Oregon is an inspiration. Whether you come to it, or are born to it, you become entranced by our state’s beauty, the opportunity she affords, and the independent spirit of her citizens.”
Tom McCall’s address to Oregon Legislature, 1973
Count us among those who came to Oregon and are now entranced by the beauty, opportunity, and spirit of her citizens. Once you see all this state has to offer and meet its incredibly friendly people, you see that it is truly one of the gems in this great country.
Our month long journey through Oregon started in Brookings on the southern coast. We crept slowly northward with frequent stops for several days at a time until we reached the northernmost port town of Astoria. There was so dang much to take in.
From the coast, we headed to Portland, through the Columbia River Gorge, the valley areas around Salem and Eugene, across the Cascade mountains, then made our way to Crater Lake. Next, we went to Bend and Sisters where we biked to the summit of the McKenzie Highway Pass. Then it was back to Eugene for a few days (we remodeled our RV, replacing our dinette with recliners) before a final stop to Portland to take in this city a bit more and do some planning for our summer in Alaska. We really held true to our name as zigzaggerz.
Brookings, OR (southern Oregon coast)
Spring is in the air. Azaleas and rhododendrons in full bloom. Interesting fact: Brookings and Smith River, CA produce 100% of the lily bulbs grown in North America. It is in a banana belt providing warmer temperatures than the rest of the Oregon coast.
Cape Blanco State Park
Bullards Beach State Park
Manzanita, Nehalem Bay, Cannon Beach, Seaside
Looking out over the port city of Astoria with Washington State on the other side of the Columbia River
We climbed the stairs here to get the full view of the area
Portland is a beautiful city, easy to navigate, plenty of green space, foodie destination, and lots of outdoor activities- hiking, biking, walking. It was nice to find out that it is super dog friendly too.
Had to make a stop by the famous Powell’s Book Store.
Tree lined streets with shops and restaurants gave this a real neighborhood vibe
McMenamins- a worthwhile stop for anyone visiting Portland. It started as a “poor house”, then transitioned to a nursing home. It was slated for demolition but thankfully was saved by the Historical Society. It’s now a pub, restaurant, inn, spa, entertainment venue filled with eclectic art and a fabulous setting.
Columbia River Gorge
We took the scenic highway through the Columbia River Gorge just outside of Portland to see some of the falls. Beautiful. The pics below are from a short hike we took on this stop.
Bend, Sisters & McKenzie Pass
San Francisco was high on our list of destinations for one HUGE reason. We would have a chance to connect with Hunter! As always, it’s just so nice to catch up in person. We’ve come to appreciate HIS new city and get to know some its neighborhoods a bit better than we would have as typical tourists. The vibe is definitely young and hip, a great city for the 20 and 30 somethings from all over the world that seem to be everywhere. Their steady stream of social gatherings make for a real sense of community. It’s easy to get around, very dog and bike friendly and you can always find a museum or event to take in. We spent a lot of time in Golden Gate Park, on the beaches, and taking in the town with Hunter. Awesome family times.
Confusion Hill, shown in the last few photos below, was our final stop before leaving California and heading into Oregon. It was set deep among giant Redwoods with a river that turned out to be a deserted playground for Maysea. She welcomed it after spending a few weeks as a “city dog”.
The drive into Big Sur along the Pacific Coast Highway provided tons of oohing over the mighty awesome and dramatic views along this stretch of the Pacific coast. We camped for a couple of days next to a flowing stream and mostly just relaxed, enjoyed the serenity of the redwood forest, and ventured out from our stream-side camp just once to hike in the Ventana Wilderness.
