Road to California

On December 16, we embarked on a 17-day journey from Northern Idaho to Central California and back in our fifth wheel.   The first obstacle to overcome was getting out of our driveway.  Shawn had to buy studded snow tires and chains for the truck.  Our neighbors, Rich and Kyle, did their best to help us out by plowing as much snow and ice as possible off of our downhill driveway.  When Shawn went to buy the snow tires and chains, Rich chained his truck to Shawn’s to prevent Shawn from sliding down the driveway.  It was a scary drive in the early morning darkness, but Shawn successfully navigated us down the driveway to the main road before removing the chains.

The next obstacle was the weather.  We ended up leaving a day earlier than planned in order to miss a storm.  We drove six hours to Portland the first day.  Eastern Washington is far from picturesque, especially in the winter.  We stayed at the Sandy Riverfront RV Park in Troutdale, Oregon.  Troutdale is a cute little town and their main street was decorated for Christmas.  We enjoyed dinner and martinis at Troutini.  Our waitress encouraged us to come back for New Year’s Eve on our return trip.

The Christmas lights in Troutdale

Martini with color changing ice fish at Troutini

The next stop was South Beach State Park in Newport, Oregon.  Once again we stayed at a park that we visited on our previous trip.  Living in landlocked Idaho, Shawn knew I needed my dose of ocean views.  We just beat the storm, and we were able to take a long walk on the beach.  That night, our trailer was shaking fiercely in the 35 mph wind and rain.

Winter driving conditions
South Beach, Oregon
You’ve gotta stop at Rogue Brewing when traveling along the Oregon coast

We stopped in Bandon, Oregon, home of Face Rock Creamery and the import store with all the dinosaurs.  Face Rock still makes the best mac & cheese in my book, and the clerk told us the recipe is available online.  We bought a frozen mac to go along with a healthy supply of Vampire Slayer garlic cheddar.  No additional dinosuars came home with us this trip.

A menagerie of metal animals past and present

In Gold Beach, we stayed at Turtle Rock RV Resort.  As you can see from the picture, winter RV’ing is not so popular in the Pacific North West, but the solitude makes it much easier to park!  We enjoyed an evening with Shawn’s niece and her family.

Now I know why it’s named Turtle Rock. I totally missed that last trip.

Our first stop in California was in Trinidad, a cute seaside town with an incredible smoked fish shop.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, so after lunch, we took a 2-mile hike before getting back in the truck to head to Garberville for the night.

The Cool Bus

That was the end of the relaxing, leisurely, sightseeing portion of our trip.  After that, our days were packed with visits with family and friends.  We spent the night at Cal Expo RV Park in Sacramento, had lunch with our daughter and the grandkids, and dinner with our friend Jerry.  Traffic and 5-lane freeways were a rude awakening.  The stress level instantly increased.

Then it was on to Fresno to visit our son and the Scharton clan.  Some of the highlights included sampling the local breweries, an introduction to mulcajetes, lots of good Mexican food that we don’t have in Idaho, a Zumba class led by my sister-in-law, and Christmas Eve dinner with family and old friends.  We parked in my brother’s driveway for the duration.  I’m sure the neighbors were thrilled when we packed up and left at 5:30 Christmas morning for a hair-raising drive through the tule fog back to Sacramento.

The molten goodness that is a mulcajete
Enjoying a beer by the fire at Tioga Sequoia Brewing
Gift exchange with the Schartons

We made it to Elk Grove in time to watch the grandkids open their presents Christmas morning.  Shawn’s brother hosted Christmas dinner.  Only in California can you serve Christmas dinner outside on the patio.  Sure, there was a heater and a fire pit, but we won’t be doing that in Idaho in December.

Gift exchange with the Echols

On Boxing Day, we drove to San Francisco to visit our youngest son.  We’ve always gone over the Bay Bridge, but this time we took the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was so much nicer; I may never use the Bay Bridge again.  It was a rare sunny day in San Francisco, so we enjoyed a long walk through Golden Gate Park and a Korean lunch of bi bim bab (not commonly found in Idaho).

