Saturday, September 29, 2012

2012-33 Oregon, Heading South


Heading south to my Winter Home

Campground:  Sleepy Hollow RV Park, Lafayette OR, 97127. Passport America, $15, full hookups w/cable tv.  Older park with mostly perms.

Campground: Tri City RV Park 187 N Old Pacific Hwy Myrtle Creek OR, 97457. $14 Passport Rate.  Super nice new park.  Mostly all pull thru’s with grass between paved sites.  No large trees to worry about.  Full hookups 50 amp and tons of cable tv stations and free wi-fi.  Two thumbs up.  Note: ignore the sign up front indicating the Passport Rate is $20, it doesn’t apply.

I had a couple extra days in Washington as I waited for the arrival of my campers charger/inverter.  Apparently when one pays for 3 day delivery they (UPS) really mean you’ll get it in 6 days.  Needless to say I wasn’t a happy camper.  You may be aware of deliveries by such a service, I was clueless.  What I learned is they don’t count the day the item is picked up for mailing, weekends, even though they deliver on Saturdays, and they don’t count the day the item is actually delivered.  Making a 3 day delivery stretch to 6 days.  Ok, I’m stepping down from my soapbox, stomp, kick, stomp.

If you’re a roadie like I am,  you’ll understand the angst about not being able to be on the road when your all ready to go.  It’s the feeling that your being chained to a site with the engines revving and eager to get back on the open road.  And I had planned it so well to head out onto busy I-5 on a Sunday to avoid the heavy weekday traffic.  Alas that didn’t pan out.  It hasn’t helped either that the past few days have been overcast, chilly and a bit dreary.

In the mean time, I’ve been tinkering around with my smartphones internet connect, the laptop and my flat screen TV.  I’m in an area that has excellent 4G service and decided to experiment with streaming online TV from the computer to the big flat screen tv in my living room.  I got online and connected to the web site HULU where I checked out a few shows I’d been missing, selected one and started to watch it on the laptop.  Then I decided to connect the laptop to the tv via it’s 15 pin connection.  My laptop doesn’t have the new HDMI connection, but the 15 pin connection works fine.  Except for some reason it doesn’t port the sound over to the TV.  I was able to go around that by connecting my surround sound system to the laptop and walla, I have super TV reception and surround sound to boot.  Thanks to Tom for spurring my on to this little experiment.  Oh and my Verizon service is the unlimited Internet so I don’t have to worry about going over any allotted minutes.  This morning because I don’t have all that many over the air TV stations in this area, I connected the laptop once again and watched my favorite Sunday Morning Tv show, “Sunday Morning“.  And I only had to watch a 15 second commercial between segments.  It’s amazing how much different 3G is to 4G.  I could never watch videos online with just 3G as they’d keep stopping and skipping.  With 4G it’s really fast seamless streaming of videos.  Now I’m a real happy camper.

On the Road.
Distance:  165 miles.

I finally installed the charger in the camper and all seems to be working correctly.  So on Wednesday, I began my trek south.  Just in time as well, as the temp this morning was 45 degrees.  Fortunately I-5 was not too crowded and the trip was smooth as I also took I-205 around Portland Oregon on my destination to Lafayette where I found a Passport America park and is close to the Evergreen Aviation Museum which has the Spruce Goose.

I stopped in a thrift store in this small town of Lafayette and discovered a real gem of a place for anyone wanting to fill an empty apartment or small home.  As the Second Hand Rose Thrift store/furniture/antique shop was chock full of some really nice furniture and newer decorating items galore.  The sales lady says that things change constantly as their prices were really really low.  Unfortunately they didn’t have anything I needed.  I was almost ready to buy a small place and furnish it on the cheap.  Haven’t seen bargains like that and good quality to boot in a real long time. And no Tom and Christine I didn’t see a table that would fit the camper, but just about everything else.

