The long trek home, and breakfast with Donna and Russ

February 24, 25, and 26 Friday, Saturday and Sunday

the beautiful Astoria BridgeOnce on the road again, we enjoyed the beautiful drive across the Astoria Bridge, once criticized the beautiful Astoria Bridgeas “the bridge to nowhere”. We crossed the Columbia River for the last time as we traveled its southern shore toward Portland.  All routes pointing south encouraged us to cross the bridge at Longview and continue south through Portland on I-5, but we had other plans.  As mentioned previously, Mo grew up in Columbia City, and it’s always fun to retrace old steps and check out how the old homesteads are doing. 

The drive along the river was beautiful, even on a cloudy day, and traffic was light.  Mo’s school still stood, and big old house that Mo grew up in didn’t look much different than she remembered. She laughed as we crossed the steep street that used to serve as a sledding hill when the occasional snow storm would hit. We drove on to the nearby St Helens to see the two houses that her grandfather built.  They looked a bit worse for wear, but were still in use.  As we drove around she told me stories of her aunts and uncles, grandma, and grandpa, and what it was like growing up in a small town in Oregon.

Mo sharing where she went to schoolWe kept our NUVI Garmin tucked away for the entire trip, relying on the phone to get us around, but for navigating freeways in big cities, Garmin Girl can’t be beat.  Even in a city we know well, it was nice to have the image pop up when it came time to remember which lane we needed to get from the 30 to the 405 to the 5 going south.  Traffic wasn’t a problem and Mo maneuvered through the city with ease.

there it is, the family neighborhoodBy the time we got to Eugene, the threatening storm clouds turned to heavy rain, and we settled in to our free parking spot just in time.  Our choice for the evening was the Valley River Mall in Eugene, reviewed both here by Laurie and Odel and here by Nina of Wheelin’It.  I read both those reviews and easily decided we wanted to make use of this delightful free space for our night in Eugene.

settled in at the Eugene Valley River MallJust across the parking lot was one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, El Torito.  We had soup thawed, but it was time for a Marguerita and with our luck it was still Happy Hour at the bar.  We had drinks for $3 each and a tremendous plate of fabulous nachos to share that made dinner completely unnecessary. The place was jumping busy and our cute little bartender asked us if we intended to “party like rock stars”.  Hmmm.  Not so sure I remember what that even means any more!

Russ and Donna from Travels in TherapyThe next morning we were up just in time to button up the rig and see Russ and Donna drive up to our door.  Their plan was to take us to their second favorite restaurant for breakfast since it was right on our route.  We met the two of them once before in Eugene, and knew that a visit would be full of fun and laughter.  Russ and Donna are really so much fun to be around.  Russ is always doing something silly, cracking jokes and one liners, and Donna knows just how to bring out the best in everyone.  We all laughed and played a bit in the remnants of snow on a parked truck.  No, that snow wasn’t on our road, thank goodness!

snow on the hills but not on the roadBack on the road again, we traveled through all sorts of dramatic weather, including snow, sleet, rain, sun, and wind on the way west to Florence.  Once there, the sky was gorgeous and we found blooming camellias lining the road next to the Joy of Quilting, where I decided another stop was in order.

north coast 2 025In no time we were back at Harris Beach State Park, where once again our A10 site was the only one available on the front row with a view and cable.  With the gorgeous sunshine and hardly any wind, we were thrilled to take another walk on Harris Beach as the afternoon turned toward evening.  Finally, after carrying that firewood I bought originally the first night we were here, and carried the entire trip in the baby car, Mo built a big campfire.  We sat outside enjoying the clear but chilly evening with our supper.

return trip map 450 milesWe have an ending routine that works pretty well for us.  On our last night in Brookings, I do laundry at the park, where the machines cost just a buck and a buck quarter to dry.  Mo gets everything cleaned and stashed for the night and we usually sleep without sheets since I want them clean for the next trip.  In the morning we dump the tanks, add the smell prevention stuff to the gray tank, and head for town unhooked.  We fill the MoHo, assuming that gasoline will be more expensive when we return for the next trip, and drive across the street for a McDonald’s breakfast before heading for the car wash to clean off the salt spray from the rig before slipping her back into the storage shed.  This time our little routine was thwarted with the car wash all closed up, and it’s the only one in town. Since we are planning on coming back in three weeks, hopefully that salt residue won’t hurt anything till then.

Then with everything piled into the baby car, dog, cat, ice chest of fresh food still remaining, clothes I can’t bear to not have in both places, and other assorted flotsam, we make the 4 hour drive back over the coast range to Grants Pass and over the Lake of the Woods pass to home.  Last year our routine was a bit different, traveling south to get the MoHo in Redding.  We both have decided we like this routine much better.  In fact, Brookings and Harris Beach are so darn nice we could just unpack the MoHo from storage and stay there without traveling anywhere.  But not next time.  Next time we will again travel south to California, hoping to find some warmth and some blooming wildflowers.  I do love love love that RV life.

