Road Trips

Road Trips

Miles and Miles of Sandy Beach

Not quite barefoot weather, but with the Atlantic Ocean in our backyard, we couldn’t resist beginning our week’s stay at Huntington Beach State Park with a nice long walk. We gawked at all the waterfront “cottages” just out of reach (usually) of the high tide line, although there must have been a recent storm with rough seas. Many of the private deck stairs had been, or were in the process of being rebuilt.

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The Gateway to the West

The day was gloomy, but we set our sites on exploring the National Historic Landmark known as the Gateway to the West. The Gateway Arch stands on the banks of the Mississippi River and towers 630 feet over the city of St. Louis, Missouri. It’s the world’s tallest arch and Missouri’s tallest accessible building.

The arch stands as a monument to the United States’ 19th century westward expansion. The Missouri-based routes, the Oregon, Mormon and California trails together are known as the Emigrant Trails. It’s estimated that between 350,000 and 500,000 men, women and children traveled west between 1843 and 1869 on these three trails.

The museum at the arch covers over 200 years of westward expansion history and is free for all visitors. We had purchased tram tickets, so we saved the museum for after our ride to the top.

Arch construction began in 1963 and was completed in 1965. As a nod to the times, we were asked to stand on this spot of far-out looking Love Bug daisies while we watched a short video. Neither Reg nor I had any idea what to expect as we waited for the tram. Heeding the warning not to bump our heads climbing through the four-foot steel-framed door, we were off on our rickety ride.

We had our five-seater tram pod all to ourselves. Looking through the door window, it appeared that there was just enough room to squeeze between the walls. The four-minute ascent was over right about the time I began to worry about the “what ifs.” What if we get stuck…how will we ever get out of here? What if the cable snaps? When was the last safety inspection?

Ducking out of our tram pod, we climbed a few steps to the top of the arch. Looking out to the west the view took in the city of St. Louis. The green dome you see in the first slide show photo (above) is the Old Courthouse, the site of the Dred Scott case, first brought to trial in 1847. To the east, in the third photo, the Mississippi River creates the border between Missouri and Illinois.

Soon our time was up and we headed back down the stairs to catch our ride to the bottom. Shouts from above directed us to stand on the yellow bars, allowing incoming passengers to disembark. A speedy three-minute ride down returned us to where we began. After a look through the museum, it was time for coffee and a snack.

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Somewhere in North Carolina

Today we picked up Minnie, our little vacation home on wheels. After 10 days on the road, we are more than happy to to leave hotel life behind.

Reg directed the truck toward the blue sky and we were off.

It took awhile to clean and organize our space, but we’re already feeling pretty much at home. Reg and I have always battled over the thermostat, so while the wind howled outside, I bundled up to keep warm. Reg poured a cold drink and celebrated our return to traveling with Minnie, anticipating the adventures that await.

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We Found OurThrill…

Taking a rest from our mad dash across the country, we planned two nights in St. Louis, looking forward to a day for stretching our legs and seeing the sites. We eventually realized we had landed in a special place; The Delmar Loop.
Reg was skeptical as we set out to find dinner. Our little stretch of Delmar Boulevard felt, shall we say, a little rough around the edges.

It didn’t take long for Blueberry Hill Restaurant and Music Club to crush any misgivings either of us had. The St. Louis Landmark is part restaurant, part concert venue and part museum.

The most incredible tidbit of history we learned was a connection the legendary Chuck Berry had to Blueberry Hill. As a native of St. Louis and friend to owner Joe Edwards, he played over 200 monthly concerts at the venue from 1997 – 2014. We were told they were always on a Wednesday, and always a packed house.

In the 1970s businessman and developer Joe Edwards spearheaded a movement to revitalize the stretch of street known at the Delmar Loop. He opened BlueberryHill in 1972. His accomplishments since that time have been remarkable.


After finishing dinner, we were surprised to see the neighborhood had come alive with crowds spilling out of bars and restaurants. That was the vibrant, eclectic neighborhood we were expecting.

Shining above Delmar Loop is the Moonrise Hotel, and it was our home for two nights. I should have taken more photos. While the lobby sports some pretty groovy mid-century modern furniture, it’s the glowing, psychedelic staircase that steals the show. Multiple display cases are chock full of space-themed memorabilia…all in all, very 1960-ish.
It’s been quite an evening and we have an entire day tomorrow to rest up for. It’s going to take something pretty spectacular to compete with all this!

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OKC Is Okay With Us

Canal rides are available along the Bricktown Canal.

I’ve always loved Oklahoma (the musical that is) but Reg and I had never given much thought to visiting the Sooner State…until this trip. Oklahoma City happened to be in the right place, at the right time for an overnight stop on our eastward journey.

