Posts Tagged With: Road Trip

Whales & A Sandy Sunset

After a full day of sand in our shorts, sun on our backs, and a simple dinner we returned to the beach like nesting turtles to watch the sunset. As we stepped out onto the and we saw the unmistakable spray of a whale’s spout on the horizon not far from the shore.

We believed them to be either grey or humpback whales very close to the shore. Whales are common in this area but not usually at this time of the year. Many locals were noting how unusually close to shore they were. Some saying they could actually hear the whales song.

While the whales were spouting in the evening light we decided to hike once again up the Giant Sand Dune of Pacific City and watch the sun set from that impressive vantage.

While I retraced my steps from earlier in the day Clara and Morgayne decided to take on the steep sand-walled ascent. The views on the way were similar to those earlier in the day, but bathed in magic-hour light. As I walked through a small wooded area towards the top of the dune I encountered a deer making its way home for the evening.

As the girls reached the top we all spotted the deer again, running across the steep west facing slope off-limits as far too dangerous for us.

In the warm bath of sun-set light the girls finally let me take some pictures of them before running off to film their own set of Instagrams, and Snapchat stories to share with their friends.

As the last rays dwindled across the sky we made our way down the great dune and in for the evening. Campfires were set along the beach with families cooking late dinners, playing games, and listening to music. It was a near perfect day. But we could just make out the encroaching cloud of a front on the horizon. There was a storm coming as we lay heads down securely in our trailer for the night.

Categories: Camping, Great American Roadtrip, Oregon | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Hiking Pacific City’s Giant Sand Dune

Wednesday brought us spectacular weather which we spent at the beach. Before the day warmed we decided to make the trek up Pacific City’s Giant Sand Dune which is part of Cape Kiwanda State Park.


We hiked the saddle to the left of the dune which was a little less steep, but possibly no less work slogging through deep hot sand.

We were told to stay to the right of the fence, which didn’t seem to deter many people. But several park rangers were on site managing a prison work crew repairing the fence so we didn’t deviate from the beaten path as we made our ascent, each step punctuated by a stunning view of the Pacific.

Front the top you could see 360 degrees across Cape Kiwanda and Pacific City with Chief Kiwanda Rock (Haystack Rock/Haystack Arch) dominating the view.

The girls seemed in Heaven, loving the views and loving the sand. It has long been a dream of Clara’s to look across rolling dunes and have the experience to roll or run down a large sand dune. Here was her chance.

We ran down the dune, hot scalding sand on our bare feet. At the bottom of the dune we found ourselves in the tide pools at the base of the cliffs of Cape Kiwanda where we cooled our heels before heading back to our car parked on the beach and a day of relaxation watching the surfers and boogie boarders in the Oregon sun.

Categories: Camping, Great American Roadtrip, Oregon | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

The Dory Boats of Pacific Beach

We had been told to watch out for the returning dory boats of Pacific Beach. “Stay clear of the boats when they are landing on the beach, listen for the horns and move out of the way. Dory’s don’t have breaks”. The boats are known to rush the beach at high speed, catch a wave and land well onto the beach so awaiting vehicles with trailers can winch them back home. The 100 year old traditional fleet of uniquely flat bottomed boats heads out most mornings from the reserved stretch of beach between Haystack Rock and the Giant Sand Dune of Pacific City and returns on the midday tide.

Unfortunately we were here a week before the 57th Annual Dory Days Festival July 15-17 sponsored by the Pacific City Doormen’s Association. While sponsored by the Doormen’s association we did notice a few boats being “manned” by Dorywomen as well.

We were lucky enough to catch the dory boats landing with their catch limit of what appeared to be black rockfish. We tasted their previous days catch later that day in the form of fish tacos ordered at Ben & Jeff’s Tacos shack in town.


Categories: Camping, Great American Roadtrip, Oregon | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Tillamook & Haystack Rock

A scenic Highway 6 took us out of Portland and landed us in Tillamook, Oregon land of cheese, dairy cows, rivers, and rugged green hills along the Pacific coast.

