Letters From a Bus
August 2007: Sidetracked
4th entry for August

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Visiting Walton Relatives in Vancouver, WA

Portland, OR, Day Four at Columbia River RV Park

Monday, August 27, 2007 — Three Months Plus

Monday was our tenth and last day in Ogden, UT.  We probably would have left on Monday but I had a ten o’clock appointment for the dogs to be groomed.  Lila’s daughter, Donna, recommended Pet Chalet to me so we stayed the extra day.  I was glad I did.  They were lovely.  Each dog had a separate groomer and so they were both finished by noon.  They were very complimentary to me saying, the dogs were sweet and well behaved and what kind were they anyway?  Rudi and Margot look clean and neat again so I am pleased. Meanwhile Bart and Dennis did some errands together and had lunch.  I was able to spend some time updating my website in the afternoon and I got a much needed day of rest and solitude. 
Above Left: Margot and Rudi pose with new kerchiefs after their grooming appointment. Above Right: Dennis and his son, Bart visit on the bus. Left: Dennis and his sister, Lila, visit on the bus. Right: Lila knows how to get to the restaurant but the GPS jumps in first and gives directions before Lila does. "I was going to say that!" Lila is a giggler and lots of fun.
That night we had a last hurrah by taking Lila to dinner together with Bart and Char to the Timber Mine Restaurant & Steak House.  It is owned by the same fellow who runs the Prairie Schooner so it was the same idea but on the theme of a mine.  This time we sat in a mining cart and looked at miners camped in the mountains.  Bart and Char had not met Lila so this was an opportunity to get acquainted and a chance for all of us to say goodbye — for now.
In the Timber Mine Restaurant we find a lady playing the piano. a gold panner sitting on the raised hearth, and two old coots sitting on a couch. An elk and a mountain lion are over the fireplace. In the dining room a miner pans for gold. We eat in a mining booth. Dennis teases his sister for spilling food on her sleeve and he carries out her leftovers. Bart, his aunt and his dad sit outside on a boulder.
We got a slow start on Tuesday because Dennis stopped first to take advantage of a Flying J RV washing service.  Then we got fuel and we left Ogden on 8/21 at 10:35 am. 
We pulled out of Century RV Park and into the RV wash. I stayed inside the bus and worked on my computer. A guy outside of the bus is spraying water on the window. Ogden, UT 8/21/07

We only drove 217 miles because I wanted to see the Snake River in Twin Falls, ID.  I am very fond of the Snake River.  I would even go so far as to say that it is my favorite river.  I remember the scenery driving above the gorge on a camping trip with my first husband, Stan Parry.  It must have been in the mid to late sixties because we didn’t have children.  We had our ’63 Volkswagen bug and we crammed our little tent and stove and everything we needed into that little car.  I remember camping on a windy site high above the river.  We needed to do a laundry so I made a campfire, boiled water, and washed everything in my big black camp bucket.  I stirred the laundry with a stick and I spread jeans and shorts and t-shirts out on bushes.  I felt very pioneer self-sufficient.  It was a beautiful place and a beautiful day.  I remember this day with fondness.  I wish I knew where we had been.

The Snake River canyon is spectacular and I had planned to have several days to revisit it.  However, we lingered too long in Ogden and we promised to be in Portland, OR before the Friday birthday of Dennis’s sister, Marian.  So we were suddenly faced with a bit of a time crunch and had to hurry.  I hope next time we will be able to explore along the great length of this river.

IRA BURTON PERRINE May 7, 1861 - Oct. 2, 1943
I. B. Perrine was an early Twin Falls Settler and developer who made his home - Blue Lakes Ranch - in the Snake River Canyon. His vision, planning, and dedication led to Twin Falls growth from a desert outpost to a flourishing city.
These are views of the Snake River Gorge taken from the Visitor's Center. There is a path that runs along the rim of the gorge on the south side of the river. That's the bridge for the highway to approach Twin Falls from I-84 at exit 173. The Visitor's Center is the building behind the sculpture. When we came out we found the dogs in the bus barking at all the motorcycle riders that pulled in. I asked them if they planned to jump the canyon where Evel Knievel made his attempt. They said they were drawing straws to see who would have the horror — I mean the honor of emulating him. Hey, the 33 year anniversary approaches on September eighth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evel_Knievel

We came off I-84W at exit 173 in Twin Falls and stopped at the Visitor’s Center.  This wonderful location is immediately next to the Snake River gorge.  The ladies in the center were delightful.  They recommended a campground called Nat-Soo-Pah located 15 miles south of Twin Falls near Hollister.  It is an old Indian hot springs spa so we decided to go the extra distance to stay somewhere appealing. 

