July 21-26 - Homeward Bound
All good things must eventually end, and so must our first major adventure in WHR NXT. On Fri the 21st we hooked up and headed for home. Holding to our desire to drive about 300 miles a day, we'd planned stops every 300 miles or so - which led us to stop in Twin Falls ID, La Grande OR and Portland OR before the last leg into Reedsport and home.
Fri July 21 - Leaving Yellowstone was hard - we really like it here, although it's been spendy. We headed east out of Montana into Idaho, and then south toward Twin Falls. We stopped for fuel in Blackfoot ID at the most cramped Flying J Truck Stop we've ever encountered, and then managed to find a parking place at the shopping center across the street so we could visit Wendy's for lunch. As we headed south, the temperature rose and rose and rose - and as we crossed the Snake River into Twin Falls, the thermometer hit 102. It wasn't much cooler by the time we checked into our RV park. We headed back into town looking for dinner and found a neat steak house named "Jakers". After dinner, a quick stop at Costco for supplies, and another at WinCo for groceries, then home again.
Sat July 22 - The big thing in Twin Falls is Shoshone Falls, in a lovely city park. These aren't the falls that the town is named for, but they're in town and a lot easier to get to. We stopped at Fred Meyer and assembled a picnic lunch, which we consumed sitting on the grass overlooking the falls. By the time we finished lunch, the temp was 104. We took a few pictures and headed home. Mid afternoon we went to the movies and saw "Monster House". Then home again, where we watched the weather and some spectacular lightning storms that danced all around us, but just gave us a few drops of rain.
Sun July 23 - We figured the sooner we got hooked up and moving, the cooler it would be. Unfortunately, the hookup process missed a crucial pin, and the result was a broken tow bar, so we couldn't tow the Cruiser behind. Took us about 45 minutes to untangle things, and we set out again, Judy driving the car, Al in the RV, and walkie talkies providing some means of companionship. As we crossed the Oregon-Idaho border, the thermometer read 107. It was about 105 when we reached the RV park in La Grande, OR. After setting up, we cooled off a bit and then went looking for dinner - and found a Pizza Hut with a special that provided us three meals, one on site and two in the take-out box.
Mon July 24 - One thing we really wanted to see was the Oregon Trail Museum and Interpretive Center in Baker City, OR, about 40 miles south of La Grande. But first, we needed to resolve the broken tow bar. We can't say enough good things about an RV parts store named "Bulldog Enterprises" in La Grande - almost a general store for RV stuff, plus a supply of western wear for good measure. While they didn't have what we needed in stock, they could get it quickly. We ordered the replacement tow bar, and it would be on the UPS truck no later than 10AM Tuesday. Spendy, but good timing. Some lessons are costly. We left Bulldog and headed south to Baker City, and spent most of the morning reliving (in air conditioned comfort) some of what those 300,000 hardy souls endured as they made the migration west to Oregon. We'd been to the museum at the east end of the Trail in Independence, MO, and to the End of the Trail museum in Oregon City, but this was the official US Government center, and it added much to what we'd already seen. After the tour, we went back to the RV for pizza.<'p>
We'd never heard of Hot Lake, a resort-hospital-sanitarium just south of La Grande, built in 1906 to exploit the hot spring that pumps out a daily quarter-million gallons of 206 degree water - and right next door to our RV Park. The whole complex had seen some pretty rough times, but a couple of years ago, it was purchased by David and Lee Manuel. He's a world-renowned sculptor working in bronze, and she is one of the best promoters we've run into. They're restoring the place, hoping to once again have a destination spa, sculpture foundry, museum, condo, golf course, restaurant, etc. Looks like they'll do it, too. We spent about 2 hours touring and being pitched. Most interesting. Back to the RV for more pizza and a good night's sleep.
Tue July 25 - It was kind of hard killing time until 10AM so we could pick up our new tow bar. We rinsed the dust off the RV and pulled into the Bulldog lot just as the UPS truck was leaving. $600 and 30 minutes later, we pulled out again towing the Cruiser as usual, and headed west. We've never been in this part of Oregon before - the high desert, the high mountains, the sweeping vistas. Without intending to, we followed the route of the Oregon Trail for about 500 miles of our trek. It's fun to try to imagine how those emigrants must have reacted cresting some of those mountains and seeing the broad valleys. After a bit, we dropped into the Columbia River valley, then the Gorge, and after a fuel stop outside Portland, made it thru rush hour traffic and checked into a very compact space at our RV park. After cooling off a little, we met Ira and Anna at a nearby Applebees for dinner and a mutual catching up after not seeing each other for over 4 months. Then back to the RV park, where we finished off the Yellowstone travel-log before bedtime.
Wed July 26 - We waited to leave the RV park until after rush hour, and then headed south along I-5 the last 180 miles to home. I-5 through the Willamette Valley is pretty much like any other interstate highway, but once we turned off and headed to the coast, we knew we were home. There's something really special about the Umpqua River Valley. Maybe it's just us, but the greens seemed greener, the river seemed bluer, and the skies seemed bluer too. We were home around 2pm - a day earlier than advertised.
Click here to see some pictures from this last leg of the trip.
By the numbers:
As we write this, we've been home just over a day. It's kind of strange. We've been almost 4 months in our 400+ sq ft mobile apartment. All this space is almost overwhelming. It still seems kind of strange to see so many Oregon license plates. Guess we'll take a while to figure out what's "normal".
What was the best part? So many neat things. The relative freedom to just up and move when we wanted to. The chance to wander more or less at our own pace with a minimum of pre-planning (although as the tourist season got into full swing, planning became more necessary). Best of all, we got to do it together. We are extremely fortunate to share the same sense of wonder and the same sense of appreciation of the off-beat. We love to explore. We love to learn new things. We're rediscovering how to ride bicycles. One aching muscle at a time. And maybe we'll try surviving some more roller coasters.
Will we do something like this again? Absolutely. When? Hard to tell. One thing seems sure - we've found we can get along with a lot less "stuff", so we'll probably start disposing of some of the "stuff" we've accumulated. And we know we've got a bunch of the country yet to explore, particularly the Eastern third of the US. We've met several folks who spend a couple months a year working and living in a National Park, such as Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. That sounds like fun. We still need to relax more - force ourselves to spend more time in more places. We met a couple who won't stay anyplace less than a week, and try to make it two or three weeks. Next trip we'll try not to limit ourselves by staying just 3-4 days someplace. What's the worst that could happen? We run out of things to see and have to read a few more mystery novels? We're still learning, but so far we really like what we've learned.