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PNW Road Trip Journal | CW5 Jared Jones

CW5 Jared Jones was kind enough to share his family's experience on their road trip across the Pacific Northwest. Please enjoy!

Dear family, friends and coworkers, we wanted to share our Road Trip adventure with you – AND I realize this is probably in far greater detail than most of you care about.  I am also using this as a way to capture our adventure for posterity.  You are welcome, children. :D

We wanted to head overseas this year, but with COVID still affecting travel in some parts of the world – including Asia – we decided to do another Road Trip.  Next year we hope to take the journey we intended in 2021, after my last deployment: Okinawa (a friend is stationed there), Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Hawaii… or something along those lines.  At any rate, Road Trip 2.0 is taking us across the Pacific Northwest, and our itinerary includes: Rye Patch, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Bandon, Bend, Leavenworth, Victoria, Osoyoos (also in B.C.), Clear Lake (a military campground near Couer d’Alene), Grand Hot Spring, and Twin Falls.


Week 1:

Rye Patch Reservoir
Rye Patch Reservoir

Day one was mostly uneventful, although just outside of Rye Patch Campground a pair of F-18s flew low overhead as they returned to Fallon.  I turned to Amie and exclaimed, “Finally, I get to be the guy on the ground watching low flying military aircraft!”  After years of flying for the Army, and many cross country flights across America, I often wondered why I never saw aircraft flying low.  Not that I ever fly below 500 feet…

Amie and the kids had camped at Rye Patch when I was deployed and really enjoyed their stay, so they were excited to take me there.  I can see why they enjoyed it so much – it is a hidden oasis just off I-80 and the campground is full of trees.  We walked around the reservoir and enjoyed the sunset over the hills – the area has a unique topography.

Day two took us to Reno and then northwest to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Just outside of Reno, as I rounded a bend in the road, I had to double take as I realized the traffic on the Interstate was completely stopped.  I had to slam on the brakes – with the trailer behind us – and barely managed to stop in time.  We ended up stuck on the freeway for nearly an hour, and for no apparent reason.  To make matters worse, we had just barely missed an exit where we could have easily diverted around the traffic.  We ended up getting out of the car, it was strange to walk around on what would normally be an active Interstate.  Amie decided to head back into the trailer to make lunch, and just before she wrapped up the traffic started moving again.  I tried to call her but her phone was blue toothed to our car, so I ended up running back there to tell her to hurry.  Luckily she was basically ready to go!

Sulphur Springs at Lassen Volcanic National Park

We got to our first Harvest Host in time to set up camp and then enjoy the vineyard and watch the sunset with our hosts.  In the distance you could see a cinder cone volcano, it was a pleasant evening and the heat of the day quickly dissipated.  The next day we headed into the National Park and had fun walking through the Subway Lava Tubes, so named because they are so large they resemble a subterranean subway system.  At just over a third of a mile, the very middle is completely dark – and very cool (pun intended).  It was a fun experience and well worth checking out.  We then headed further into the park to check out Bumpass Hell, an active geothermal area with boiling mud pots, but it turns out there was 5 feet of snow at the trail head – and we hadn’t packed snow shoes!  So instead we enjoyed the snow and let the dogs and our cat Pepper roam about.  If only we had brought a sled…  On the way down from Lassen Peak, we stopped at Sulphur Springs, where we learned there used to be a resort.  Now it is just a sight to see on the way down, but at least we got to see some geothermal activity.

That evening we enjoyed Happy Hour with our hosts and several members of their close knit community.  We were even gifted several vegetables from a neighbor, including lettuce, carrots, peas, and bok choy.  We also met a fellow Harvest Host adventurist who was on week 4 of an 11 week trip.  She had a Doctorate in Physical Therapy and was enjoying a break between employment opportunities.  We learned that our host loved to play chess, and so Kai ended up playing with him as we watched another beautiful sunset over the vineyard.  Apparently he was bit of a chess whiz when he was younger – Kai was proud because he won one game; our host won the other.  It was a very pleasant evening, but we didn’t stay up too late as we had a long day of driving ahead of us.

