Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘Driving’ category

Move to Pedder Bay Campground

October 13, 2017

As we were getting ready to leave, Lonnie drove past. We hustled out to give her a bottle of wine as a thanks for all the help she had been and for the great job she does with the campground. She told us about carrying her 3-year-old granddaughter up the trail as she cleaned the trail with a leaf blower.  She said she kept poking her in the ear with sticks and yelling, so she had to scratch that idea. She had moved to the mainland in upper BC for five years, but finally decided to come back home. She was grateful to get her old job back, but last year was tough, with rains constant from October to mid-July, and a lot of snow. The snow is different here – wet and slippery. Sounds like Virginia snow. Lonnie has a great sense of humor, talking about hunters that poach and having to fix signs that people vandalize. She said at least they don’t walk far from their car. She tries to stay on the trails when she is in uniform as there are “grow-ups” – places where people grow marijuana. They defend their grow-ups seriously, but some aren’t too smart. One was smoking and put the field on fire. When authorities came to put out the fire, he was just sitting there crying over losing his crop.

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We said good bye to our new friend and headed out. Driving over the pass to the west coast of Vancouver Island, the roads were winding and bumpy. Twice we stopped to put things back in their cabinets. Behind the wheels takes the worst beating. In front of the wheels, not so much. We passed many logging trucks. I know it’s a huge industry in Canada, but it sure spoils the landscape, especially in such an incredibly beautiful place.

We went into Port Renfrew. It’s a small village, and we came to a point we couldn’t take the trailer further, so we headed south to Sooke. On a Friday, there was a lot of traffic headed north, probably from Victoria. We pulled into Pedder Bay RV Resort and Marina, hoping they had a place for us. Fortunately they had plenty. We needed a laundry and hookups to charge the batteries, so we signed up for three nights.

I built a fire and was happy to post a couple of blogs with good WIFI. Martha fixed a nice beef stew while we went back and forth to the laundry, just across the drive. I talked with our neighbor and her grandson, who live in Port Alberni. Their firewood was wet from the rain today, and the grandson was having difficulty getting it started. She said property in Victoria is getting so expensive, people are moving to Port Alberni. Property values are rising dramatically, but so are taxes. You get caught in the bind of OK, I feel good my house is worth more, but I can’t pay the taxes. The government has also moved some of the people on the dole there, because it was less expensive. She said things are changing too fast. Then talked about how crazy and scary the world is.

Nez Perce National Historical Park

September 21, 2017

A few miles out of Lewiston is the headquarters for Nez Perce National Historical Park. The rest of the park is composed of 38 sites in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana. We would visit two more sites today, one the basalt area north of our campground, and one at Buffalo Eddy on the Snake River.

We watched a 33-minute movie about the Nez Perce, who call themselves the Nimiipuu. They were a huge tribe that inhabited the Columbia Plateau. A very spiritual group, they are one with the land and waters. In 1804 they were instrumental in saving and guiding Lewis and Clarke, giving them food and trading for Appaloosa horses. In an 1855 treaty, they were granted approximately half of their homelands as a reservation, but a later treaty reduced their lands to 10%, and they were forced to move in the spring when waters were high and dangerous. Thousands of white settlers had moved into their territory. Chief Joseph led 500, many of whom were women, children and elderly against 2000 cavalry. He had only 145 men burdened with many noncombatants, but through many skirmishes and four major battles, they managed to hold off the soldiers for four months, crossing the dangerous Snake River many times. In Big Hole Basin in Montana at 3:30 in the morning Colonel John Gibbon attacked the sleeping Indians with 183 men, killing women and children. The Nimiipuu counterattacked with guards from the surrounding hills. The soldiers lost 29 men with 40 wounded. The soldiers fought with rifles and pistols, while the Indians fought with bows and arrows. The army counted 89 Nez Perce dead, mostly women and children.