The wing of the Spruce Goose overshadows this plane

The following day I drove the short distance over to McMinnville to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in particular to see the Spruce Goose.  Built by Howard Hughes in 1947 for heavy transport during WWII.  Built almost entirely of Birch not it’s namesake, Spruce.  Inside the first of three large museum hangers, the Spruce Goose originally named the H-4 Hercules fills the vast open space of the museum.  Imagine a wing span of 320 ft (97.5 M) and a height of a 5 story building and it was designed to fly from and land on water!  It towers over all the other planes on exhibit.  Painted a navy gray on the outside it hardly has the appearance of being made almost entirely of wood.  My friend Eric will be glad to know that they now permit tours of the flight deck for an additional $25 for a family of 6.  With the concept of family being very loosely interpreted.  I was hoping to join a group but was unsuccessful in getting added to someone else’s party as the front desk is not very helpful in that department.  And since I already paid $19 just to see the Spruce Goose, I couldn’t justify the added expense without being able to share the expense with at least a few other folks.  It was built under a Government contract but never used in the war and only flew one time at the hands of Howard Hughes himself.  The reason for using wood was that there was a severe shortage of aluminum so with the help of a shipbuilder, wood was the choice of materials to be used.

Images of the Spruce Goose

Besides the Spruce Goose, the museum has lots of military planes, lots of volunteer with some wonderful stories to tell.  Take the time to listen to those stories and those of other visitors who are so willing to share their own personal stories.  All adding to the history of aviation.

Like the tail of the Germany plane that was operated by a guy name Schmitt and a Air force pilot by the name of Brown.  Brown was being followed closely by the German, who rather than shoot down the American, was signaled to turn around and follow the German pilot, presumable back to Germany where the planes crew would be detained.  He refused. Once again the German pilot followed the U.S. pilot from behind and once again began a maneuver that would force the U.S. pilot on a course back to the UK.  With a final tip of the wing, the German flew off.

After the war, Charlie Brown attempted to find that German pilot for many years to no avail.  Then one day while in Seattle as the story goes, the pilot told his war story to a fellow at a military affair.  The guy he was telling the story too, said he’d just heard the same exact story on the other side of the room.  He asked urgently, who was the other fellow and after all those long years, the two pilots were reunited.

Charles Shultz, the creator of “Charlie Brown” would later make Schmitt the Godfather of all of his children.  Now the names and events may be slightly imperfect in the telling, but the gist of the story I was told are thought to be true.

Just one of the stories that was shared to anyone willing to take the time to listen to those volunteers at the museum.

Distance Traveled: 175 miles.

I’ve taken the interior route through Oregon rather than drive along the Pacific coast.  Mainly because I’ve never driven this route before.  As I left the Lafayette area and eventually arrived at I-5 heading south, the topography gradually changed from orchards, farms and the ever present vineyards to small mountain ranges popping up along the eastern side.  Gradually becoming more prolific, ending my days journey in the Tri-City Oregon area surrounded by those low mountain ranges on all sides.  Traffic as expected along I-5 was heavy but with patients I did pretty well.  Stopping at numerous rest stops along the way.  Remember I mentioned previously that one could stay overnight at any of the rest stops in Oregon, well today I discovered that many of them are manned by volunteers who dispense free coffee and cookies (for a small donation if you have it to give).   More homeless and hitchhikers along the way as well.

I’ve arrived at the Tri-City Rv park in southern Oregon.  Small towns and side adventures abound.  I’ll be exploring this area for at least a few days before continuing my trek south.

Photos on PICASA

Thursday, September 20, 2012

2012-32 Shelton Washington


Olympia Peninsula Washington
Shelton Washington

glass art in Bremerton Washington

Campground:  Elks Lodge.  Shelton WA. $15, Elect (30amp) and water.  Nice pull-thru sites.  Normally Elk members only but they will let a member sign you in for your stay.  Note the camphost came over with a welcome basket of stuff and no one has mentioned my not being an Elk member.

Elks Lodge, Shelton Washington

Camper repairs update, the saga continues:

I removed the campers battery charger and brought it into Sundance Auto and Rv.  Discovered they have a certified electrician on staff who didn’t take long to determine that the charger appears to function correctly.  So much for my deft appraisal of the situation.  I have an appointment to bring in the camper on Wed.  and the electrician said it could only be a couple of things and it should be fixed shortly.

Update two:  with the battery charger/inverter reinstalled in the camper, the technician checked out the entire electrical system and discovered it was the charger after all.  I ordered a new one under warranty and should have it in a few days.