 

Long Beach and Cape Disappointment

Thursday February 23rd

north coast_272trail to the beach from our parkExcept for the 3 mile move from Fort Stevens to Camp Rilea, I think today may have been one of the shortest drives from one site to another that we have experienced.  In just 21.7 very short miles from Warrenton, north on 101, crossing the beautiful green bridge at Astoria, and winding along the north shore of the Columbia River, we entered the little town of Long Beach, Washington.  Oh.  Sales taxes again!  We are so very spoiled in Oregon since there is no sales tax.

Along the way there are several sites that are part of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historic Parks, but we wanted to first find a home and settle in before we took our time exploring the peninsula.  The sun was a weak, watery orb as we stopped again at the local Visitor Information Center. 

Long Beach Mapnorth coast_274The night before we had looked up all the Passport America and CampClub USA parks in the vicinity, and with more than 70 advertised RV parks in the area, we found just three that were club members.  Of course, some parks understand the switch between CampClub and Passport, but others do not.  We decided on a park called “Driftwood”, but I followed Laurie’s advice and checked out the reviews first.  Hmmmm.  Maybe not. 

We then decided it would be better to be a little bit north of town rather than in a crowded park filled with old trailers, dogs, and junk.  Our choice was perfect.  Pacific Holiday Sunrise Resorts was just north of town a couple of miles, but on the ocean side of the highway, very quiet and clean, spacious, and almost empty. We paid the $15. half price fee, the $1.70 state sales tax, and a $3.00 resort fee for full hookups with great cable TV. 

After a quick setup and lunch, we decided to drive north on the peninsula to explore what is touted as the World’s Longest Beach. A quick check later on the internet confirmed it is the longest US beach, and the longest drivable beach, but the hundred mile long beach in Bangladesh far outdoes the 28 miles of sand stretching north from Cape Disappointment. 

scary dogs with no owner in sightWe drove the back road closest to the water, but most of it was blocked from access by beachfront homes and no access signs.  Finally we found a small path, and parked the car to brave the winds for some beach walking with Abby.  It was really windy, and chilly, but we were determined to enjoy this beach! It was a bit disconcerting to have to move out of the way of the occasional car or truck driving along the frothy surf, but that was nothing compared to the dog scare.

Mo kept them at bay with the plastic stickSuddenly from nowhere, over a big sand dune, came two large aggressive dogs, barking and growling, hackles raised, circling Mo and Abby and threatening them.  I am terrified of these kinds of dogs when they aren’t under control, but Mo kept her head and kept telling them, “Go Home!!”.  They would listen for a minute then come back in and growl at Abby.  Mo just kept being aggressive back, her only weapon was the plastic throwing stick for Abby’s ball.  Abby seemed to be oblivious, and kept wanting to check them out.  My knees were shaking, and I stayed behind Mo the whole time, but neither of us could turn our backs on them because they would come rushing back at us.  Eventually they gave up, scared off by Mo’s alpha dog attitude and big green plastic stick. For me, however, the walk was ruined and I was ready to get back in the car for the rest of the explorations.

North Head LighthouseWe continued driving north along the peninsula, where there were many beachfront houses, most of them empty, and the whole place seemed very uninviting.  Driving to the bay side, we wandered as far north as the road allowed to Leadbetter State Park and the tiny historic town of Oysterville.  A long drive back down the bayside of the peninsula was not particularly interesting and we decided to continue south to Cape Disappointment State Park.

For me, this was the goal of the journey.  I wanted to look out over the Pacific the same way those two great explorers did back in 1805.  I wanted to see what they saw and read more about their travels at what promised to be a beautiful visitor center high above the ocean with a view of the Cape Disappointment lighthouse.  At the southern end of the peninsula, the road climbs steeply into the park, and the first side road leads to a view of the North Head lighthouse.  Both of these lights are beautiful and historic, with North Head established in 1898 and the Cape Disappointment lighthouse in 1856.

sweet coast guard guy training for cliff rescuesthere he goesThe trail to North Head was just a short one but the view was spectacular.  There were some cars out on the entry road and a flurry of activity that had us wondering what was happening.  The coast guard was doing some rescue training and we were at the right place at the right time to watch their amazing maneuvers on the cliffs below us.  The young man in the photo was a 6 year veteran of the coast guard and was a delight to talk to about his career.  Watching him rappel down from the copter was more fun since we had talked to him beforehand.  I know there are a couple of my blog readers who are coast guard retirees, so I thought you might like these photos.  The winds were blowing hard and I was amazed at how steady the helicopter pilot kept that bird hanging in the air during the rescue practice.