RVParkReview listed Nat-Soo-Pah Hot Springs & RV Park with a website and on that website the address given is 2733 Kimberly Road, Twin Falls, ID   83301.  This proved to be absolutely wrong, as is the attached Google map.  It led us to a small Twin Falls RV campground.  Called Oregon Trail Campground, it is off of Blue Lakes Blvd. S and 3800 North Rd.  This campsite was cramped and had mostly permanent residents.  Once in, there was nothing to do but drive around the loop and exit.  In so doing Dennis scraped a low tree limb and broke one of the bus running lights along the roofline.  Merde!  The manager knew about this address problem and gave us a little local advertising map and directions to Nat-Soo-Pah.  “Oh my,” she said.  “I thought they fixed that website.”  http://www.discoverourtown.com/ID/local-27235.html  (For what it's worth, I sent them a note of correction.)

It took us fifty minutes to retrace our route, get back on ID-74 and US-93 and make our way south to Hollister where we followed signs and turned east for three miles on E 2400 which comes to a dead end at the campground.  (The correct address for anyone interested is 2738 E 2400 N, Twin Falls, ID 83301)

Finally at 4:00 PM we arrived.  However, the effort was worthwhile.  Nat-Soo-Pah turned out to be a hidden gem.  We parked on a lawn surrounded by trees and picnic benches.  The place was empty and only two other RVs pulled in later.  There is a large public hot springs pool but we didn’t indulge.  We took the dogs for a walk and discovered that the little creek that flows through the park is also hot (99º).  It was a pretty and very pleasant place.  Best of all it was QUIET.  After ten days by the freeway in Ogden, I appreciated that.

Site E at Nat-Soo-Pah. Can you find Margot? View of our campsite as seen from our Site E. 8/21/07
Where in the world of Nat-Soo-Pah is Rudi? We had the entire campsite to ourselves.
Oh no! You're not going on a pet walk in the middle of a field of thistles. You just got groomed! We walk the dogs through the tent and picnic area. The fence marks the boundary of Nat-Soo-Pah.
The public hot spring pool was closed in the morning when I took this photo. 8/22/07 The small RV and tent camping area is empty.

No more heat.  Idaho brought us cooler temperatures.  I put a frozen pizza in the convection oven and we ate it outdoors at our picnic table.  We enjoyed a marvelous breeze.  That night we went to bed with all the windows open and curtain-blinds up.  No overhead campground lights in our eyes.  No light at all.  No noise at all! 

But an odd thing happened that night.  About 2:00 AM Rudi hopped up on the bed and began to lick my face.  I woke and found that he was shaking all over.  This is very unusual.  In the past, this has meant that he is having a potty emergency.  I got up and put on my robe and slippers and we snuck to the front door.  I put on his leash and we quietly eased outside.  (I didn’t want to wake Margot and get her to barking.)

Outside a magnificent sight struck me: millions of bright stars in an absolutely black sky.  I nearly fell down I was so surprised.  I just hadn’t expected it.  And then I heard them.  Dozens?  Hundreds?  Coyotes seemed to be yipping and howling all around me.  In my sleepy head they seemed to surround me in a giant circle all around the wide plains horizon.  Now Rudi and I were both shivering and shaking.  But I wasn’t scared.  I was awed.  Maybe I’ve heard one coyote, but I don’t remember hearing that many all at once before.  Then they stopped.  No more sounds.  I told Rudi to go potty.  But no, he didn’t need to go.  He wanted to go somewhere.  It was like the night in Barnesville, GA when I let him outside at High Falls Campground without a leash and he took off.  Rudi had a mission.  He was going somewhere.  But I learned from that incident and he wasn’t free.  I wasn’t going to let my little dog go off to investigate a pack of coyotes.  I gave him some time to go potty.  He didn’t and we came back in.  He snuggled with me for the rest of the night and we both listened for those coyotes.  I didn’t hear them again.  However, I don’t think Rudi was shivering from fright as I might do.  I think he was shivering from excitement.  Usually these dogs bark when they are scared.  Rudi didn’t bark.

