Days 1-11 12-19 20-30 31-40 41-51 52-60 61-109
Day 1 - August 20, 2008
Santa Rosa, CA
We are finally on the road. After months of planning and a few days of loading up the RV, we make it to Santa Rosa tonight. We got started later in the day than we wanted to, but at least we are rolling. We are traveling in a 31' Class C RV (a Fleetwood Jamboree GT) and we're towing my Mini Cooper (called a dinghy in RV parlance). We are planning to be gone four months on our adventure to see the US. We'll be making a big clockwise loop roughly around the perimeter of the country. Some stops will be only one night, other places we're planning on staying a week - like DC and Orlando. We are planning on learning lots of US history and geography and anticipate driving close to 10,000 miles.
We were hoping to see my cousin's Tesha's baby before we left, but he/she still hasn't been born yet. Her due date was August 10th. We think of Tesha and Jeremiah as we drive close to their house in San Francisco. The traffic on 19th Avenue is thankfully very light. The usual summer fog blankets the city. The weather is nice and warm again once we got to Marin.
Hopefully gas prices will be dropping from the high of $4.15 in San Francisco.
We stopped at the lovely Santa Rosa Fairgrounds RV Park - basically a big gravel lot with hook-ups. It was only $22 a night. The showers were spartan, but it served its purpose.
We wake up to Colin saying: "I love the smell of RV in the morning!" He cracks us up with his pop culture references. The cartoon writers must have fun molding our kids' minds. How many years before Colin stumbles across the original iconic movie line? He won't be alone in his surprise. There will be a whole generation of kids trying to unweave all the twisted sayings they've heard. (That goes for cover songs too!)
We get a much early start today and are on the road right after breakfast. We leave the rolling hills of the Sonoma Valley wine country and start into the bigger hills of the Redwoods - California's Avenue of the Giants.
We pull over for lunch at Cooks Valley and tour a One Log House. The One Log House is basically a giant log that someone has laid on its side, bored out and built a little house in. The tree was 2100 years old and big enough to stand up in. We paid a buck to go inside.
The hills get bigger and eventually we end up at Klamath, CA. I visited this town many times as a child. My grandfather LeMay used to fish here for most of the summer and we would always come visit for a few days every year. In fact the whole trip up here brought back memories. My parents used to make up goofy sayings for the town names en route and I remember saying we should go "Potty in Cotati" and "We ought to eat in Weott". I also remember the big golden bear statues flanking the Klamath River Bridge. We cross the bridge and pull into the Camper Corral RV Park. The park was very nice and grassy, the people are friendly and it's a short walk to the river. There's a playground and Colin found a boy his age to play with right away. The park has great free wi-fi, but no cell signal (thanks AT&T)! I wonder how often we will encounter this scenario on our trip?
After dinner we walk down to the river, pick some wild blackberries (yum) and Martin and Colin skip stones and see who can make the biggest splash. The fish are jumping and competing with their own splashes. I enjoy soaking in the simplicity of it all.
The towns of Klamath and Requa are all about the salmon fishing. They are located at the mouth of the Klamath River. My grandfather would spend the summer months here - fishing by day and playing cards by night - usually with the same group of people every year. It's been 30 plus years since we used to visit him here and I'm trying to piece together the memories of where we stayed, what we did and where things are. My olfactory memories still seem to be working. I'm outside at 7am this morning and the smell of the fog, plants and the river all bring me back to my childhood here.
We go for a drive in the Mini this morning. First we drive though a Drive Thru Tree. It seemed like a tight squeeze in the Mini; I'm glad we didn't have anything bigger. Then we pass the Requa Inn and up to the lookout to see the view of the Klamath River meeting the Pacific Ocean. We see nothing but fog, but we can hear the sea lions below. No doubt they are trying to get to the salmon before the fishermen do. Down by the water and the launching ramp, the American Indians have a strong presence that I don't remember from 30 years ago. It looks like the Indians are allowed to string out fishing nets.
Back at the campground, our neighbor caught a huge fish - 30lbs and 38". The fish is the talk of the campsite.
