Farewells and hugs to family and off we limp to Newport, the first stop on our journey for LilyPad’s necessary multitude rehabilitations. Our final destination for these major repairs, Portland Oregon and B. Young Tiffin Dealership to insure the ailing ball joints and boots are done correctly. While waiting for ordered parts to replace those dangerously worn, Tuff Top Awning will replace three slide toppers, on site, for three of our slide outs.
Mornings are cool and Highway 101 remains a disaster of road restoration coupled with the mounting collection of Total Solar Eclipse seekers gathering along the coast.
Rolling waves of fog stubbornly interject dense blankets of haze across what is normally an amazing view and we slow to enjoy each fog breakout scene. Our travel speeds are cut from regular speed limits to half.
John crept across Thomas Cr. Bridge, highest bridge in Oregon, 345 feet high and presently spanning out completely above the thick fog.
Just past Gold Beach, fishing boats, out for their limit of salmon. Dozens of them are spread out across the entrance to the bay.
New white stripes painted on the roads are designed to make a musical sound when crossing over, a helpful noise when the road suddenly sinks into thick fog.
Nearing Coos Bay, we paused at our favorite rest stop in Bandon, Misty Meadows Specialty Foods and Gifts. Their fruit jams are phenomenal. The first time we stopped, John drove behind the building to turn around leaving only inches to spare between the motorhome and the building wall. This time, he decided to turn around in the parking lot. He must have been thinking five years on the road was ample time to gage this sharp U-turn but it was false security and we got stuck straddling the berm with LilyPad’s two front wheels.
Out from the berry fields came the owner and her nephew to our rescue. The towed was removed, John rocked LilyPad off the berm, hitched up the towed, thanked them all profusely and we continued on our way with our year supply of delicious berry jam.
Wood carvings are popular throughout this area and it is entertaining to see what each store displays in their yards.
Miles of cranberry bogs line the highway on the path to Coos Bay. The cool coastal sandy soil is home to countless Ocean Spray cranberry fields.
Waterways run along our right side and we pause to watch the Princess Haru offloading cargo a few miles short of the casino.
Crossing over the railroad tracks, we enter The Mill Casino Hotel and RV Park. After a three hour journey, we arrived at the first of many “repair bound” overnights. Plans are to spend time in the park and relax, planted temporarily. The Coos Bay Farmers Market is foremost on our list as it is one of the best in the area offering fresh everything. Exercise for the entire family and a short respite, exactly what we needed.
Parked and settled, we scouted the RV park and walked along the abutted Ferndale Lower Ridge of the North Pacific Ocean.
Shipping docks, long ago rotted and consumed by the brackish waters, left their tell-tale spears rising out of the water.
Local sea birds have claimed many of the decaying dock piers as their homes and nesting habitats.
Bright and early next morning the three of us were off to the Farmers Market in downtown Coos Bay.
Last pass through we scored the most delicious strawberries we had ever tasted. Sadly, this trip was not taken during strawberry season. Free entrance, upbeat music, every possible food type imaginable, four legged family member friendly and great leg stretching opportunity made for an entertaining morning adventure.
After our stroll down a half dozen crowded streets, I paused for a bathroom break. Exiting the bathroom near the Market, I once again was struck by the large bold sign, in multiple languages, heart wrenching and socially disgraceful but verifiable true, assaulting my soul and dampening my happy spirit. Another written plea in a public restroom located on a well-traveled road. I am thankful someone buys and posts each and every one, that they have to exist continues to turn my stomach and chill the blood in my veins, reawakening my determination to keep an eye open for odd child behavior wherever we may land.
The notices are posted to warn and enlighten individuals, a high percent being foreign children and young adults, about their right to flee the bondage of illegal human trafficking. It is shocking so many citizens are unaware of this atrocity. The sight of my first sign resulted in phone calls to local police. Being informed by a policeman, many of these perverted degenerates live the rolling lifestyle to travel under law enforcement’s radar. It has forever changed my outlook when in new surroundings. A harsh reminder that evil can be lurking in the most welcoming and secure looking communities.
Back to our LilyPad for the night, a Red Box movie and sleep.
Packed up and rolling early, roadways not in repair are smooth and easily passable. Tiny townships allowed us several rest stops between temporary overnights. Rolling along the new roads, a few of the old roads can be seen off to the side, unbelievably cracked, shifted and splitting.
