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Two for the Road - 2009

EV's Trip Notes

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2009 NORTHWESTERN USA TOUR
Hi everyone,

We made it across the country! What a journey!

We departed NJ on Aug. 19th and after 16 days with 3,411 miles later, we arrived at Birch Bay on the Pacific Ocean in the State of Washington. Just about 6 miles south of the Canadian/US border at a campground for at least 3 days.

Real quickly, there were our major stops worth noting.

Pella, Iowa - Neat 1800 Dutch town, but really a bit of stretch. But a great bakery! And Iowa was a surprise.

Thermopolis, Wyoming - A neat thermal hot springs to sooth aching bodies.

Cody, Wyoming - A huge tourist trap town, we even skipped the Rodeo, which was not a competitive PCRA or PBA type and only an exhibition (probably it was operated by the ghost of Buffalo Bill Cody).

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming - A revisit to an old favorite park. Most of the park has still not grown again after the 1988 fire, but Old Faithful is still shooting every 90 minutes.

Glacier National Park, Wyoming - Interesting, but a real bit of a struggle driving through due to excessive construction delays. The drive around the southeast and south side of the park was really neat, but very long, over a 200 miles drive in all.

Western Montana - Beautiful, somewhat unspoiled and a geologic wonder.

Sandpoint, Idaho - A rather neat 7,000 population town, a huge lake, overall very nice and friendly people, tanned, healthy and trimmed. The most seen in any particular area we have traveled so far. Generally, most people we seen were obese. Besides, they have a restaurant that offers all kinds of home made pies with dinner. Hummmm?

All of Washington along state route 20 - Beautiful and unspoiled!

Northern Cascades National Park - Beautiful, unspoiled and a geologic wonder.

That is so far and in the morning we are off to Vancouver, British Columbia for the day. Rain is on its way tomorrow night for a couple of days.

From Birch Bay, Washington we went up to Vancouver, British Columbia for the day. The border was a mess. It took 1 hour to get in to Canada and 45 minutes to return in the US, all due to traffic. Ugh! The city of Vancouver was really nice. Then southward on to Seattle.

In the Seattle area, we visited the huge REI outside equipment store, Pikes Street Market, Boeing factory tour, Boeing Air and Space Museum (WOW), a trip down to Mount Rainer, a lot of great touring/hiking/dining with Mary Ellens cousin and husband. With the exception of Seattles rush hour, in all it was a very nice.

After a week in Seattle, we circled the Olympic National Park. Pretty, but generally it was a disappointment. Also the low cloud layers at 1,100 feet above sea level made all the mountains obscured, so no views were to be had. Although I did capture a spectacular sunset through the clouds.

Heading south along the Washington coast was slightly interesting, but a stop at a State Park with a walk on the beach loaded with thousands tree logs made it neat. At the Columbia River (Washington-Oregon state line) we passed the final destination of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1803).

Continuing south along the Oregon coast, we turned inland after a 30 miles and headed to Portland were we ended up staying for 5 days. There we visited the volcano Mount St. Helens, and on another day, off to the magnificent Timberline Lodge (from the Stanley Kubeck movie starring Jack Nicholson, The Shining) for lunch on the side of the dormant volcano, Mt. Hood. Another day, we went into downtown Portland and areas to the south for some gazing and shopping. A nice town and people, but the rush hour is a killer.

Unfortunately, my cellular telephone failed and required replacement. After a couple of hours at the Verizon office and a FedEx shipment later, all was fixed. I also use this telephone as a wireless 3G modem tethered to my laptop PC to get onto the internet when free Wi-Fi is not available. Back to normal - whew!

From Portland, we headed south to Salem, Oregon (The Capital) and turned westward to the Pacific coast. At the coast we continued southward and ended up at the South Beach State Park in Newport, Oregon.

We continued down the coast to Coos Bay and stayed at The Mill Casino RV Park in North Bend, Oregon. It was great! We lounged at the sun deck and soaked in their hot tubs for two days. The workout room was hardly used, since the vast majority of the people there are out of shape and/or very overweight. We avoided walking through the casino, too smoky due to a poor ventilation system. We wanted to rent ATV's and run through the Oregon Dunes park, but both days it was just too windy with 25 to 30 MPH gusts. Oh, well.

Heading inland now, we arrived at Crater Lake National Park. We pulled into the campground and was told by the concessioner employee that the campground was closed for the season. Yet all out brochures / documentation clearly stated in "black and white" that it was opened to early October and/or through October. She could care less what any documents said, and said so. She went home, so we just pulled the RV into an empty campground spot since we had nowhere to go and was over 40 miles any from any other RV park. No notification was posted prior to entering the National Park...anywhere. Besides, we were not the only ones duped. What a bunch of jerks!

After setting up, we went via the pickup truck up to the Crater Lake rim and Lodge, about 7 miles away. It was sunset/twilight and the crater was just magnificent. We didn't bring our cameras since it was too dark. It snowed and rained overnight. The following morning about 9 AM a concessioned employee knocked on our RV door and said we had to leave. After breakfast, we parked the RV in their parking lot and drove again up to the crater rim and lodge. Unfortunately, the visibility was now down to 1,000 feet and no view of Crater Lake was to be had. We waited about 2 hours at the lodge to see if it would clear up, but it did not, so we left the park.