It was fun seeing the kids decorate their trees with old family ornaments

The next two days were filled with lunches and dinners with old friends and co-workers.  So much to catch up on and to remind us how much we are enjoying retirement.  We spent four days in Sacramento before heading home to Idaho.  We picked up a cold along the way and just wanted to get home.  The return trip was only two stops compared to the five days we took on the way down.

Shawn’s nephew made some repairs on the RV while we were in town
Gratuitous granddaughter picture from Stephanie’s birthday lunch
I’d tell you which mountain this is, but I was taking a lot of cold medication at the time of the photograph
NYE back at Troutini, we just wanted to go to bed at 7PM
Kyle towing us up the driveway to our Home Sweet Home

We arrived home the afternoon of January 1st and our neighbor Kyle was waiting at the end of the driveway to tow us home.  The trip was fun, adventurous, and exhausting.  It was wonderful to see all of our California family and friends again.  Now it’s time to look through all the seed catalogs that were awaiting us on our return.  Spring is just around the corner…she says hopefully.

Day 14 – The End is Near (a.k.a. Friday the 13th)

We woke up in Oregon, but we are going to sleep in California.

Emigrant Lake Campground

The change from Oregon to California seemed drastic on I-5. The pine trees turned to oak trees and scrubby bushes, the ground from green to brown, the sky from gray to blue, the temperature from cold and damp to warm and sunny, and the condition of the pavement from smooth to potholes. An hour into California we got great views of Mt. Shasta.

We decided to stay over in Red Bluff instead of driving all the way to Sacramento. We’re staying right off the highway in the Durango RV Resort. It is quite impressive with full amenities: community room, pool and hot tub, bocce ball, tetherball, horseshoes, laundry, curbside garbage pickup, and full hookups. I think the 3 RVs to our right are having a family reunion. It looks like they brought 20 extra folding chairs.

Steve is ready to hit the road and go home

Since the weather was warm, we relaxed outside at our picnic table and played board games. We ventured into downtown Red Bluff and had Mexican food for dinner. One more night in the super short RV bed and then we will be back home to our king size bed. Steve the Dinosaur misses his friend Malcolm.

It has been a fun trip. Oregon is beautiful and I can see us returning for more camping especially on the coast.

Daily Ratings
Los Mariachis in Red Bluff – 3.5 stars
Durango RV Resort – 4 stars
Oregon – 5 stars

Day 13 – Ashland

It was so cold when we woke up this morning. It was raining and the thermometer in the trailer said it was 44 degrees outside. Shawn donned his new rain gear to pack up the trailer and we left Yoncalla in search of drier climes. At some point in the two-hour drive, the trees changed from green pines to brown oaks and there was more fall color to see.

We’re staying at Emigrant Lake County Park outside Ashland. As we rounded a hill expecting to see a beautiful lake, we saw a puddle surrounded by dry shrubs and trees. Shawn said it looked greener on the website. Oh well, more reason to spend time in Ashland proper.

We started at Caldera Brewing to sample their beers. They had quite a selection, and we sampled a Hatch chili, grapefruit IPA, a couple more IPAs and a barrel aged stout. Our waitress was a fan of their IPAs and she said they are one of the few local breweries that make IPAs that are 100 IBU (hecka bitter). The long wooden bar had a live edge and was cut from an Oregon tree. The walls of the restaurant were lined with beer bottles.

In downtown Ashland, we walked around and looked at the shops. Of course we stopped in Sew Creative, the quilt shop. The ladies working in the shop were very friendly and told us they have the largest selection of aboriginal print fabrics from Australia in the US. A couple yards found their way into my shopping bag. I’m getting really used to not paying sales tax.

The next place to catch our eye was a bakery. We left with a couple loaves of bread: whole wheat sourdough (still on our quest for a good sourdough) and cranberry hazelnut. Yesterday we drove past lots of hazelnut orchards. I didn’t realize they grew hazelnuts in Oregon.

