Summer of friends: Our 2016 nomadic journey into the Pacific Northwest

United States map with Travelinas 2016 route
Our 2016 nomadic route

We were adjusting to living in an RV fulltime, as we spent the months from October 2015 to April 2016 bouncing around between RV parks in southeastern Arizona, all while discussing our next travel plans to the Pacific Northwest.

We spent four months in Tucson taking care of medical stuff and hanging out with our daughter and our friends. Our new road warrior family member, Peanut, was adapting to life with us (and based on how we live our life, possibly wondering if he was better off at the Human Society).

We  took a quick trip to Bisbee, Arizona for Valentine’s Day weekend, then relocated to Tempe for a week, before settling in New River, Arizona for two more months.

The stability was nice while I tried drumming up more freelance writing work, but we were itchy to get on the road again. This time we set our sights on the Pacific Northwest, where we could take in cooler weather and fewer miles than our 2015 trip. First stop, California.

But before we got there, we spent a couple of days with friends Steve and Carmen on their boat at Lake Pleasant, then parked for a couple of nights along the Colorado River in Parker, AZ.

California, where Peanut fell in love with the beach

We left Arizona on April 26 and drove through desert lands along highways 62, 247 and 18 to Adelanto where Julie’s high school friend Debbie lived. Adelanto was hit hard by the housing bust in 2008, and this area was a dry and dusty valley beneath the still-snowy San Gabriel Mountains. For the next three days, Julie hung out with Debbie while I worked. My copywriting business had slowed down, and I was spending a lot of time trying to generate more work.

From Adelanto, we drove to Santa Paula, where we stayed a week visiting Julie’s uncle in Carpinteria, meeting up with friends Jay and Bruce in Ventura and exploring the cool mountain town of Ojai. Julie got Peanut’s first haircut in Santa Paula, and the guy shaved him pretty short. Peanut seemed pretty traumatized by this, and spent most of the day shaking pathetically.

We then drove up Highway 101, spent a night in King City, then on to Aptos for Mother’s Day. We stayed in Seacliff Center RV Park, only a block away from the beach at Seacliff State Beach. Great location, but extremely small and tight spaces. The manager insisted in guiding me in, and we were glad because when we opened our living room slide it was only about a quarter of an inch from our neighbor’s door awing!

So no real room to hang out by the RV, but we spent most of our free time for the next two weeks down at Seacliff Beach or exploring Santa Cruz. I had lived for a few months in Santa Cruz in 1981, and I loved getting reacquainted with the town. And Peanut absolutely loved the beach! The evening before we left, we sat on the cliff top and watched a whale spouting in the bay.

From Aptos, we drove to Wilton near Sacramento. We had a pretty stressful moment on the drive when I blindly listened to the GPS as it brought us directly into the tiny downtown of San Juan Batista, which was partially blocked off for a street fair. We carefully crept through the narrow, car-lined streets, trying not to run over any of the people who stared at us in concern and confusion.

I had set our GPS to get to the town without realizing that if you do that, it’s going to take you to the center of the town. Doh!

Our friends Joe and Marguerite had flown their plane to San Francisco, and stopped on the way back to Arizona to stay by us at the RV park in Wilton. From there, we drove north to Redding so we could visit some wonderful friends we made at Burning Man: Ruby, Vicky, Lori and Stacey. It was really hot and hit 105 F the first day we were there. Ruby showed us around town and even threw a mini Burn at her house, where we made even more friends. Before we left, I took a ride along a great bike path that followed the Sacramento River.

Oregon, roaming green lands and rugged coasts

We took I-5 out of Redding, past Mt. Shasta and across the border into Oregon, where we had a long descent down to Ashland. I’ve started to master the combination of braking and shifting down to keep our brakes from overheating, but I still get nervous before a steep descent.

We spent the night in Grants Pass, a town Julie lived in many years ago during her first marriage. Timber-covered hills surrounded the town. We continued up I-5 and took Highway 42, a narrow and winding road through the coastal mountains to Coos Bay. We stayed four days in Coos Bay at the Mills Casino RV Park. It was chilly and rainy, and the view from the RV park was kind of industrial.

One day we drove over to Sunset Bay State Park, and walked the beach over strange, striated slabs of rock. You could see big rollers breaking over the rocks at the entrance to the bay. From nearby Cape Arago, we got a beautiful view of the rugged coastline that just beckoned to be explored.

On June 17th, we took the 101 up the coast. It was slow-going and I had to be constantly alert on the narrow road, but damn what a view! That is, when I could take my eyes off the road. We landed in Newport and spent the next two weeks parked at the Port of Newport RV Park and Marina.

Even though it was cold and windy, I loved this place. We were in easy walking distance from The Toaster to the marina, the Rogue Brewery Spirit House (for a Moscow Mule) and the Hatfield Marine Science Center, which had a piece of a dock from Japan that had washed up following the 2011 tsunami there.

Speaking of tsunamis, we were surrounded by tsunami evacuation signs. We were parked at sea level, and according to one sign by the RV park, it may take as little as 15 minutes for a tsunami to reach the RV park after an earthquake. The sign went on to point out that we were a 10 minute walk from the nearest high ground. These signs made Julie nervous.

Across the bridge, downtown Newport was a cute little town. We could watch whales spouting from a hilltop overlook. We spent a lot of time exploring the beaches and tide pools, went on bike rides, and drove up for the day to the Tillamook Cheese Factory. I was pretty excited, because I think cheese is the nectar of the gods, but I was disappointed with this place. It was packed with tourists, the lines for cheese samples were long and someone puked on the floor. Sigh.

