August 24 LePage to Spokane

LePage_to_Spokane (2)Wonderful to have such a great night’s sleep and to wake up to fresh breezes and a view of the water.  LePage Campground is a delightful little treasure tucked away on I-84 and a good overnight stop.

LePage_to_Spokane (4) The trip along the Columbia River is the best part of the route, and once across the river into Washington the landscape becomes barren and boring unless you look deeper into the rest of the story.

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We settled into Riverside State Park close to Spokane early in the afternoon, just in time for the arrival of Mo’s brother Don, who lives in Spokane.  The Centennial Trail winds along the river through the park and we unloaded the bikes for a nice little  afternoon ride. It’s great to see the Bowl and Pitcher area again with it’s wild waters, basalt columns, and to walk across the swinging bridge over the Spokane River

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Photos from the rest of our day are linked here

Be forewarned, the following is my own personal journaling, much too wordy for a blog, but the more important reason for this blog, keeping track of my feelings and memories while we travel.  I  write here mostly for me and for Mo, and for my kids, and of course, anyone else who wants to know more.


What a difference a day makes, AND! a good night’s sleep. AND a computer that works properly. AND! the allergy medications worn off.  Whew!  The sun is gorgeous this morning, coming over the brown hills to the east, framed in green locust trees and accented by the blue waters of the John Day River, fat and lazy due to the John Day Dam just west of us here at the mouth of the river.  This little campground is a treasure, and we enjoyed this mornings cool breezes, and a good night’s sleep.  We didn’t even have to unhook last night, and our site is right on the water.  The campground is unassuming, but we look out over the water from our awning side and are on level pavement pull through.  In the distance we can see the freeway, the railroad, and the hills around us are punctuated by the brilliant white and graceful windmills.  Power and transportation, all right here, and yet so rural and very peaceful.

The drive from this park to Spokane is pleasantly uneventful, without much to see except the river itself, huge and wide.  I have traveling it far too many times, however, to pay much attention any more to the charms of Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington, especially the area around the Tri-Cities.  The most entertaining part of the trip was watching what the NUVI was telling us, and seeing her calculate the same routes I have used since I first started traveling these roads in 1972. We knew company would be coming for dinner so stopped at the huge and fabulous Kennewick Fred Meyer for supplies before continuing on into Spokane. 

I looked at the very brown, very dry fields all around us and tried without much success to see them with new eyes.  I know the story of wheat in Eastern Washington, the levels of precipitation and the depth of the soils increasing exponentially with the bushels per acre harvested as you approach Pullman/Moscow on the Washington-Idaho border.  I know the amazing story of the Great Missoula Floods that 13,000 years ago emptied a lake that covered a large part of Montana in what some say may have been as little as two days.  These brown scabby hills to the west of Highway 395 between Richland and Spokane are actually part of what is called the Channeled Scabland.  However, as a tourist passing through on the highway, none of this story is visible unless you know the tiny details and what to look for.  Today, it  just looked incredibly brown and boring.  The only good thing to be said is that the 100 miles or so from Tri-Cities to the Interstate 90 is now all four lanes, a good highway.  I traveled it for years as a 2 lane pain in the neck road full off slow truckers and furious people who couldn’t pass them.

We arrived in Spokane by 2 in the afternoon, and this time used the NUVI to negotiate the river and the bridges that make getting around sometimes a bit difficult in this town.  Of course, we found out again why everyone thinks that Spokane has the worst roads of any large city in the west.  Huge potholes and construction was going on everywhere, and we negotiated red flags and orange barriers all across town.  Another issue is the fact that Riverside State Park is sometimes hard to find, with the headquarters actually several miles north of the campground.  The Garmin Girl kept trying to make us go very far north.  If I hadn’t known the city, we could still be wandering around out there.  Once in the campground, however, all quieted down.  No one was in the kiosk, and we had no clue what our site number was supposed to be, but thankfully the telephone worked and after a call to headquarters, we settled into space 12 right next to the river.

We unhooked the Geo, only to discover that the battery was completely dead.  Somehow we had managed to park in a way that worked well, and we backed the MoHo into the site, and pushed the Geo off the road facing the front of the MoHo, thinking a jump would do the trick.  We were not so lucky, however, since it only clicked a bit before we gave up and called AAA.  Funny part about all this is that Triple A in Oregon had to route us to Triple A in Washington, and no matter how hard I tried to explain to the operator that we were NOT in Nine Mile Falls, she still sent the assistance to Nine Mile Falls, insisting that was the address of Riverside State Park.  We were especially lucky that the cell phone still worked down in the river canyon, because when the mechanic called me, he knew exactly where I was and drove back from Nine Mile to find us.  His charger had enough power to start the little car up, and after letting it run a bit, we were just fine.