The remaining Indians escaped and managed to elude the army for another two months, but in the Battle of Bear Paw Mountains, Colonel Nelson Miles dealt the final blow. Those not killed surrendered. They were only 40 miles from the Canadian border. Chief Joseph famously said, “I will fight no more forever”.

The museum is very well done, with excellent exhibits, and the movie is also excellent. I hope I am not related to John Gibbon. Roger Dailey of the park service was very helpful and generous with his time telling us other sights to see and places to visit. He is from this area and was a fire jumper for many years. There is so much to see in Idaho!

We took the “Spiral Road”, as Roger suggested, back to camp for lunch. Lewiston is the lowest point in Idaho at 700 something feet, and is surrounded by mountains. After lunch we took Roger’s advice to visit another Nez Perce site at Buffalo Eddy on the Washington side of the Snake River. It is a gorgeous drive up the river toward Hell’s Canyon. The Snake River canyon is the deepest in the United States. Driving 25 miles into the canyon, the river becomes more wild, yet there are houses and cabins all along the Washington side.

Buffalo Eddy is a huge eddy on the powerful Snake River. Having fished for trout for three weeks, I know to look for backwater currents where fish find calmer waters to rest and eat from a constant easy flow of food. This eddy is huge, at least two football fields long and about 40 yards wide. Beautiful basalt rocks lie beside the pool, a perfect place from which to fish. Native Americans came here for 10,000 years to fish for salmon coming upriver all the way from the mouth of the Columbia River to spawn. I imagine there were thousands of salmon in this pool. These large hard, black, flat-sheared rocks were a perfect place for the Nimiipuu to hammer out figures on the rocks. It would be quite a job to chisel these out with stones on these hard surfaces, but that is what made them survive all this time. It was very cool to be in this incredible place.

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Returning to camp, we walked a path two miles up river to a basalt rock formation along the river. This is rock formed from a series of lava flows 17-6 million years ago. Surging up to form the Columbia River Plateau. The weight of the flow caused Central Washington to sink, forming the Columbia River Basin. It and also damming up the ancient rivers and forming two huge lakes, Idaho Lake and Columbia Lake. There were a series of catastrophic floods known as the Ice Age Floods. “the deluge caused American Falls Lake to breach its natural lava dam, which was rapidly eroded with only the 50-foot-high American Falls left in the end. The flood waters of Lake Bonneville, approximately twenty times the flow of the Columbia River…swept down the Snake River, leaving debris and sediment deposits across southern Idaho. For miles on either side of the Snake, flood waters stripped away soils and scoured the underlying basalt bedrock, in the process creating Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Crane Falls, and Swan Falls, while cutting and deepening gorges and canyons along the way”. (Elizabeth Orr, Geology of the Pacific Northwest)

We think of all the disasters going on today with fires, hurricanes and earthquakes. Then every now and then I read these things and try to imagine the rocky mountains being formed or that a whole part of the western continent just fell off into the sea. I love the Will Durant quote, “Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice”.

McCall to Lewiston

September 19, 2017

It is a beautiful drive with a variety of terrains along Rt. 95. At Riggins it follows the great Salmon River. Riggins is a cute little village with a bunch of river guiding companies. It was cold and rainy, so we opted not to stay in Riggins and float the Salmon. Maybe another time. The river takes one side of the mountain at White Bird to turn and join the Snake River, while the road continues north to Lewiston. Big rain clouds were in the distance. We had rain earlier, but all of this is so welcome. The whole northwest has been plagued by tremendous fires all summer, smoke covering the whole area. Makes you wonder – fires here, hurricanes in the east and a big earthquake in Mexico.

We pulled into beautiful Hell’s Gate Campground just outside Lewiston. We are on the Lewis and Clarke trail. The visitor’s center has all kinds of information and a movie about their crossing of the Rockies in Idaho and the terrible time they had in the Bitterroot Mountains.

