On The Road

Three into it

Today is our third week anniversary of actually hitting the road. It seems like forever. What is it about looking out the house windows at new territory every few days that makes this lifestyle so attractive?

We went east from Portland. We’ve done this path several times in the past. Leslie, Alison, and I drove to Texas when Alison went to Texas State University in San Marcos. We did that 2200 mile (3500 km) trip in less than a week. I call them death marches, but that’s rude to the people that really did death marches. Leslie, Zach, and I drove to Florida when Zach went to work at Disney World. This 3000 miles (4800 km) trip was in August of 2008 while I was between jobs.

So far, we’ve squeezed 585 miles (940 km) into 3 weeks. That’s an average of less than 30 miles a day (44 km). This speed of travel is more my style. As we were driving across an open plain yesterday, we started talking about the families in the 1850's that came walking across these plains with their possessions in a covered wagon. On a good day, they would wake up in the morning and see where they would be around noon. They were actually making a death march of 10–15 miles a day. On a bad day they would be one of the 10% that died out of the approximately 200,000 that make the trip.

A present day highway in Idaho close to the historic Oregon Trail.

Obviously, they wouldn’t see a nice flat road through the mountains. In some areas someone might have created a toll bridge (pay to cross) across a large river. Or even a toll road through a particularly difficult area. Otherwise they were traveling in the wagon ruts of a previous wagon train. The ruts are still visible on some sections of the Oregon Trail.

Our Incredible Journey

For those that want to know where we’ve been, it’s been a short travel day followed by a few days of exploring the local area. Ainsworth State Park was our first stop out of Portland. It is just out of Cascade Locks, Oregon on the Columbia River at the Bonneville Dam. One of the major Oregon East-west BNSF rail lines was a hundred feet from our front door. Noisy but fun. As we are learning most RV parks are close to a rail line or an airport or both.

We discovered that riding bikes through the Bonneville Dam property is highly discouraged. We drove into the property with the bikes in the back of the truck. Then we found an area to park and took out the bikes to ride around. At one point we were stopped by a park ranger and questioned about how we got there. As usual, I acted dumb while Leslie was extremely apologetic. The ranger radioed around and told everyone that “the bike people” had been found. She told us to check into the visitor’s desk before we left so they could escort us off the property. We were “the bike people” everywhere in the Army Corps of Engineers project. This is a working project with active heavy equipment. They didn’t want to have squished tourists causing mountains of federal paperwork.

One of the most beautiful graveyards ever. Perched high on a hill.

Next we went to Pendleton Oregon and stayed at the home of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla People. This was an interesting choice since the tribes were active in trying to block the Cascade Locks and later the Bonneville Dam. The Dam caused a lot of problems for migrating fish on the Columbia River. They have an museum that tells some their stories including how they tried to save their ancestral fishing grounds and failed. Luckily they’ve found a replacement type of fishing that involves pulling money from the pockets of gamblers at their Wildhorse Casino.

Oregon Pale me in the hot springs at The Springs

After Pendleton, we entered the Blue Mountains on our way to Caldwell Idaho outside of Boise. Caldwell was a sleepy cattle and farming town until recently. Now it is going through a rebirth as Boise grows toward it. Thousands of new homes are growing in place of some huge farms. We spent a while here.

Idaho has hundreds of hot springs. We spent a work day at The Springs at Idaho City. Definitely worth a side trip off the Interstate if you are driving through Boise. We left there in a completely different state of mind than we arrived even though I had to work that evening. It might be hard to believe that I got sunburned that day…

I feel like I’m in school on this trip. So many things to learn. This part of Idaho is a desert. In the late 1800s, industrious land speculators built large canals throughout this area. Today this is part of the country that is covered by huge circles of crops when you fly over it. Those circles are created by massive sprinkler systems irrigating the land with water from the canals.

Of course, while getting ready for our trip we learned that this winter has been one of the wettest on record for the Pacific Northwest. All of the rivers are at or above flood stage. Certainly one of the most exciting times to be traveling through the region. All of the roads are potholed beyond belief, but it’s fun to see the rivers running so full.

Much Later

Ok, so it’s been awhile. I’m gonna post this and catch up.