We intended to hit the Tillamook Cheese Company and pick up some curds or a block of cheddar before heading south to Cape Kiwanda for a few days.Before we arrived at the Tillamook Cheese Company we drove past Blue Heron French Cheese Company and decided to stop there first. They had a petting zoo (which I wasn’t about to go near) but Clara and Morgayne picked up the first chicken they found and subjected it to various torturous photos shoots before heading inside for cheese samples. Inside, Morgayne found a piano and sat down to entertain the tourists with a song.

From there we tried to go to the Tillamook Cheese Company but it was a zoo. Hoards of cheese loving tourists crowded outside, the parking lot was gridlock, and the RV parking was full. We decided against it and instead headed another 20 minutes or so south to Pacific City and our destination Cape Kiwanda. We checked in at Cape Kiwanda RV located directly across from the main beach at Cape Kiwanda State Park and Recreation Area. The sun was coming out so we set up camp amidst an abundance of bunnies that freely roamed the campground. This one is apparently named Basil and lives in the bush next to our spot.

After we shared part of our lunch w/Basil we took advantage of the sunny weather by heading to the beach. As soon as we walked onto the beach, saw Haystack Rock and the Pacific City Giant Sand Dune we decided we should book more time here. Rain was in the forecast and we all thought it better to avoid going on to Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park and the dunes there where we’d be sitting in the forest in the rain a mile inland from the ocean. Pacific City offered a few more restaurants, and indoor pool at our current spot, and a 2.5-3 hour shorter drive back to Seattle on Saturday. We cancelled reservations at Honeyman leaving that for another time, and were lucky enough to be able to extend our stay at Cape Kiwanda. With the remaining vacation booked we relaxed and took in the spectacular views and some vitamin D.

After the beach headed to the Pelican Brewery to have dinner on the deck and watch the sun set over Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock. Pelican Brewery has some fine beer (and they make their own root beer as well). But the wait was long, and the food overpriced and mediocre. But the views and the sunset didn’t disappoint.




Categories: Camping, Great American Roadtrip, Oregon | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Edgefield Anniversary

We stopped at Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon for lunch at the tail end of our Great American Road Trip in 2013. Tawny and I had been to McMenamins Edgefield 22 years ago when we were first dating. We stayed in the historic hotel, ate at the fancy Black Rabbit Restaurant, and drank beers in their movie theater. This year, on our anniversary of 17 years, we decided to head back on our way to the Oregon coast.


We arrived early to navigate the narrow driveways and parking lots of Edgefield with our travel trailer in tow. Last time we were here we nearly got trapped in a narrow driveway with another car coming our way. The other driver had to edge her Prius into the bushes so we could squeeze past. As we slowly rolled by her I apologized for thinking I could bring this rig into this lot. She was very gracious about the whole thing, apologizing that she couldn’t pull her car over any further. It was just after we passed her that we realized the other driver was Zooey Deschanel. Star struck, I secretly hoped we might have another chance sighting of her on this stay. No such luck.

We were too early to check into our room so we headed to the 102 degree spa pool on a hot day. It was a sweatbox but relaxing all the same. Afterwards we got to our room, changed and spent our afternoon and evening exploring the many side attractions of the quirky resort: glass blowing, ceramics studio, gift shops, the winery & distillery, many gardens, blackberries, fire pits, and finally took in a movie (Finding Dory) and dinner at the Power Station theater and restaurant during the movie.

It was nice and relaxing day to celebrate our anniversary. There were several weddings that were happening on the estate that same evening. It gave us pause to reflect on the our 22 years together and the similar adventures that await those young couples.

