across the south slopes of Mt Hood to avoid this portion of the gorge. It seems you cannot get away from Lewis and Clark references in northern Oregon, kind of like “Washington slept here” in the northeast!

We went across to the Washington side on the Bridge of the Gods built in 1925 and into Stevenson, WA. were we stopped for a very good lunch at Red Bluff Tap House. After lunch we drove on east along WA 14. Really good views of the gorge and river once we got past Home Valley. We drove to an overlook about halfway between Wood River and The Dalles (on the south side of the river) where the terrain started to give way to the rolling landscape of the eastern slope of the Cascades. Friday we will take the same path along the south side of the river, but on I-84.

Wednesday 7/25 Ainsworth State Park, OR

Walk through the campground again, disappointed that all of the hiking trails in the entire area are closed due to the Eagle Creek Fire a year ago. I had reserved seven days here anticipating that we would be able to spend some time on hikes in the area.

First thing in the AM we headed in to Bridal Veil Falls. With the old Gorge Highway closed we had to get out on I-84 to get there. There is no westbound exit at Bridal Veil, so we had to go five or six miles farther to Rooster Rock State Park and then come back east on the highway to the bridal veil exit.

Only a few cars in the small lot when we arrived. A sign at the trailhead said it was 2/3 of a mile to the viewings point on a steep, dirt path with some steps. The section heading away from the parking area was paved, but I went and grabbed our trekking polls from the car, which turned out to be a good choice as it made the walk much more comfortable. Nice walk downhill through the woods to a viewing stand below a very pretty waterfall. When we got back to the parking lot it was full!



Drove a couple of miles down the road to Vista House, where we had stopped briefly the other day. All sorts of parking available. Spent some time looking at the view and the exhibits about construction of the highway in the lower level. Very interesting exhibits with a lot of good historic pictures. When we were ready to leave this parking lot was full as well!

Drove on into Troutdale, stopping at the Troutdale Historic Society Museum. Another quite interesting exhibit on the history and construction of the Columbia Gorge Highway. Small, but a plethora of good photographs, including two ViewMasters that you could use to look at pics of the Gorge!

Had lunch in Troutini again, just as good as last time and we sat there for some time taking advantage of their WiFi to catch up on e-mail and news.

After lunch we made a quick stop at the nearby Camping World and then back home around three. 90 degrees this afternoon, the campground electric keeps shutting off occasionally, probably overloaded by AC units. Same thing happened yesterday.

We had passed an interesting looking restaurant along the Sandy River outside of Troutdale, Tad's Chicken and Dumplings. 



We decided to try it tonight, d place but oddly neither of us opted for their signature dish! We went with seafood which was very good.

Thursday 7/26 Ainsworth State Park, OR

Part of the plan for staying here was to do some easy hiking on the trails around the various waterfalls. The damage from the fire last year eliminated that possibility, as a result we find ourselves having seen pretty much everything we wanted to see in the area.

Did some housecleaning this morning we drove the short distance west to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery and found a bench in the shade where we could sit and catch up on our 
e-mails. On the walkway of the holding tanks right near where we were sitting we started seeing movement that at first looked like blowing leaves, then maybe some kind of little critters scurrying along! Soon we realized we were looking at a transparent hose that was pumping tiny fish from tank to tank! Pretty soon a worker came along and started pushing the fish in the tank towards the pickup and there was almost a solid stream of fish running through the hose!

They were being pumped uno into a trailer, then out again into a different holding tank. No idea what they were doing with the fish in the trailer, maybe tagging them?

The grounds of the hatchery are really beautiful, large trees and lots of flowers, along with a pleasant breeze. Plus it’s free! Nancy commented that she had paid to see gardens that were not as nice. Really a hidden gem in the area, very light crowds. Later when we were getting gas in Cascade Locks we asked the attendant (they pump for you in Oregon!) if it was always this breezy. He said if was often windier, in fact it is the wind surfing capital of the US, due to the steady winds through the gorge.

Later we had lunch at Cascade Locks Ale House, nice atmosphere, good beer and pretty good food, Nancy particularly like the salmon chowder. They also had some quite good and seriously hot house made horseradish.

Back home and relaxed in the afternoon. About 5:30 we took the truck and to car down to the closed road near the entrance to the campground and loaded the car. Back on the road tomorrow!

Friday 7/27 Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area, OR

A pleasant morning, we have been blessed with the best weather imaginable throughout Oregon. Took our usual route around the park for our morning walk, nowhere else to go here.

While we were packing up and hooking up I had to pump up a couple of tires and used the new hose I bought in Tillamook. Should have bought a nice one like this years ago instead of the crappy coiled plastic ones I have been using. Fifty feet long and uncoils easily and rolls back up easily.

