Category Archives: Oregon

Bellingham to SFO

September 15, 2007

Time travel back to August 23rd. I am writing this report from the comfort of my NYC apartment. I spent the afternoon looking at some of my photos from Washington, Oregon and California to refresh my memory. It was nice to reminisce a little. This trip will stay with me for a very long time. I have the feeling that I will remember little details out of the blue in the middle of the day which will put me right back on the highway.

Auto and train tunnel along the Columbia River

Auto and train tunnel along the Columbia River

Let’s get back to the trip from Bellingham to San Francisco. The weather was not the friendliest during my time in Bellingham and on my departure day. I chose to take highway 9/203/162 south instead of the horrible I-5 towards Mt. Rainier. This should be much less stressful and only a bit slower. The roads took me once again thru tiny towns along green fields with mountains not far. The roads were narrow and traffic was close to none existing. At least until I reached the outskirts of larger towns. I had to climb a couple of mountains which also meant a fast trip downhill. I did see the cop car on the bottom of the hill, waiting for all those speeders, but not in time to get to the proper speed. I believe I must have been going 75 mph in a 65 zone, luckily I did not get pulled over and there has been no ticket in the mail. It seems almost impossible to stick to the speed limit at those steep declines.

Historic train station

Historic train station

Around Eatonville, don’t ask how I remember, it was very woodsy and a creek was running along the left side of the road, really pretty. The weather had been quite good so far, little overcast but not gray. That, however changed when I got closer to Mt. Rainier. The mountain was none existing,

Dead trees on hillside along Forest Service Road 99 surrounding Mount St. Helens.  The trees died during the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Dead trees on hillside along Forest Service Road 99 surrounding Mount St. Helens. The trees died during the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

completely hidden behind a thick cloud cover. I didn’t even bother to drive all the way to the base. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see Mt. Rainier. Would I have been better of to drive thru the Olympic National Park over at the Pacific coast instead of traveling inland? I guess I will never find out. I decided to continue south to Mt. Saint Helens, hoping that the cloud cover would break. A woman at the visitor center near Mt. Rainier told me that it would be possible to get Cascade Locks, my destination for the day, on the Columbia River before dark. However, I should add at least an hour, each way, if I wanted to go to the viewing area along the eastern side of Mt. Saint Helens.

The drive on highway 25 towards the mountain was winding its way thru the forest, a very slow process. There was a dash of sunlight coming thru the clouds and I turned right at the turn-off to the viewing area, a full hour away. It was a race against the disappearing sun. I was so close I at least wanted to get a glimpse of the mountain. What I first saw were all the dead trees on the side of the mountains surrounding Mt. Saint Helens. They had been “killed” when St. Helens exploded back in the 1980s. It reminded me of all the dead trees in Yellowstone. Well, by the time I reached the viewing area the clouds had increased and I couldn’t see much of anything. At least I tried. Now the race with darkness began. The last thing I wanted to do was driving in the pitch black dark through the forest. I did not have many choices, there were no motels anywhere, and the closest campground put me quite a bit out of my way. Since I am somewhat stubborn, I headed towards Cascade Locks on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. Darkness once again came faster than expected.

Driving down a lonely forest road in the dark with tall trees to the left and right is not my idea of fun. There are no towns, not even tiny once, along the way for about 60 miles. The knowledge of the campground at the end of the road kept me going, a healthy dose of adrenalin helped as well. There were no lights, no houses and the small campground in the woods was dark as well. Not particularly inviting, and did I mention that I am stubborn? The only thing giving me a little light was the moon shining above. The dark creature on the side of the road turned out to be a big deer;

Driftwood along the Columbia River.

Driftwood along the Columbia River.

luckily he was walking away from the road. It took me two hours to drive the 60 miles. At that point I was too tired to set up camp and I opted for a motel. Not that easy either to find a place in the dark. I have a nose for wired places.   I am just glad that I didn’t see the big pile of old mattresses and furniture next to the motel

Multnomah Falls and Benson Bridge along the Historic Columbia River Highway

Multnomah Falls and Benson Bridge along the Historic Columbia River Highway

when I checked in. The bathroom was pretty unique, no shower walls only a curtain which separated the shower from the toilet, one continues floor. The mattress was about 30” of the ground; a step-stool would have been helpful. At least the room was quiet and didn’t smell.