We reluctantly leave the Camper Corral and head north. We cut inland at Crescent City and have lunch at Patrick Creek Lodge. The lodge is an old log building totally dependent on travelers for business. Soon we are in Oregon driving along the Rogue River. The river looks very inviting, either to raft down it or hang out on the banks and watch it go by.
We pull into Crater Lake National Park in the late afternoon. The lake is very clear, blue and picturesque. The lake has filled a massive caldera where a volcano once stood. The volcano, Mt Mazama, exploded 7700 years ago. The eruption obliterated the top part of the volcano, leaving a giant round hole where it once stood. Rain water and snow melt eventually filled the caldera and produced the lake we have today. The lake is 1900 feet deep - the deepest in the US and the seventh deepest in the world. It has no rivers flowing into or out of it. It therefore lacks particulates and is extremely clear. The lake should actually be called Caldera Lake. A caldera is the "hole" that forms when a volcano erupts. A crater is what is formed when an asteroid or meteorite strikes the earth. I was quick to point that geologic tidbit out to Colin. I've got to put that undergraduate degree to use somehow!
It's possible! I CAN take a shower in under four minutes! The showers here are 75¢ for four minutes and I managed to shampoo, condition and soap with time to spare. This is a feat that my father will be shocked to hear is possible for me. All my years of growing up in his house, he could never understand how I could take such long showers. He would even turn off the hot water. Apparently all it took was the threat of an additional 75¢!
We are staying at Crater Lake for two nights and it was nice to have a little down time this morning. In the afternoon we hiked down the only trail to the lake. We stuck our toes in the water and it was freezing cold. In fact, snow is still hiding in the shadows and crevices around here. The trail down to the lake had lots of switchbacks and was very steep. The hike back up was killer, especially at over 6000' elevation. It is one mile long and 700 feet up. You'd think our tax dollars could pay for an elevator or a funicular or something! (I'm kidding - sort of.) We definitely got our cardio in for the day.
We had dinner at the old 1915 lodge. The food was OK, but the place to be was on the veranda with wine and cheese overlooking the lake. The lodge would be a great place to stay, especially if your room was on the lake side. Our campground is in the forest about seven miles away, right near the south entrance to the park. We spot some wildlife here: lots of baby fawns with their moms, some weasel creature and the requisite chipmunks.
At night we had a campfire and s'mores. Almost felt like we were camping for real!
As we are driving out of Crater Lake, I feel like we are at the top of the world. Looking west we can see the tops of all the peaks in the area.
Once we get down to the lowlands, we stop for lunch. The Oregon lottery includes Keno and there is a Keno room right in the restaurant (no minors allowed) -- not a sight we see in California. Another uncommon sight is the number of RVs on the road. There have been a ton ever since we got to "northern" northern California.
We are staying in the Fairview RV Park just east of Portland. Once we are settled in, we search out a Whole Foods in NE Portland. I didn't think it was possible, but I actually found a Whole Foods that is smaller than our uncomfortably cozy one in Los Gatos! We also find a great restaurant around the corner for dinner - Navarre. They serve great meats, fresh bread and veggies from their CSA box - all tapas style.
Today we spent the day at the highly recommended Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). It is a great museum for kids. We saw an IMAX movie on dinosaurs and toured the decommissioned USS Bottlenose submarine. Martin wanted Colin to realize that his bunk in the Navy was not much bigger than those on the submarine. I would never be able to fit all my "stuff" in that small of a space.
Astoria was Lewis and Clark's final west coast destination. We've been reading books and watching videos about their exploration, so we decide to go to Astoria to check out their fort. Fort Clatsop was the winter encampment for the Corps of discovery from December 1805 to March 1806. The fort replica burnt down just before the bicentennial in 2006. It was rebuilt last year according to Lewis & Clark's extensive notes. The fort is not very large. The corps built it in two weeks. Lewis & Clark have their own room and so do Sacagawea and her infant son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. (She was one tough chick - giving birth and directions on the journey west! Apparently this was the last time in history that men stopped and asked a women for directions!) The enlisted men all shared three rooms in the opposite wing. We do our best home school lesson and then head to the beach.
We stop at Del Rey Beach. The beach is broad and flat. We don't have to park in a lot or at the top of a cliff; we can drive right onto the beach! I cautiously drive my little car on the sand - no problem!