there is a trail down there along the beach if you look closelyWe continued through the park to the beautiful interpretive center where there are beautiful trails leading to viewpoints and to the lovely black and white Cape Disappointment lighthouse overlooking the confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.  In addition to our $10. state park entry fee (inside a National Park where our Golden Age Pass didn’t work), there is an additional $5. fee to go into the center.  Mo chose to look at the views while I went in and learned even more about the expedition.  This time, there were even a few stories of the journey home, another two years.  Lewis’s first comment on arriving in St. Louis was to ask if his mother was still living. Clark probably said something like “Hi Honey, I’m Home” to his long suffering wife who hadn’t seen him in four years!

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse c.1856New exhibits at the center provide interpretation of the entire route, but focused on the Corp’s of Discovery’s pioneering exploration of the Columbia River in 1805 and 1806.  The romance of this wonderful place seeped in deep enough that Mo and I bought a beautiful poster of the park highlights depicted in old fashioned post card style art to frame for our office at home.

walking to the beach on a winter afternoonWe went home to our cozy rig for a bbq salmon supper, with a nice picnic table to hold the bbq and no rain to spoil it.  We did, however, eat inside while watching the sunset. We were both pretty worn out from all the moving and traveling and dogs and cold winds so it was with great pleasure we settled in for an early evening of reading and some good television.

Friday morning we planned to travel south, moving quickly to get back to Brookings by Saturday afternoon, ahead of the predicted bad weather to come.  But first we wanted to make an attempt to find some of the murals that were touted in a brochure we had received from the visitor center.  On our first drive though Ocean Park we didn’t see a thing, but there was time to look again before we headed back south.  We drove back and forth through town, to no avail.  The places listed in the brochure were nowhere to be found, and stops in a couple of local shops were no help, with folks saying they had never heard of the murals.

04 Oregon Coast Long Beach-001I finally found a local guy raking some gravel and he told me that the Ole’s Nook Tavern had been sold several years ago and the mural painted over.  The Sentry Market was now Thriftway, and that mural had also been painted over.  Looking closer, we discovered the brochure was printed in 1995!  We later found this website that would have been more helpful when we were looking, the Walking Tour of Ocean Park. On the way back through Long Beach, Seaside, and Ilwaco, we did find a few of the listed murals, however, some in great shape and some seriously faded.  We even found one on the back side of Highway 103 that wasn’t listed in the brochure.

04 Oregon Coast Long BeachThe other cool thing to look for in Ocean Beach are houses made from old shipwrecks washed ashore.  Our newly found local friend Bob Bodine, 55 year resident of the area, told us where to go to find them.  The craziest was called the “Door House”, and it was exactly that, a house made from doors from an old shipwreck.  Bob mourned the loss of many of these historic places, saying that the new folks coming in didn’t care any more about the history of the place and many of these houses were being torn down.  I’m glad we got to see them before that happened.

We knew that more than 200 miles were between us and our Eugene destination, but were glad to take the time to ferret out a bit of local history before we left Long Beach and headed south.

NOTE: All my photos are now stored on Google/Picasa, but I think the Picasa link on the left side of this blog page gets you there.  If you are a Google Plus user you have probably seen then roll by.  Now when I upload photos from Picasa, they go directly to Google Photos and are shared via Google Plus.  I still have no idea how to share photos with folks that read the blog but aren’t necessarily on a shared list. I would have to make the album fully public to do that I think, and can only do that from Picasa.  Google Plus requires “sharing”.  Ack!!  The whole thing makes me crazy.  I also have photos from the past on SmugMug but because of bandwidth, I don’t upload everything there.

Tomorrow: The mall at Eugene, breakfast with Russ and Donna, and back to Brookings where we finally had our campfire!

North Coast explorations, Astoria, Fort Clatsop, and Seaside

February 22nd

Astoria and the famous bridge high above the Columbia RiverThe wind blew all night and the rain came down in buckets but we were happily camped on asphalt, not a bad thing in the Oregon Coastal climate.  After a cozy breakfast in the MoHo, we jumped into the Tracker and headed north to explore Astoria.  Costco is conveniently located right in Warrenton on 101, between the entrance road to Camp Rilea and the road to Fort Stevens.  Even with our 10c discount at Freddy’s just up the road, Costco gas was still a lot cheaper, and we paid 3.65 per gallon/regular to fill up both rigs.  I suppose that will be considered cheap by the end of the coming summer according to the news pundits.

taking the historic home auto cd tour of AstoriaWe did as we often do, seeking out the local Visitor Information Center for Astoria before beginning our tour of the town.  Of course, the most famous attraction is the Astoria Column, an impressive sight with equally impressive views on a clear day.  Mo and I paid our dollars and climbed the steps back in 2004 when we visited Astoria on our first cruise together, so didn’t feel the need to go up there again.

great Welcome sign in AstoriaInstead we purchased an auto tour CD for a buck to tell us some of the stories about the historic sites around town.  It took a bit of doing to figure out how to get to the sites on the map while trying to listen to the CD.  The numbers weren’t in order on the map and it made it hard to appreciate what we were hearing while Mo was attempting to navigate the narrow hilly streets.  Too late in the process, I figured out that we should have simply driven to the spot and then fast forwarded the CD to the correct track.  Hindsight!

