This is my first attempt at blogging so go easy on me but please do leave some feedback if you find anything interesting! I got the idea to create a blog from my husband Andrei who thinks we could have our own reality TV show becasue of the crazy stuff that we encounter, so I figure I will start writing it all down and see if anyone else agrees. We just got back from Oregon and so I am going to relate some of the fun and exciting things that happened, both along the way and during our stay. We took advantage of the August long-weekend and a shut down at his work to string together 10 days of adventure and it proved to be an excellent plan! We started off by heading to Lake Koocanusa for a few days of camping with our friends. We spend quite a bit of time out in that area because the water is clear and cool and there is lots of crown-land camping to be had. If you aren’t familiar with crown-land camping then stay tuned for a future blog about that but for now it’s basically free camping without any services. Its fun because you can make your own little oasis in the middle of nowhere and basically do whatever you want (with a philosophy of leaving no trace). I’ll tell you all about our weekend in another blog so back to the Oregon trip.
We left Koocanusa at about 8 am on Monday morning and were across the US border by 9 am, the US Immigration officer was very friendly and gave us no hassle at all, not that he had any reason to but one nevers knows about these things!. The temperature was about 15 degrees Celsius and so we rolled down the windows and enjoyed the fresh mountain air. This turned out to be a great way to create the biggest rats nest my hair has ever seen, half a bottle of detangler later I could comb my hair again..but I digress. We immediately had to stop for gas, which proved to be a common occurence considering we were towing our travel trailer loaded with our quad, we have a Rockwood Roo and a 2009 Yamaha Grizzly 700 which we tow with our 2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost truck. I grabbed us some breakfast for the road at Subway and the first thing I noticed was the prompt service and the low prices. No offense to Canadians but I have observed that Americans take customer service to a whole different level than we do. Even in a tiny little highway corner gas station outside of Eureka Montana, everything was cheaper than at home and they jumped up to the counter when I walked in. So five bucks later I had breakfast for two and we were on our way. We had taken this part of the trip before when we visited the Libby dam last year but it’s still a really beautiful drive with steep mountain cliffs to the left and a sharp drop-off down to the lake about 100 plus feet below on the right. Our route was SE on Highway 93 through Libby, MN and into Idaho.
I have never been to Idaho before and found it to be extraordinarily beautiful and is definitely on the list of places I will go back to and stay awhile. We did end up staying one night near Bonners Ferry on the way back and it was quite the adventure but not exactly the kind I had in mind, more to come on that in later editions! We travelled through Sandpoint which sits on the edge of enormous Lake Pend Orielle and has a quaint little business district with marinas and shops galore. We popped into the visitor center and grabbed some info for future adventures. Continuing through Idaho we passed through Coeur D’Alene where we found Highway 90 West and followed that all the way to Ritzville where we joined Highway 395 South. The whole trip through Idaho was very scenic including Coeur D’Alene and Post Falls with lakes and forests and I thought that would be the general view for the remainder of the trip but boy was I wrong about that!
Right after Post Falls is the Washington state border and shortly thereafter was when the temperature started to climb sharply. By noon we were in Spokane and it was already 30 degrees, we did gain an hour so we had been on the road for about 5 hours at this point. We had changed drivers in Coeur D’Alene, while filling up with gas, so I was driving as we moved onto the 395 south and straight into the tri-cities area of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland which took another 2 and half hours and by then the temperature was close to 38 degrees! At this point we broke down, rolled up the windows and cranked the air-conditioning, which destroyed any hope of getting good gas mileage but whatever. As we travelled along the 395, the view became more and more like a scene from an old western movie with low scrub brush and brown dead grass and rocks. I kept expecting the Roadrunner to pop out and race us along the ditch. Washington is known as the Evergreen state but I am going to beg to differ! This was basically Arizona without the cacti and it was really really friggin HOT! After Pasco we were briefly on Highway 82 and then hooked up with the Columbia River and Highway 84 West, and we also crossed into Oregon at that point.
The highest temperature we recorded along this stretch was 43 degrees celsius! It was so hot that the weather-stripping melted off the front of the trailer and we had to pull over and do a little repair, thankfully that turned out to be the only incident we had all trip. When we stepped out of the truck onto that road it was like walking into an oven; I am positive if you ever broke down along there you would die within an hour! Ok… maybe not but it was seriously hot. I will give that last statement a Shmuver factor of about 80%. (A Shmuver is a measurement of exaggeration used to make stories more interesting, a term coined in honour of one of our friends.) I started questioning the wisdom of heading that far south in August and maybe that’s why the road was so deserted! Meep, meep! There were quite a few semis but not too many other vehicles although it was a Monday after all. The road itself was pristine, fairly new black top and a very comfortable ride with two lanes all the way. When we got to The Dalles we had to stop for gas, weird, and we also switched drivers and headed on towards Portland.
After The Dalles the scenery slowly began to get a little greener, we were getting closer to the mountains and the river was much wider and there was lots of irrigation along the farm lands on either side of the road. The Columbia River is totally massive, there are at least four damns along the way and they don’t even slow it down a notch. This area has vineyards and fruit farms and eventually we came across a roadside farmers stand and it felt like we had made it through the desert alive! It was still over 40 degrees though. It was about 9 hours into the trip and we were looking forward to seeing the coast but first we had to go through Portland. Portland is an absolutely huge busy and confusing city. Multiple highways converge and cross over and under one another and its quite hairy to drag a travel trailer through. It reminded me alot of Vancouver, BC if you’ve ever been there, which makes sense I guess, and it looked to be a very industrious place with trains and ships unloading cargo for all over the States. I had the map and was calling out the interchanges to watch for and Andrei was trying to pick the right lanes and follow my dirctions. We had one close call as a car passed us on the right just as we were about to change lanes but we made it through and just after that the temperature finally dropped below 40! Portland would be a very interesting place for a weekend trip for sure but not awesome for exploring while towing a trailer so we will put it on the list for another time.
We were about 90 minutes from the coast and starting to get a little tired and cranky so cooler temperatures were welcome, so down came the windows again. As we drove out of Portland and into the Tillamook State Forest area the temperature started dropping really fast and was down to about 16 degrees by the time we went up and over the last mountain range before the coast. The forest area looked like a nice place to camp and also had a few hiking trails and ATV areas but our sights were set on the Pacific ocean so we kept on going. We made it to the town of Tillamook just after 8 pm local time which is exactly when the visitor center closes for the day. In fact they close at 8:05 pm, a seemingly random time that I don’t really understand but maybe that’s when the last bus leaves town as the visitor center also doubles as the bus station. So, our plans to ask for directions to the nearest sani-dump were toast, so instead we got some gas, yup, and headed for Sand Lake campground, crossing our fingers that they would have one. It was dusk by this point and that made it a little difficult to navigate the unlit country roads but we actually found the campground fairly easily however, no sani-dump. Oh well, we thought, we will just set up for the night and then deal with it in the morning. We found our way over to an open site, number 83, just across from a quiet couple in a tent, got ourselves settled in, started our camp fire boy-scout style (No Shmuver factor!) and cheers’d with a nice cold beer! Part of my duties for preparing for a day of driving always includes putting a couple beer in the fridge so they are ready to go when we arrive at our destination. I have actually noticed that a bottle of beer makes a great 360 degree level for setting up the trailer, so really its not just for pleasure! Day one of our adventure was a success, we were tired and thirsty but we had made it. We didn’t actually get to see the ocean that day but we could hear it just at the edge of campground and we slept like babies listening to the waves rolling in all night.