Our reservation at the Hyatt Place in the Bricktown entertainment district was the perfect blend of comfort and fun. Just steps outside the door an entire neighborhood of shops and restaurants awaited. Bricktown is also the site of Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Oklahoma City Dodgers – the city’s minor league baseball team.

Dinner was another high point of our short stay. Pearl’s Crabtown wasn’t fancy, but we had been assured the seafood was top notch. Even on a Monday night the place was hopping.

So, at the end of the day, Oklahoma City soared to the top of favorite city of the trip…so far.

Next stop: The Moonrise Hotel which promises to “bring us out of our world for an unforgettable experience!” I hope you can join us!

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Saving Minnie

Minnie has been parked in Virginia since last June, patiently waiting for us to decide her fate.

If you’ve followed our adventures, you may remember that we left Minnie in a storage yard in Virginia last June. At the time, we thought we might sell our Ashland home and move east, but when our sale fell through and the housing market followed down the hole, we decided to stay put. At least for now.

It was a long summer spent waiting for potential buyers to make an offer, all the while missing our portable coastal summer home. Rather than spend January stuck under dreary, cold overcast skies, we made the decision to head east to retrieve Minnie and bring her home by way of the warmer southern states.

But first, we had to drive through California during one of the rainiest winters on record.

Once we reached the Central Valley (and the torrential rain cleared) we could enjoy what weeks of drenching had left behind. Acres of gorgeous green grasses covered the normally parched fields and hills from Sacramento to Bakersfield.

The storms were not finished with the West Coast, but keeping a close eye on the weather it appeared we could safely reach Flagstaff, Arizona on Interstate 40, saving us at least a day and a half of driving farther south to Interstate 10.

Peanut butter and jelly from the ice chest, enjoyed at a roadside stop.

After an uneventful drive to Flagstaff, where hotels were not only booked up, but out of this world expensive, I madly scrambled to find a room, booking a hotel that had a restaurant so meals would be close by…just in case the 1-3 inches of snow that was predicted arrived overnight.

What a surprise we woke up to. The Flagstaff airport reported 17 inches of snow. Pretty close to a foot greeted us, creating a giant snowball of anxiety. Fortunately, Reg had a pair of gloves in the truck and the hotel staff loaned him a shovel and assured him the roads ahead were clear. I like to think I did my share, packing up our room and loading our bags on the luggage cart…then pushing the luggage cart down the snow-lined path to load into the truck. What an adventure as we forged on ahead to Albuquerque where we had plans to have dinner with friends.

Clear skies ahead!

After just two days of driving, we’re off to quite start. What could possibly happen next?

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Camano Island Getaway

When the clouds lifted across the way we discovered a spectacular view.

As our Thanksgiving holiday approached and it became clear that we would be celebrating without family for the first time in many years, Reg and I chose to do our social distancing and turkey roasting in Washington State. We managed to rent a one bedroom cottage on Camano Island, perched right on the waters of the Puget Sound region. When the clouds allowed, we enjoyed a view across to Whidbey Island and the mountains of Olympic Peninsula beyond. It’s been the perfect getaway.

We were sandwiched between two state parks, each an easy one mile walk from our front door. Wednesday we headed to Cama Beach State Park, first detouring along the trail to Cranberry Lake. It seemed an appropriate destination for a holiday walk.

We chose not to linger, instead turning back to find the trail to Cama Beach.

We found the beach deserted but rows and rows of rustic cabins, when filled with vacationers, promise a very different scene.

We climbed back up to hike the Marine Loop Trail, enjoyed a perfect lunch spot and then finished our tour of Cama Beach State Park.

The following day we headed in the opposite direction to explore Camano Island State Park, choosing the loop trail which took us high above the beach, down to the shore and then back up again.

We drive home tomorrow, but squeezed one last walk in today. Another loop trail through the Camano Ridge Forest Preserve allowed us the chance to explore the opposite end of the island.

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Back in Bend, Oregon

Our last minute plan to squeeze one more trip out of camping season landed us at this Glamp-Site in Bend, Oregon.

Friends Lan and Jeff stayed here (The Crown Villa RV Park) last month and provided good reviews, so we knew we’d be comfortable on our last outing of the season. Beggars can’t be choosers – especially when looking for 3 nights just one day in advance. This is a very nice RV park located inside the Bend city limits. We feel quite spoiled and are hardly roughing it.

We did get some good hiking in, so in spite of our pristine site, we managed get a little dusty. Shevlin Park was crowded on Sunday afternoon, but we found the last open parking spot and settled on a loop trail that took us on a 5-mile walk through the park canyon.

It was a nice warmup for the hike we did the following day. The 6-mile Matthieu Lakes loop trail is located off the beaten path outside of Sisters, Oregon.

Our destination was North Matthieu Lake (above) which was just shy of the turnaround point of our 6-mile hike.
We first walked through acres of burned forest. There is very little regrowth from the 2017 Milli Fire.