Paul Bunyan and Babe
Paul Bunyan and Babe

The next day was indeed a long day on the road, but it was a scenic route and we enjoyed driving through several redwood forests along the 101.  We stopped in Arcata to eat lunch at a sandwich shop called Hole-in-the-Wall, at the recommendation of a friend (whose daughter works there).  We hoped to ride the gondola at the Trees of Mystery, but unfortunately it had just closed.  But we did get there in time to check out their Native American museum – they had an impressive collection that was well worth seeing; and we took a moment to get a photo with Paul Bunyan and Babe (see attached photo).  I was really hoping to see that particular redwood forest, but just down the road was a coastal trail with some trees.  It gave us a chance to let the animals out and we really enjoyed this short hike!

Coquille River Lighthouse

We got into our campground at Bandon fairly late, but we still had a whole day to explore this sleepy fishing town.  It is a picturesque area, but it rained most of the evening and next morning.  Fortunately, it cleared up in time for us to enjoy some time on the beach, including admiring their local lighthouse (we saw several on our last road trip and it became a bit of a theme for us).  We also checked out their historic old town and drove along the coast, admiring the views and grabbing dinner at a nice seafood establishment in the even sleepier fishing town of Charleston.  We enjoyed our time in this area, but it was strange – almost unsettling – how quiet it was.

This week would have concluded with us at Camp Sherman, in central Oregon, but we realized how remote it was, and decided to amend our plans and head to Bend.  After all, part of the point of this trip is to see new sights – we can always camp back home in Utah.  We spent the morning being lazy, and then rallied and checked out (in order): an Alpaca Farm, the last Blockbuster video store, and downtown Bend – which, by the way, is way cooler than the Old Mill shopping area.  The alpacas were not only super soft but super adorable, we had fun feeding / entertaining them.  As we drove back to Bend, we just happened to spot a Blockbuster sign, which reminded me of a documentary featuring the last store – which sure enough is found here.  I enjoyed going back inside because I worked there for a time as an Assistant Manager back in college.  And we wanted our kids to understand the tangible experience of walking around looking for a show to watch – instead of just clicking through a streaming service til you found something.  Both Kai and Aria admitted they preferred going to a store.  After that, we checked out downtown Bend, and had fun teaching our kids how to play pool.  All in all, a good day and a great way to the end the week.

THE last Blockbuster | Alpaca Farm

Week 2:

So what do you do with this much time on the road?  Soundtrack time.  We started going through all of the movie soundtracks we could think of – last year, our anthem was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Best of Playlist (our inspiration after visiting the Hall of Rock in Cleveland).

Erickson Military Aircraft Museum

Looking back, it’s amazing how much we packed in the last week.  A quick recap: Erickson Military Aircraft Museum, Stonehenge 2.0, Wenatchee and Leavenworth (WA), Port Angeles, and Victoria / the southern portions of Vancouver Island of British Columbia.

If you find yourself anywhere near Portland, the Erickson Aircraft Collection in Madras is well worth checking out.  Their museum of military aircraft is impressive, especially the selection from WW2 – I really enjoyed the B-17 and P-51.  Many of their aircraft are still flyable and for the right price you can take a ride.  If only we had more time (and more money)…

Just after crossing over the Columbia river there is a unique stop overlooking the gorge – that also happens to be the site of Stonehenge 2.0.  It is a tribute to the original and a replica of what it would have looked like way back when.  Having flown over Stonehenge on a military exchange with the British Apache Helicopter Force, it seemed appropriate to see this version from the ground.  The site is also a tribute to the soldiers from that area who served in WW1.