The next day I explored the Columbia Gorge. A beautiful stretch of the Columbia River between Portland and Mt. Hood. Reminded my of the Hudson valley, except the mountains were a little higher. There are seven waterfalls along the route. All very skinny and after having seen two or three of them I did not stop anymore. Remember, I saw the big waterfall in Twin Falls. Off I went towards the Pacific Ocean, Cannon Beach. I was looking forward to driving down the coast and spending a little time at the beach. Not necessarily swimming, but just sitting at the beach enjoying the ocean. Cannon Beach is very nice, small, not too touristy, little artist community. Made it to the beach just before sunset. It was very windy and foggy. Looked neat, the fog was moving around the big boulders in the water.

Girls playing in the Pacific Ocean

Girls playing in the Pacific Ocean

Got up really early the next morning and headed for the beach (I camped). Damn, totally cloudy, not nice fog, just gray clouds. Took me forever to find a place that was open for breakfast, it was before 8 AM!

The drive down the coast was not as great as I had hoped. The weather was the biggest problem, gray, very windy and cold. No way that I would be able to hang out at the beach, not even in a warm sweater. Traffic was bad as well. Too many really slow drivers on a two lane highway can be extremely aggravating. I stopped in Tillamook, a big cheese town. I visited the cheese factory. I have a whole new respect for packaged cheese bricks. There is a lot of repetitive handwork involved until those little cheese bricks end up in the plastic bag. I talked to one worker and she told me that everyone has at least one of their wrist tendons fixed.

Oregon coast looking north

Oregon coast looking north

By mid-day the skies had cleared. There were a handful of overviews along highway 101 with amazing views up and down the Pacific Coast. Long stretches of the highway were a little inland with no view of the ocean. Towards evening fog started to move in from the ocean. Within seconds the road was swallowed up by fog and it cleared almost as quickly.

Samuel H. Boardman State Park - Fog covers the Oregon coast at sunset.

Samuel H. Boardman State Park – Fog covers the Oregon coast at sunset.

I camped in the redwoods in Crescent City just south of the Oregon border in California. Thanks to my warm sleeping bag I didn’t notice that the temperature had dropped. The campground lay in fog and it was only 54F / 12C. Not really that cold, but with the moisture in the air it was finger biting cold. After a hardy breakfast I felt much better and headed to the Redwood National Park. You don’t realize how big those trees are until you see a skinny, little pine tree next to them.

Continuing on hwy 101 the highway turned away from the coast further inland, no more water only trees which obstructed the view to the left and right. The highway eventually split into 101 and 1. I stayed on 101, a faster route, I know this was not a race, but I really wanted to get to SFO, people to meet, things to do. The inland temperatures were much higher and the sky was blue. I past thru Sonoma wine country. The trees gave way to vineyards. A quick stop

Wine grapes in Sonoma County

Wine grapes in Sonoma County

in Santa Rosa. I was looking for some local honey. Unfortunately, it was 6 PM on a Saturday and the stores were closed, how dare they. Cute place, especially the old downtown.

I could not have asked for a better welcome arriving in San Francisco. Late afternoon sunlight giving the city a reddish glow, blue sky, light on the Golden Gate Bridge. All toped of by the moon above the city, wow. As it always goes no place to pull over. I got a crappy shot through the open window in stop and go traffic.

After 1 ½ days in SFO off I went to Lake Tahoe, what a beautiful place. Kayaking on the lake, resting, spending time with friends. What a great way of life.

This is the last trip report. Thank you very much for reading. I will send one more short e-mail with a trip recap, stay tuned. Would I do this again, definitely!

See ya.


August 26, 2007

I don’t know where to start. As you might have noticed, my e-mails have become fewer and fewer. That’s not because I don’t want to write, but because my energy level has hit a low point. Also, I get to the campsite/motel too late to still pull out the computer and write. I am three weeks behind in my personal journal entries! Right now I just want to get home. It’s been almost five weeks on the road and in a different place almost every night. When I have stayed with friends, I have woken up and had no idea where I was. Sometimes I thought I was lying in the cab, not the bed, of the truck and I was surprised that the seats folded all the way back until I realized that I was sleeping in a very comfortable bed.