The next day we struck up a conversation with a very nice couple, Jeannette and David Halderman, of Truckee, CA who were traveling in their RV with their two little boys.  She is a Plant or Restoration Ecologist, so I was interested in talking to her because that is of interest to my son, Jeff.  David is a contractor and told us about the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center development in McCarran, NV.  They were both very interesting.  They told me that they have coyotes all around their home.  They said that a coyote will attack dogs larger than ours that are tied up because they are handicapped.  Tied or not, they work as a pack to surround and kill lone dogs.  Now I an warned again and know to be very careful with my beloved designer dogs when I’m in the wilderness. 

We got off to another slow start on Wednesday.  We talked to the Halderman’s and then stopped at the Twin Falls Visitor’s Center again to get breakfast at I-Hop.  When we stopped the day before, I noticed that there is a walkway along the rim of the canyon.  From the Center it goes under the highway and then there are paths from it that lead up to I-Hop and the shopping center.  So we parked where it was easy to park and then walked under the highway in search of breakfast. 

Photo of the gorge from the south side and from the east side of the I-5 exit highway, Blue Lakes Blvd.
Dennis walks off the canyon path up towards I-Hop. That's I-Hop at the end of the path. The shopping center begins to the left. 8/22/07
The dogs sleep in their beds between our chairs while we drive. They often sleep nose to nose or cheek to cheek. They wear halters with leashes attached to seat belts. Rudi always sleeps peacefully. Margot is more nervous. They are not territorial about their beds and frequently switch back and forth.
We didn’t leave until 2:30 pm and then we drove all the way across the state of Idaho without stopping.  We crossed into Oregon and stopped at 6:30 pm just past the state line at Farewell Bend State Campground near Huntington, OR.  This was another lovely, quiet campground.  We walked the dogs down to the Snake River and along the beach.  Here it is slow and wide, an old river making curly snake tracks that loop back on themselves.  Once again we had a cool night and we were able to sleep with all the windows open.
Farewell Bend State Campground, Huntington, OR — Left to right; top to bottom: We walk the dogs from our campsite down to the Snake River. View looking back up to our campground. View looking down at the river and a picnic table across from our campsite. Tired driver drinks coffee before getting the bus ready to go and driving 350 miles to Portland. 8/23/07
On Thursday, Pacific Daylight Time in Oregon gave us an extra hour.  We needed it, as we had to make it to Portland that day and we still had 350 miles to go.  We left at 9:45 AM (8:45 PDT) and pulled into the Columbia River RV Park at 4:00 PM (PDT).  We left the Snake River, drove through the yellow wheat fields of eastern Oregon through the Umatilla Indian Reservation.  Then we met the Columbia River and followed it into Portland: from one beautiful river gorge to another.
We stopped at a viewpoint overlooking the Umatilla Indian Reservation and then past Pendleton we stopped to see the Umatilla River.
Puffy white clouds were our first hint of changing scenery from the dry lands of eastern Oregon to moisture laden western Oregon. The clouds were emphasized in the rear view camera that shows on our computer monitor. (We use it to keep an eye on our tow car.)

Then we saw beautiful Mt. Hood ahead as we followed the Columbia River to Portland.

From I-84 we took exit 117 and by-passed a tricky I-5 interchange by driving between the Columbia River and the Portland Airport on Marine Drive. Our RV park is just ahead on the Oregon side, before the I-5 bridge that crosses north over the river into Vancouver, WA.

The Columbia River RV Park is a pretty city campground.  It is crowded but we each have our little plot of grass and some of us have little incense cedar trees.  It is narrow but there is room to put out our canopy.  The place is well monitored.  It is extremely neat and clean and the staff is friendly.  Our only problem is that there are so many people here with dogs.  When I take out our dogs they are so excited by the proximity of all these other dogs that they can’t concentrate on the business at hand:  “Go potty.”  They tend to bark and are too excitable.

