How to Scratch Your Itchy Feet
Didn't someone say, "I never met a road I didn't like?"
If not, someone should have. Back when gas was cheap, our budget didn't allow elaborate vacations, and vacation time was limited, we used to get in our car on the weekend and go, with no particular destination. Just because we hadn't driven down a particular road before. During those years, we did a lot of camping, which at first involved the kids sleeping in the car and us on the ground outside. We learned a lot about sleeping out, including the clammy feel of a wet sleeping bag. Eventually we bought a tent, and that was much better. The sleeping bags only got wet when it rained really hard.
After a few years we moved up to a Volkswagen camper, and spent one summer seeing as much of the United States as we could in eleven weeks. Fourteen thousand miles, and it cost us $25 a day (gas was cheap, remember...). The camper served us well for quite a while, until it got tired and started spending a lot of time in the shop. But it didn't leak, and we loved it while it ran.
For a few years we did the motel thing, but kept talking about how we'd buy a travel trailer, someday...
Someday finally came, and we found that having our own modern covered wagon was a joy and a delight.
We toured much of the Pacific Northwest in our Award Travel Trailer and for several years we spent one month a year as park hosts. It was a wonderfully comfortable home away from home.
It also was a joy to tow. In 1995 we took the Award east from Fort Clatsop along Merriwether Clark's return route to Independence, Missouri, with a stop at Fort Mandan, and followed the Oregon Trail back to its end.
In the photo, we're at Chimney Rock, Nebraska.
Time takes its toll of us all, and we finally admitted that towing a trailer had become more work than fun.
We jokingly told folks we'd moved up to a motel, but we missed the trailer. There's much to be said for having one's own bed, reading light, and stereo when we stop for the night. Not to mention being able to cook dinner instead of finding a restaurant we liked.
We did look at other options. We took some cruises, one down the Columbia and then north to Vancouver, BC, one up the Inside Passage to Glacier Bay, a third through the Panama Canal. All three were wonderful, but we found that shipboard life as it's lived aboard the cruise vessels was not as much fun for us as it is for some. We didn't party much, we didn't play Bingo, and we preferred looking at scenery to gazing at an endless ocean.
Much as we liked to tour by automobile, sometimes it was more fun to let someone else do the driving.
The most comfortable way to do this is to Take The Train. We traveled all the way across the country and back three times, and loved every mile of it.
And speaking of trains, each year a reenactment of the driving of the Golden Spike is held at Promontory Summit. We were there for the 130th Anniversary, the first re-enactment in which the Chinese community took part.
Oregon has the best State Parks in the world, we believe.
You can tour a Civil War fort, walk in the ruts of the Oregon Trail, sleep in a teepee, rent a houseboat, waterski, windsurf, rockclimb, or just sit and watch the ocean surge or the grass grow. Tomorrow you can do something else.
The parks aren't just for campers, either. There are some fabulous day-use parks, like Shore Acres, which is a lovely botanical garden, Banks-Vernonia, a rails-to-trails park that winds through the Oregon Coast Range, and the historical museum and gun fortifications at Fort Stevens, where there is also a replica of the old Civil War fort, built to protect the mouth of the Columbia from Confederate raiders (and no, I don't think any actually got here).
Another great way to see Oregon is on a bicycle.
The Oregon BikePed Program has maps that show traffic volumes, steepness of grades, and bicycle repair facilities along most state highways. They also tells you where you can camp and how to get local bicycle maps.
The Oregon Coast Bike Route Map is chock full of information about one of the most spectacular bike routes anywhere. There are other maps available as well.
Not too far from Gladhaus, the Springwater Trail is part of an enormous network of trails and greenways in the Portland metropolitan area. I can ride to downtown and spend only about a mile on city streets; the rest of the 13-mile trip is along a peaceful, well-paved trail that's usually busy with other cyclists, runners, walkers, and even the occasional equestrian. It connects with other trails, like the one along I-205, which in turn leads to the trail along the Columbia River, and from there... Well, you get the idea.
One morning I woke up to the realization that I didn't have as many somedays as I used to. It was time to see some of the places I'd always dreamed of visiting. Italy, England, France, Australia, the Galapagos Islands... As well as a few places in the USA I hadn't seen, like Death Valley, the Great Smokies without fog and the Grand Canyon without rain.
My daughter Kat joined me for a ten-day tour of Italy in 2011. We didn't see nearly all of Italy, and I'd really like to go back. Heck, I could happily spend a year in Rome alone. And Tuscany...I think in a prior life I was a Tuscan peasant--never mind that my ancestors all came from the British Isles. Some of what we saw is in my Italia 2011 album.
The travel bug had bit. Next on my list was a tour of England, Scotland and Wales where we went in 2012. May is probably not the best time to visit Great Britain, we found, as we slogged through torrential rain, encountered snow in the Scottish Highlands, and faced fog obscuring our tour of Plymouth Harbor. Again, I'd love to go back. Perhaps someday...
After staying home for more than a year, my feet began to itch. I still hadn't seen Paris. Kat was planning to go to Scotland with a friend, so I had no one to travel with. But did I really need a companion? I decided I did not, and booked a tour in France, with three days on my own in Paris before it began. Now I took French in college, and can still remember how to say the important stuff (bonjour, s'il vous plaît and merci). And I can read a bus map, so maybe... The result was a three-day adventure in Paris, followed by the tour, all of which I describe in "Scratching my Itchy Feet...Again" and show a bit of in my France Album.
Some spendy house repairs meant I wasn't going anywhere far away in 2015, so I began to think about closer destinations. Top of the list was Death Valley, but if there weren't going to be any flowers, I wasn't going to bother. Along about January 2015, I started checking the Wildflower Report online, and around the first of February it started looking interesting. Unfortunately, I had some conflicts, which meant I could go the last week in February or the last week in March. And this had been a warm winter, so maybe the earlier date would be better. And it was. My Death Valley Journal tells a bit about my adventures, and the best of my photos are in my Death Valley 2015 Album.
Sometimes we ignore the beautiful places close to home because we listen to the call of distant lands. It struck me recently that I've been doing that too often, when there were still places in the Pacific Northwest I hadn't been. One was the John Day Fossil beds National Monument, just a couple of hundred miles away. Even though I'd stopped at the visitor center a couple of times, I'd never taken time to explore beyond the highway (although there are some pretty spectacular views from there). I joined some friends from Idaho to camp close to the fossil beds in May, 2016, with a plan to explore the back roads and some of the trails. Unfortunately I had a hitch in my gitalong while I was there, so I didn't do much hiking, but one of the others carried my phone along on his hike to the Blue Basin and took lots and lots of photos with it; that sequence is identified. Some are mine, mostly taken from parking lots. You can learn more about the area in this National Park Service brochure.
Drop back in July and I may have some pictures from a whitewater raft trip on Idaho's River of No Return. If I don't drop the camera in in the river...
I'm not ready to stop traveling, because there is still an awful lot I want to see. Australia and the Galapagos Islands still don't look doable, but who knows? There are somedays left...