We were setting up camp when Carol came over from the adjacent campsite. She and David are on their way to McCall, so we traded information north and south. Dave came back over later with a drink. We talked about travels and the troubles you have fixing things. You just have to learn how to work on all kinds of problems, because it happens to all of us. He was a Ford mechanic for years, so that really comes in handy. He told us about a bike trail that goes along the Snake River and through Lewiston. Clarkston is on the other side of the river. This is the area where the Clearwater joins the Snake River on its way to the Columbia. Lewis and Clarke followed the Snake into the Columbia River to winter at Fort Clatsop, near where I met my friends at the mouth of the Columbia. I have not followed the Columbia through the United States, but have seen its origin, fished it there and as it leaves British Columbia south of Castelgar, and have crossed that monster bridge at its mouth. With beautiful rivers flowing into it, like the Snake, the Clearwater and the Salmon, it is a heck of a river. It is nice to know about the hatchery in McCall, Idaho that hatches millions of Chinook Salmon, and that they can find their way to the ocean, returning five years later all the way back to McCall. Fish ladders allow them to make their way over four or five dams.

Boise

September 14, 2017

Martha and I spent two days exploring a bit of Boise. We walked and biked the great riverside trail along the Boise River. What other city has a river running through it where people fish for trout? We explored  downtown, shopping and had a nice lunch at Wild Root. In the evening we met Ron Lowry for drinks and dinner at the Ram. Ron is a VMI and MCV grad a class ahead of me, and is an avid fly fisherman. We enjoyed hearing his stories about fishing throughout Idaho. We are going to sign up for a trip he has taken every year for 15 years down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, a six-day trip through wilderness. I can’t wait until next July! Boise is a beautiful city with an interstate running through it, about the size of Richmond, Virginia.

We drove out to World Center for Birds of Prey. They were vital in the restoration of the Peregrine Falcon after DDT caused their demise. Now they are working on restoring the California Condor along with other projects. Even Martha enjoyed the great presentation, pictures and displays.

As we were packing up to leave, Justin, the manager at Mountain View RV Resort, came over to say goodbye. Not only is he a biker, but also a fly fisherman who grew up in Riggins and McCall. He gave me some good tips on places to fish as we headed north. He also told us to stop at Tackle Tom’s in Cascade. What a nice young man!

Driving north, Route 55 follows the Payette River, a world-class white water river. We stopped for lunch at a pull-out where there is a white, sandy beach on the river. We went into Tackle Tom’s and met Tom, who has been working there for 38 years. I bought a fishing license and a few flies as he gave us great advice where to go hike as well as fish. He advised us to stop at the Boise National Forest-Cascade Ranger Station just down the street, so we did. I bought a couple of maps as Steve advised us on places to go, and explaining the fire restrictions. Ranger stations are getting to be one of my favorite places to go.

We drove through McCall and out onto a peninsula jutting out into Payette Lake to Ponderosa State Park. Kevin Handford had recommended it. He is another VMI grad as well as an excellent financial advisor, who has a place in McCall. There was no one at the gate. Reading the board, most of the campground was closing next week. We drove through and picked a nice spot, filled out the form, put the money in and put the envelope in the slot. Martha said five days would be good.

Castlegar to Cranbrook

August 25, 2017

Everyone except Rod told us to take the ferry across Kootenay Lake instead of crossing the big mountain at Salmo. As we checked out of Castlegar RV Park, Kim recommended taking the ferry. I’m sure the truck would do the job fine, but it is such a beautiful drive down the other side of Kootenay Lake, we opted to take the ferry. Kim and her husband do a great job running this RV park. I hope we get to come back.

We were very lucky to make the ferry, having only a 10 minute wait. This is the prettiest lake I have seen in Canada, with 10,000 foot mountains surrounding its crystal clear waters. Today it was clouded with smoke from distant fires. It’s only a 35-minute ferry ride, and they are very efficient getting cars loaded and unloaded. The drive down the east side of the lake is gorgeous, but today with all the smoke, it wasn’t so great, and Cranbrook is 165 km away on a twisty, winding road.