Downtown Astoria is a funky little town. We had a tasty lunch at the Silver Salmon Grille. The restaurant sponsors an annual crayon drawing contest; the results are posted on the wall. Impressive what you can do with the lowly crayon! We checked-out the unique shops and found a fun gallery - Lunar Boy Gallery.
My cousin finally had her baby - yeah! It's a girl - Welcome Baby Stone.
We are headed up to Seattle today and stop at Tacoma along the way. The glass artist, Dale Chihuly, is from this area. His glass studio and school are here as well as some great public installations. He created the Chihuly Bridge which spans the freeway from the Union Station to the contemporary Museum of Glass. The bridge is very innovative and contains hundreds of his pieces. We are all jazzed on Chihuly lately after seeing his largest show ever at the De Young a few weeks ago in Golden Gate Park.
We are in a bit of a rush today so I can't take as many photos as I'd like. We also don't have time to go in the Museum of Glass. The outside architecture is very cool.
We get to Everett, WA in time to catch the last Boeing plant tour. Boeing assembles the 747, 767, 777 and the new 787 at this location. They are assembled in the largest building (by volume) in the world - 472 million cubic feet of space. Check out the aerial view to get an idea of the size. The doors alone are 81' high x 300' wide. The graphics on the door are supposed to be the biggest piece of digital art in the world.
They were very strict about not taking pictures, so I borrowed a few from their website.
The 747, 767 and 777 take a few months to manufacture and assemble here. The new plane, the 787, will have pre-built segments flown in from all over the world. The plane will then be assembled in three days. The 787 will be able to fly 8000 miles non-stop and land at regional airports. Boeing hasn't completed the first 787 yet, but they have orders for 900 of them. Qantas has ordered 65.
For the next three nights we are staying at the Maple Grove RV Park in Everett.
This is one well-caffinated corner of the country! Everywhere we go there is a drive-thru espresso shop -- even in small towns. At big intersections, there's one on each corner! The most unbelievable part is that there is a girl in a bikini serving up the hot stuff. So sexist!
Note the $3.79 gas price in Everett, down from $4.15 in San Francisco. We are getting a whopping 5-8 MPG on this trip, so the lower price is very welcome.
We had a scenic lunch at the rotating restaurant at the top of the Space Needle. Back on the ground, we went to the Experience Music Project & Science Fiction Museum. The colorful undulating building was designed by Frank Gehry. The museums are funded by Microsoft's Paul Allen. The EMP has a really cool studio where you can try out keyboards, guitars, drums, bass, vocals and a mixing board. A computer interface assists you with all the instruments. The best part was the vocal manipulation that changed Colin's 9-year old voice to deep adult voice -- very trippy for mom and dad!
The Science Fiction Museum wasn't as cool, but I was struck by seeing the actual Lost in Space robot. I loved that show as a kid!
Today we went to Mukilteo State Park to watch the ferries go to Whidbey Island, play on the playground and have some lunch. The cars are lined up for a couple miles to get on the ferry. The ferries really move the people and vehicles in and out. One leaves every 15 minutes. We have great views of Puget Sound and see our only west coast lighthouse on this trip.
The boys went to see Star Wars: The Clone Wars in the afternoon.
We leave the overcast, cool and rainy weather of Seattle and head east. Once we are over the Cascade Mountains, the terrain levels out into high plains and the sun in shining again. We pass a "Jigglin' Java" shack with some poor girl serving coffee in a bikini. Hopefully those will be gone once we leave Washington. Idaho is pretty Mormon so we probably won't see any in that state.
The rest stops in Washington are really nice. Some even have free coffee and wi-fi!
Spokane's suburbs kind of blend in with Coeur d'Alene. Coeur d'Alene is quite beautiful. We are staying right on Lake Coeur d'Alene at Blackwell Island RV Park. Lots of families with kids are here, unlike the usual bunch of traveling seniors and recently divorced men living in their trailers that we usual encounter in RV parks. I'm sure that Labor Day weekend and staying in a resort area account for the change in demographics.
We have dinner next door at Idaho's well-known Cedars Floating Restaurant. I've been having a lot of salmon in the northwest and their alder-smoked is the best so far!