Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Day 37 - Petaluma, CA to Boulder Creek, CA


We got up and headed off to San Francisco.  The City by the Bay.  Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge is exciting and expensive.  If you are towing, we recommend that you unhitch and drive across separately.  The cost will be less than 1/2 of the cost of driving your motorhome and tow vehicle across.  Driving a motorhome (towing or not) through San Francisco is an experience.  We headed down 19th Avenue and were glad to see that we weren't the most out-of-place vehicles driving through the City that day.  Evidently, there had been a horse show at the Cow Palace as we saw several huge pickups and horse trailers heading north as we headed south!

Once through the City, we headed over to Pacifica so we could cruise down the coast.  We wanted to avoid the Highway 17 at rush hour crowds and driving along the coast extended our vacation.  It was beautiful and we had Popeye's Fried Chicken for lunch in Half Moon Bay.

We approached Santa Cruz from the ocean and made our way to Scotts Valley where we picked up the dogs and then headed home, after profusely thanking Greg's mom and sister for watching them for us while we were gone.

The dogs were very glad to see us again and so, surprisingly, were Greg's mom and sister!

Home!  It's good to be home!

Day 36 - Gold Beach, OR to Petaluma, CA

Our drive out of Oregon and down into California is always bittersweet.  We look forward to getting home but want to prolong the trip as much as possible.  In a car, you could make the drive from Gold Beach to Boulder Creek in a long day but in the FMC it would be brutal and dangerous.  We enjoyed the drive down in the Coastal Redwoods of Northern California.  It looked like home and we loved breathing in the smell of the redwood trees.  We found some more yummy salmon at a roadside stand near Eureka.

We wanted to get as close to San Francisco as we could so we could have a leisurely start to the day and get through the City after the morning rush hour but before the afternoon traffic starts up again.  We ended up at Petaluma and stayed at their KOA.

They call themselves the KOA - San Francisco North.  It's quite a claim since they are an hour north of the City and smack in the dairy country of Petaluma.  We were pretty disappointed in this park.  Like many KOA's, they had a LOT of facilities -- petting zoo, playgrounds, bounce thingies, pool, and more.  It was noisy and huge and crowded.  We made one request when we checked in . . . we want a 50 amp site so we can run both our air conditioners.  It had been a HOT drive down California with no A/C while we were driving.  The young man who took my money assured me that that was no problem and he promised me we were getting a nice site.  This place is crazy expensive and we cashed in all our KOA rewards points here so he really could have accommodated my requests and gouged us on the price.  I'd have been fine with that.

Instead, we had a crappy site on the end of a row with no 50 amp service and no grass.  There was nothing at all nice about the site.  Going back to the office to complain and move seemed pointless when we were just staying for one night.  Still, we won't be back here willingly again.  And, if we do come, I'll book ahead on the internet so that we get what we asked for.

We had dinner in Petaluma at a nice brewery along the river and luxuriated in running the one A/C and using lots of wifi (which was terrible, too).

I guess, the point was to make us glad we were going home.

Day 35 & 36 - Manzanita, OR to Gold Beach, OR

We got up early and packed up and headed south.  We did laundry while Greg worked with an ocean view in a cute little oceanside town.  We stopped at Tillamook Cheese Factory while Greg went and did some printing for a client.  The kids and I had a great lunch (grilled cheese and tomato soup -- yum!) and we got milkshakes just as Greg got back so he scored one, too.

We cruised down the coast, stopping whenever we saw an open fish market that advertised smoked salmon!  Eventually, we made our way down to our favorite wild animal park in Bandon, OR.  If you are in the area, you have to come visit.  West Coast Game Park Safari is wonderful.  It is a walk through animal park with many animals that you can feed, pet, and play with.  They have baby wild cats that you can, in small groups, interact with up close and personal.  This year, they had a baby cougar and a baby bobcat.  So wonderful.  We also got to pet a baby brown bear and the usual suspects . . . white ferrets, blond skunks, raccoons, and baby opossums.  They are all impossibly cute and well worth a visit.