Originally, we were only able to get into this park for one night — Thursday.  Immediately next door is the Columbia Edgewater Golf Course and there was a Safeway Classic LPGA tournament there for the weekend.  The RV park was full.  However, on Friday, our host found us a different spot that was available, so we moved and were able to stay.  Thank goodness!

Columbia RV Park, Portland, OR. We're in site #3. It's crowded but very neat and clean with small strips of grass and trees. Some complain about the airport noise. A lot of planes took off in the morning but otherwise I didn't think it was too bad.

Joe and Marian Schwary came across the bridge from Vancouver and met us on Jantzen Island, the Columbia River island located off the I-5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver.  We stayed here several years ago at the Red Lion Hotel to see the July Fourth fireworks over the river.  We met at the Red Lion to eat lunch in their restaurant.  We haven’t seen Joe and Marian since they came to Ogden last January for Blair’s funeral.  We’ve gone on several car trips with them over the years so we always pick up where we left off with jokes and teasing.

After lunch they followed us back to our park to see our bus.  We sat and visited until it was time to go back to Jantzen Beach to Stanford's Restaurant & Bar for Marian’s birthday dinner.  There we met Marian’s daughter, Jana and her husband, Richard Willits, and the six of us had a lovely reunion.

Top Left: Joe and Marian visit with us on our bus.
Above: Joe is a natural born salesman. He has a terrific sense of humor. He always tells me how terrible the traffic congestion is in California. However, he drove us from our RV park to Jantzen Island for dinner and it took us 30 minutes to drive two miles as we waited to enter I-5 north. I can't resist teasing him about this fact.
Above: Joe and Marian at her 69th birthday dinner.
Above Right: Jana helps her mom to celebrate with her husband Rich.
Right: Dennis helps his sister to celebrate with his wife, Elsa. 8/24/07
Our big joke when we traveled with Marian and Joe is that they love to eat.  When we had breakfast, they would plan where to have lunch.  After lunch, they’d ask where we would have dinner.  Dennis and I used to beg for mercy — “No, no, we can’t eat another meal!”  So this is a running joke when we see them because Dennis and I do eat out a lot but generally only once a day.  On Saturday they picked us up (on the Portland side) and drove us across the river to the Club Green Meadows golf course five miles north of Vancouver.  We had a delicious breakfast at an interesting place called Cameo Café.  It is owned by a Korean woman and the evening menu looked very unusual and interesting. She serves food from her little vegetable garden behind the cafe and she makes her own kimchee.

After breakfast we dropped by the home of Richard and Jana in Vancouver. They have several dogs. Jana is training her Miniature Aussie, Toby, to be a service dog.

Above: After breakfast at the Cameo Cafe in Vancouver, WA Dennis mugs with his sister, Marian.
Right: In the home of Jana and Rich, Jana laughs at one of her dogs who hangs onto his soft ball.
Below: Joe pets Miniature Aussies, Rosie (brown) and Toby (gray).
It was overcast in the morning but the sun came through in the afternoon.  Joe drove us on the Washington side, eastward up the Columbia River Gorge.  We went as far as Hood River and the Bonneville Dam where we crossed over to the Oregon side of the river. 
Then we drove up the old Columbia River Scenic Highway to see the many waterfalls visible along the river.  We stopped at the famous Multnomah Falls and then we went all the way up to Crown Point where we had a marvelous view of the river.

The plaque commemorates:

"Samuel C. Lancaster, 1864-1941, Chief Engineer, Scenic Columbia River Highway, 1913-1915, Pioneer builder of hard-surface roads his genius overcame tremendous obstacles extending and replacing the early trail through the Columbia River Gorge with highway of poetry and drama so that millions could enjoy God's spectacular creations."