We took Steve the Dinosaur for a walk through Lithia Park. It is a large park in the middle of town and it was designed by John McLaren, one of the architects of Golden Gate Park. Ashland Creek runs through the middle of the park. Every town should have a park like this.

After all that walking, it was time for dinner. We went to Standing Stone Brewery and started with their beer sampler. They had a nice red ale, and for the first time, I found a sour that I liked. It reminded me of Fresca without the chemical taste. Aside from the brewery, they also have a farm where they raise beef and lamb using sustainable practices. The lamb burger with chimichurri sauce was very good. We thought we were done after dinner, but our waitress mentioned a couple of Shawn’s favorites for dessert so we had crème brûlée and Marionberry cobbler ala mode.

Walking back to the car it started raining again. Now we are tucked into the trailer for the night…huddled under blankets to keep warm.

Daily Ratings & Stats

Emigrant Lake County Park – 3 stars (I’m sure it’s lovely in the spring)
Caldera Brewing – 4 stars
Standing Stone Brewing & Restaurant – 4.5 stars
Lithia Park – 5 stars

Beers sampled – 14 (they are small samples and we share)
Steps taken – 6,665
Miles traveled – 139

Day 12 – A Change in Plans

Since it didn’t make sense to sit in the RV while it rained for another day, we decided to keep driving south. Our next planned stop is Ashland, but that is a 4 ½ hour drive from Silver Falls, so we broke it up by finding an RV campground south of Eugene. On the drive from Silver Falls, we passed lots of Christmas tree farms. We went through Linn County “World’s Largest Supplier of Grass Seed”. There were huge grass farms (not to be confused with weed farms). We tried to visit 2 Towns Cider house, but there was no RV parking. We had lunch at a truck stop in Coburg. Our waitress was super friendly, but the food was not worthy of a photograph.

One of many Christmas tree farms we passed

After we got the RV set up at Rice Hill RV Park, we went to a nearby winery. MarshAnne Landing is owned by a couple from Maryland. They moved to Oregon 17 years ago to open the winery. The owner is a former chemist, and they grow all their own grapes on about 11 acres and process and bottle the wine themselves. It was pouring rain when we arrived, and by the time we left the sun was shining over the vineyard. We left with bottles of Viognier, Pinot Noir, and Red Planet their signature blend.

MarshAnne Vineyards
Sunny skies over the RV park

We watched the news for the first time in 12 days and saw all the fires in northern California. Hopefully, all the rain we are seeing here will move south.

Day 11 – Trail of Waterfalls

We left Portland early because we wanted to get to Silver Falls State Park. The weather forecast indicated it would start raining at 2:00. We drove through more beautiful countryside. We arrived at the park at 11:30, had a quick lunch and hit the trail for a 3-mile hike.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, the Oregon state parks are wonderful. They are clean and well maintained. The trails are well marked and wide. We meandered down a trail along a creek to the first of many falls. A local was sitting looking up at the waterfall that was dripping down the rocks. He said it was much more impressive in the spring.

The next waterfall was Middle North with a height of 106 feet and it was gushing. The trail went behind the falls and to a shallow cave. It was beautiful!

We saw 6 of the 10 waterfalls along the trail. We were about 100 feet from the trailhead when it started raining. It was exactly 2:00. Weather technology is getting pretty accurate.


Steve the Dinosaur enjoyed the hike

We spent the rest of the day in the RV reading and listening to the rain. A week before our trip, I bought an Instant Pot 10-in-1 pressure cooker. Before the trip, I used it to make some stew and chili to freeze for meals on the road. Shawn suggested I also bring it along on the trip since we would have electricity at most sites. We’ve used it to defrost the frozen meals in 20 minutes and make steel cut oats for breakfast. It’s a handy appliance to have around.

We were planning to stay in the park for two nights, but the forecast of more rain had us changing our mind. This is also the first place that we stayed that didn’t have cellular service, so we were feeling a bit disconnected.