Somehow during the day we had made reservations for a morning tee time at the chip & putt golf course. We rousted the girls out of bed and headed to the course. Morgayne had never held a golf club before and Clara had only hit at a driving range. Both were surprising naturals and held their own against Tawny and I (who are a couple of hacks). My only redeeming moment of triumph was an impressive birdy on hole 4 of the East course on a 30 foot chip onto the green that luckily rolled into the cup.


Categories: Camping, Great American Roadtrip, Oregon | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Mount St. Helens & Silver Lake

Having planned our summer road trip during winter we found ourselves in June – just a few weeks prior to leaving – having to make adjustments to shift our trip forward a few days. We called around, adjusted reservations, and were lucky enough to find a place on short notice just a few hours outside of Seattle.

On Friday July 1st we rolled our R-Pod into Silver Cove Resort to a warm, partly shaded campsite along the canals connecting to Silver Lake. We found the resort friendly, clean, and they gave us a great spot with a few trees from which we could hang our hammock in the late afternoon sun.

Saturday we headed into Castle Rock to find a pharmacy for Tawny. She’s had perhaps one of the worst colds ever and hadn’t been able to shake it. Castle Rock is a tiny little town with a disproportionate number of antique and second-hand stores. We made the rounds and found ourselves a dozen new vinyls as well as some other gems and trinkets.

From Castle Rock we headed back up Spirit Lake Highway, past our campsite, and on towards Mt. St. Helens. It’s been just over 36 years since the volcano erupted on May 18th, 1980. I remember it well. I was about 10 years old and on a field trip on North Vancouver Island with my mother who was pursuing a Masters Degree in marine biology at the time. We were out collecting varied specimens of Chlorophyta, Phaeophyceae Ochrophyta, and Rhodophyte (or green, brown, and red algae. We were more than 600 miles away that day and at about 8:35 AM we heard a huge explosion. Some thought it may be military exercises nearby. Somebody else joked about it being Mt St. Helens since it had been in the news so much lately and it was just a matter of time. Nobody took it seriously, but somebody – perhaps my mother – said, “Take note of the time, it just may be St. Helens!” Indeed, it was. After returning home to Anacortes we learned that my father and sister said our dogs had gone crazy at the explosion (250 miles away) and that they hadn’t head the explosion. Apparently the sound wave traveled up and over major metropolitan areas such as Seattle. Days later we got a phone call from my grandmother in Tulsa, Oklahoma telling us their cars were dusted in ash from the explosion. That awesome power left a lasting impression on my 10 year old psyche. One I’ve never forgotten.

Even so, I’d never been to Mt. St. Helens and yet today I find myself unscripted and unplanned within a 45 minute drive to the Johnston Ridge Observatory (so named after volcanologist David Johnston, who was at the researching the mountain when it erupted).  Memorized there are his last words “Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!”. It must have been a spectacular way to go. Unfortunately, he remains were never found.

The devastation of the area is still evident and stark, but softened by a colorful blanket of new life flourishing in the form mountain lupine, paintbrushes, lupines, and mountain daisies.

We arrived just in time to listen to a forest service ranger give a synopsis of the events of May, 18th, 1980. The power and devastation of this mountain was awe-inspiring. Many observed in silence while trying to wrap their heads around the statistics the ranger rattled off; “Spirit Lake was swept away like a squeegee up the side of the mountain, and then dropped back to its current location 200 feet higher and twice the size than it was before”, or “They measured the mountain in the days before the eruption using state of the art equipment and over the course of 60 days it grew at a rate of 5 feet a day, one day adding over 17 feet!; they initially thought the equipment was faulty.”, or “The mountain lost nearly 1,200 feet in altitude that day i.”

We hiked a nearby trail, took in the panoramas, watched a short movie, and read the placards at the interpretive center before heading back down the valley to Silver Lake and our campsite. We built a fire and grilled our dinner over the open coals before finally making the last glow of the day, and the last glow of the coals toast our marshmallows, into to tortured dreams of impending lahars (rhymes w/s’mores).