:By this time, Mo’s brother Don had found our campsite to join us for the rest of the afternoon.  I also called an old friend in Coeur D’Alene who agreed to make the long drive to the west side of Spokane to visit.  While we waited for Laura to arrive, Don and Mo and I went off for a bike ride on a small portion of the Centennial Trail that is in Riverside State Park.  This trail extends from Nine Mile Falls through Spokane east into Idaho ending on the east side of Coeur D’ Alene Lake.  I remember when the trail was just a gleam and a plan, and before I left the area almost ten years ago it was fairly well developed.  It is a great place to ride.  In fact, there are several trails in this part of Washington and Idaho that have been developed for biking, many from old railroad right-of-ways.

When we arrived back to camp from the bike ride, Laura arrived with a huge bowl of fabulous veggies from her garden to add to our supper.  We cooked the pork chops and corn on the cob outside, while I did some rice and a salad in the MoHo.  It was wonderful having some time to visit and catch up on our children, families, and doings over the last couple of years.  Laura and I haven’t seen each other since she visited me in Klamath a few years ago, so this was an extra special treat.  It was nice having Don there as well, and he and Sharon took Abby down to the river for a swim.

The moon was full and clearly visible through the trees and the park was dark and quiet except for the faint sound of the river below us.  It’s really dry this time of year, so even if we could have found some firewood, there were no fires allowed. By the time everyone left it was close to ten after a hot shower when we got to bed.  I love how well I sleep in the MoHo, with fresh air, all close and cozy, and wonderful dream time.

August 23 From Home to Le Page


Leaving Rocky Point in the early morning light, traveling via West Side Road to Highway 97.    This part of our route is beautiful every time, even though familiar. 

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Of course we had to stop at our favorite little restaurant along the route, the Diamond Lake Junction Cafe.  Handwritten notes from all over the world are displayed under the table glass praising the wonderful food found in this unassuming little cafe.  Yes, I know this photo is a bit scary, but we share the breakfast and have leftovers for another meal, and it is sooooo good!


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Home_to_LePage (14)Highway 97 can get a bit boring after so many years traveling, but the windmills along the Columbia River approaching the Biggs Junction are growing in number every year……

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 Our destination for the evening was the delightful COE campground at the mouth of the John Day River just east of John Day Dam on I-84.  We have camped at LePage in the past and it is a perfect stopover for our trip north.

The rest are the days photos are linked here….

JOURNAL:  We have traveled north on Highway 97 so many times that it’s hard to feel as though we are really finally on our big road trip.  Leaving the house at a few minutes before eight, we were right on schedule as planned.  The weather was perfect as well, with cool morning temperatures.  There was a prediction  of frost after midnight, but I didn’t see any sign of frozen flowers this morning. 

The drive was uneventful, with Mo driving and me knitting.  I  am working on a little cap to match the scarf I knitted from some really fabulous thick and thin hand dyed yarn in shades of purples, blues, and greens.  It kept me entertained as we followed the stick straight road through the lodgepole pines.  If we had never been on this route before, we may have thought that there was something of interest to see.  A few miles north of Chiloquin and the KlaMoYa Casino is Collier State Park, with a logging museum and the lovely Williamson River and the clear spring run from Blue Springs just a half mile west of the highway.  Once up the hill to the pumice plateau, the lodgepole is dominant, and on the west you can see Mt Scott and Mt Thielson of the high Cascades. 

THowever, for us the most exciting thing this morning was breakfast.  Again we stopped at the Diamond Lake Junction for a great if sinful breakfast of chicken fried steak and eggs.  This little place is becoming more and more well known, and on the tables under glass are hand written notes from people from all over the world touting the great food.  One person suggested that they need to be on the food channel, and I would imagine that someday they will get there, maybe on Dives and Diners or some such.

Once we headed north again, I was entertained by knitting and fiddling with the new NUVI GPS that I bought for this trip.  I tested it during the last few weeks, getting used to the buttons and commands, so it doesn’t have many surprises.  It’s entertaining, (on a long flat straight road) to fiddle with the trip computer, and see just what path Garmin Girl thinks we should follow to get from here to there.  Garmin Girl has been silenced, however, since she makes Mo crazy when she is constantly “recalculating” and of course, that happens every time we decide to make a detour.  I think we will love Garmin Girl much more when we are on roads we don’t know as well as this one.