The view of our campsite from within the coziness of our RV

Daily Ratings & Stats

Silver Falls State Park – 5 stars
Steps hiked – 8,381
Photos of food – zero

Day 10 – Fabric, Donuts and Beer

Due to our adventures in gastronomy while traveling, we usually eat a light breakfast of yogurt, berries and granola.  Today was our first breakfast out.  Sean recommended Blue Star Donuts instead of the usual Voodoo Donuts.  At Blue Star, there was a selection of about 15 gourmet donuts.  We tried the Lemon Poppyseed, Meyer Lemon Key Lime Custard, and Blueberry Bourbon Basil.  While we were enjoying our selections, one of the employees pulled out a blow torch and started caramelizing the tops of donuts so we had to try the crème brûlée donut too.  It had a great crunch on top, but our favorite was the blueberry donut.  A hipster walked in and ordered a dozen assorted for a mere $39.50.

I have been shopping online at Fabric Depot for a few years.  It wasn’t until last week when we were planning our trip that I realized they were in Portland.  We arrived at 11 AM on a Monday and the parking lot was packed.  I walked into the converted auto dealership and was immediately overwhelmed by the selection.  The place is so big that they just added a café (they should really add a brewery for the husbands).  There were long lines at the cutting table and ladies had bolts of fabric stacked in shopping carts.  Turns out they were having a 40% off all fabric sale.  I felt compelled to shop quickly and get in line until I realized I could just take pictures of the fabric lines that I liked and order online.  No standing in lines!

We met Sean for lunch at 10 Barrel Brewing in the Pearl District (Portland is so big that they need to name all the trendy neighborhoods).  We enjoyed a sampler of their brews and a plate of steak & Gorgonzola nachos.  I liked the Double Squishy IPA and Shawn had the Nitro Apocalypse.

We woke up this morning and it was 46 degrees in the RV, but it was a clear sunny day with a high of 70.  While driving we were able to see both Mount Hood and Mount St. Helen.  Living in a city with two rivers, I have come to appreciate bridges.  Sacramento is skimpy when it comes to bridges, but Portland boasts 9 bridges over the Willamette in downtown alone.  Kudos Portland!

In the evening, we went to Sean’s house in Sandy on the outskirts of Portland.  It’s amazing what fifty foot pine trees can do to improve the look of a strip mall.  Sean and his wife live in a cute townhouse in a hilly neighborhood.  A nice mix of suburbia and nature.  We went to their local brewery Bunsenbrewer.  The menu is the periodic table of beers and all their beers are named after scientists.  I enjoyed a beaker of Bill Nye Rye PA.

Tomorrow we begin our travels south heading for Silver Falls state park.  Hopefully, we will find a break in the weather for some hiking at the falls.  We could use a little exercise after Portland.

Daily Ratings & Stats

Blue Star Donuts – 5 stars
10 Barrel Brewery – 4.5 stars
Bunsenbrewer – 3.5 stars
Fabric Depot – so huge it cannot be rated by mere stars

Steps taken – not nearly enough
Loads of laundry done – 3

Day 9 – Tasting Our Way Through Portland

We left the beautiful Oregon coastline and headed inland to Portland this morning.  Once again, the scenery along the way was gorgeous. Rolling hills with farms and a backdrop of mountain forests.  We crossed innumerable creeks, streams, and rivers.

We are staying at the Sandy Riverfront RV Resort in Troutdale (“Gateway to the Columbia Gorge”) east of Portland. Not a bad RV park, but the spots are much closer together than the last two state parks we’ve stayed in.  I’m just excited because they have a laundromat (it is day 9 after all).