Unlike our trip four years ago when so many rivers were flooded, every stream we crossed was extremely low. We needed special regulations water permits, so we had to get to St. Mary Angler Shop in Cranbrook by 6:00. We barely made it. A nice young man named Gabby greeted us and helped with the permits. He said the St. Mary’s River and Skookumchuck are in good shape and have lots of fish. What a relief! We bought some flies and fly boxes and thanked Gabby. This is a great fly shop with all the equipment and guiding services you need, and they are all really nice people.

Now, could we find a campsite in        Provincial Park? Lucky again! We pulled into the same site we camped in four years ago. Bob, the camp ranger, came to collect the money and talked for a while.

Driving Across America on I-70 and I-80

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Nail found in tire seen on lower right

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Now and then when you think you have a heavy load…..check out a double trailer frequently seen.

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Driver taking a nap with his head in his hand

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North Salt Lake

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Bonneville Salt Flats

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Now that’s a load!!

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Deeth, Nevada, population, 28

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Sunset in Winnemucca, Nevada at the very nice New Frontier Campground.

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New Frontier Campground

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They have all the tricks here. Insulated water connections for when it freezes.

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Sheldon National Wildlife Preserve

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The volcano where Crater Lake formed.

Monday, July 10 – 14, 2017

Leaving Columbus, Ohio in the early morning rain, it was a bit hectic making the right turns in heavier traffic than I expected at 6:30. Once I got on I70, things settled out. Ohio and Indiana are beautiful country. Just turn the music on, set cruise control and relax. I am still getting used to the new truck, a 2015 GMC Denali diesel. What is it capable of? Can I leave it on cruise control? What kind of diesel should I buy? What is this DEF stuff? Should I use an additive every time I fill up? Then there’s the infotainment center. It is a cool interface, the neatest part is being able to get satellite weather along the route.

There is heavy truck traffic since this is a huge transportation route. 90% of all truckers are very professional, drive very well and know the roads. Like anything else, there are some idiots who drive those huge rigs too fast, some thinking they are playing a video game. I have tremendous respect for truckers. I think I’m driving a big rig until I pull into a rest area and park between these giant trailer-trucks. I marvel at their abilities inside cities, navigating tight streets and backing into delivery sites, mostly without backup cameras. Speaking of which, I LOVE my backup cameras installed by Todd and his crew at Auto Trim Design. Thanks Todd! (I get no kickbacks or benefits from ANY business or company). It is soooo nice to look in the rearview mirror and look out the back of the trailer like you were driving a car. I put another camera on the back of the truck, which is a little crazy since the truck has one built in. But it always stays on whether you are in reverse or not, and you can see the hitch ball about 5 times bigger than the truck’s camera. I do like the truck’s camera for backing into parking places, but I still look at both cameras.

Anyway, those truckers put up with cars dodging in front of them alongside and behind. Mostly they can’t see what’s behind them. I travel 64 miles an hour in the right lane. That means trucks are passing me all day. Invariably there is a car or another truck pushing behind them. They really appreciate flashing your lights to let them know they can pull over ahead of you. Most will blink their tail lights to say thank you. I started doing the same for them. At first I tapped the brakes twice to say thank you, but I quickly realized that was dangerous. In an aha moment I realized I could use the emergency signal on top of the steering wheel column.

Indiana was beautiful with lots of corn fields and rolling hills. I arrived late to camp, checked in, set up, had a glass of wine, a quick dinner and went to bed.

Driving through Kansas City was nerve-wracking, as it is in all cities. There’s just so much craziness in cities. People driving too fast, switching lanes, talking on their phones, texting – and I still don’t know how they do that. Ed showed me how to dictate into the phone, which he does for everything. With a little practice, that became very valuable, and you can do it mostly hands-free. You just have to touch that little microphone, and there is something in settings you have to do, but I’ve already forgotten what it was. I had planned to go through Kansas City at 10:00, so it could have been much worse. Then I cut north on I29 to cross over to I80 through Nebraska. I29 was a very nice road with pretty countryside. North Platte was my destination for the night.