Christine and Tom's Home

In the mean time, I’ve been doing all those little chores around the camper including getting a locking gas cap.  I may be slow but I’m no dummy.  (see previous report)  By the way I was sharing stories with my good friends Christine and Tom and was telling them that I order my batteries, especially the specialty ones online.  Like those small button batteries which I use for my tire gauge sensors and watch batteries.  Even my specialty battery for my Canon digital camera.  Just do a search online putting in the battery id number and the words “best price” and you’ll find great resources for purchasing those batteries cheaply.

A few days later, Tom and Chris picked me up on our way to The Staircase in the Olympia National Park.  The area is heavily forested as we traveled along the shores of Lake Cushman before we get to our final destination for hiking.  This area was heavily flooded a couple years back and the original walking bridge crossing the river has been washed out.  The path through the forest is full of  towering western red cedars and Douglas firs, tons of ferns and mosses thickly carpeting the forest floor.  Now I was expecting to see some magnificent falls cascading down a stair step of rocks, but instead after hiking along for a goodly distance we came to an orange netting barrier blocking our way along the river.  Now Tom told some pretty good tails about why the trail was blocked and Christine went along with those tall stories, but I knew they were pulling my leg just to get me to go on a hike to no where.  Being a weekend there were many others along on this wild goose chase of a hike so I guess I wasn’t the only one hoodwinked into thinking I’d see some waterfalls.  In the end I have to admit it was a most pleasant hike.  Perfect weather, good conversation as we each told stories better than the last one and before I knew it we were back at the car and heading back out. Later I would learn that the place was so named because early explorers made a staircase out of the red cedars going up and over a steep cliff.  Those steps no longer exist but the name does.

Christine was trying to make me laugh

At the lodge I’m staying at, they have the following saying out front:  “The faults of our brothers we write upon the sand.  Their virtues upon the tablets of love and memory“.  I thought it was a nice saying and only hope to be able to work towards doing the same.  It’s right next to the parking spot of the Exalted Ruler, or as my friends say, the Exalted PooBah.

Monkey Pod tree

Gig Harbor, no story just a couple of neat pictures

I drove in one day to Olympia to check out a Pier One shop as I have been thinking about replacing my dining table with a different style table and chairs.  They didn’t have what I was looking for at this time but boy did I see some great chairs and even couches that would fit into an Rv easily as they were what is called apartment sized chairs and couches.  All very comfortable as I tried each one out.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to buy a camper and then be able to pick out the furniture you really wanted in it?  Well I took lots of pictures of the furniture and price tags, and your right the prices aren’t cheap, but the stuff seems to be pretty high quality.  Now I’ll be able to dream about a whole new look in the living room and it won’t cost me a cent.  At this point anyway

I’d come into Olympia actually to visit my good Desert Trails friends Sandy and Eric.  They have a gorgeous home in a suburb of Olympia and we had a most fun afternoon chatting about everything from smart phones to what it’s like to full time and Sandy and Eric’s upcoming big adventure on a cruise ship from Seattle, through the Panama Canal all the way to Ft Lauderdale Florida.  A wonderful dinner at their place and I must add Eric has quite a quick wit about him.  Lots of fun.  Then it was back on the road using my ever faithful cell phones GPS.  The only thing it couldn’t do is tell me I was going to hit a traffic jam on hwy 5.  After inching along for about 15 minutes, we came upon a lot of police vehicles with their flashing blue and white lights and fire trucks putting out the fire on an old corrugated metal sided motor home that was burned out all the way to the frame.  I could see right through what was left of the outline of a motor home.  Everything they had, gone.  Quite a dramatic ending to a wonderful day.

Washington notes:

Signs indicated that it is illegal to restrict more than 5 vehicles and one must pull over to let them by.  Vehicles are permitted to travel on the shoulder in some areas.  Most unusual.  But then again in Texas they have signs everywhere saying don’t drive on the shoulder and everyone seems to ignore the signs and drive on the shoulder anyway.  Especially between farms.

Washington seems to have many homeless everywhere.  Must be that the weather is relatively mild and they can live outdoors year round.  I see them on street corners panhandling or just sleeping in parks etc.  In Seattle I saw a homeless hangout with all the cardboard signs asking for help and money, but no homeless person.  A small sign said, “back in 10 minutes”.  His business was temporarily closed.