We started looking for a camping spot but didn't find anything that jumped out of us until we got near Gold Beach.  We were thinking about stopping there anyway because we'd heard such good things about the Rogue River Jet Boats.  We called ahead to Four Seasons and they promised to save us a spot.  They had a great spot on the water but were a little worried that we'd get our coach into it.  We weren't worried.  The FMC is highly maneuverable and we were motivated!  The managers could not have been nicer.  They got us settled in the site, booked us our tickets on Jerry's Jet Boats, and we settled in to eat some amazing salmon and cheese and other goodies we'd bought on our way down the coast.

There were several other old coaches in the park and we walked around and got a tour of the other coaches and several campers stopped by to tour ours as well.  It was such a friendly park.

The site was magnificent.  We were right on the water, overlooking the river.  We were a few steps from the boat ramp where we could walk down and stick our feet in the water and we could sit in front of the rig and enjoy the view of jet boats and fisherman cruising by on the water.  We decided pretty quickly to spend another night there.

In the morning, we got up early and headed into Gold Beach to get on our boat.  We'd planned to do the short run up the river (64 miles) but it was already full.  They decided to offer a shorter run that day and we had tickets for that.  We didn't go all the way up to Agness for lunch but turned around early and headed back.  This might have made for a boring drive but our driver made up for the lack of rapids and wild water but making his own rapids and getting us thoroughly wet and spun around.  It was SO much fun!  He also spotted lots of wild life along the river -- mostly otters and osprey but we got up close and personal with them which was really special!

We were exhausted after the ride and stopped to get lunch at a little mexican joint in Gold Beach.  The owners turned out to be from Seaside, CA before moving up to Gold Beach just a year earlier.  Small world.

We headed back to our riverside site and enjoyed our last night in Oregon.

Day 33 & 34 - White Salmon, WA to Manzanita, OR

The drive down the Columbia River Gorge from Hood River to Portland is really lovely.  This powerful river is very inspirational as it roars to the sea.  At Portland, we headed southwest a bit to make our way over the coastal range toward Manzanita, OR where one of our favorite campgrounds is -- Nehelam Bay State Park is a very special place.  We stayed here accidentally two years ago and vowed to come back.

Our visit this time wasn't quite as nice but it was still a great spot to camp.  We got there and saw, to our utter dismay, that they were full.  It's a circuitous route in to the park but we decided to risk it anyway.  We drove up to the gate where the sign still said, "Campground Full!"  and decided to ask.  No, we were told, they had room.  Okay then, we got the last site available.  If we stayed another night -- which we wanted to -- we'd have to move which was fine with us.

Our site for the first night was less than ideal but we made the best of it.  It backed up to one of the playgrounds which meant there were kids playing (which is lovely) and whining (which is not) all day. Now, if our kids were little, we'd have been THRILLED!  But, they aren't and we weren't.  Still, we determined to enjoy it and enjoy it we did.  The kids went to the beach with Greg.  I read and relaxed.  There was bike riding and reading.   Ruthie and I found a great little grocery store in Manzanita, the town just north of the the state park.  It was chock full of amazing treats and gourmet goodies.  We feasted that night in the fog and sea air.  We had a campfire and s'mores and wine by the fire.  Heaven.

The next day, we relaxed all morning while also packing up our gear.  Either we were leaving the campground at checkout time or we were changing sites at checkout time.  Greg and I took turns going and asking the rangers if there were any availabilities and finally we got a new site.

We moved to a different loop and settled in.  It was quieter and closer to the beach which was lovely.  Then a family moved in next door.  It was their teenage daughter's birthday so they had brought a bunch of her friends.  They were noisy and had atrocious language.  We ignored it when they were outside and hoped they'd all retreat to their tents early.  No such luck.  They went out onto the beach that night and set off fireworks (against park regulations) at about 11pm.  Wow, what a racket.    Oh well, we were soon back to sleep.

