Nomads in the Northwest

If you read my last post, you’ll know we had a rough time of it in Idaho. You can read about that here: Since we never made it to the hot springs, I found a campground with a hot tub and a pool. We got up bright and early and enjoyed the water before our drive for the day. The plan was to drive to Washington state. It was a long haul and we would arrive after dark once again.

The drive had a couple unexpected moments. We were driving along listening to the radio when Jason said, “Whoa, look at that!” Whoa was right. I looked up and was enthralled with the sight of a a gorgeous snow capped mountain. “What mountain is that?” I had no idea. After a quick internet search, we learned it was Mount Hood. And, boy was it ever beautiful.

It was July but it looked like a winter wonderland was rising from the forest. Wikipedia informed me that it is the only place in North America where you can enjoy lift-served skiing year-round. But, this majestic skiing destination also happens to be a volcano. I love unexpected happy surprises on the road.

I was a bit disappointed because I had read that there were some epic waterfalls near Portland. But, today was a travel day. Since we haul an enormous fifth wheel, we can’t exactly park just anywhere. I did a little research and sure enough, we weren’t going to fit in the parking areas near the falls.

Then, another happy accident-the website failed to mention that the waterfalls were actually visible from the highway!

Moss-covered rocks and pine trees gave way to a white cascade of water that drops hundreds of feet. It is a stunning sight, not a view you expect to get from the highway. It completely made my day.

We drove another hour or so and then stopped to pick up some groceries and a meal. Then, we resumed our journey to Washington. The last leg of the trip was to cross the Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River. My kids dramatically nicknamed it “the bridge of death.” When we arrived, it was dark and drizzling rain. It was so foggy, it was impossible to see the other side of the river. It was eerie driving into what looked like a deep abyss with no end in sight. But, we survived and made it to coastal Washington.

I had called campground after campground that morning. I was really struggling to find a place for us to stay. Finally, I reached a woman who told me that her uncle (the owner of the campground I was calling) had recently passed away. She was trying to manage the park from another state. She had one space open that we could use. But, she asked that I please be kind enough to leave payment in a locked box outside the office before I leave. I assured her that it would be no problem and double-checked that the space was large enough for our rig. She was kind but frazzled with the new career that had been thrust upon her as campground caretaker.

So, we wove around the curvy narrow roads in the dark and rain looking for our campground. We eventually made it to the spot and immediately realized that she was completely unaware of the situation she had gotten us into. The space she reserved for us was about 24 feet in length. We are 42 feet in length. There was no possible way we were going to fit in this campground. We tried to be creative and park in front of the park office since no one was going to be working in it anyway. But, that didn’t work. Now, we were stuck in a tight space pointing in the wrong direction. Have you ever seen a parked car that is blocked in? Someone parks right in front of them and then some idiot parks way too close to their rear bumper. They have to inch back and forth one minuscule pivot at a time to eek their way out of the space. Ok, now imagine doing that with a dual-wheeled pickup and an enormous fifth wheel…in the dark…in the rain. This is when a woman, who was clearly under the influence of a controlled substance, came out to watch and provide input. My twelve-year-old son and I desperately tried to direct my poor husband out of the tiny park and back onto the street as car after car came around a bend in the road and stopped our process. Then, Jason would have to move out of the street as much as possible so traffic could flow again. So, that we could start the whole scene again from the top for our audience of one crackhead. Further, I had no idea where we were going to go if we ever did get out of here. I couldn’t find anything that morning when I had been searching for a campground. That’s how we ended up in this place.

We eventually made it out. But, we didn’t know what to do next. We tried to find off-street parking, a hotel parking lot where we could fit, and we tried an area near boat docks that was super sketchy. But, none of that was working. It was very late at this point and we were emotionally shot. Jason and I finally realized that there was a campground nearby with 30 amp electrical service that had availability. I hadn’t found it online that morning because I filtered my results to only show 50 amp, which is what we have. My husband, in his wisdom, had purchased an adapter for just this type of situation and we were saved!

We were greeted at our new campground by a very drunk host who proceeded to try to flag my husband into our new and very narrow spot flanked on both sides by large trees. There was a waist-high stone wall behind the site to add insult to injury. But, we parked. We vowed never ever to plan for a nighttime arrival again. This was the second time in two days that things did not go well. We make mistakes all the time. But, we try our best not to repeat them. We also decided that these long travel days were miserable and we needed to slow down and keep driving days to under four hours. Things went a lot smoother after that.

Despite the rocky start, our time in Washington and Oregon was magical. I marked two items off my bucket list that I had dreamed about for years- putting my feet in the Pacific Ocean and riding horses on the beach. Both experiences made me so happy, that I teared up. I still recognize how incredible it is that we are on this journey and that we are getting to do such amazing and wonderful things. It has been life-changing.

This is my first view of the Pacific Ocean. I paused to take this picture and then I ran full speed to the water and giggled and squealed the whole way!
My toes in the Pacific. The water is FREEZING!
Our morning riding horses on the beach. I was so excited to get to do this. It was a dream come true.

Astoria, Oregon is such a neat town. Lots of movies have been filmed there including Kindergarten Cop, Free Willy, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. I’m an early 90’s kid and my all-time favorite movie when I was little was: The Goonies- a cult classic that came out in theaters in 1985. It is about a group of kids who search for pirate treasure. I spent nearly my entire childhood outdoors. But, if it rained really hard and I needed an inside distraction. I would call my aunt who lived nearby and ask if I could borrow her copy of the Goonies. Then, I would put on my little rain jacket and walk to her house to get the VHS. I’d spend the afternoon enthralled by “One-Eyed Willy and his rich stuff.” I was on the edge of my seat every time the Fratelli’s caught up with Mikey and his friends. No matter how many times I watched it, I laughed at Chunk and sympathized with Sloth. I LOVED that movie. It was also filmed in Astoria. I read online that you could actually visit places seen in the movie and I was beside myself with anticipation to see them all. Our first stop was the Oregon Film Museum. It is housed in the building where the jailbreak scene is shot.

They have lots of movie memorabilia in this tiny space. You can also film scenes from different movies shot in Oregon and the museum will email the takes to you to watch at home. We did scenes from the Shining. There are also photo ops set up. The museum is very very small but they fit a lot of fun into the space they have. We had a blast.
Data’s outfit!

Across the street sits the Flavel House Museum where Mikey’s dad worked.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet we were also able to locate Mikey and Data’s houses. They are private residences in real life. So, if you decide to visit Astoria, respect that these are people’s homes. The owners do allow people to walk up their driveways and snap a couple pictures. They have signs up with rules to follow.

Mikey’s House
Data’s House

Our last stop would be Cannon Beach. This spot turned out to be breathtaking. Haystack Rock is a giant rock that rises from the water. If you time the tides right, you can walk out to it in low tide and explore tide pools. We were there when the tide was high. So, we took a walk on the beach and the kids made sand castles. It’s a very romantic spot. But, I would recommend a sweater or jacket when you visit because the Pacific Northwest can be a little chilly. I’ve been to a lot of beaches, in America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. But, this by far is the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen.

The Pacific Northwest is an enchanting place. It is filled with lush foggy evergreen forests and lore of bigfoot. Misty cool temperatures, ocean views, and fresh seafood are are on the menu here. We enjoyed the sleepy small towns and the quirky activities. We would love to come back in the future and explore the National parks to the North. Overall, it was a wonderful addition to our adventure.

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