THE SPRING ROAD AWAITS

Matilda (motorhome), the Mothership (car), and a jug of sun tea. Life is good, when it’s good.

We waited. We hid. We isolated ourselves. We wore masks and we social distanced (at least 10 miles from anyone every chance we got). Then we got our vaccines, and so did most of the family. So, how about a spring drive to see the ones on the east coast to start our summer? We could take a month, drive slow, enjoy the sights. Easy. Simple. No rush, no fuss, no hassle…

What was that saying about the best laid plans?

We started off in Oregon, along the Columbia River Gorge. We stayed along side the river and watched the windsurfers, played games… and spent a small fortune saving the lives of both dogs. Rusty, and Frankie, being explorers like us, both managed to get into something that made them deathly ill. They each spent 2 days in the animal hospital on IV antibiotics and fluids, and were sent home with lots of fun drugs. 

*** We pause this blog to give a special shout out to everyone at The Columbia Veterinary Hospital for the amazing care and compassion they showed our fur-kids. There may have been tears of gratitude as we drove away with them.***

These windsurfers were amazing!
It looks like a ton of fun. And like I would probably break my body as I was drowning.
Some serious Jesus moves going on here.

After all that fun we thought, hey, the worst part is behind us, smooth sailing from here (Pro tip: Don’t ever assume it will be smooth sailing). Farewell Bend, the Oregon State park along the Oregon/Idaho state border was our next stop. This time, we simply took some pictures, played with our reinvigorated doggos and relaxed along the Snake River.

Farewell Bend, an Oregon State Park.
The Farewell Bend of the Snake River along the Oregon/Idaho border.

Next Stop: Milner Recreation Site in Idaho. Without discussion, we apparently decided to follow the Oregon Trail in reverse as we slowly tootled along the Snake River. Just a few feet away from where the greatest ol’ motorhome, Matilda, sat, were the very ruts carved by wagon after wagon during the westward expansion (and the sad land theft from indigenous peoples) of the United States. Being so close to hundreds of year old history that you can see and touch is quite a feeling. 

Wagon wheel ruts from along the Oregon Trail. Maybe the doggos had preemptively tried to die of dysentery. 
The Snake River in the Milner Recreation area near Burley, Idaho.
Frankie (Doodle Dandy), the Great Tree-bone hunter.
Rusty, making a sport out of watching Frankie work her ass off swimming for tree-bones.

Remember that pro-tip earlier? Well just enough time had passed that we felt like we were truly on the road again. Then we stopped somewhere and a squeal like the banshees of legends greeted our ears. Matilda began losing power and we were forced to pull off the road. We breathed in a sigh of relief at realizing it was just a thrown belt and we could get it fixed and back on the road ourselves (this part of the story doesn’t end here).

Our next mini-adventure found us under the bridge, like trolls. GPS said we should be somewhere else, but it was occupied. So we explored, and we found a hidden, off-grid gem. A gem that turned into an extra couple days stay because our dear Frankie had to return to the vet. The minor infection in her ears that we thought would clear up with the drugs from the previous trip had gotten worse, and was now a full-blown double ear infection. Fortunately they have vets in Utah. The Wasatch Hollow Animal Hospital took care of our little lady (Thank you so much!).

Think bridge trolls are cool? You should see him troll on the Internet.
Rusty meandering through his retirement age like a good boy.
She is always tracking down the tree-bones with ease.

Okay, is that enough headaches now? Should be good to go now, right? Right? We had plans for two stops, one in Wyoming, and one in Nebraska, before making the final jump to our family on the east coast. And yet, nothing went according to plan. 

Just before the town of Rawlins, Wyoming, Matilda broke down again. The banshees had returned and it sounded as if our very souls were in danger. It turned out that the previous belt failure was not due to an old belt, but rather a smog pump that had seized up. After 2 days on the side of the road as we tried to track down a part, we were able to make our way to the Dugway recreation site about 20 miles away. 

Memorial Weekend brought us a patriotic visitor, flying over the North Platte River in Wyoming.
A neighboring camper brought his half Bernese Mountain Dog, half really big bear to peacefully enjoy the river.
Where the antelope roam, indeed.

Think this part of the adventure is a simple buy a new part and replace the old one? Oh no, that would not make for a juicy story. Nope, we had to discover that the shop that had installed the previous pump had duct-taped the back of the pump together. Not only did they duct-tape the main air line to the pump, but they also skipped installing the check valve or even the right high pressure air lines. In all, we learned that we had previously paid an $800 bill for a shoddy installation of the wrong parts.

But wait, there’s more… 

We were forced to wait for 4 days to find out if we could even order the part, only to find out that it was available for 2 day delivery the whole time. At least we now had a nice quiet spot with a decent view. The only advantage to living our life when Murphy comes to visit. 