The reforestation from the Mt St Helen explosion in 1980 took 7 years to complete.  Weyerhaeuser planted 18.4 million seedlings all by hand over 45,500 acres of mountainous terrain.  Can you imagine the back breaking job that was.

Riding on the ferry is a great way to experience the Seattle area.  And it’s free for walk-on’s… in one direction anyway.  Had a fun tour with Sandy, Eric, Chris and Tom.  We couldn’t find a tour trolley like many tourist towns and cities have, though we did see a Duck tour go by.  So Tom, Eric and I followed the gals as they trekked around the city streets.  We were near the harbor and the double decker roadway that separates the downtown from the piers and dock area.  I’ve been told they will be removing those roadways and building a tunnel for all the traffic.  For now the double decker  roadway is very noisy as the noise from the traffic echoes and bounces off the roadways and surrounding buildings.  They ‘ve begun work on building a tunnel that will replace the double decker highway and it is expected to be complete in late 2015.  They must have really fast road workers up here.  After the tunnel is built, the double decker will be removed.

Eric, Tom, Christine, and Sandy
and of course lots more pictures on Picasa, some you'll have to make up your own stories as I didn't have enough time and space to write about them here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

2012-31 Columbia Gorge Oregon Continued... to Washington


Columbia Gorge Continued

Olympia Peninsula
Castle Rock Washington
Shelton Washington

a lazy summer afternoon

Campground:  Ainsworth State Park.  Columbia Gorge.  Full hookups, 30amp.  $20 per night.  Mostly pull-thru sites doable for big rigs in a beautifully forested setting.  Good location for touring scenic hwy 30 (but not with your RV of course) of Columbia Gorge and waterfalls area.  Note:  It is directly off of hwy 85 on hwy 30.  Over-air Tv reception available.  Verizon signal ok but no internet signal.

Campground:  Cedars RV Park.  Castle Rock WA. $20 per night.  Full hookups.  Most sites have perm residences in them.  Large cedar trees hugs the road tight loop.  Not recommended. Only spot available for big rigs in overflow in front.  Do not attempt to drive through park. Had a quarter tank of diesel stolen from my truck at this park.

Campground:  Elks Lodge.  Shelton WA. $15, Elect (30amp) and water.  Nice pull-thru sites.  Normally Elk members only but they will let a member sign you in for your stay.  Note: the camphost came over with a welcome basket of stuff and no one has mentioned my not being an Elk member.

Yikees,  First the a/c wouldn’t kick on, then I noticed the battery charger wasn’t working as the d/c powered lights were beginning to dim considerably.  Darn.  After further investigation, the main a/c unit wouldn’t kick on because the thermostat runs on D.C. power not A.C.  Sooo after further investigation I discovered  the battery charger on the camper is ca-put after all.  My friendly and I do mean friendly camp-hosts were able to loan me a battery charger so I can charge my camper batteries overnight before heading out tomorrow morning.  Since I’ll be heading out on a Sunday, I won’t be able to get to an RV doctor until sometime Monday or later since I’ll be on the road.

It’s all a matter of checking the batteries, then the charger as well as determining what runs on either a/c or d/c power.  On a camper it’s not always apparent.  On my camper the over head lights, the radio, the fridge, and the main thermostat all run on d/c power.  Even though the main air conditioner and the fridge run on a/c power (or gas), their thermostat controls all run on d/c.  So if there’s a problem with the d/c power, those electric appliances don’t operate.  It helps to isolate the problem before bringing the camper in for repairs or ordering parts. Not that there are dishonest mechanics, but sometimes they can install stuff one doesn’t need in the final analysis.

stopping along scenic hwy 30

Odd bits and pieces of information:

I’ve been looking at all those windmill generators on the tops of all the hills around here and wondered why some of them are not turning.  The locals tell me they are in fact turned off as they have more power than they need from all the hydro dams in the area and the wind turbines are only used to supplement power when needed.  Yet I know that much of the power in this region also gets sent to California and I’m pretty sure they have a never ending thirst for all the power they can get.  It does seem quite a waste of money installing all those wind turbines to not utilize them.  It must be costly to install them and just have them sitting there not generating electricity what in effect is free electricity.  Or are we as citizens of the U.S. paying to supplement all those turbines and to not use them. Not really sure but it seems fishy to me.