On the road at 10 AM, uneventful drive to Emmigrant Springs State Heritage Area. Farther from Pendleton that I had thought, including a massive climb up out of the valley, probably the longest steep uphill I have ever seen. Some of those trucks may not make the top until tomorrow. Ours on the other had climbed the monster hill easily in with gear, even having to slow down for a couple of the 45 MPH curves!

Got to the park and found that our site, the first one in, was angled back in completely the wrong direction! Only way to get in would be to go around the loop the wrong way! Spoke with a passing ranger and he said “No problem!” After doing that it was pretty easy to get parked with Nancy’s usual good help and directions.

Settled in and found that the 30 AMP hook-up could not handle the AC! In the high 80’s when we arrived, but cooling off and supposed to be cool tonight so no big deal today, but tomorrow? Investigation showed that there was not much to see or do around
here, certainly no places to eat. In addition the back of our trailer is probably 300 years off 
I-84, and we are paid here for three nights!

Then we found, as is becoming usual in the parks that the satellite  would not connect - too many trees - and, unusually, there is no OTA TV either. So faced with the though of sitting here for two hot day with nothing to do we decided to abandon our prepaid site here and venture on tho Boise.

No luck finding an RV park that was both acceptable and available there or between here and there. By mistake I had called a park Arco, ID with the same name as one in Boise and they had space. After reserving, then cancelling when I saw where it really was - about 120 miles beyond Boise! - we ended up calling back and taking the spot after we could not find anything in the Boise area.

Good dinner at home and relaxed, plan on hitting the road early tomorrow as it is a little over 300 miles to what we hope will be a better spot. Fingers crossed that we will be able to get the F1 race on Sunday. We missed the last two and after this weekend is the summer break, next race is at the end of August!

Late in the evening I tried the OTA TV again and was able to get Oregon Public Teleivision and we were able to watch the last two episodes of a six part mystery we have been watching.

Saturday 7/28 Mountain View RV Park, Arco, ID

Cooled off really nicely last night, 56 this morning! Nice to be in the mountains! Got on the road early this morning, a little after 7:30 for a long day on the road. Stopped at the Flying J 30 miles down the road and put in 267 gallons of diesel! Then headed for Arco, ID.

Uneventful trip with light traffic, even through Boise. Quite a lot of smoke in the air all the way across to central Idaho from various forest fires. Stopped at the Cracker Barrel in Nampa, ID, just west of Boise for lunch and arrived in Arco, ID a little after 4 PM MDT. Lost an hour with the time change.

Coming across central Idaho east of Mountain Home on US 20 we were paralleling Goodale's Cutoff from the Oregon Trail which brought travelers across the north side of the Snake River Valley, away from the river to avoid Indians.

Mountain View RV Park is very nice, with personable owners and a nice little restaurant. Good layout with all pull through sites. Able to get truck into site by backing under front of trailer. We had a delicious BBQ rib dinner with local beer and all the fixin’s! And our satellite hooked up with no problem so we will be able to get the F1 qualifying re-broadcast and the race in the morning!

Sunday 7/29 Mountain View RV Park, Arco, ID

A bit late to bed last night as we were watching a movie so we slept a little later than usual, most of the trip we have been up close to dawn, much like at home, but dawn comes early this far north!

Watched qualifying from yesterday since they reran it before the race this morning. Glad we did as it was pretty eventful, more so due to rain.

After breakfast we drove 18 miles back south to Craters of the Moon National Monument. We drove through part of the monument on the way in to Arco yesterday, pretty bizarre looking. Interesting visitors center with a lot of info on the volcanic activity in the area. They had a large 3d topographical map with lighting that showed the location of the five major volcanic eruptions that have occurred over 16k years as the North American plate moved over the hot spot. 




This is the same hot spot that is now under Yellowstone! Surprisingly Gardiner, WY, where Karen and Gary are just outside of the north gate to Yellowstone, is only 160 miles as the crow flies, about 230 miles by road.

Drove around the loop road through the park, our America the Beautiful pass saved us $20 today! Stopped at a couple of viewpoints and walked up to a splash caldera to where you could look right into to. They have nice paved paths to the viewpoints to protect the volcanic rock from damage.



The park covers 752,000 acres in the Great Rift Valley, which is the valley of the Snake River. It is covered with a great variety of volcanic rocks and formations. What at last looks like a vast field of jumbled black rock is actually quit interesting up close with various types of volcanic comes, including one huge cinder cone. Zoom in on the picture below and you can see people walking up the trail to the top. We did not do that!



Back home for lunch. Nancy did some laundry and we watched the F1 race and relaxed.

Here is a pic I received form my friend John, I may take his doctor's advice as well when we get home!