The beautiful scenery that I have been driving through for the last couple of days does not quite register the same way it did in the beginning, it’s just another tree.

Anyway, just a couple of additions to my last report:

Yellowstone National Park - Gibbon Falls

Yellowstone National Park – Gibbon Falls

Yellowstone: the nights were freezing cold, only 43F/6C. I was very happy that my sleeping bag was rated up to 35F/3C and the only thing that got cold was my nose. It was not too pleasant to crawl out of the warm sleeping bag into the cold morning air and into the bathroom which only had cold running water. I know it was not as cold as my dad always tells us it was when he was a kid and he had to break the ice on his wash bowl in the morning.

Highway 26 looking west

Highway 26 looking west

Idaho: Even though I didn’t spent much time there the one thing that sticks to my mind is the very sweet smell of the wet wheat after a rain shower. You know the smell of fresh cut grass, multiple that by 10 and add a little more intensity and you get close to the smell of wet wheat, just wonderful.

In my last e-mail I promised to tell you about my trip from eastern Oregon to Bellingham. Bellingham is located about 60 miles south of the Canadian border along the coast of Washington State.

I started out in Ontario, OR driving west on route 26. This was probably the most isolated stretch of road I have traveled on so far. For miles and miles not a single car, never mind anything more than a farm or two. Just field after field and a lot of sagebrush. I turned onto a dirt road for about 12 miles and all I would see was some cattle and rolling hills as far as the eye could see. Unfortunately, I could also see the smoke from some wild fires. I drove thru a handful of almost

Old general store and phone booth

Old general store and phone booth

ghost towns. One of them was Unity, 50 miles away from any slightly larger town in any direction. Unity was never very large, used to be a logging town with 250+ people, now there are only 80 left and the mills closed down a couple of years ago. Throughout this trip I have seen many dilapidated buildings, abandoned years ago and left to rot. And sometimes it is not clear if someone is still living in the falling apart trailer home with the junk cars in front or not.

Old tiller off Willow Creek Road

Old tiller off Willow Creek Road

I was heading towards Sisters, a town named after the mountains just to the west of it. The peaks of those mountains were impressive. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of them since the weather turned on me and clouds and rain rolled in. It was raining the next morning when I was leaving Sisters.

Due to the weather and a road closure I had to change my route to Bellingham. Instead of heading north from Sisters to Mt. Hood and than into Washington State passing Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainer before getting up to Bellingham, I drove west to Eugene. What a funky town. I haven’t seen so many grunch kids in a very long time, never mind so many homeless / drunk/drugged out people. Eugene is about two hours south of the Washington border and it is a pretty straight shot up on I-5 to Bellingham.

Figured I’ll be there by 8 PM, wrong it was 10 PM before I got there. It was the longest day up to then with the fewest stops and over 500 miles of driving. I am so glad that I had been avoiding the interstates.

I-5 is just awful. People don’t know how to drive; everyone drives in the left lane no matter what speed they go. It was so bad I was screaming at the drivers and eventually left the interstate and opted for a small detour with much better views, fewer drivers and no stress. I went back on I-5 north of Seattle; otherwise I would have never gotten to Bellingham.

I had two full days at my friend’s place which was great. I got to see the sites of the area and just had a nice relaxing time. However, the weather was not too kind to us, that is until I left, figures.

I spent this Sunday in San Francisco. Half the day with a friend, walking around the Castro and Mission areas which are quite beautiful with their very colorful vegetation and I am not talking about the people. The second half of the day I did something I hadn’t done on the entire trip. I did nothing! Didn’t want to go out, didn’t have to be anywhere, could just sit on the balcony and enjoy the little bit of sun that shines around here.

Tomorrow I am driving to Lake Tahoe where I’ll stay again with friends and in a couple of days I am heading home!

You have to wait until the next report to find out how I got from Bellingham down to SFO and how the moon showed me the way in the dark forests around Mt. St. Helens.

 Thanks for reading all my reports and for your feedback. I enjoy getting that as much as you seem to like my e-mails.

Good night and see you soon.