Dammit, Murphy.

Is there any good news to talk about for the last 2 months? Sure there is.

The wildlife that visited us was amazing. We spent the majority of the 2 months alongside a couple of rivers, and the seclusion was wonderful for both of us, our writing, and our dogs to run and play. 

Mourning Dove looking for it’s love.
American White Pelican
Beetley Buddy
Red-Tailed Hawk
American Bison
American Bison
Bald Eagle
Pronghorn Antelope. Dat booty, tho’

So now what? Well, we cross our fingers, leave offerings and say prayers under seventeen different religions and spiritualities, check the dogs’ temperatures, triple check every belt, fluid level, electrical connection, and then hold our breath as we turn the key and get moving on. The Traveling Writing desk will not be held back (at least not for long). 

The road awaits.

 

 

Wreck of the Peter Iredale
and the
Graveyard of the Pacific

The skeleton of the Peter Iredale

The Columbia River Bar is where the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River meet. Rough waters, thick fog, strong winds, and deadly rocks have sunk approximately 2,000 ships since 1792. Over 700 people have lost their lives in the shipwrecks, which is why it’s become known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

A lot of work was done to make the Columbia River Bar safer for mariners. The United States added the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse in 1856, and later added more lights to Cape Flattery and Shoalwater Bay on the Washington side of the Bar. While this gave seamen points of reference, ships were still running afoul.

In the early 1880’s businessmen from Portland petitioned Congress to do more to help the situation. Congress approved funds for a jetty to be built out from the Clatsop Spit on the south side of the mouth of the Columbia, near Fort Stevens. By 1894 the jetty was five miles long, helping keep the sand from building up in the channel. A north jetty, on the Washington side of the mouth, was completed in 1925 and helped even more to stabilize the bar. However, even to this day the channel has to be dredged to accommodate larger ships.

The most famous victim of the Graveyard of the Pacific was the Peter Iredale.

Photo: Columbia River Maritime Museum

The Peter Iredale was a four-masted steel sailing ship that was built in England in 1890. In September of 1906, the Iredale left Salina Cruz, Mexico for Portland, Oregon. They reached the mouth of the Columbia River safely, despite heavy fog. But early in the morning of October 25, 1906, heavy winds hit, followed by strong currents causing the ship to be caught in the large breaking waves. The Iredale ran aground on Clatsop Beach, hitting the shore so hard that three of her four masts snapped.

She was abandoned on Clatsop Spit near Fort Stevens, about four miles south of the Columbia River channel.

History remains

The Peter Iredale has rested on Clatsop Beach for 114 years.

A haunting beach

For More Information 

Columbia River Maritime Museum

HistoryLink.org

Hammond, Oregon Tide Tables

 

 

Fort Stevens – Hammond, Oregon

The fog was light. Summer had arrived on the calendar, but the spring-time temperatures held firm. Most of the soldiers of the 249th Coast Artillery Corp were bedded down for the night. Guard duty shifts were manned, and talk was light.  

To the southwest of the fort, just beyond the break point of the waves, a dark figure rose up from the depths. Unseen as it took aim, the Japanese I-25 submarine prepared its attack. The flash of a muzzle and the explosion of the enormous shells striped away the quiet of the night leaving craters in the beachhead. Soldiers scrambled and stumbled from their bunks as they raced to their stations. 

Plotters prepared firing orders as spotters watched the muzzle flashes from the submarine, but the order came to hold. Nine shots were fired towards them, all falling short and harmlessly away into the surrounding vegetation. With bated breath everyone waited, and although the submarine retreated and submerged once again, there would be no sleep for the remainder of the night.

M.D. Parker

Fort Stevens Battery Pratt

Fort Stevens in Hammond, near Astoria, Oregon original construction began in 1863, near the end of the Civil War. By 1904 the fort had expanded. Multiple cannon batteries were constructed with the intention of defending the mouth of the Columbia River. 

On June 21, 1942 Fort Stevens was attacked by an Imperial Japanese Navy submarine. The submarine seemed to be shooting blind. They were still looking for a target, not firing at one yet. There was no return fire from Fort Stevens that night. Since the fort remained silent, the Japanese didn’t know where exactly to attack, so they ceased fire and submerged their submarine in retreat. 

And the award for hide-n-seek 1942 Summer Championship goes to Fort Stevens! 

Machine Gun Emplacement. Rumor has it that this machine gun was loosely based on some tech from a galaxy far, far away.

The majority of the buildings and structures in Fort Stevens are still intact. You are able to enter a lot of the structures, though some only on scheduled tours. There are plenty of volunteers for the guided tours, history lessons, and information. There is an onsite Military Museum with a small rose garden.