On Wednesday I drove from North Platte, Nebraska to Rock Springs, Wyoming. I planned the trip to drive 500-600 miles a day. That’s one tank of fuel in the GMC, so I would fill up at day’s end before going to the campground. On this stretch I realized I was following the California Trail. I didn’t want to be distracted from driving on this trip because I had a schedule to keep. I have an appointment at Highway Products in White City, Oregon on Monday. But when I saw a sign for Boot Hill in Ogallala, Nebraska, I had to go see it. There were other things in Ogallala, but I told myself to just go to Boot Hill. In the middle of a neighborhood, I parked in front of someone’s house and walked across the street to Boot Hill. Settlers traveling from Independence, Missouri would travel 2000 miles to California in 4-6 months. Driving it and looking at the land, you get a real feel for what they did. Some think I’m crazy to drive across the country pulling a trailer. Imagine walking it, oxen pulling a wagon that would carry half what I can put in my truck. Those wagons were small!

By the time they got to Ogallala, they had traveled 480 miles or so, following the Platte River Valley, which is quite pretty. On a good day, they would only cover 20 miles, so they had been on the trail a month. Many would die along the way, and Boot Hill would be a high burial place where animals might not get to the bodies. Some were children, some were killed in violence, or with their boots on. Thus the name Boot Hill. The best part was the statue of a trail boss, and there is a pretty view of the town and valley.

The Platte River is divided into branches and bands, all of which were pretty. To have seen these plains with elk, buffalo, wolves, coyotes and deer in a pristine valley must have been something. It would be fun to follow the trail with time to study it.

On Thursday my goal was to drive from Rock Springs, Wyoming to Winnemucca, Nevada. As I set up the night before at Rock Springs KOA, I noticed a nail in the back left trailer tire. I was up at 4:00 and took a nice shower and shaved. On my way back to the trailer, a gentleman next to me said, “I’m glad you are awake. I need to hook up and get on the road. I didn’t want to wake you”. A very interesting guy with Oregon license plates on a work truck I had admired as I set up last night. He is from the states, lives in New Zealand and works as an engineer and fiberoptic cable installer on the railroad. I could see they were doing a lot of work on the railroad on my drive yesterday.

I jacked the trailer up, took the tire off and drove it to Dan’s Tire Service that was rated 4.6/5.0. It opened at 7:30 and I got there at 7:15. A very nice gentleman with his arm in a sling was just unlocking. He took the tire and said it should be an easy fix and to come back at 8:30. Returning to the campground, I took the spare tire out and put it on the trailer. Trying to find things in the truck now is a bit of a mess, but I found the torque wrench and sockets and torqued the nuts. Back at Dan’s, I happily paid $16 for the tire repair. The gentleman had his sling off, so I asked about it. He was just two weeks out of rotator cuff surgery, with which I am very familiar. Amazingly, he has no pain and showed me his stitches. I showed him my healed scars from surgery several years ago. I don’t how Dan’s only got 4.6 stars. A fellow checking out ahead of me thanked him profusely for the great service. They are out of the way in Rock Springs, but if you need help, go find them!

I didn’t get on the road until 10:00, but all-in-all I was very happy to have done it in that time, and thankful I didn’t have to buy a new tire. Goodyear Marathons are notorious for blowouts. Kelly can tell you the stories. They are also rated for top speed of 65mph. I have also learned you should change your RV tires every four years. These are three years old and look great. I have gotten used to traveling 64mph, so it doesn’t bother me really, although there are times I would love to do more. Driving a trailer 75 or 80mph is asking for trouble. In 8 hours of driving you will arrive 40 minutes sooner for each 5mph increase. Nice, but not a big deal. There are times when you have to drive faster for safety and self-defense, particularly in heavy traffic. This was the case today in Salt Lake City.