Full Size Stonehenge | Wenatchee River

The drive to our next Harvest Host was a scenic one… lush green forests with a scenic backdrop of the Okanogan mountain range.  The Wenatchee River winds down a beautiful canyon full of orchards and vineyards, and eventually the river joins the Columbia River – it is at this confluence that the city of Wenatchee sits.  Our next stopover: Ohme Gardens, an alpine setting sitting atop a hill overlooking the entire valley.  Unfortunately, there was an event that evening that precluded us from setting up our trailer right away, so we ended up driving back down into town.  We chuckled to ourselves as we ate dinner in our trailer… behind a dentist office.  Kudos to Amie for once again making an amazing meal plan and being able to pull off meals that would normally require a full kitchen.

We spent three nights at Ohme Gardens, and enjoyed exploring the local area: a horse ride at Eagle Creek Ranch, plenty of German food and fun in Leavenworth* – especially pretzels (see the photo of the giant one) – and headed back a second time to enjoy the annual Accordion Festival… oh, and more pretzels.  We also spent time exploring the alpine garden at our host and had fun searching for gnomes scattered across their property (P.S. if you find them all you get a small prize).  We learned that this area is considered the apple capital of the world… at least, according to the locals, and from a big apple sign proclaiming so.

* In the 1960s, Leavenworth’s Chamber of Commerce – in a bid to boost tourism – refashioned itself as a Bavarian setting.  It worked.

Leavenworth, Washington

We spent the next night at a hotel in Port Angeles, just to avoid the hassle of having to set up the trailer for one night – then took the ferry over to Victoria (somewhat confusingly, on Vancouver Island).  We drove our SUV and trailer into the belly of the boat, then headed up – dogs in tow – to the upper level of the ferry.  I don’t think our dogs cared much for the experience… the floor was hard to walk on and Coby didn’t seem to mind me holding him like a baby.  We got a good view of downtown Victoria as we pulled into the harbor, and then drove off the ferry and promptly headed over to the Fort Victoria RV Park.  That evening we decided to stretch our legs and walked along the West Bay Walkway.  There was a massive cruise ship that had pulled into port.  I did some research and learned that in 2014, when it was first commissioned, the Quantum of the Seas was the 3rd largest cruise ship in the world.  And with a name like that, maybe it should have also been featured in a Bond movie.

We had two full days on the island, and in typical Jones fashion stayed busy the entire time.  We went to a relatively new feature: Malahat Skywalk – offering amazing views of the nearby channels and islands, and a walk up and ride down a large wooden structure.  For the views alone, definitely worth checking out.  Since we are in Canada, we had to get poutine at a local diner, then on to the Botanical Beach Tidal Pools… a bit of a drive but totally worth it.  The day after we visited the Victoria Butterfly Gardens, where we observed an impressive collection of bugs and birds; random fact: did you know that the Atlas Moth lives in its cocoon for nearly 5 years, only to hatch and then live as a butterfly for about 3 to 5 days?!  After learning that the largest free-standing totem pole in the world was located nearby, we drove over to Beacon Hill Park, which turns out is a delightful and diverse park that we could have spent even more time in.  But before the sun set, we headed over to downtown Victoria to do some shopping and sightseeing.  It is a charming city with an impressive variety, given its size.  We ended up getting sushi at YuaBistro near Chinatown, and it was quite possibly the best sushi we had ever had.

Week 3:

So… for the most part this trip has felt less like a summer get-a-way, and more like an extended spring vacation.  Average temperature on this trip was no kidding about 65 degrees – it was unseasonably cold up here this time of the year, even for the Pacific Northwest.  Although, that changed once we got to Osoyoos, known as the warmest place in all of Canada – indeed warm, but not like summer in Utah.  From there til we got home it was much warmer, typically in the 80s and 90s.

We took another ferry from Victoria to Vancouver, then drove across lower B.C. to Osoyoos.  We checked into a hotel for two nights, and it was nice to pretty much just lounge about and enjoy the pool, hot tub, and other amenities the resort had to offer.  We really didn’t do much else there, besides sample poutine at some fast food joints.  Turns out that in Canada you can get poutine just about anywhere – including McDonalds.  Our favorite fast food poutine was at A&W, reasonably priced and surprisingly good.  Makes you wonder… why isn’t poutine more of a think in the States?  French fries, cheese, smothered in gravy… what more can you ask for?

