Goodbye Molly

Two and a half years ago Kate and I sat in the cockpit chairs of Molly, our then brand new Itasca Reyo, and hit the road starting the greatest adventure we’d undertaken. Molly took us twenty three thousand miles along interstate highways, city streets and unmarked country roads, fulfilling our dream to see and experience America in an intimate, unhurried way. Molly very quickly showed us that home is where you make it and surprised us both in her capacity to shelter, comfort and inspire us. When we found ourselves seeing a dead-end sign not as an impediment to our journey but as an opportunity to see places that normally go unseen, it was Molly that encouraged us to explore.

We’ve once again settled into a stationary home and so Molly has been passed on to another family to take on roaming adventures. We will miss her but will never lose the wanderlust she sparked in us. Thanks for an amazing trip Molly.

Jackson Hole, WY

Jackson Hole, WY

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Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake has been on our list of must-sees for a long time but it has eluded us until now. We got the RV out of storage, packed up some clothes and the kittens then headed south for a long weekend in the park. The kittens travel like seasoned pros now and they were just fine in their rolling home and spend most of their travel time curled up on our laps.

About halfway to the park we stopped off in Brownsville, OR to see a unique home/gallery someone recently recommended to us. The place is The Living Rock Studios. It’s a large home built by Howard Taylor over twenty years from local rock collected by himself and co-workers in the logging industry. If that wasn’t enough, he also spent free time creating masterful wood carvings, making mosaics from rare rocks and painting a huge collection of bird portraits. Prolific is too mild a word to describe Howard.

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The tour was lead by one of his daughters that still lives in the house. She was friendly, enthusiastic and entertaining. When it was done we bought some note cards and got back on the road south.

We entered the park from the north and had a beautiful drive along the rim of the crater to Mazama Village Campground on the south side. We checked in, found our spot and settled in. The sites are close together but are very wooded and feel cozy. If you stay, make sure you fill up your water tank from the potable water at the dump station before you go to your site. We didn’t know the sites had no water hookups and had to go back for water. By that time it was late afternoon so we just started a fire to relax and cook dinner.

The next morning we got in the toad (our Smart car) and headed to the lake and visitor’s centers. The lake is just as beautiful as everyone has said. Impossibly deep blue water surrounded by sky. The weather could not have been better with temperatures in the high 70’s, only a few puffy clouds in the sky and, surprisingly, low mosquito levels. We had hoped to take a boat tour of the lake but did not get a reservation in time so we settled for views from the rim. There are two main visitor’s centers, one in Rim Village and another at the park headquarters. They both have the same information but Rim Village also has a film you can watch that is very good. We took in the sights from many places along the rim and then went back to camp for more fireside dinner and relaxation in the open air. Sunday morning we got up, broke camp, dumped the remaining fresh water and headed home. this time via the east route through Bend, OR.

All in all I’d say that Crater Lake is a great place to spend one day and night. It’s REALLY beautiful but we didn’t find a lot to do in the park.

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A weekend in the Columbia River Gorge

This past Memorial Day weekend we decided to get the RV out of storage and head to Ainsworth State Park in the Columbia River Gorge.

They have a really nice RV park with full hookup sites spaced far apart but it’s first come, first served so I headed out Thursday afternoon to beat the rush and Kate drove out to meet me Friday after work. We recently got two kittens and thought this would be a good opportunity to get them acquainted with the RV and travel so I brought them along. This was far less traumatic than I thought it would be for both the kittens and us. They understood and used the smaller, temporary litter box like seasoned pros and didn’t get into any outrageous trouble.

Friday morning I took a hike up to Ponytail Falls which is the upper fall of Horsetail Falls. The trail from the campground to the falls meanders through a beautiful, moss covered forest landscape just like the ones I saw in the Oregon entries of the encyclopedia as a child. I didn’t encounter anyone else for miles until I got closer to the falls. Ponytail Falls spills out from the top of a large rock outcropping  into a pool that the trail passes behind.

Ponytail Falls with the trail behind

The stream continues towards the river when it again spills, as Horsetail Falls, out from a cliff top into a pool right next to Scenic Highway 30.

Horsetail Falls

Friday afternoon the RV park filled up just before Kate arrived and the rain began to fall. We spent the evening getting re-acquainted with RV living and playing with the kittens. Saturday morning we headed out to see some of the local sights and got some lunch on the south side of the Bridge of the Gods. After eating we drove across the bridge to Washington State for some sightseeing then headed back to see the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. This place is amazing. It’s a fully functioning fish hatchery that produces millions of fish for local waterways but is also beautifully maintained for and accessible by tourists. You can see the complete production/life cycle of trout, salmon, sturgeon and others. They are also famous for their sturgeon viewing pond where their star Herman lives. Herman is an enormous 70 year old sturgeon. Watch our video here.

After spending quite a while at the hatchery we headed back to camp to build a fire and cook some dinner.

Sunday morning the rain really came down and we decided to beat the crowds and head home. It was a really nice weekend in the forest and we can’t wait to try more new spots this summer. Here are a few more photos we took in Ainsworth State Park.