After leaving Big Sur, we headed north to our next stop in Santa Cruz, the quintessential CA surfing town. We snagged our camping spot at a state park just outside of Santa Cruz that had us looking directly out onto the ocean. Pretty sweet! After a couple of days there, we moved to another great area in town at a local marina. Spent our time doing what’s become somewhat a norm for us now….Saturday farmer’s market (good one), hikes, wandering the waterfront, meeting locals, etc. This time we were treated to a “small world” meeting with a couple who had lived in the same small north Florida town of Marianna where my mother grew up and where my grandparents lived. It turned out that the gentleman, Dick, had gone through flight school there just a few years before my dad. We wrapped up our last night with a fabulous dinner at a restaurant my parents recommended from their trip here some time ago. It includes a ride in a tram down a steep path/garden area to the restaurant.
San Luis Obispo, called “SLOW” by the locals, and nearby towns of Pismo Beach and Morro Bay provided a variety of activities. This is yet another part of the Central California coast with a never ending supply of breathtaking views. Pismo Beach had a wonderful state park campground we used as a base to explore. The three towns are only about 10 miles apart, but differ quite a bit in terms of climate, activities and character. SLO- a small college town home to Cal Poly with a great downtown vibe, Pismo Beach- a very laid back CA beach community, and Morro Bay– a small fishing harbor community.
After missing out on hikes around Santa Barbara, we made hiking a priority for our time here. Other highlights- down time around camp and San Luis Obispo’s Thursday night farmer’s market. It has a reputation for one of the best farmer’s markets in all of California.
Santa Barbara is a gorgeous coastal town located on the central California coast. It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful place than this. With a stunning mountain backdrop, a wide variety of flowers in full bloom everywhere, a vibrant town filled with arts, cultural happenings, and set along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, it’s definitely on my list of faves so far. Highlights for us included an incredibly moving Good Friday and Easter Mass at the historic Santa Barbara Mission, walks along the waterfront, Saturday morning farmer’s market, dog friendly restaurant dining with Maysea, and walking the downtown. Looking back, we would have stayed a little longer to take in what we later learned were numerous hikes around the area that we missed. Next time!
Not far from Santa Barbara is a small town of Solvang, with a strong Dutch influence. We spent a nice day there taking in more stunning views and checking out the sights. Nice short stop.
San Dimas- March 22-24
We were super excited to visit with my brother Joe, and beautiful niece, Julianne, in THEIR area, east of Los Angeles in the foothills region of the San Gabriel Valley. It was awesome to have the opportunity to connect and catch up with these two! We learned a lot about the area and they shared great tips for our travels along the Pacific Coast Highway.
San Dimas is truly one of the most gorgeous areas I’ve ever seen. Just minutes from never ending freeways and notorious L.A. traffic, this tranquil setting has jaw dropping views in all directions. Joe and Julianne took us to the quaint walkable town filled with locally owned shops and restaurants. It was perfect for our visit over a fabulous lunch followed by some hanging out by the lake. Good time!
“We travel not to escape life
But for life not to escape us….
Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.”
— Pico Iyer
California! We understand now why so many people come here and never leave. As William said after a couple of weeks, “What’s not to like?!” We relished the great weather, vibrant cities, stunning mountain and coastal vistas, majestic redwoods, tons of varied activities, friendly people, farmer’s markets, and the list just goes on and on. The absolute highlights were our visits with Hunter, my brother Joe, and our beautiful niece Julianne.
After close to six weeks traveling along the California coast with a few zigs inland we realized there is still so much more to see and do. We hope to get back after the snow melt in the higher elevations.
San Diego, March 8-22
It had been some time since we’d been near the coast. Red rock canyons, high deserts, and various new terrains had so captivated us, that we didn’t realize we missed the coast until we saw it again. San Diego’s location along a beautiful bay and the Pacific Ocean drew us in immediately. We relished our time and spent two fabulous weeks taking in as much as we could. Hunter took a flight down from San Francisco joined us for a weekend – a real treat!