From Newport, we relocated to Salem by the Willamette River, so we could visit Julie’s cousins Kelly and Julie, and Kari and Phil. We stayed in a dumpy RV park, but enjoyed a great 4th of July barbecue with her cousins. From there, we took a short drive to a campsite in the mountains above Estacada, then moved over to Portland for the next week.

Our friends from Tucson, Brian and Melodee, were there visiting Brian’s daughter and we met up with them for a day on the beach at Sauvie Island. We also met up with other friends who had relocated to Portland from Tucson: Sarah and her wife, Janell, and Pixie and her boyfriend Jesse. It was really cool that we were seeing so many friends and family on this journey.

Portland is a cycling town, and one day I got away for a great ride along the Columbia River. I followed a bike path near our RV park, by the airport, then turned on another path that went up the middle of I-205 as it crossed the river into Washington. It was a steep, and noisy climb surrounded by fast traffic on this strange ride, where I could stop and take in the view of Mt. Hood.

Washington, emerald forests, blue waters, white peaks

From Portland we took I-5 over the Columbia River into Washington, then turned onto Highway 101 and drove along the beautiful Hood Canal to Port Ludlow on the Olympic Peninsula. The road was narrow and winding through a thickening forest unlike any we had seen this trip. Sometimes we would get great views of the fjord, it’s rich blue water sparkling in the sun.

We spent four days at the Port Ludlow RV Park, a nice little park with a walking path through the rain forest. We then relocated a whopping 10 miles to the north in Chimicum at Evergreen-Coho SKP RV Park. We had joined the Escapees just so we could get into this park. It was nice but my cell connection was pretty weak because we were surrounded by a wall of tall trees.

We stayed here for the next two weeks, constantly exploring the little towns: Port Townsend, Sequim, Port Angeles, Poulsbo. We could see snow covered volcanoes in the Cascades and cloud-shrouded massifs in the Olympic Mountains.

We took the ferry to Seattle for the day, visiting Pike Place Market and the Seattle Art Museum.

One day I drove out to the northwestern tip of the peninsula to hike the Ozette Triangle, a hike Julie’s cousin Kelly had told me about.

I left before sunrise, so I could reach the beach at low tide on this nine-mile hike without having to climb up over rocks. It was a pretty remote road that wound along the coast, passing through some small villages, than down to the trailhead at Ozette Lake. It’s called the Ozette Triangle because you take one trail through the rainforest down to the beach, follow the beach for three miles, then come back to your starting point on another trail, forming a triangle. It was a really cool hike, and I did it faster than I thought so I had time to sit on the beach and watch deer and a bald eagle.

On August 5th, we left Chimicum and met our friends Brenda and Gordon, down at Arcadia for the weekend while we celebrated Brenda’s birthday. We had had a few sunny days in Chimicum, which one friend joked was the entire Pacific Northwest summer, but it rained the entire time we were in Arcadia. As beautiful as the northwest is, we were getting tired of the gloomy, cool weather.

We said goodbye to our friends and drove to a county RV park at Chehalis. I took Peanut for a walk on some trails, and while he was sitting with his butt on the grass he suddenly jumped and yelped. Something had bit or stung him, but I couldn’t see anything. He just sat on the ground trembling and wouldn’t walk, so I carried him back to the RV. We couldn’t find any wound, but he was definitely subdued for the next few hours.

From Chehalis, we took Highway 12 up over the Cascades to Yakima. The drive was spectacular. At one point, I pulled into a scenic view point to take a look at the mountains. The drop off from the road had made Julie nervous, and she didn’t even want to step out. But when I climbed out and looked behind us I shouted, “Julie, you have got to see this!” Mt. Rainier loomed in the sky, a huge, icy dome.

We spent our last night in Washington at a truck stop in Ellensburg.

 Idaho, Montana, Utah, and back to Arizona

The weather was beautiful as we crossed into Idaho south of Spokane on Highway 278 on our way to Sun Meadows to park for the weekend. Everything looked promising for some R&R time spent in the woods, until Julie stepped out of The Toaster and was promptly stung on the arm by a yellow jacket. The place was swarming with them, and they were aggressive. According to an article in the local Coeur d’Alene area paper, late summer (the time we were there) is when they are at the peak of aggressiveness.

We lasted three days before packing up and driving on. Freelance work had still been slow, and we were anxious to get down south. So we booked it first to Missoula, Montana, traveling up and over the Rockies on I-90, where we stayed for the night in a truck stop. We took I-15 south, spent the next night in an Idaho Falls, Idaho truck stop, then drove to Bountiful, Utah on August 16th.

We parked at Julie’s sister June’s and her husband Steve’s house up on the hills above Bountiful. It was a steep climb through residential streets, and even with our toad unhooked, I thought The Toaster was going to stall at one point. Julie came down with some sort of flu, and spent most of the time in bed while I drove down to Salt Lake to visit my dad.

We left the Wasatch Front about a week later, taking I-15 to Highway 89, spending one night at a truck stop in Richfield, Utah, then parking for a few days at the Page Lake Powell Campground in Page, Arizona. We were eager to get back to our reserved spot in New River, but I had finally got a large project in and needed to sit in one spot while I wrote.

We continued on Highway 89 to I-17, and on August, 27th, four months after leaving, we landed back for a winter stay in New River.

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