After setting up camp (also known as plugging in the electricity and hooking up to water and sewer), we drove to the Alberta Arts District.  I was in search of Bolt, a modern fabric shop.  They had some fun patterns by up and coming national and local designers and a large selection of printed canvas.  While I was admiring the fabric, Shawn stood in line at Salt & Straw for ice cream.  It had to be good because the line was down the street.  They had some fun flavors like Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper, Pear & Blue Cheese, and a seasonal Dracula’s Blood Pudding (“a heady combination of warm spice and cream mixed into real blood pudding”).  I had to taste that.  The server felt compelled to warn me that the real blood pudding contained real pig’s blood. It tasted like a quality ice cream with an aftertaste of copper.

We did a little cider tasting at Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider (“The apple’s deepest purpose realized”).  Who knew they could make 12 ciders that are so distinctly different in taste?  In fact, I think only two actually tasted like apple.  There was sour cherry, ginger, pineapple, watermelon (yuck), hopricot, strawberry-lemongrass and something so hideous that I have blocked it from my recent memory.

Shawn’s friend Sean met us for dinner in Gresham.  He recommended a Lebanese restaurant that was fantastic.  They started us off with a 14” pita and a spicy dipping oil.  I had lamb shawarma over hummus and Shawn had spiced lamb over hummus.  I think this is the best meal we’ve had in Oregon.

On a side note, gas in Oregon is cheaper and they pump it for you!  Pumping your own gas is a $125 fine.

Daily Ratings & Stats

Bolt fabric shop – 3.5 stars
Salt & Straw ice cream – 3 stars (Shawn said it was delicious but the wait was entirely too long)
Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider – 3 stars
Nicholas Lebanese restaurant – 5 stars

Miles traveled – 111
Steps taken – not nearly enough for all the tasting today
Number of times I’ve used “beautiful” to describe Oregon – are you keeping track?


Day 8 – Oregon Rain

It rained all night. Boy, was I glad we weren’t tent camping! When the rain stopped this morning, we took the opportunity to walk along the dunes and the beach. The tide was out and the hard packed sand made it perfect for walking, running, biking, chasing kids and dogs, and horseback riding. There were people doing all these things while the weather was good.

Dunes separating the campground and the beach

Not us

After that, it started raining again so we headed into Manzanita for lunch. Manzanita is a ritzy little seaside town similar to Carmel. Lots of expensive realty, restaurants, coffee houses and gift shops. We had lunch at the Big Wave Café. Shawn had fresh halibut fish & chips and I had clam chowder and crab cakes with habanero aioli. We also enjoyed a bottle of Oregon Chardonnay from Westrey in Dundee Hills. We slipped into Bread & Ocean Bakery just as they were putting up the closed sign and grabbed their last loaf of sourdough. We are still on a quest for good sourdough. A final stop at Manzanita Espresso & News for a coffee and then back to camp.

The rest of the afternoon has been spent enjoying the fresh rain-filled air and reading. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

Daily Ratings & Stats
Nehalem Bay State Park – 4 stars
Big Wave Café – 4 stars
Bread & Ocean Bakery – holding out on a rating until dinner
Manzanita Espresso & News – 4 stars
Steps taken – 10,408 so far

Day 7 – Maybe We Should Buy a Farm in Tillamook

On a driving day, we start out by figuring out how far we are driving to our next campsite.  Today it was estimated at about 100 miles and 2 hours.  We left South Beach at 10 AM and arrived at Nehalem Bay State Park at 5 PM.  It turns out there is a lot of good stuff to experience in 100 miles, and we took our darn sweet time doing just that.

Our first stop was Pelican Brewing for lunch and a beer sampling.  After Rogue Brewing, it was hard to compete.  Pelican’s beers weren’t bad, they just weren’t as epic as what we had at Rogue yesterday.  Shawn had an elk burger with goat cheese and I had a smoked salmon Caesar salad.

Next stop was the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.  They were having a showing of quilts with the theme of green and/or recycling by local quilt artists.  While I was admiring the quilts, Shawn wandered into the weaving room and struck up a conversation with Shirley the resident weaving instructor.  She explained how the looms worked and gave us a demonstration.  We also got a few stories about her mother’s aunt in Sweden who was also a weaver.  Shawn is ready to embark on a new weaving hobby…I’m just waiting for Amazon to deliver the loom.