The coastline this morning has minimal fog so the ocean views are incredible.
Passing landscapes flowed from ocean to river and back to ocean. We drove along the Nestucca River for several miles appreciating the peaceful stillness of the water.
Back on stable inland roads, we reached our destination for the night, pulling into the Newport Elks Lodge but finding no room at the inn, not one sliver of a hookup site was available. We have rarely seen an Elks Lodge with all slots occupied. Parking on the Highway101 side of the Elks parking lot along with a few other overnighters, we set down temporary roots, fired up our generator and wound down from traveling among the hectic total solar eclipse seeking travelers. The Newport area is near epicenter for the August 21st 2017 Solar Eclipse.
Next morning we awoke in a leisurely fashion, took KatieBug on an extended walk and set out to explore. During a previous visit we found an amazing restaurant serving fresh fish and local produce. It is located across from the docks near the grand and stately Yaquina Bay Bridge.
We walked the wharf, stopping to check out the Fresh Catch of the day.
One fishing boat had a special blessing printed on its side. We stood near the standing shelter and read: Oh Lord, thank you for one more day. Bless my Mother and Father, watch over my children and all those I love and hold dear. And Lord, help me to be a better man, walking through this life, that I might make a difference in someone else’s. For Your name’s sake, Amen
Capt. Rocky Moffatt
The sign made both of us smile.
Turning back towards town, we wandered around, poking our heads into seaside gift shops, a dog boutique and several fish markets. Fresh sweet smelling handpicked crab pieces were coming home with us and were to be the headliner in a scrumptious crab salad for tomorrow’s dinner.
Airy and casual, Local Ocean Seafood was our destination for lunch. Been here before and it is always an excellent choice for the freshest seafood, locally grown veggies and friendliest service. Small in space but expanded by availing outdoor dining and cranking open huge windows on both floors giving your senses multiple exposures to the ocean. Seeing the rolling waves and fishing boats bobbing up and down, hearing gulls cry and ship bells ring, smelling the salty breezes, all a few steps from your table, makes for a relaxing dining experience. Another five star meal settling in our tummy’s, we walked to the car and turned it towards the Elks Lodge.
On the ride home, I noticed a glass blowing shop and we took a detour to watch a class shape molten orbs of glass. Looked like fun so I mentally added a glass blowing class to my Bucket List.
Arriving back at LilyPad, we packed up what little was out of place and made ready to move on early a.m.
The morning sun broke through the fog as we left masses of eclipse viewers settling in for the event. Off to our next stop. Passing over one of Oregon’s numerous attractive art deco bridges, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is stretched out over coastal sand dunes for several miles along our route.
Weekday visitors seem to be a calmer group but during the summer, weekend visitors triple the attendance, the sandy mounds become crawling with four wheelers zipping along, being jettisoned up into the air, their landings spewing clouds of beach grit in every direction.
We passed handmade stick lettering, five feet high and designed from large pieces of driftwood, stuck into the sand bars asking visitors to “leave nothing but footprints” and a peace symbol, made alike, a short distance away. Some four wheeling tourists who pass thru seem hellfire bent on contradicting the results expected by kitschy artistic environmentalist pleas. Hydration debris and other trash was scattered alongside four wheel tracks running up, over and around the sand dunes.
Several more hours rolling in slow motion, passing strings of bike riders traveling near edges of cliffs and attempting to “share the road”. We reached Tillamook, our next overnight and parked near the entrance of the Lodge.
Another no hookup dry camping stay, we arrived on the date of the Tillamook Elks Lodge’s Annual Bar B Q and picnic. Members come out of the woodwork to attend and the park was overflowing with celebrators.
This was our second visit to this lodge. Although primarily a quiet farming town, the Lodge was abuzz with activity and entertainment. My reason for loving this area are the dozens of local dairy farmers supplying the country with my favorite cheese, Extra Sharp Tillamook Cheddar.
The Lodge is friendly, as are all, and after settling ourselves, we were invited to the picnic area to join in the fun, food and banquet. Hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, coleslaw and cake for three dollars, what a deal! Horseshoe torments, music, a super-sized water slide and other family events and games would continue throughout the day. Asthma beginning to squeeze tight my lungs, I wisely chose not to venture outside in the breezy pollen and hay filled air. Instead I stretched out in front of the TV, feet up and chair leaned back while John visited with the Elks Lodge Folks and brought back our dinner from the bar-b-q. After a Red Box movie, we called it a day.