Central Power Plant
Zoom zoom
Boom boom
“Plot and plan like all good generals.”  – E.A. Bucchianeri,
Most of the corridors in the batteries are very dark with far away echoes…of something. Maybe you, maybe not.
Pitch black in this underground corridor. Maybe it is only because I have been here in person, but I can almost feel this picture. Too quiet, but for echoes of the unknown. Too dark, too cool, too dreadful. 
Inside the Battery Clark

The fort is now part of a 4,200 acre Oregon State Park that includes camping, wildlife viewing, more than five miles of hiking and biking trails, Frisbee golf and the ability to explore Fort Stevens remains and buildings. There is also access to the final battery built at Fort Stevens, Battery Russell. Within walking distance is a fresh water lake for swimming and fishing and kayaking. There is easy beach access nearby for walks, beach combing, stunning sunset views, and even a ship wreck. 

The Peter Iredale

The campground has around 500 campsites available with various amenities, including yurts, cabins, tents, and various RV hookup sites available. The sites are level with an abundance of trees for shade and wind block.  Each loop has it’s own bathroom and shower facilities. 

The Frisbee Golf course goes all the way around and through Fort Stevens.
There is a large herd of elk that roam the grounds at Fort Stevens

If you manage to see and do everything on your Fort Stevens bucket list, you can also go visit the Lewis and Clark National Park nearby. Nearby towns include Hammond, Warrenton, Seaside, and Astoria. 

There are wonderful local restaurants, including plenty of nearby breweries and wineries for the adults, and Seaside has a boardwalk with a few fun rides and games for the kids.  We recommend Ship Out Fish and Chips in Astoria for delicious local seafood. The fish is thick, flaky, and crispy and the clam chowder…*chef’s kiss*


Links

Fort Stevens

Astoria

Seaside

Ship Out Fish & Chips

Lewis and Clark National Park

 

 

 

 

Golden, Oregon

Golden, Oregon – State Heritage Site

Golden, Oregon is an abandoned mining town in southern Oregon near Grants Pass. 

In contrast to other old west mining towns there was no saloon in Golden, but they did have competing churches. The first church in the community was built around 1840 by Reverend Samuel Ruble, who was a preacher for a group known as Campbellites.” Campbellites were a large religious movement in the 1800’s that were dedicated to restoring religion to “Primitive Christianity.” “Primitive Christianity” was basically a stick-in-the-mud sect of Christianity that wouldn’t even allow musical instruments to be used in churches during worship. 

Reverend Ruble’s House of Fun
These pews were so uncomfortable…hard, cold, and squeaky to make sure you didn’t nap during worship.
The empty church…Reverend Ruble’s worst nightmare.
Ruble’s Party Podium

However, another group led by Reverend Mark Davis moved into the area. Reverend Davis used the schoolhouse to lead his worship services – I would like to think that ol’ Rev. Davis allowed some pretty rockin’ music during his sermons, which was of course the inspiration behind School of Rock. This is absolutely not true, though, 

Rev. Davis’ School of Rock

Despite the bible thumping between the dueling reverends, more people moved to the area to work in the mines. By 1892 the population of Golden was just under 200. In 1896 a general store was built, which housed a post office as well. 

Golden General Store and Post Office
Stock boy needs to start hustling.
General Store and Schoolhouse
Plumbing updates?

By 1920, Golden went the way of most mining towns…devoid of gold and people. 

View out the church window…

 

Schoolhouse
Inside the Golden Schoolhouse.

Around 1950 some locals rebuilt the church. The general store, schoolhouse, carriage house, and an outhouse still stand. The State of Oregon took over Golden in 2002 and added the town to the National Register of Historic Places. 

In 2017 paranormal investigators from the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures conducted an investigation in the town of Golden. They, of course, claimed it to be haunted…by the Reverend Ruble himself. I don’t know for sure if Golden is haunted, but if it is, it makes sense that it would be by the grumpy reverend with no appreciation for music.

Here is the church, here is the steeple, open it all up and see all the…haunted reverends. 
Golden, Oregon

 


For more information

Oregon State Parks

Travel Channel

Drift Creek Landing RV Park

We stayed at Drift Creek Landing RV Park near Waldport, Oregon in the spring of 2020. We were already a few months into the real 2020, which started sometime back in 1987 I think. I don’t know. Time doesn’t seem to flow correctly this year. It’s all timey wimey, but not fun at all. 

Wiggly-wobbly, timey-wimey

Anyway…we stayed there during May. It was more than reasonably priced at $450 for the month for full hookups. They don’t have any age restrictions on RV’s and since we drive a 1991 TropiCal,  we really do appreciate that. 