After crossing back into the States, we happened across the Grand Coulee Dam – and all I can say is: dam impressive.  Who knew the largest hydropower plant in the U.S. was in the middle of nowhere Washington?  Given the enormity of this dam, I had to stop just to take pictures (see attached).  We also stopped into the Visitor’s Center, where we learned a lot of interesting and often random facts about its origins.  Such as, did you know the Grand Coulee Dam had a song made, by folk artist Woody Guthrie, just to promote it?   If you happen to be in the middle of north central Washington, this dam really is worth checking out!

Osoyoos Lake | Grand Coulee Dam

Next destination: Clear Lake Military Recreation Area, just outside of Fairchild Air Force Base.  A nice lake, but the Trailer / RV campgrounds were a little close.  We enjoyed some time on the lake, where we kayaked and ate a picnic on the water.  Later in the afternoon we headed in to Spokane, not sure what to expect, and were reasonably impressed.  The riverside and downtown area is charming, and we happened to show up in the middle of Hoop Fest.  It was packed and took us a while to find parking.  We enjoyed walking around, and even took the gondola that gives you an impressive view of the falls.  There was also a historical carousel that we couldn’t not ride… after all, turns out Google Videos has an album of our family enjoying different carousels over the years, so of course we needed to add more photos to that algorithm.

Clear Lake Military Recreation Area

The next day we spent a good amount of time driving along the Columbia – what a shockingly large river.  So big in fact that if often looks like a lake, such as the area just west of Walla Walla, Washington.  With only two nights left on our trip, we had a lot of miles to cover, so the remaining stops were all one night stopovers.  We pulled into the Grand Hot Spring RV Resort, near La Grande, OR.  This area is famous for the Hot Lake Reservoir and the nearby Lodge at Hot Lake Springs.  The lodge is an old resort and hotel that was once a wellness recovery center, now a hotel, and reminiscent of the hotel in the movie The Shining.  Not in a creepy way, more in a nostalgic way.  That night Amie and I enjoyed the heated pools at the RV resort, fed directly from the Hot Lake Springs.

Our last stop was another Harvest Host: Holesinsky Vineyard and Winery, not far from Twin Falls.  This is a beautiful piece of property near the Snake River, and I learned that this area is known as the 1000 Springs, for the plethora of hot springs along the basin.  We arrived in time to enjoy the vineyard, then headed into the small town of Buhl for dinner.  The next morning we stopped at a local creamery for ice cream and shakes, and then I insisted we stop in Twin Falls to enjoy views of the canyon and water falls.  This was our last stop before going home, and it was bittersweet to know that our trip was all but over.

It was nice to know that the remainder of our drive was on I-84 and then I-15 – by now we had had our share of windy roads.  We were listening to yet another soundtrack (Moulin Rogue), when suddenly we heard a loud noise followed by significant vibrations, that could only mean one thing: a blown tire.  Amie was driving and pulled over quickly, and we quickly forged a game plan: the kiddos and pets would wait in the trailer, while Amie and I tackled putting the spare on.  And let me tell you… it’s a little unnerving to have semis screaming by at 80 mph while you jack the car and change the tire.  To make matters just a little more stressful, there was what initially appeared to be a controlled burn in some nearby fields, that seemed to be getting out of hand as the winds picked up.  I was definitely sweating by the time we got back on the road.

We pulled off at the next stop, and decided that with the spare tire, going 50 mph and our flashers on, that we could milk our rig home. It was a long drive from Tremonton, but we made it… albeit at a much slower rate – compounded by the fact that we were now all obviously very anxious to get home.  I was now driving at this point, so Amie entertained and distracted us all by making up her own Mad Libs, and then we filled in the blanks and laughed upon hearing how each mini-story turned out.

And yes, there really is no place like home.  That said, we had a wonderful trip, made many great memories, and believe it or not – we are all still on speaking terms, after spending 21 days together in fairly cramped conditions.  I guess that means we are doing something right. :D

Thanks for tuning in, and I hope you all have a great summer!



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