The winds have picked up greatly overnight and I’ll be heading out today.  Wonder how the camper will do in this situation.

The native Indians in the area have fishing rights and the use of nets to catch salmon this time of year.  The small Army Corp. site I’m at permits the Indians to camp out for free on the edges of the boat ramp parking area and they have a designated area on the river for fishing.  It’s odd to see them sort of segregated like that.  Off in their own world going about the business of catching a years worth of salmon during this fishing season.

When I was back in Echo Oregon, that tiniest of  towns over the Labor Day weekend.  I’d often take walks around the 3 blocks of the tired weary worn town, or in the other direction over the river towards the farms.  One day, I noted an old church steeple in amongst a farming community, peaking above a stand of trees.  As I walked over the bridge, past some irrigated fields of corn, I eventually turned to my left down an old dirt road past a lone horse standing in his paddock.  At the end of it, there was this old Catholic church with it’s fanciful steeple and castle like ornamentation.  All in a state of disrepair.  White paint pealing off the sides of the various cornices and plastered walls.  Stained glass windows could be seen behind a layer of semi-transparent glass protecting them.  I climbed up the weather worn concrete stairs and peaked in between the crack of the double doors with a simple paddle lock holding them closed.  A small vestibule and two more dark oak swinging doors were inside.  Through the crack in the second set of doors I could make out a large statue of one of the saints.  Very colorfully painted and preserved as he looked out in my direction.  The scene behind the saintly statue was also painted in many bright colors, through only that small slit of a crack between doors, I was left wanting to see the rest of the interior with its stained glass windows and drop ceiling hiding I‘m sure a most impressive high ceiling above.

Distance Traveled:  80 miles.

Back along the Columbia Gorge, I charged my batteries on the camper overnight and headed out in the morning.  The winds have picked up and are blowing at a good 35-40 miles an hour.  The truck and camper stood up well even with it being a head wind.  Hwy 85 which follows the Columbia River is a good road and travel has been no problem.

Being concerned about the camper not having a functioning battery charger onboard, I was able to stop along the way at a K-Mart store and purchase a really good battery charger for only $39.  A savings of $25 since it was on sale.  Knowing that I have a backup feels good.  Remember I can’t open or close the slide out rooms or raise or lower the landing gear without that battery power.  Along with all the other appliances inside the camper that rely on d/c power.

So even with the heavy winds, my travel seems brighter and I’m in a good mood for the next adventure on down the road.  The scenery has become one of thick forests.  So thick one can only see a foot or two into them.  Giant evergreens and cedars cover the mountains.  I had several state parks to pick from on my way towards the prettiest areas along the Columbia Gorge and I chose Ainsworth State Park in the end due to it’s great location.  It appears to be a first come first served type park.  With a self registration station up front.  I pulled into the first pull-thru site I came across and set up in no time at all.

Multnomah Falls is not far from the campground so after setting up I decided to not only go there for some great picture taking, but thought I may as well have lunch in the historic Multnomah Falls Inn.  Was I in luck.  Even with it being a Sunday and the parking lots were crammed with tourists lined up waiting to get a parking spot, I was able to get a spot with only once around the parking lot which sits between the highway itself.  Traffic whizzing by in both directions.  A short walk under the highway walking path and I was at the falls and Inn.  Being a Sunday, they had an all you can eat Sunday brunch with champagne included for $22.  Good food, good drinks and the waterfalls afterwards.  What more could one ask of a Sunday along the Columbia Gorge.  I just wish my Sunday brunch friends from Orlando could have been here to enjoy it with me.

Multnomah Falls are those famous falls that one sees on commercials occasionally with an old concrete bridge half way up the falls.  As the falls descend on two distinct levels with the bridge being a natural divider.  They’re some 600+ feet in height and should be on your bucket list of great places to visit.  Even with the crowds of people, it’s still a most spectacular sight.  Oh and I didn’t mention, but the restaurant in the Inn has plenty of seating and can accommodate large crowds.  Though it wasn’t crowded in the dining rooms as I relaxed under an all glass sun room.  Even with those hordes of tourists outside.  What a setting.