How is THAT for a view overlooking the Columbia from the hill in AstoriaIn spite of the technical difficulties, we did have a good time listening to the stories of the early maritime history of Astoria, founded in 1811 as the first white community on the west coast.  There are many beautiful historic homes, including the Flavel House, considered one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in Oregon.  Our CD tour guide told many stories about the folks who were influential in Astoria history, and the biggest surprise for me was the strong influence of the Finnish population that dominated the fishing and canning industry here in the early part of the century. 

historic Pier 39 in AstoriaBeing a Wednesday, during the winter season, we were disappointed to see that many of the cute little shops we remembered from 2004 were closed for the day, and the main street just didn’t have enough zing to get us out of the car to stroll and shop.  I think I may have been a bit shop worn from the previous quilt run anyway.  Instead, we wandered around some of the side roads, attempting to get a feel for the folks who live here, and found that the north facing very steep slope that is so visible along the river and from the highway is just a taste of the winding back streets that lead to charming neighborhoods filled with 20’s style Craftsman homes and less charming subdivisions filled with 70’s ranch style houses.  Astoria is bigger than it looks!

Our trip out of town led us back toward Business 101 instead of the main freeway, and we wandered among wetlands and idle agricultural land for a few miles to discover we were right on the road to Fort Clatsop.  In our Lewis and Clark National and State Historic Park brochure, Fort Clatsop was among the main park sites, scattered on both sides of the Columbia in Oregon and Washington, so we were delighted to have found it without any effort at all.

exploring Fort Clatsop and the fort replicaThe visitor center was lovely, with a great movie about Capt. Meriwether Lewis and Capt. William Clark, who were only 29 and 33 years old when they departed from St Louis at the order of President Thomas Jefferson to find the most direct water route to the Pacific, making scientific and geographic observations along the way.  Even though a Lewis and Clark fan for many years, I newly discovered that Sacagawea was NOT along on the trip for any kind of guidance, but was more an emissary to the various tribes the Corps encountered, proving that they were coming in peace since they had a woman in their party.

the river where Lewis and Clark put in their canoes to return home after the successful jounrey and winter at Fort ClatsopI also learned the the Corps of Discovery, and the Lewis and Clark expedition, was the forerunner to our present day Army Corps of Engineers.  I have two distinct impressions of the COE.  The best impression is of the wonderful campgrounds that we enjoy thanks to the COE.  The other impression is one held a long time by university earth scientist types who hold up really horrendous examples of COE projects that didn’t take into account any kind of common sense.  My favorite geology prof in college always showed dramatic slide shows of landslides precipitated by COE projects cutting of the toe slope of some great mountain along the Salmon River and then wondering why the road kept getting buried.

exploring Seaside on a cold windy dayThe Fort Clatsop site is fascinating and lovely, and as I stood at the spot where the explorers set their canoes for the home trip back to St Louis, it was easy to imagine it was 1806.  The expedition wintered at this fort, of course now a replica stands here, but the stories of their winter and their interactions with the Clatsop people was fascinating.  I was curious, though, as to why we hear so much about their trip to the Pacific, and very little about the trip home.  Interpreters at the center got into a lively discussion about this, and one of them thought it was probably because the fun was over and they were basically really bored on the trip home.  Sound like RV bloggers maybe?

exploring the beach at Seaside on a very cold windy day.  Notice Abby's earsWe then backtracked past Camp Rilea to explore Seaside, a town that is definitely NOT the answer to Carmel.  Seaside is more funky and down to earth, with a very long beach and a lot of touristy shops and souvenirs.  Again, on this windy, cold, midweek winter day, it was quiet, with many shops closed, but I did slip into the Carousel Mall to see the famous carousel, one of the big attractions in the summer.  Interestingly, the carousel is inside rather out in a park, so that is a testament to the possible windy, cold conditions of this part of the Oregon coast, no matter what time of year you visit.

Tomorrow we leave Camp Rilea and travel north across the famous bridge at Astoria, to cross the Columbia and explore more of the National Park sites on our way to Long Beach, Washington.