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Daycation at the Oregon Coast

Yesterday we jumped in the car and headed west. We’d been every other direction away from Portland but hadn’t yet gone west to see the ocean. We planned on fixing that and made our way to Seaside, Oregon.

Seaside is a charming beach town and we imagine the place must be jumping in the summertime. Even in December, the stores and resturants were all open and we visited the candy and shell shops you’d find in a destination like this. We had lunch at a seafood restaurant called “Finn’s Fish House” — the name was the draw but the food was great. Later we made our way south to Cannon Beach where we found Haystack Rock.

The giant rock formations were beautiful and striking. I envied the locals living in bungalows nestled in the hillside and overlooking the beach. It must be an amazing sunset.

The monolithic Haystack Rock is accessible from the beach at low tide and I made my way towards it before being driven inland by oncoming waves.

Now that we know some options, we are looking forward to the spring and summer. We saw many RV campgrounds by the beaches and think we could easily travel the coast next year visiting all the towns like Seaside along the way.

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Portland Life

We apologize to anyone who might be wondering if we are still alive out here in America. We hit Portland six weeks ago and then… radio silence. I can report we are doing well and all settled in our new home. Time has flown by as we unpacked, bought a few necessities and looked for work. I’ve joined a great company and Finn is still on the hunt.

Portland continues to charm us. It’s full of passion for craftsmanship, cuisine and curious culture. We’ve had one out-of-town friend already pass through on business and we really hope more arrive in 2013. We miss our friends and family and it is probably the only downside to what has become the most epic adventure of our lives.

Above is our new ’hood — the Willamette Riverfront.

I’m not sure what this monkey dance was all about, but it was entertaining.
This year marks the 58th year for the Christmas Ship Parade on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. We live right by the marina and each night we see the festive boats sailing away for the holiday parade. We’re looking forward to our first Portland Christmas and everything ahead in 2013.

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Newsflash: We now live in Portland!

This year we traveled for four months and then we found Portland — a place we liked right away and want to settle into and make our new home.

When we left San Francisco at the end of June we put our stuff in storage. Our little 8′ x 10′ storage space is what we called our “apartment in a box” — combined with all the stuff we have with us in the RV, we have everything we need to instantly create a home. Yesterday we rented a Uhaul truck, emptied the storage space and brought our stuff to our new town.

We got our stuff moved up to Portland in just two days. It has been exhausting to load the truck with everything, drive 12 hours over two days then unload the truck into the building, up an elevator and down a hall. We were thankful that two new neighbors in our building volunteered to help for awhile with our move in. We’re getting a good feeling about Portland!

Over the past two days we spent any free moments trying to get more news about New York/ Jersey and our friends dealing with the havoc and destruction caused by hurricane Sandy. Like we said on Facebook, we were heartbroken to see the images as they hit the news and learn about the extent of the damage. We know from experience that the northeast is resilient and will bounce back but it’s so hard to see the devastation.

Kate (me) driving our stuff from San Francisco to Portland

Now that we finally have everything in the apartment, I’m probably most looking forward to being reunited with our bed and lots of clothes I haven’t seen in a while. I’m also looking forward to the bathtub and washer/dryer in our new apartment — two luxuries for us after months in an RV.

Our next step will be looking for work in Portland and hopefully, if things work out and we like the town, we’ll be living here a while. In the spring we plan to go on short trips and explore more of Oregon and Washington. What we’ve seen so far is wonderful. Now, if I can even move a muscle, it’s time to unpack!

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Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

After some lousy viewing of Mt. Rainier, things didn’t improve in the next couple days when we headed to Mount St. Helens. Unfortunately, the rainy weather and heavy fog didn’t allow us to see much of the mountain or National Monument area.

We drove up to the visitor center and, as always, watched the movie. They used the limited photography from the event and streamed it together into an animation as the narrator explained the 1980 eruption. The National Monument was established in 1982, two years after the event, and there have been several smaller eruptions in the past 32 years. Mount St. Helens is still very much alive and is watched closely by geologist.

In the visitor center they have an audio story accompanied by this awesome visual light display of the entire eruption as it occurred on May 18th, 1980 (below).

The chilly, rainy weather has reminded us it’s a good time to get off the road. Last year we stopped and started living in San Francisco on November 1st and we’re planning to settle down for some apartment living once again. More on that soon!

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Mt. Rainier National Park

Mt. Rainier National Park, established in 1899 as America’s fifth National Park, is in Washington state. We drove into the park two days in a row hoping to get a view of Mt. Rainier but we never managed to actually see the mountain. Even when we drove to the Jackson Visitor Center, where we should be able to just look up and see the glaciers flowing down the mountain and its magnificent peak, it was so shrouded in clouds and fog that we couldn’t even make out the outline.

Disappointed that we never saw the main attraction, we still saw lots of other beautiful sites in the park. Below are shots from our drive up the road overlooking surrounding peaks and ridges. I wasn’t prepared for the deep snow that appeared suddenly and covered the pine trees as we ascended.

Walking in the winter landscape was beautiful.

Down below the snow line we went on a hike into the old growth forest. Exploring the two different environments in the same afternoon was wild.

We stopped in the Longmire Museum and checked out their collection of stuffed wildlife and learned some more about the mountain area. We’ll have to return another time and see more.

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