Categories: Camping, Great American Roadtrip, Oregon, Washington | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Oregon Trail: Day 8 – Land of Wine and Cherries

Walla Walla is only an hour from Pendleton. We had preselected a few wineries to go to (there are hundreds to choose from) but hoped the few we had selected wouldn’t entirely bore the girls.
The first was Amavi which we had selected randomly for the view. We knew nothing of their wines but really enjoyed their Syrah and Cab and bought a few bottles.   

The second was Sleight of Hand Cellars which we had chosen for its vinyl collection…thinking the girls could choose albums to play while we were there, and they did (Clara played The Head and the Heart). As well as their alternative/rock aesthetic as they profess to be “Punk Rock Wines for Punk Rock Minds”. 
We really enjoyed their wines, as well as their graphic labels and clever t-shirts (which we bought a few of – as well as a few bottles of wine).

 Last, on the way out of town was L’ecole #41 which is a winery we’ve enjoyed for years but never had an opportunity to visit. These are great wines although these small winemakers of Amavi and Sleight of Hand can certainly hold their own against them.

 For lunch we stopped in Walla Walla at a little place called Cugini Italian Import Foods based on the Yelp reviews we saw on it: 4.5 stars with hundreds of reviews. We had to check it out. We never would have found this place (located in a rural residential neighborhood) on our own. Nor would we have been likely to randomly pull in on our own as the exterior isn’t necessarily enticing. But the food (very slowly prepared – our lunch took 90 minutes) was as Clara put it “It tastes like Italy”. Tawny’s burrata with house salami and eggplant tapenade was moan inducing. My “Godfather” panini with soppressata was worth killing for. A cucumber and tomato salad tossed in their homemade pesto accompanied it. And each sandwich came with complementary spumoni afterwards. 
With our bellies full we drove on towards to meet our long time friend (and Clara’s Fairy Godmother) Julie in Prosser where her brother Jimmy is working at the Zirkle Fruit Company. He is currently processing and packing cherries and invited us to a tour of the packing plant. It was really fascinating to see all the engineering and care that is taken to get cherries from tree to table. 

I was surprised how many quality control stations there are repeatedly checking the size, firmness, and color of the cherries. These are premium cherries most of which are headed to markets in Korea, Australia, and Japan. 

At 109 degrees we drove on towards Yakima stopping briefly in Zillah, WA to see the famous Tea Pot gas station. And then noticed the Church of God building nearby. Its the Church of God, Zillah, WA. Get it?


Categories: Great American Roadtrip | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Oregon Trail: Day 4 – Ghost of the Oregon Trail

We should have done better pre-trip research because Monday morning we realized access to Hells Canyon from Baker City isn’t the best point of entry. The loop road (Hells Canyon Scenic Route) was closed for construction. We tried to find something to do. We had already paid for two nights in Baker City and so didn’t really have an option to go somewhere else.

We made a leisurely morning of it before we decided to head to Halfway, Oregon. Halfway had renamed itself in the early 2000 boom (it was a small town familiar with booms and busts over the years). Beyond Halfway was the fabled ghost mining town of Cornucopia (we found a listing of ghost towns of Eastern Oregon) and decided another ghost town (sans trailer in tow) would be the order of the day.

But first we took a detour to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center where we were greeted by a very credible Buffalo Bill impersonator (refer to this blog’s 2013 visit to the Buffalo Bill Museum in Wyoming)

We spent the better part of an hour taking in the dioramas of life on the Oregon Trail. I didn’t realize just how brutal the Oregon Trail was. It took on average 140-180 days to travel the 2000 mile trail. It was so treacherous that on average there was a grave every 80 yards along the trail. Most deaths where not caused by glamourous Western Expansion murders, suicides, or indian attacks, but more often than not by small pox and dysentery. I mean, you can see the anguish in these dioramas.