Crown Point is a marvelous viewpoint that gave us a terrific view of the Columbia River Gorge. The wonderful old building is called Vista House. When Joe walked in he got a chill. We felt this building was filled with ghosts. http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_150.php

I have not been back to Multnomah Falls since 1961 when I was a senior attending the University of Oregon in Eugene.  At the time I was dated a charming man, Walt, who was several years older than me.  He had finished his military service and come back to college.  I was in love with him.  Once a year, my sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, had a very special dance called the White Violet Ball.  We all had to wear white dresses.  Walt agreed to be my escort although he wasn’t very enthusiastic about these sorts of collegial activities.  As the dance was in Portland, we all stayed in the homes of sisters who lived in the Portland area.  Walt’s parents lived in Portland so that was not a problem.  I love to dance and I thought it was all very wonderful.  Afterwards, Walt drove me up the old, windy Columbia River Scenic Highway to Multnomah Falls.  A few other couples were there.  I remember walking up to the falls on my high heels in my fragile white ball gown.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty of these falls in the early dawn light. We “necked” a little bit.  I thought it was terribly romantic. Later I learned that Walt would have liked to take me to a hotel. Naive me. I was shocked. I'm glad I have this 46 year old memory of visiting the falls after the ball.

Because of this, it was very interesting for me to see the romantic falls of my memory.  It was hot and the area was very crowded.  But I was happy to discover that the falls are as beautiful and romantic as I remembered.  Furthermore, others must agree with me.  I saw two brides headed with their bridal party up to the falls to say their vows.  Amid such crowds I think this takes an enormous amount of determination.  Romantic brides, I salute you. http://trips.stateoforegon.com/multnomah_falls/

I found Multnomah Falls to be as beautiful as I remembered. And I found the people to be fascinating also. I saw two bridal parties and I saw this lovely lady sitting and enjoying the view of the falls. She let me take her photo. Was she part of one of these bridal parties? Joe and Marian are immune. They're having an icecream cone.

We finished up our scenic tour at Salty’s, a restaurant near our RV park and the golf course by the river.  We had a superb dinner there and this meal takes my five star award for the best meal we’ve had in the past three months.  I had salmon — marinated, smoked and grilled, served over spinach and mashed garlic potatoes.  Ohmigod.  Incredible.

Our waiter was a true professional and quite a card.  Joe is very extraverted and always gives everyone a hard time.  He queried our waiter, David, about several details on the meal we ordered and joked about withholding the tip.  David said something like, “I give you credit for having the balls to threaten me before your meal is served….”  He made me laugh and he made sure we all had a great time.

Interior of Salty's and view from Salty's. Dennis is mugging again while we wait for a table. Our waiter, David, is quite a character. The large model ship looks like it just crashed through the restaurant window. When we finished dinner the sun was just setting outside the restaurant. 8/25/07
On Sunday, Joe and Marian picked us up to take us to the coast.  We stopped first at nearby Elmer’s in Portland for breakfast.  Then we drove on OR-6 to Tillamook where we turned north on US-101 to to go north along Tillamook Bay to the fishing village of Garabaldi.  Joe and Marian are partners in a small motel and RV park in this little fishing town.  During the summer they keep their fifth wheel at this park.  Joe had business to conduct with his manager.  The sun was out so Dennis and I wondered around to look at the marina and views of the bay from the RV park. Naturally, on our way back, we stopped for lunch at a café on Hwy 101 (near Rockaway?) with a view of the bay.  Then we stopped at Tillamook Cheese where we looked in the gift shop, bought some cheese and had some ice cream before driving home. 
Joe and Marian visit their fifth wheel at their RV park.

Below: View of their motel.

Right: The marina and a fishing boat.

Below: View of Tillamook Bay looking north towards Kinchaloe Point. 8/26/07
In the evening we took the dogs for a walk by the river. There is a very nice pedestrian-bicycle path on a levee between the river and Marina Drive. 8/26/07
We are walking east and looking across the Columbia River to the Washington shore. Lots of sailboats were taking advantage of the end of a sunny day with a stiff breeze. 8/26/07
Our visit in Portland is almost finished and now at last we turn south to head towards California.  But first, stops in Eugene, OR to look up my cousin, Janet Wroncy, and to see my alma mater (U of O) and then to Clearlake, CA to visit my friend, Karen Magnuson.
Elsa Walton, Columbia River RV Park, Portland, OR, Monday, August 27, 2007