Multnomah Falls

I took in one last bit of an excursion to the Visa House Crown Point.  It’s this popular viewing center on top of one of those giant walls of stone jutting out above the Columbia River.  What’s fun is that there are vistas of the vista.  As the sight of this large viewing center on top of the rock outcropping is itself a spectacular site.  The building is octagonal in shape with green stained glass windows.  A small history display of the area and gift shop are on the lower floors, but it’s the views from this vantage point that everyone comes to see.

I had planned on driving the scenic hwy 30 back to the campsite, but the road was closed just past the Vista House and I could see why.  This section of historic hwy 30 has a very narrow winding drive.  As it runs along the very edge of a steep cliff, with it’s ancient stone and concrete guard rails, covered in mosses that lead to the Vista House is the most torn up piece of pavement I’ve seen in a long time.  My truck was dipping and bouncing and leaning to one side as I approached Vista House.  There were areas where the asphalt is cracked, sagging and sinking or should I say sliding down the hill.  I could only wonder when it will finally give way and continue it’s journey down that steep incline.  No wonder another portion of the road has already been closed for repairs.  I’m surprised I wasn’t more frightened by the condition of this section of the road.  But I did make it to the most awesome of views.  Amazing what I’ll do sometimes to try and get you all a great picture.

Caution to Rv’ers…. Scenic hwy 30 should not to be attempted with even the smaller class C campers.  I took that drive the following day as my campsite is right on the beginning of that highway.  With lots of waterfalls all along the way, the road itself is a narrow road often enveloped in shade by a canopy of trees over the highway.  I remember asking a person at a recent visitors center if the hwy would be ok to travel on with an rv, even giving a description of my 35ft camper.  The gal said she thought it would be fine.  Thank goodness I checked it out before trying it with a camper.  There were sections that were so narrow, I had to really slow down as opposing traffic passed.  Still it’s a nice drive and seeing all those waterfalls is pretty cool.  Including one of the tunnels that were originally a part of the scenic drive.  They included “windows” through the side walls of the tunnels for viewing.  Too dangerous and tight for today’s vehicles.

Columbia Gorge

Distance Traveled:  83 miles.

This was a short ride getting to Castle Rock Washington as it’s my drop of point to then go tour Mt St Helens.  After setting up at a small campground, which I don’t recommend to anyone do to it’s small size and it’s usually full up with perms, I was off to Mt St Helen.

The drive was along CR-504 and before I even got a few miles in, I realized I’d forgotten my camera back at the camper.  Some days just go that way.  So of course I had to go back and get it, delaying my start only slightly.  CR-504 though a county road and only the usual two lane road with a few passing lanes occasionally was an easy 55 mph drive to Mt St Helen though it takes a good hour and a half to get there.  The park is operated by the Forest Service and they have a wonderful newer building with a grand movie to start off with at the Johnston Ridge visitor center.  A park ranger provided a nice talk outside over looking the steaming crater of the volcano.  All pretty cool even with a slight haze enveloping the volcano due to forest fires many miles away.  All those bare mountains that were scarred from the blast in 1980 have been replanted with pines by the Weyerhaeuser company at a cost of $9 million dollars.  Harvesting of all that new timber is just beginning 30 years later.  Seeing a well established new growth forest is quite inspiring, giving hope that we can help our planet recover disasters.

Mt St Helen, with it's top blown off

Mt St Helen in the distance

steam venting from Mt St Helen

Distance Traveled:  75 miles.

What a journey, what a day.  I’m heading toward Shelton Washington which is my last destination before heading south for the winter.  I-5 being the only route into the western side of Washington and the traffic is a heavy testament to that fact.  Lots of cars and semi’s on the highway.  The bad thing is is that the highway constantly changes from two to three lanes then back to two.  I got caught in the middle between one of those big rigs on my right and a small van on my left with no place to go as the semi truck was inching over into my lane as his lane was ending.  I was able to finally squeeze over to the left at the last second as I had not realized the lanes were once again shrinking from 3 to 2 lanes.  So please be forwarded on this stretch of highway between Oregon and Seattle Washington and try and stay in the middle lane and be constantly on guard for merging traffic.