There was a great interactive exhibit where you could pack your own covered wagon before heading out on the Oregon Trail. Which items would you have to leave behind? The children’s toys? The family heirlooms? The barrel of whiskey? Hell No! My superior “Tetris Skills” allowed me to pack everything in my wagon. I would have owned the trail!

The Interpretive Center was on a high bluff overlooking a preserved section of the Oregon Trail which you could see from the bay windows (it looks cloudy but its 103 degrees out there!). 

The Interpretive Center is only 5 miles from Baker City, so we continued (runing low on fuel) to Richland about an hour away towards Hells Canyon. We gassed at the only station in the region and headed on towards Halfway where we had lunch at the only open (or still in business) restaurant in town – Wild Bills!

We asked about the roads to Cornucopia and one waitress said the roads were passable and so far as she knew there were still a few buildings standing. We decided to go for it.

We headed North past Halfway to the end of the county road where it turns to gravel just as the waitress had said. It would be approximately 6 miles before we came to the ghost town (a mining boom town which at one time extracted $10M in gold (back in a day when that was a meaningful number). Today we would find out that most of the claims were owned by GE who were trying to mine uranium there for the war effort.

Towards the end of the road we came across a man in camouflage hunched over sitting on a camo-ATV on the side of the gravel road. We approached slowly. I rolled down the window a crack it open and called out…is there a ghost town around here? He quickly turned and I half expected to see a half-crazed zombie ready to tear us limb-from-limb. But instead I was greated by a very nice man who I noticed had sawed off a finger or two at one time as he pointed us in the direction of the old ghost town with his stubs. “When you get to where the road is real bad, you’ll know you are there. You can keep going on if you want..but I woudn’t if I was you. Feel free to park and get out and walk around.” And so we did.


We parked and got out and walked around. Although we were high in the mountains it was still hot, around 100 degrees. We wandered through old buildings and decaying machinery and cars and made our way through what had once been a vibrant and bustling boom town.


Then we headed back towards the new cabins where we had met our would-be zombie. He and a friend flagged us down and volunteered to show us the Cornucopia jail which they were lovingly restoring to its former glory. Should we walk into the cell? What if they capture and keep us here? Do we dare risk our lives? Sure! Why not! It was fascinating. Basically the jail was built just down the street from where there had one been a bar. It mostly served as a drunk tank in the old mining town which had a repulation for being the most orderly of mining towns of its day (because they said gold fell from the mountainside, making it an easy and prosperous community).

     On our way out of the ghost town we passed what looked like an old hotel. And then we returned the way we came and drove an hour or so back to Baker City for the night surely to dream of life on the Oregon Trail staking a claim for mineral rights in a early boom town of Eastern Oregon.

Categories: Great American Roadtrip | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

GART: Day 2. Prehistoric Gardens & Trees of Mystery

I love kitsch. I love American sub-culture. I think that’s why I might love RVing (its too early to tell). The combination of roadside attractions and the RV Park experience may prove to be sociologically fascinating.

Today we left Coos Bay for a long drive. We got a late start because we were busy trying to figure out how to dump our black and grey water for the first time…and drain this stale fresh water and sanitize our tank. It wasn’t to complicated but it got us out of the gate late knowing we had an 8.5 hour drive today and wanted to stop at a few key roadside attractions: Prehistoric Gardens and the Trees of Mystery. But first we had a scenic drive down 101 and the majestic Pacific Coast.



Prehistoric Gardens. Tawny and I came here once on a drive down the coast. We wanted the kids to have a similar experience. The prices have gone up, but they’ve done well in preserving and restoring many of the dinosaurs, and even adding a few new ones. One of my favorite roadside attractions.








From there we drove into California and to the Trees of Mystery – a perennial favorite. Every time we drive down 101 we always stop here. They’ve added a few new attractions with a Sky Trail (Gondola ride) that takes you over the tree canopy. It wasn’t really worth the wait, but its nice to see them investing in this roadside attraction that dates back to the early 60s. A must see.