Views from the RV Park

There are a lot of long-term residents, but there are many short-term spots too. We stayed right on the banks of the Alsea River, with beautiful river views out our bedroom window. 

Alsea River

This is not an RV Resort by any standards, but it is great for those of us that like to spend as little as possible on space rent, so that we can spend more on local experiences, exploration, and restaurants. 

Rusty and Milo loved the RV park for the setting of their new album cover for ‘Good Boys are Bad Asses.’
Lily pads on the river bank
Duck, duck…duck!

When we find ourselves back on the central Oregon Coast area, we will definitely stay at Drift Creek Landing RV Park again. 


For more information 

Drift Creek Landing RV Park & Marina

3851 Alsea Hwy

Waldport, Oregon 97394

541-563-3610   

 

 

 

Camping inside the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge

Virgin Valley Campground is a free campground in the middle of Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northern Nevada. The campground is first come, first-served, and you can stay up to 14 days. There are about a dozen spaces to set up camp in, and most have a picnic table and a fire pit. Pets are welcome, and much to my delight, there is also a Little Free Library on site! 

Virgin Valley Campground. I was delighted to find that purity was not a requirement to camp. Sorry about the lack of a beautiful sky, but 2020 was being all 2020. 
The smoky skies are due to someone failing to rake their forests all along the west coast, and therefore turning California, Oregon and Washington into an inferno.

But the real gem here? The geothermal warm springs that have been piped into a pool in the campground. There is also an open bathhouse with hot showers. There are no hookups, but potable water is available. 

Not quite skin melting temperatures, but lovely anyway.

Virgin Valley is a great base camp for exploring some of the 900 square miles of wildlife habitat inside the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is home to a variety of birds, butterflies, snakes, lizards, rabbits, deer, wild horses, bighorn sheep and more.

Wild horses, Couldn’t drag me away, Wild, wild horses, Couldn’t drag me away – The Rolling Stones
Pronghorn

Make sure to bring all your supplies with you, because there is not a whole lot of shopping nearby. About 30 miles east of the campground is the small Denio Junction, which has a bar, and a small convenience store/gas pump/bar/motel. Winnemucca is the closest town with grocery stores, and it is about 130 miles away.

We got plenty familiar with the drive to Winnemucca and back, due to a broken motorhome door. Then we bought the wrong shit to fix the door. We had to make the drive three times over three days for various annoying reasons. After all that quality time trying not to get irritated and bite each others’ heads off, we finally managed to get Matilda’s door back in shape.

A neighbor dog completely appalled at the Mr.’s ability to make up swear word combinations on the fly while working on…anything.

After all the frickin’ door fun, we wanted to move down the road to find a new view out our newly fixed front door. We were looking for a little more seclusion and decided to try out off-grid camping along the Bog Hot Springs Road, which runs alongside the (aptly named) Bog Hot Springs. You can find Bog Hot Springs Road off of highway 140, about 10 miles west of Denio Junction.

Dry camping along the Bog

Being under-educated on Hot Spring etiquette, I was only slightly alarmed by the old man baring his wrinkly, pale ass right in front of me. And by “only slightly alarmed,” I mean VERY red-faced. Apparently, clothing is optional. It seems to be a popular theory that soaking in the 111℉ geothermal hot springs while naked is good for your body…and the hot springs. The claim is that soap and detergents in your clothes are bad for the springs and the natural algae that only grow in them. It was a pretty steady flow of people coming and going. Some just stayed for a few hours, and some camped along the hot springs like we were. It did seem that most of the people we came across were polite and friendly…at least I think so. I avoided eye contact and admired the horizon quite often. 

The hot springs…and the horizon
This pump is used to get water from the springs and spray the roads and brush nearby. A bit more helpful than the slacking forest raker.
Hippie Heaven

While we did not participate in the naked soaking, we did soak; shorts and tank tops are welcome too. The temperatures were in the 90’s during the day, so most soaking was early morning or in the evenings. It was relaxing…and, well…boggy. The floor of the hot springs is super thick, sandy mud that WILL squish between your toes (and probably other things).

Oh! Henlo! Crusty Rusty here! They tried to trick me into a bath, but I’m too stinkin’ smart for them.
Matilda enjoying the view of the horizon

When the time came to get back on the road, we headed down the familiar road to Winnemucca to restock Matilda, and wash all the mud from our clothes, dogs, car, motorhome, and selves. 

But our drive to Winnemucca was interrupted by a flat tire on our tow car because we are disaster magnets. We managed to get the tire fixed quickly and headed south toward Austin, Nevada and Stokes Castle. 

See you there in the next blog post!