They say you can't go home again and it's true for campgrounds, too.  You'll never have the same experience again.  If you visit Nehelam Bay, I recommend that you book ahead through Reserve America.  You need to book three days in advance to get the site you want.  The outside of the loops near the ocean has the nicest sites.

We'll be back.  It's still an amazing place!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Day 32 - Clarkston, WA to White Salmon, WA (aka Hood River, OR)

We got an early start to minimize the driving we had to do in the heat of the day -- although it was still plenty hot while we were driving!  We headed down towards Pendleton, OR and then for the Columbia River.   Our goal for the night was Hood River, OR -- where my dad was raised.  We ended up across the river in White Salmon, WA because there weren't any private campgrounds in Hood River.  It's so close that it feels like the same town . . . just in a different state! 

Pendleton is a pretty sleepy town but we were hoping to get Greg a nice wool shirt for cold mountain weather.  We found the perfect one that fit him great.  We figure he'll break it in while we are on the Oregon Coast.  

One of the most interesting things we saw was an forest farm.  They grow a special fast-growing poplar and harvest them for specific purposes.  The trees are all in rows like an orchard but they are harvested for wood.  It's pretty amazing and huge.  

The Columbia River Gorge is utterly beautiful.  Above Hood River, it's very desert-y and below Hood River, there are many more trees.  The river itself is huge and deep and lovely.  In the Hood River area, under the watchful eye of Mt Hood, kite surfers fill the river with color and life.  

After we settled in our campground, we went to have dinner at a great little brew pub in Hood River.  We had great food and really enjoyed looking out over the town and the river.  Gage and I even got in a game of Cribbage (although Gage gets so much "help" from Greg that I feel like I am playing him instead!).  

After dinner, we got some ice cream (mmmmm, Huckleberry ice cream!!!) and then took a drive down to the water.  These paddleboarders were coming in -- I enjoyed their passenger!  

Hood River is such a cool town.  We'll have to come back when we can spend more time here.  

Day 31 - Missoula, MT to Clarkston, WA

We got an early start out of Missoula.  We planned to take another byway (of course).  Highway 12 out of Missoula crosses the state of Idaho and ends up in Clarkston (or near enough to nevermind).  What a beautiful drive!

We love byways!

Driving into the storm.

Idaho is a beautiful state.

At lunch, we stuck our feet in the Clearwater River.  

It was windy and hilly the whole way -- more than we anticipated -- but, Greg is used to driving on roads like that and it was so beautiful along Lolo Creek that we didn't mind.  We drove into a storm as we drove over the Bitterroots -- lots of rain and even some thunder and lightning which was exciting.  Eventually, as we came down the other side, the sky turned blue and it got warm.  We ended up travelling along the beautiful Clearwater River that travels across Idaho.

The border between Idaho and Washington runs down the Snake River.
The twin cities of Lewiston and Clarkston were our destination for the night.  We found a great little campground at a marina on the Snake River and restocked on groceries.

Day 30 - Glacier National Park to Missoula, MT

Leaving Glacier was painful.  It is so beautiful and there is always more to do there.  It's a long way to get to Glacier but so worth it.

We had lots of choices on our route but decided that we'd go down to Missoula.  We decided to take a byway (we love those!) along Flathead Lake.  What an amazing, huge lake!  We drove down the eastern side of the lake where much of the land is filled with cherry orchards. Unfortunately, the roads were tiny so stopping and getting fresh cherries right from the orchard wasn't easy and we decided to skip it for the day.  It was a beautiful drive though.

Missoula is a college town and has lots going on there.  We had dinner at Fuddruckers -- yum!  As we walked up to the restaurant, we realized that we'd eaten there two years ago too -- and yes, we sat at the same table!

We had hoped to stay at a nice little campground that got great reviews but it was full when we stopped there.  We ended up just down the street at another Jellystone Park.  It was nicer than the one in Colorado and a good overnight stop for us.  They had a pool and nice restrooms so it wasn't a complete loss!