Now back to the Pacific coast again, with an overnight stop in Grants Pass, Oregon. The following morning we continued on the Crescent City, California after the RV was inspected for Gypsy Moth egg clusters by California personnel at the state border crossing. If you mention you were in New Jersey and you'll be inspected. Continuing down the California coast, we stopped at the Redwood National Park for a little bit, but continued south to Eureka and stayed at the county campground.

The following day we took the pickup and drove down to the Humbolt Redwood State Park where the biggest/tallest redwood trees can be found. We drove the Avenue of the Giants road through the park....it was amazing. While at the headquarters in the park, I cornered a park volunteer and asked him where is the tallest tree in the park. After some thought, he gave me the directions to the second tallest tree in the world, and in the park. The tallest is a Douglas Fir up in Olympic National Park. After 1-2 hours of driving, searching and hiking, we found it and took photos....it's huge!

After Eureka and the California coast, we headed inland again, now to Lassen Volcanic National Park and a quaint campground in Childs Meadows, California for a couple of days. The following day we drove the pickup into the park, found steam vents and many neat things. Just past the summit over 8,000 feet, on the eastern slope of the volcano, I found a grove of Foxtail Pine trees. These trees are between 1,000 to 2,000 years old.

From Lassen, we headed southeastward to Reno, Nevada where we stayed at the Sierra Grant Resort (formally the Reno Hilton) RV park for three days. A neat place with the best sections of the town at the eastern and southern ends. Here we went to an IN-OUT Burger restaurant. It's a chain that we first experienced in Palm Springs several years ago.

We departed Reno, NV and had a great drive through Nevada and Utah. We stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats to take it all in. But later that afternoon around Laramie, WY, we went through a few snow flurries above 7,000 elevation.

We then stopped in Cheyenne, WY at the main Sierra Trading Post outlet store as we did on our westbound leg. After an hour or so, we left and now we were in the middle of a blizzard. Visibility was less than 1/4 mile and dropping. I checked the NOAA weather channels and heard 3-8 inches is expected with possible clearing on Sunday. Road closures are now in effect for I-80 and I-25 around this area. What now?

We checked our Wal-Mart locater book and found a Wal-Mart Super center about 3 miles away. We went there and parked. About 5 other RV's were already parked in the huge parking lot. Went up to the store and loaded up with provisions. The walk was really cold in 20-30 mph winds! So now we are hunkered down, got food, full gasoline, full LPG, etc.

Might try a run to the south (Denver) on I-25, then eastward on I-70 to avoid the snowstorm.

Well, we got out of the Cheyenne blizzard and made it down to Denver without hassle, but with 6 inches of snow and ice on top of the RV. We parked overnight at a Flying J Truck Stop in Aurora, CO, just east of downtown Denver. Couldn't drain the grey/black tanks at the Flying J. After opening the drain cover I found a block of ice in the pipe.

Got up this morning with dead coach batteries due to having the grey/black tank heaters on. It got down to 23 degrees overnight. Tried to start the generator, but it wouldn't start. The SAE 30W oil used in it was only good down to 32 degrees. The engine did start and after breakfast we went to this huge, ultra modern, 1 of 2, Wal-Mart test stores here in Aurora.

I picked up a couple of quarts of 10W-40 oil for the generator so that it may be used to as low as 10 degrees with ease. While in the auto section of the store, I asked if they can do an oil change on an RV. After checking their coding book, they said they could do it for $30, but not the generator oil change. Fine with me.

They only charged me $18.66 for the oil change since I had my own 5W-30 synthetic oil and filter. That took about 45 minutes. After that I pulled the RV to an adjacent parking lot and changed the generator oil myself. Later, I recycled the used oil there. The generator started perfectly and the coach batteries were now being charged. After an hour it was turned off.

It warmed up to 36 degrees, and I was able remove the ice block in the Grey/black tank drain pipe.

I checked the weather forecasts and found another winter storm advisory. It was in effect tonight until 9 AM Monday morning for eastern Colorado and the western half of Kansas due to icy/freezing precipitation conditions. So we planned to stay overnight in the Wal-Mart parking lot which was right off I-70.

At about 5 PM, the temperatures are forecasted down to the low 20s again, then the TV died. The coach batteries that were not charged long enough. We then decided to go to an RV park for the night and hook up to their electric power to properly charge everything and ride out the cold. Moral of the story: When in freezing temperatures, ALWAYS stay in an RV park and plug into their electricity.

Hopefully, late Monday morning we'll head out to the east keeping our fingers crossed......LOL! Ya just gotta keep a sense of humor.

Well, Monday through Saturday, it took us six and a half days to get back to southern New Jersey. But we did an extended stop in Indianapolis to spend some time a a couple of our favorite stores. Generally, we would get on the road about 10 AM and quit after sunset. The drive was long with too much rain, drizzle and cross winds for most of the entire trip. UGH!

We pulled in to the driveway about 1:30 PM on Saturday....WHEW!