William suggested that we add pics from Lake Havesu City, AZ and our trip through the dust storm at the Imperial Dunes Recreation Area as we entered CA. We’re posting these now while we have a decent wifi connection. The trip through the Imperial Dunes was scary with winds gusting upwards of 40mph. We passed an overturned tractor trailer as we also watched some sort of dune buggy recreational vehicle fly across the dunes. We were relieved to find a good stopping point here in El Centro, CA where we spent the last two nights waiting out the west coast wind storms. Weather is gorgeous now, so we’re heading to San Diego spend and will spend the next week or so there.
Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”- Seneca
Following a spontaneous decision to stop in El Paso and take part in the Papal mass at the border, we took advantage of good weather in New Mexico where we explored Las Cruces and Santa Fe. From there we headed to Arizona and had a great time at the Painted Desert, Winslow, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Havasu City before making our way into CA.
El Paso, TX
“I’d really like to avoid El Paso and go a different route as we head west.” These were my words to William BEFORE learning that Pope Francis would be visiting just across the border in Juarez, MX in a couple of days. We weren’t terribly far away and figured this kind of opportunity wouldn’t come along that often. It was awesome to have the freedom to zigzag and change plans on the fly so that we could hear Pope Francis’s message first hand. It was a really special and moving experience.
We watched the Pope’s mass in a simulcast at the Sun Bowl, just across the border from Juarez.
Las Cruces, NM
Las Cruces was home base for our back and forth to El Paso. We stayed at a state park there and enjoyed a wine tasting at a local, family owned vineyard, several hikes, and a farmer’s market before heading up to Santa Fe.
Santa Fe, NM
The weather has been beyond amazing on our trip so far. We really didn’t expect to be able to make it to Santa Fe in February as it is typically pretty cold and snowy at this time of year. So when we noticed a warm, clear forecast, we headed that way. We were struck by the beauty of the Southwestern architecture, the walkable town filled with art galleries, the friendly people, local shops and terrific restaurants. We were only there for one full day as weather was taking a turn, but it was enough to get a taste of the town. It’s definitely on our list of favorites and we hope to make it back. Neither of us are opera aficionados but were very intrigued to learn about the summer opera season here- so it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that we’ll give it a go.
Painted Desert, AZ
The Winslow, AZ area was our stopping point on our route from Santa Fe to the Grand Canyon. We detoured just slightly to see the Painted Desert and took the scenic drive around the park. William has fond memories of his grandfather Mayfield sharing stories about a trip he had taken with William’s great grandfather to the Painted Desert years ago.
“…Well I’m standing on a corner in Winslow AZ and such a fine sight to see. It’s a girl my lord in a flat bed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me….” – lyrics from Eagles song “Take it Easy”
La Posada Hotel- Winslow, AZ
“World’s Best Places to Stay” – Rated #1 in Arizona for design and dining. Conde Nast Traveler
“Hotels We Love”– The Best Hotels in all of North and Central America. National Geographic Traveler
“Top Ten affordable hotels in the United States.” Trip Advisor Choice Award
“The Turquoise Room was rated as the second best hotel restaurant in the entire United States.” Conde Nast Traveler
Our surprise find in Winslow was the incredible La Posada Hotel. At the suggestion of the park ranger at the Homolovi State Park, we simply planned to stop for a quick lunch. It’s rich history, beauty and one-of-a-kind story drew us in immediately. We knew it was worth more than a brief stop, so we booked a room less than five minutes after walking through the front door. It’s the only night so far we’ve spent out of our RV, and this was definitely worth it.
La Posada was the last great railroad hotel built by the Fred Harvey Company along the Santa Fe Railway. It is a hotel, restaurant, museum, and gardens that dates back to 1930 and masterpiece and favorite building of Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter, one of the greatest of all Southwestern architects. She also designed several buildings that we would later see at the Grand Canyon. La Posada’s owners, a couple who live on the property, saved it from ruin. Their vision is not only to restore the building, but also to provide a catalyst for the revival of the once thriving community of Winslow. It is uniquely a hotel (very reasonably priced and pet friendly!), residence, and private museum filled with the owner’s renowned artwork and museum pieces. The inspiration for the design of La Posada was the great haciendas of the Southwest, Spanish in origin but with Mexican and local influences. Amazing stop!