Now if you thought that was more than enough for one day well it wasn’t.  Just as I started my day heading north on I-5, I looked down at my fuel gauge and realized someone had stolen a quarter tank of diesel fuel overnight.  I know that because before heading to the campground the night before I had filled the tank up for the journey the next day.  $37 worth of fuel gone in the blink of an eye.  And this was one eye that was seeing red the next morning.  Read lots of nasty words said under my breath.

An hour and a half later and I was off the road and settled into my new temporary home behind an Elks club lodge in Shelton Washington.  Nice little campground with only three campers.  I’m visiting friends from the Washington area while hear and just enjoying wonderful fall weather here on the Olympia peninsula.

Tom and Christine stopped on by the first night and we sat outside having cocktails and enjoying the great weather.  The camphost came over and gave me a “welcome basket” of stuff just for coming and staying in their little park.  We were all invited into the lodge later for their steak night dinner.  Very welcoming and I didn’t have to cook that night.  What a deal.  $11 for a steak, fries and veggie.

I’ll be doing many chores around the camper, visiting friends and enjoying my last stop before my return south.  Next week will most likely be a short report on my stay here in Shelton Washington.

And of course more photos on PICASA.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

2012-30 Columbia Gorge Area, Oregon side


Biggs Junction, Oregon
Columbia Gorge Oregon/ Washington
The Dalles
Hood River


Campground:  Lake Umatilla Le Page campground. (Army Corp.) Phone: (541) 296-1181.  $20 regular price, Senior Access Pass, $10.  22 campsites.  1-8 are pull-thrus along the river the rest are easy back-ins.  No Tv or radio reception.  Weak to no Verizon signal.

Campground:  John Day Dam, Rufus Oregon.  Lots of free dry campsites.  Check them out if your interested in this type of camping.

Distance Traveled:  100 miles

La Page Campground

The day after Labor day and I’m back on the road heading to the Columbia Gorge.  I’ve got a campsite at an Army Corp site which are always some of the greatest campgrounds and cheap besides.  It’s on the very eastern end of the Columbia Gorge area and I’ll be here for 5 days.

The next day I drove across the river from Biggs Junction to the Maryhill Museum of Art. It’s housed in a castle-like chateau but to me, had the feeling of a high class prison (at least from the outside) as I waited an extra hour before they opened up.  (Brochures aren’t always accurate) The windows on all floors are covered in heavy iron bars giving that prison appearance.  The massive iron gates over the main entrance were finally unlocked and swung open.  The chateau was originally planned and built to be the private residence of the owner Sam Hill.  A dedicated businessman to the building of better roads throughout the NW Pacific area.  When his planned 5,000 acre community did not pan out, he decided not to finish the chateau and live in it.  Instead with encouragement from the sugar heiress, Alma de Bretteville Spreckels , he decided to make it into a museum in this most isolated of locations along the Columbia River.

So in 1926, Queen Marie of Romania arrived to dedicate the structure as a museum.  He had become a long time friend of the Queens on one of many trips to Europe, selling shares in his various transportation businesses along with helping many countries especially Romania after WWI.  The main room as one enters the chateau is filled with furnishings once belonging to the queen, including a replica of the crown she wore at her inauguration as queen of Romania.  A dress once worn by her shows of a waist that couldn’t have been larger than 18 inches around.

It’s a most unusual museum containing mostly secondary pieces of art.  The Rodin collection being mainly original small studies he prepared before creating much larger masterpieces.  A collection of western regional Native Indian artifacts, with one display telling how most of the petroglyphs in the area have been since been buried under water along the Columbia River with the building of all those dams.  A room filled with unusual chess sets and on the top floor a unique collection called the Theatre de la Mode.  A collection of miniature dress designs from 1946.  At that time, when a French designer was ready to sell their dresses, they had miniature copies made and put on beautiful wire mannequins which were then sent overseas for viewing and for making orders to purchase the dresses.  And a new modern addition to the museum has been added that seems to be a complete waste of space and money.  Consisting of two levels with a small cafĂ© tucked at the end of a glass wall overlooking the Columbia River.  Was it worth the $8 entrance fee.  Initially I’d have to say no, but on further review, with it’s unusual history, I’d say it was worth the excursion.  History always comes alive after delving just a little deeper into a place like this.