Slow to rise and dress, we casually drove around town for photo ops of this region’s predominant creatures, cows and chickens. The chicken ranch had multiplied tenfold.
Where there had been one medium house-size lot, now stood a gigantic ranch stretching across several acres.
I noticed a dozen or more wheeled and mobile chicken coops designed to house hundreds of free range chickens, the bright red chicken house pods were all decked out for roosting and egg laying. It is satisfying to see mom and pop businesses prosper.
The milk cattle farm down the road was typical of the tidy barns, stalls and milking facilities this area uses for the Tillamook brand of cheese.
Still an unpleasant odor, we kept the windows closed and inside air circulating, my lungs thankful for the filter inside Ribitts interior, while we watched the cows munching before being milked.
This visit, the thick foggy outdoor air had the odor of sour hay, wet sweaty dog and muddy cow dung rolled into a noxious combination. Our brief car tour, less than an hour, allowed enough leakage of extremely unpleasant odors to further set off my asthma sending me back to LilyPad and our two HEPA filters for the duration of our stay. Spring, compounded with farming scents, has never been my favorite and outdoor time must remain limited. Relaxing in LilyPad for the rest of the night suited me fine.
Early to rise and all set for departure, we began our final leg of our limp to have LilyPad repaired in Portland, fingers crossed nothing further would befall our box on wheels. A quick stop at the local Walmart for supplies, entertainment provided by a local Wal-Martian.
A few additional hours on the road and we would arrive prepared to forge through the three motorhome service appointments.
Crossing California through to Oregon, one would have to be wearing blinders not to see the homeless, either stricken by poverty, perhaps a complete absence of ambition or a mixture of other sad human conditions. Major highways have tents tucked into the brush and built in among the trees,
crumbling and vacant buildings house vagrants living in boxes, homeless living out of shopping baskets in downtown parking lots,
drifters sleeping in alleyways carrying backpacks of all they own, crippled and partially demolished RV’s settled permanently on the side of major streets or under bridges,
they are everywhere and year after year they remain, either refusing to conform to the rules of assistance or incapable of accepting the help offered. It is hard to understand, heartbreaking to see and impossible to alleviate. I will never reach a comfort level seeing so many downtrodden humans broken down along the paths we travel.
We came across the perfect pause for distraction and a late breakfast break. Camp 18, an old logging camp turned restaurant, provided an entertaining rest stop.
This is Bigfoot country and you are met with a giant size chain saw carving of the creature upon entering the parking lot. On the front steps, more intricate wood carvings of men and animals decorate the long porch and entrance.
Inside is warm and inviting. Huge solid logs brace the walls, ceilings and floors. Antler and stained glass chandeliers hang above your head and protrude from the walls throwing soft glows across the antique décor surrounding dining tables. Monstrous sugary cinnamon buns are guided onto platters by wait staff and brought to customers who find them so large they share with everyone at the table. John and I shared a sensible breakfast, then splurged and split a cinnamon bun.
Displayed outside was old logging equipment and miscellaneous spare parts found on the property. This is a popular place to eat but our wait was short. After allowing KatieBug to peruse the outskirts of the property, we got back on the road.
Nearing our end destination we crossed mud flats. I imagined plump juicy Quahogs hiding under the muck. Digging for clams is another Bucket List item postponed for another time.
Arriving at The Columbia River RV park, it is tight fitting, road noise is loud and continual, airplanes fly overhead day and night with some train noise thrown in to add to the annoyance. If we didn’t have to be here, we certainly wouldn’t. On the plus side, the area was familiar to us, convenient for availability of necessities and the home of a scarce but reputable amount of acceptable Tiffin repair shops.
Dragging our feet on this section of our journey, our scouting for entertaining distractions has been replaced by searching for well rated diesel companies, not an easy task for our type and size of motorhome. Quickly becoming apparent, 2017’s West Coast Experience will be a disappointingly money draining parallel to the previous travel up the Pacific coastline. Our first trip, the leak repair stalled our travel for three months and gutted the entire bedroom before we were able to roll on down the road. Tiffin parts and dealerships are sporadically located in this part of the country. We spent the lion’s share of this journey and many sizeable wads of cash desperately trying to secure critical motorhome mends.