From the Trees of Mystery (which we finished at 4pm) we realized we still had a 4.5 hour drive on to the Willits KOA where we had made a non-refundable deposit (note to self – check the distance of the campground you reserve before you reserve it). So we drove and drove and drove and drove …and when we were within 15 miles of Willits, CA we were flagged down by a first responder. There had been an accident ahead that had closed 101 (a lumber truck had overturned) and it might be awhile before we could continue, especially because we were in a trailer and the room to get past the wreckage was small.

However, as they started to let cars through we nudge our way into the queue to a shrug and frown of a CHiP but were just able to squeeze ourselves through the wreckage and arrive at the Willits KOA just as everything was closing. Willits KOA Review: Curt. Slightly Rude. Contrived and sterile. Not sure I’d recommend or return. We’ll be heading out early tomorrow morning before the petting zoo and pool open and heading to Big Sur.

Day 2: 358 Miles
Gas: 2.5 Tanks
Fuel Economy: 11 MPG
Average Price: $4.00 a gallon in Oregon, $4.39 in CA!


Categories: Great American Roadtrip | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Great American Road Trip – Day 1: Sea Lion Caves

I love road trips. As a child I remember taking road trips in our Ford disco van. Seatbelts? What were those? We’d lay the bed down in the back of the van and my sister, her friends and mine would all form a pile with pillows and sleeping bags. My first philosophical experiences consisted of staring out the window and contemplating existence while listening to Oingo Boingo or The Fixx on my Walkman.

When I was 17 my friend Ross and I (newly licensed) told our parents we were going to Sadie’s Mexican Restaurant in Albuquerque during spring break and would be back in 10 days. Oddly enough, they said “okay” and we drove my Subaru Brat some 5000 miles. But that’s another blog.

Then in college I drove across the country several times back and forth to New York and loved to see this great country (and listen to a little country on the local radio). One time I drove thru Yellowstone and Jackson Hole and got a taste for it passing through. I’ve always wanted to go back.

My first date with my wife Tawny was a road trip in my brand new cherry red 1993 Honda Civic SI hatchback. Our date started with dinner at the Pink Door in Seattle and 600 miles later had included a tour through Eastern Washington (Grand Coulee, Winthrop, Twisp, Soap Lakes).

Early in our relationship we drove to Las Vegas to visit Tawny’s father and drove down the coast. It was a great experience – Redwoods, Monterey, Big Sur, San Simeon, etc. It was an experience we wanted to capture again with our daughter. So, in May we bought a travel trailer (an r-pod) and a new car (Nissan Pathfinder) to tow it.

Monday July 8th we left Seattle and drove down the Oregon Coast on our Great American Road-trip trying to recapture our youth. This time we had our daughter Clara and her cousin Cody in tow. Instead of Walkmans they are armed with iPhones and iPads and DVD Players. Our first day was marked by how many times we had to say “Hey, take those damn headphones off and look out the window” to no avail. Hopefully we’ll have better luck in the days to come.

Our intent is to stop at the various roadside attractions made popular in the 50s and 60s and still stumbling along today. Today’s stop was the Sea Lion Caves on the Oregon Coast. Its the largest sea cave in North American and home to a large population of Stellar Sea Lions. Although pungent, its a great experience to watch these bulls and cows interact.


After the sea lion caves we drove to North Bend, Oregon and found a campsite (i.e. parking strip) at the Mill Casino where it was blowing so hard (perhaps 20 knots) we couldn’t comfortably sit outside. So the kids swam in pool, while I cooked dinner (first dinner in the R-Pod! Hurray!). Then the kids decorated their bunks. Sweet.

All in all it was a great day. Tomorrow – the GIANT (ALL CAPS) REDWOODS!




Day 1: 419 Miles
Gas: 2.5 Tanks
Fuel Economy: 10.8 MPG
Average Price: $4.00 a gallon
Conclusion: Rethinking the whole RV thing…

Categories: Great American Roadtrip | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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