On The Road Again

August 22, 2007

After 2 full days of rest at my friend’s house in Bellingham, I am off again.  Heading towards the Oregon border via Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens.  Skipping the Olympic Peninsula this time around, unfortunately.  Down the Oregon coast to SFO.

Barn off highway 26

Barn off highway 26

Not sure if I’ll make it by this weekend or not.
It feels like this trip is coming to an end, even though I still have 3 weeks left and a long drive home.

I’ll send more details about my drive from Ontario, OR to Bellingham soon.

Food and New Yorkers are spoiled

It has been some time since I blogged about food. Now that I have been on the road for almost six months I have experienced a variety of food issues, mainly the lack of good produce.
Not eating meat and poultry definitely limits my choices at restaurants / diners, especially when I travel through small towns out in nowhere. My standard choice for lunch is a grilled cheese sandwich (GCS) or tuna salad sandwich, not always so easy to get. You would think that it is very difficult to mess up grilled cheese. I guess you live in a larger town. A standard grilled cheese sandwich comes without tomato and most of the time when I ask for it the waitress ask if that would be on the side or on the sandwich it. Not a good start. The last place where I had a GCS was in the middle of nowhere in Oregon. The place could have been named “Greasy Spoon”. The sandwich consisted of two slices of white bread (one piece was the end slice) and ONE slice of Kraft singles cheese. I don’t even know if that qualifies as real cheese or if those are just chemicals mixed with oil. The French fries was still dripping with grease. No wonder people get bigger and bigger. It has happened that I forget to ask for the tomato and I end up with one hell of a dry sandwich. Of course there are exceptions. In Atlanta, Texas at a store with an old fashioned lunch counter the sandwich was dressed up with some pesto sauce, very nice. You ask why I don’t get a salad. Well, again you must live in a larger town. The salads I have had generally are made with iceberg lettuce, a slice of tomato and shredded cheese and some sort of dressing. Nutrition value equal zero. Not that the sandwich is any better in that regard, but at least it is filling and tasty.
It is not all bad, I have had some really good grilled veggie sandwiches, but they are rare. The biggest problem in small towns is the availability of fresh foods. The freezer department generally is way bigger than the produce department. Worst case the only vegetables I found in a supermarket were some potatoes, onions, a little broccoli and maybe one other vegetable. How can anyone cook dinner with that? Then again, there is the freezer department. When I do come across a great produce selection I always want to buy everything, but have to remind myself that I can’t eat everything before it spoils. Not every vegetable freezes well. I get excited when I see Portobello mushrooms. There have been fruit and vegetable stands along the road in California, but by far not enough and there selection is often limited to the current harvest.
Another small town problem is that the local market often only carries the basics; for everything else you have to drive 30! miles (one way) to the next town. Having lived most of my life in New York City, I just can’t imagine living in a place where I have to spend an hour driving back and forth to buy food. At home I have at least six supermarkets or grocery stores within a five block radius. Not to mention the corner delis for quick buys when you are too lazy to walk one block or when you realize at midnight that you ran out of milk. The selection and quality of produce we have in the city is just amazing and we do take it for granted. The crazy thing is that every tiny town, no matter how remote has a post office…
Here in Bellingham at my friend’s place I am starting to get a little spoiled. Carol has a great vegetable garden in the front and back of her house. I just walk out and eat string beans right of the vine, the zucchinis are huge and yummy, the mint is plentiful and smells so good, lettuce, garlic and more. Her neighbor has strawberries that are out of this world. Along many streets grow blackberry bushes free to all who want to pick their own.
It is not just special stuff, if you call Portobello mushrooms special that at times is difficult to come by.
I thought it was difficult to find my dark, dark European style Rubschlager bread, but I had no idea it would be just as hard to find my cereal. I wasn’t able to find any from Arizona to Northern California, not even in San Francisco, at least not at the places I looked. I was happy to find it in Mendocino, California. I thought buying five boxes should be fine. I would surely find more along my way to Bellingham, Washington. Well, I didn’t find any and I was at the verge of running out. I am sorry; I don’t just eat any cereal. A word to Kellogg’s – you need more stores which carry Mueslix! I emptied the shelves of a supermarket in Bellingham twice and have a three month supply now. Let’s hope I find my bread soon before I have to have it shipped from New York.
Yesterday I was in haven when I walked into a cheese store, Quel Fromage, in Fairhaven. I am not a snob, but I can’t just eat supermarket cheese. Cheese does not only come in yellow and orange squares. The last time I bought cheese was in New Mexico when a friend brought back some cheese from Whole Foods. At Quel Fromage I bought five different, melt on your tongue, cheeses that should last for some time. I am so glad that I have a refrigerator.
Next time again some travel stuff with photos, maybe even the last installment of my highway one trip.