We passed several small ponds along the way. Although we were in shirtsleeves today, one pond was edged with ice, evidence of how low the nighttime temperatures drop this time of year.

Our first glimpse of North Matthieu Lake.

Following the trail around the lake, we found the perfect lunch spot.

We continued on to South Matthieu Lake, a smaller lake but every bit as pretty. This is where we intersected with the Pacific Crest Trail, turning back along the iconic path and returning to the trailhead.

Our return trip took us up high with views of ancient lava flows, a view of Mt. Washington, a bird’s eye view of our lunch spot and back through sections of fire damage. All in all, a great hike and a good end to camping season!

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It’s About The Journey…Not The Destination

A little over 2 weeks ago we waved goodbye to friends Chris and Judy as we left our campsite near Bend, Oregon. We had 4 days to reach Sedona, Arizona where we had reservations for 2 weeks of hiking and biking among the red rocks.
Twenty minutes into the drive, Reg began lobbying for a change of plans. Temperatures were hovering in the 90s in Sedona…a little warm for outdoor activities. “We should go to Colorado,” he said. I put up a fight, but after a few more heated miles, we canceled our first week in Sedona. And so our journey began, and that’s how we ended up spending our first night here. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.

It was 6:00 pm, Reg had been driving since mid morning and I had called every RV Park I could find with no luck. Tired and frustrated, we spent a restless night at this Interstate Highway rest stop outside of Boise, Idaho, cooking hot dogs for dinner.

The following morning we cobbled together reservations for 3 more nights on the road and 5 nights in Ouray, Colorado. The plan was to then head down to Arizona and salvage the last week of our Sedona reservation.

We spent one night in the Brigham City, Utah KOA (Kampground of America chain of parks) and then 2 nights in the KOA in Grand Junction, Colorado, where, as you can see, Reg began to relax after a frantic three days.
Since Grand Junction wasn’t part of the plan, we weren’t sure how we’d fill our day until we discovered nearby Colorado National Monument. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.

There are plenty of spots to pull over and take in views of the canyon while twisting and turning along 23-mile Rim Rock Drive.

Then it was on to Ouray (pronounced You-Ray) Colorado and more surprises.

KOA campgrounds saved us on this trip. Our site for 5 days at the Ouray KOA was tucked up under the trees and alongside a creek.

We weren’t expecting a fall color trip, but were thrilled to see our first high altitude change of season. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.

Another National Park that was never on our radar was Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Not far from Ouray, we decided to make a day trip out of it. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.

A short hike along the Warner Point Nature Trail led us to a spectacular lunch spot.

We drove along the “Million Dollar Highway,” a 25 mile length of route US 550 between Ouray and the historical mining town of Silverton. The history of the name varies depending on the source. Some say it refers to the million dollar cost of building the road, others claim it refers to the amount of ore mined from the area. My favorite explanation tells the story of a traveler who was so overcome with vertigo that he insisted he would never travel the road again…even if he were paid a million dollars. The drive offers spectacular scenery including an overlook of what’s left of the Red Mountain Mining site where an historic silver boom took place from from 1882 a 1893. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.

The overlook offers a view of the old Train trestle and mining operation as well as informational boards with its history.

When it was time to leave Colorado the Arizona temperatures were just not cooling off. We made the decision to turn around and return home. Disappointing, but there was still more to see. Making the best of it, I snapped photos through the windshield as Reg battled some gusty winds. This really is a beautiful country. If we hadn’t changed our plans, we would have missed this.

While we never reached our destination, we still enjoyed a memorable journey…and for us, that’s what’s important!

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Everyone Needs a Little Helper in Utah

It isn’t often that we post photos from towns we’ve stayed in, but we found the little town of Helper, Utah oozing with charm and we can’t wait to tell you about it! What was to be simply a roadside stop for the night as we traveled back into Utah turned out to be the biggest, nicest surprise of the trip.

Castle Gate RV Park gets our vote for best RV Park views of our trip.

To say we were pleasantly surprised by Castle Gate RV Park would be a gross understatement. Clean, tidy, uncrowded and practically brand new, the staff was friendly and helpful. We were happy as clams…then we walked into town.

Our first stop was this incredibly preserved old gas station.

Regular for .31 per gallon and premium/ethyl for .38 per gallon. Boy, those were the days!

We moved into the heart of town and the surprises kept on coming. Everywhere we looked were tributes to the town’s past.

“Big John” (the tallest coal miner in the world) celebrates the mining history of Helper, Utah.

This little gem of a town is located about halfway between Provo and Green River on Highway 6 in Utah. It’s well worth a stop to check out the rich railroad and mining history. In case you’re curious, the name Helper originated with the helper engines that, in days gone by, assisted trains making the steep 15-mile climb up Price Canyon.
What a treat is has been to have a little “Helper” today.

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