While planning our trip, we were really excited about seeing the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  Unfortunately, they are in the process of building a new visitors’ center, so we did not get a tour.  The tasting room, gift shop and creamery were open.  As you’ve read, we’ve experienced some pretty awesome cheese, so Tillamook was a bit of a letdown.  We actually left without buying anything…well, we did have a scoop of ice cream.

Steve the Dinosaur likes ice cream too

Our final stop was DeGarde Brewing.  They brew “wild” meaning they do not add laboratory produced yeast for fermentation. The wort is cooled naturally and takes in the Tillamook yeast and microflora from the air.  Then the beer is aged in oak barrels to finish the fermenting.  We tried some interesting brews, most of them being sours.  One actually had an aroma of cow poo (not my fav).  They had a 2-bottle limit on one of their new releases and numerous people approached us asking if we would buy them 2 bottles if we weren’t getting any.  The guy we ended up buying for invited us to his new Vietnamese street food truck opening in Portland next week.  He isn’t fully permitted yet, but he said he would make us a full lunch if we looked him up.

There was some construction on 101, so Google routed us through some beautiful farmland.  Lush green valleys backing up to hills of conifers.  Many of the barns have 8-foot square wooden quilt blocks on them.  This is a tradition started in the Midwest called the Quilt Barn Trail.  I looked up 10+ acre properties for sale on Zillow, and it turns out we will not be retiring in Tillamook County on our government pension.

Nehalem Bay State Park is on the ocean.  The spots are not quite as big as they were in South Beach, so it was a bit challenging parking the RV.  I was busy watching the trees on the side and missed the branch overhanging the space.  A bit of plastic on the top of the RV died today.  After seven days of sunshine, we are experiencing our first rain.  Woohoo, I get to wear my new raincoat tomorrow!

Daily Ratings & Stats

Pelican Brewing – 3 stars
Latimer Quilt & Textile Center – 4 stars
Tillamook Cheese Factory – 3 stars
DeGarde Brewing – 3 stars

Miles driven – 100 (in 7 hours)
Steps taken – 3,510

Day 6 – Oh, the Beaches…

Since we are staying two days at South Beach, we started the day with a long walk.  The trails around the park are very well groomed.  We walked along the interpretive trail learning about the local plants and trees then along the jetty leading into Newport.  We headed back along the grassy dunes to the beach.  The beaches in Oregon are so nice (also known as beautiful) with fine, brown sand.  There was very little wind today and the sun was shining.

We went into Newport for lunch and a bit of beer tasting at Rogue Brewery.  Shawn had the Kobe beef burger with blue cheese and I tempted fate and had the smoked cheddar mac & cheese.  While it was not as good as the world’s best Face Rock Creamery mac & cheese, it was darn tasty and went well with the beer samples.  Our favorite was the 10 Hop IPA.  We even bought a 32-ounce “Crowler” (freshly canned to order) to bring back to camp.

On the way back to camp, Shawn spotted a quilt shop.  He is getting really good at this!  Quilters Cove had a large selection of patterns for local lighthouses, covered bridges and Oregon places of interest.  I left with a Yaquina Lighthouse.  When I retire, I will make a travel quilt of all the items I’ve picked up in quilts shops in Hawaii, Alaska, New Zealand, and now Oregon.

Back at camp, as I sit outside enjoying the weather and writing my blog, Tito the T-Rex guards the camp.  Other people have cute little carved wooden bears holding welcome signs outside their RVs, but we have a dinosaur.  (Shawn tells me Tito is a velociraptor but I’m going to pretend he is a T-Rex.)  People stop and notice a metal dinosaur.  Tito may come on all our future RV travels.

Daily Ratings & Stats

Rogue Brewery – 5 stars
Quilters Cove – 3.5 stars
Vacation Life – 5 stars

Miles driven – very few
Steps taken – 9,182 but the day is not over and there are more trails to explore