A couple days later I drove to Hood River to take the Mount Hood train ride.  It was only $15 for coach, but I upgraded thinking the lower dome seating ($30) would be more comfortable and I’d get better views.  Not realizing that the lower dome seats were literally beneath the upper dome deck.  Not a “lower dome”. So it was a bit dark and lonely down there.  I don’t think it would have mattered anyway as the ride to Parkdale was heavily wooded so there were only fleeting views of the river and Mount Hood with lots of fruit groves in-between.  Mainly pear and apple along with a couple vineyards.  A short stop at a fruit packing plant which was just ahead of the busy packing season.  Then on through Odell and Dee and finally a stop over in Parkdale.  I hadn’t ordered a meal onboard ahead of time so I rushed to get a quick lunch at one of the few shops in Parkdale.  Scarfing down the meal quickly as we had a short layover at this final destination before heading back.  No time to visit the museum or gift shop.  I’ve been on some really awesome tourist trains… this was not one of them.  The train cars smelled like days old wet socks.  Not a pleasant aroma.  They started out by playing some really great old country music, Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson and Patsy Cline with the occasional tour description of what was out there beyond all those trees.  Later the PA system started to go downhill and I only caught about half of each descriptive pitch.  Still it was a great feeling riding on an old narrow gauge train.  The cars sway a bit more on a narrow gauge line  as the scenery slowly drifts on by.  Producing a most enjoyable movement back and forth.  If the seats were recliners I would have easily taken a nap on the way back…. Same view, same scenery, same trees.

More interesting was the drive from the campsite to Hood River along the Columbia River Gorge.  The mountains, rounded hills covered in dry grasses looking like they were covered in golden velvet.  Further on the rounded hills gave way to steep shear cliffs of solid rock, some with dramatic ledges giving a wedding cake affect. Others were punctured with tunnels for the trains.  Gradually the mountainside becomes covered with evergreens adding a whole new dimension to the scenery.  Now if you love trains, you’d love driving along the Columbia River.  The highway often separates and one direction of traffic will be lower than the opposing traffic lanes.  Sometimes a causeway out into the river would create a lagoon against those shear rock monoliths.  Reflecting perfect replicas in the water.  Paralleling the two are the train tracks.  Either right along the rivers edge or above the highway lanes.  And both roads and more train tracks are on the opposite side of the river on the Washington side.  The trains are going continuously night and day along with the occasional barge traveling slowly up stream along the Columbia.  A steady stream of traffic flowing along this most picturesque waterway.  And wouldn’t you know it.  Almost no scenic pull-outs, though Oregon does have a lot of rest stops, but not with any of those dramatic views for picture taking.  Oh and overnight camping is permitted at Oregon rest stops.

I would probably advise doing a scenic drive (hwy 35) up to Mt Hood rather than take the train.  I know I’d have more opportunity to pull off the road to take pictures and more time to explore some of those small towns at my own pace.

I’ve been at La Page campground now for a few days and I have to say it is my most favorite of parks I’ve been in all summer long.  Only 22 campsites right on the lake.  Each site, mine is a back-in or the pull-thrus along the waters edge are paved and all are good sized.  Cottonwood trees are along each campsite.  The mountain views and lake along with it’s swimming beach and fishing really all add up to a most stunning little park.  The afternoons and evening are often breezy and the temperature in the shade is just perfect.  After sunset, the air is still warm and refreshing at the same time.  I site out and read until the light has completely faded away.  Not a mosquito in site.  The other campers are enormously friendly and I enjoy going for walks around the park which takes forever as everyone is out and eager to talk.  Now one of the camphosts has told me that during the summer months it can be very hot.  This summer they had 6 weeks of 100 degree weather and it didn’t cool off in the evenings at all.  So be warned, it’s not the place to be in the summer unless your willing to jump in the water to stay cool.  The Dalles is about 25 mile west of here and is just the perfect small town.  I’ve had a couple good lunches in town and stopped in their library to get a good wi-fi signal.  Super nice librarian.

In a few days I’ll be heading into Washington State to visit with friends…. And of course, more adventures.

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