I enjoy being in one place for a week but Happy Camper status quickly turned sour as the air filled with smoke and covered our area with gray haze. Canada’s smoke, from over 100 fires, was covering Portland Oregon, sneaking up the Columbia River and rising to hazardous outdoor conditions for breathing, according to the air quality reports. Our campground sits on the banks of the Columbia River. Checking the government national fire map, I saw the wildfire devastation going on up and down the entire coastal mountain area of the USA, currently worst consumed being Idaho.
Additional fires along multiple mountain ranges in US coastal states are causing hazardous breathing conditions far and wide. Lungs already struggling, I’ll have intimate knowledge of the inside of our 350 square foot rolling box by the time it is safe for me to breathe outdoor air.
And the good news is, the slide toppers were installed quickly and professionally in one day. The rest of the story, our list of “it’s always something” just grew to gargantuan proportions. A pre-ordered new A/C unit will not be arriving in Portland. The repair shop cancelled our order permanently. John made several calls, ordered an air conditioner from Tiffin and it will ship to an RV repair in Brookings that we have used successfully in the past. The silver lining, another chance to visit family.
A third trip to diagnose our front end “knock” has been identified as a loose ball joint on one side and torn boots on both sides. Both must be replaced and are not an inexpensive repair. After much research it was confirmed, no one in Portland could do the job. The closest place, several hours drive back in the direction of which we came, is mandatory.
Also detected, our 4 year old Road King shocks, top of the line in cost, need adjusting. I had voiced concern over the hard ride for the last six months. My back had complained at each bounce, confirmation enough for me but John needed word from a professional. Now they will finally be replaced as the procedure for adjustment is costly and requires removing, shipping to their factory, then reinstalling, all while you are stalled in one place, unable to move for the entire adjusting process. John made the decision to buy another well rated brand and the cash bleed out continued.
With the heat rising daily and unsafe levels of smoke, we are forced to leave Portland immediately after the slide toppers are complete. It appears Seattle, Spokane, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and Canada are unquestionably struck from 2017’s itinerary due to unsafe levels of smoke and a multitude of road closures from fast moving flames. If we consider a six month western coastal trip again, we will leave Texas mid-March to be a lengthy distance from wildfire prone states when air quality fires up the hazardous smoke levels in July.
Our many repair visits to keep LilyPad in top shape while in Texas was begrudgingly accepted so as to allow freewheeling months of fun. Retirement and the RVing life, according to the wide variety of “pro full timing” articles and books we keep reading, tout a carefree and easy lifestyle. After five years on the roll, I think the truth is being deceivingly fudged to keep the recreational vehicle manufacturers in business.
Today John found the town of Grants Pass has one quality repair shop but the path is dense with smoke. Dangerous travel for me but our Austin Air filters will stay on, I mask my face “Michael Jackson” style and the journey is mandatory for repair. The thought of having our front end ball joints snap and drop us to the road mid highway, stalling us roadside in the midst of hazardous breathing conditions, is frightening.
Stopping overnight halfway, in the small town of Myrtle Creek at Tri City RV, we watched as helicopters dropped their water bucket firefighting equipment into the nearby river, refill and speed towards distant flames. The gigantic grey clouds of wildfire smoke loomed in the distance.
The RV park was clean, reasonably priced and well kept. We were exhausted and in need of rest. A walk for KatieBug, dinner and off to bed for us all.
Our sleep was interrupted several times by staccato blasts from the nearby fire stations emergency siren. Waking me repeatedly, I went outside sometime around 3:00 am joined by several other campers questioning the alarms. None of us had a clue. Next morning I called the non-emergency police department/fire department to question the reason for wee morning wake up sirens. The reason made me laugh, even after having so few hours of sleep. It was the procedure they used to call ambulance drivers to rush to the firehouse for all emergencies. This town must have dreadful cell phone service!
On the road again with thick grey smoke nipping at our heals. On the way out, I took a photo of signage. A big red stop sign and right below “Right turn permitted without stopping”. Pure Oregon. Next RV park stop is managed by an acquaintance from Conroe, Texas.