Once you have changed a few flat tires, you become sensitive to the amount of rubber along the sides of highways. In the middle of Salt Lake City on a 10-lane interstate 80, traffic was crazy. A work truck passed me pulling a steel trailer loaded with heavy stuff. In the dull recesses of my mind it was recorded as such, but I was trying to stay on the right highway and not make a wrong turn. I was in the middle lane with cars zipping in and out of lanes to gain a few seconds in their frantic schedules. Then the work truck’s trailer tire that was so heavily loaded started to unravel. The dull senses recorded it, but didn’t react. The driver must have felt it, as he started to switch lanes to the right, but the tire now delaminated, unraveling, and came apart, bits of rubber flying in the air. Then the huge unraveled piece flew six feet in the air. Traveling at 75 miles an hour in heavy traffic in these circumstances shoots adrenaline through my body in a millisecond. A small piece of rubber hit my truck or trailer, but I glanced in the side mirror and dodged the big piece of tire. I could see the truck swerving back and forth trying to maintain control and also trying to get out of traffic. I stomped the gas and shot past him, unable to look back to see what else happened.

Salt Lake City was disappointing. It was likely a beautiful spot when the Mormons arrived, but now it is an ugly, huge city. Driving along the Great Salt Lake was interesting though. There should be enough salt to supply the world! Over the mountain and down the road I-80 goes right through the middle of the Bonneville Salt Flats. It is huge! Road construction constricted traffic to one lane with cones in the middle and a speed limit of 65. This means you can’t look up, glance around or slow down. I don’t know how far it was across, but maybe 45 minutes of driving. A rest area at the far side was a welcome site.

On Friday my goal was to drive from New Frontier RV Park to Valley of the Rogue State Park in Oregon, a fairly easy day, but I made an into a difficult one. I changed my mind about going to a KOA in Medford, Oregon and hanging out for two days before going to Highway Products on Monday. I thought a day or two in a National Park was just what I needed after driving across country. My mistake was not calling for a campsite in Crater Lake National Park as well as grossly underestimating Oregon citizens’ desire to go camping. Not only was the National Park completely filled, but the KOA was filled. Mom and Pop RV parks were filled. I could have found a place in the national forest, but I was getting low on fuel. The truck will travel all day on a 39 gallon tank of gas, or 500-600 miles. I had not seen a gas station all day!!!

Driving Rt 95 is a very cool drive. It is remote! If you want to get away from it all, take 95. Who knows what is out in that semi-desert? Like to go off road? Load up your jeep, take all your supplies. You had best have good maps, a compass and GPS, and you’d better know how to use them. The road goes through the Pronghorn Preserve, miles and miles of sagebrush desert. Didn’t see a pronghorn or a Bighorn goat, but it was mid-day and hot. I was now following the Oregon Trail, and I cannot imagine walking this!

I crossed into Oregon in the middle of the park. Then down a steep, curvy mountain on the edge of a cliff – not my kind of road, but I must say it was cool. The views were spectacular, but who could take their eyes off the road? I would have been scared to death driving that part in the Nissan, but the big GMC diesel makes it easy.

Across the desert floor, up over a mountain and there was water, a lake, green grass, farms. What a change! A curvy road follows a beautiful stream. A sports car on this part would be fun. Then over a mountain and follow another beautiful river. Over another mountain and another beautiful river. Surely pioneers walking the Oregon Trail must have thought they were in heaven. The entire trip from Kansas City follows the California Trail or the Oregon Trail.

I was very fortunate to find a campsite at Valley of the Rogue State Park. It was only one night, but surely something would open up tomorrow. I had made the trip across the country in five days and I was tired. Then I thought of those in the great western migration walking sometimes with no shoes. I had seen a lot of beautiful country, most of which I had never seen. Now I am in Oregon and look forward to exploring this state for the next four weeks before picking Kelly up at the Airport in Vancouver.