Grand Canyon, AZ
“The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.” – John Wesley Powell
Enough said. Pictures follow.
I had traveled through Sedona twice before, both times making only a brief stop on the way to the Grand Canyon. My memory was hazy, but I thought it would be a place both William and I would enjoy on this trip. Thankfully, it turned out to be the case. It was a fabulous destination for all of us!
Beautiful Red Rock Canyons, green trees, early spring blooms, wonderful creek flowing right next to our camping spot at Rancho Sedona RV Park, great trails, and fabulous restaurants, galleries and shops with super friendly people. One local explained it like this, “No one is really FROM here, and everyone who ends up here loves it, so you’re generally around lots of very happy people.” And so it seemed.
After Sedona we made a brief stop in Flagstaff to have a new satellite dish installed. Then we headed to Lake Havesu City, AZ where we spent two days hiking and taking Maysea for swims. The lake is huge, something like 65 miles long, and formed from damming the CO River on the border between CA and AZ. The water is beautiful and clear and is surrounded by large rock formations in the midst of the desert.
We left Lake Havesu on the 6th, traveled through our first ever dust storm and high winds in the Sand Dunes Recreation area after crossing the state line into CA. It was a bit hairy, but we made it fine. We’re currently in El Centro, CA waiting out the western wind/rain event before heading to San Diego, CA on the 8th. We plan to spend a week there and look forward to a visit with Hunter this coming weekend!
In every walk with nature, one receives far more than they seek.
– John Muir
We had the opportunity to get input and recommendations from friends and family about places to visit prior to embarking on our adventure. One of the best suggestions that helped along these lines was to include a “mark our map” at one of our First Friday parties last year. Boy are we glad we did that! Friends marked our atlas with favorite spots/destinations all across the USA and Canada. It’s been a tremendous resource, and we’re truly grateful to everyone back at home for sharing tips and info with us.
One of the top destinations that came up consistently was the Big Bend National Park and the surrounding region in TX. We heard from so many about the incredible beauty, vast mountains and vistas, hiking, Rio Grande, quirky towns outside the park, etc., that we knew we wanted to set aside plenty of time to explore this region. After traveling on nearly deserted highways for hundreds of miles to reach the park, it nearly took our breath away as we entered the 880,000 acre park and literally had us uttering “Thank you God!” at numerous times as we took in the sights, sounds, and indescribable beauty.
Following are pictures and some highlights.
Big Bend National Park, TX
Fort Davis State Park, Alpine, and Marfa…TX (still in Big Bend Region)
Though we would have loved to stay longer at Big Bend National Park, we left earlier than anticipated after learning that our dog, Maysea, wasn’t permitted to hike on trails there. It isn’t the case at all National Parks, but unfortunately for us, she was only allowed to go on paved roads in this particular park. Bummer. Anyway, we made the most of our time there, had a blast, and moved on to enjoy the small towns of Terlingua, Marfa, Alpine, and Fort Davis. All are still considered to be part of the Big Bend Region and provide great stops for varying reasons. Following are some pictures from these stops…
Alpine completes a triangle loop between the three towns of Marfa, Fort Davis and Alpine. It features a small main street with shops and restaurants and a number of murals painted along buildings throughout the town. It was home to Dan Blocker, best known as “Hoss” on the popular 1960’s/70’s TV show, Bonanza.
Toward the end of our stay in the Big Bend area, we learned that Pope Francis would be visiting the border near El Paso. We decided to head there next to take part in the Papal Mass. It was easy to make good time with the speed limits in TX (though we definitely go slower than this in our little rig). The “slow down” speed to go through small towns was often 55mph!
Next updates to come include our stops in El Paso, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Winslow, the Grand Canyon and Sedona, AZ.