We also stopped at Bi-Mart in LaPine to pick up some incidentals, and at the Biggs Junction for gas, the last gas we will have pumped for us on this trip, I believe.  One of the delights of Oregon, at least for some of us, is that we don’t pump our own gas.  It’s often frustrating to outsiders to have to wait around for a service person, but it is easy to get used to when you live in Oregon.  North of Bend the landscape is dry and open, especially this time of year.  I found it hard to really appreciate it, and kept waiting for the good road trip feeling to settle in.  Finally, going down the grade into Biggs Junction, I got a taste of it.  At last, on the road again.  The dark massive basalt columns were a dramatic contrast to dry yellow grasses on the hills.  Coming around a curve, we could see the peaks of two volcanoes, and sometimes Rainier would come into view as well.  There is a place in the road, just before Shaniko, that is called the “mountain finder”, with a large stone circle with the volcanoes named facing the direction to identify them.  Again, we have been there several times and it was on the other side of the road so we didn’t stop.  We also didn’t stop for the tiny town of Shaniko, almost a ghost town, where we once explored the old buildings and had great ice cream cones.  I feel jaded somehow, frustrated with how bored I am with this landscape, and ready for something that I can’t predict to come around the corner.  Soon.

Biggs Junction used to be such a landmark for me, coming from Spokane on those long drives to California 30 years ago. It seemed so far away, a bit romantic.  The bridge across the Columbia, the MaryHill Museum across the river, fascinating and lovely, the replica of Stonhenge.  There is a lot to see here, but only if you haven’t seen it a bunch of times in the past.  We are in a rush to somewhere, but certainly not Spokane, where we have been before as well.  How many years of traveling does it take to get tired of all the roads that are available to you?  I wonder.

How many miles will pass before we see something that isn’t familiar and predictable.  Maybe once we get to Bonner’s Ferry, once we are traveling along Highway 2 in Montana.  Yes, I have been there too, but it has been a dozen years at least.  Maybe things will seem new and fresh when we get to Montana at least.  Maybe by the time we leave there and drive along the Kootenai River to Libby things will seem fresh, and this traveling will feel like a road trip.

I have no idea what that feeling really is for RV’rs who travel the United States year around.  It’s a small country after all, and there just aren’t that many roads to find after 65 years of traveling it.  But maybe I am full of it, maybe when we cross Montana into North Dakota and Minnesota, and into Canada it will seem fresh and new and I will at least really be glad that we are on the road.

But.  In the mean time, after settling in to the campground at LePage this evening, we made some pea soup, or I should say I opened a can of pea soup, put in some ham from Easter in the freezer, and sautéed some garlic bread.  We ate outside on the picnic table, cleaned up, and played some cards.  Our site is near perfect, especially for one night, a pull through, level and on the water with a picnic table.  We didn’t even need to unhook or take out the awning since the sun was on the other side.  We have hookups here, and when the fan didn’t do the job, we turned on the air conditioning. 

Jeremy, the cat, has been in and out a bit, and sat with us while we played cards.  Later Mo went for a walk and I wrote on the laptop.  When she returned, Jeremy was sitting on the MoHo steps,  big as you please, watching the water quietly.  somehow he got out of his carrier and decided to come outside with me.  whew.  I was lucky he didn’t run off.  I didn’t even know he was there, and the door was wide open.  I don’t want to lose a cat on this trip, so will have to be more vigilant for sure.

We have no big plans tomorrow, except to see Mo’s brother, Don, who seems to be busy with different sorts of things, but will still come down to Riverside State Park to meet us.  Mo is going indoors now, and I will follow.  I still feel a bit strange from the Zyrtec I had to take this morning.  Hay fever hit me hard as we were leaving, and I couldn’t stop sneezing.  Yukky.  It’s better now, so hopefully I left whatever was the trigger behind me in Rocky Point. 

My computer screen is weird as well, so that’s a bit worrisome.  Sigh.  Would be nice if things just worked without glitches….sigh again. It’s a power thing, obviously, since as soon as I unplug it, the screen goes very dark  and I can’t seem to find how to turn it up.  anywhere.  Cars on the freeway, trains going by, river lapping against the rocks here beside our campsite.  Twilight on the John Day River, pink skies in the east reflected from the unseen sunset.  Tomorrow should be a good day, another familiar day driving familiar roads to familiar places.  But it is certainly better than driving I-5!!  through the San Joaquin Valley.  Gak.  Yes, this is better by far, even if familiar.