So, so fortunate

Wow, this morning I woke up surrounded by moss covered trees in the very quiet Milo McIver State Park in Oregon near Mount Hood. Tonight I fixed dinner parked at the edge of the Pacific Ocean watching the sun go down. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Pacific, here I am

I am constantly trying to digest the days gone by, which is not that easy. One day I drive through the desert the next I am looking at vineyards or drive along rushing river through the mountains. The impressions are endless and I have to pinch myself from time to time to make sure everything is real. I can’t believe that I have been on the road now for five months. The time just flew by. Winter is coming soon and I have to figure out where to spend the cold months. I like to say that I am very fortunate, not lucky, that I can go on a trip like this; leave New York City for a year and basically just travel. I distinguish between fortunate and lucky, this trip was not simply handed to me, I had to work hard to get to this point. I am lucky, however, to have a boss who lets me continue to work for him from the road, thank you David.
Not every day is rosy. Yesterday was a hard day and I was completely exhausted by the time I arrived at the campground. A 200 mile drive took six hours! That’s hours of driving against strong head winds along the beautiful Columbia River at about 40 mph, followed by driving up and down mountain roads at 30 mph. No cruise control, just pressing the gas pedal down really hard with my right foot. I don’t enjoy those days. I can’t appreciate the scenery (Mount Hood in front of me and Mount Rainier in the rear view mirror) and my body, especially my right knee, just aches. I was in bed before 9 PM and slept for eleven hours.
Good thing days like today by far out number the hard driving days. Tomorrow I will be in the rain forest, what a country!

A day of repairs

It is so nice when everything is back in good working order.
I had decided to stop by my camper manufacturer, Eagle Cap, in La Grande Oregon to have a couple of things checked out and fixed.
I arrived yesterday and instead of spending the night at a campground, I figured I might as well park right outside their shop and save some commuting time. Bill, the sales manager, had no problem with this. All was fine until 5 AM when the first workers arrived! Luckily, I managed to fall back to sleep for a few more hours.
In the morning I went over my little issues list with Moni and Jason, who then put the guys to work.
I had to leave to get the right front tire of the truck fixed. I had noticed a nail in the side of the tire back in northern California, but had not found a Ford dealership to fix it. At my last stop nice RVers had pointed out that it could come to a blow out. Not what you want to hear just before you head out for a 250 mile trip!
The Legacy dealership in La Grande squeezed me into their tight schedule. As it turns out, the tire needed to be replaced. Side wall damage cannot be patched for safety reasons. The good news was that my extended tire warranty covers the new tire. I tell you I was happy to hear that. Not just did I get a new tire, but I also had the tires rotated and the oil changed. As a bonus my truck was also washed! Thank you Lony and Tony! FYI, it wasn’t a nail, but a very pointy piece of wood.
Another thank you is due to the inventor of the internet, thanks Al :),
and the inventor of wi-fi. Thanks to both I could get most of my work done while I was waiting for the truck to be fixed.
When I returned to Eagle Cap my camper was fixed as well. Cracks were patched, a crooked leg and a leaky faucet replaced, a radio antenna attached (I always wondered why I had such crappy reception). The guys also ran extensive tests to figure out why I had water leaking, but couldn’t find anything wrong. Connections were tightened and let’s hope that will do it. Thank you to Bill, Moni, Jason and their crew.
Off I went to my night spot 100 miles north on I-84. Yes, I took the interstate. Didn’t love it, but did not have much of an option.
I love traveling and living in my camper, I totally dislike having to find a camp spot for the next night. I think I am set for tomorrow night.

There is plenty more to write about and hopefully, next week I will have some time while I am staying with my friend Carol in Washington State.