June - July 1016 - Portlandia or Bust

Ralph's Blog

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After our adventure with the blown tire, we arrivdd at the RV park and I once again cranked the manual handle while Judy pressed the RAISE button as we disconnected the trailer and set up. This is called foreshadowing, because our cranky leveling gear was going to provide us with quite a bit of trouble in the future.

The rest of the trip was much less exciting, but the winds in the Columbia Valley were wicked, throwing the RV randomly in unexpected directions. I didn't get much chance to enjoy the beauty that surrounded us, as I had to keep my attention fixed on the road to avoid unexpected lane changes.

We arrived in Portland on June 8 and settled in to the Roamer's Rest RV park just in time to attend Daughter -in-law Rindy Gradford's graduation. She has been working full time and attending school part time for the past few years and she finally earned her business degree at the community college.

There were over 900 people in her class, and they read out the names of every blessed one of them. I'm sure Rindy was regretting changing her name from Barr to Gradford after the second hundred names or so. I will freely admit we took off once her name was called and adjourned for pizza with the family.

When you're in Portland, you just have to go to the Saturday Market. If you haven't been, it's a giant flea market with some very great vendors. My mission was to get another earring rack, since Judy and I had filled the two racks we had to capacity. What, get rid of some earrings? Don't be silly!

We realized as we pulled off the expressway that this was the day of the Rose Parade and we were right in the middle of the action. There was no parking to be had as we cruised around and around until magically a place big enough for the pickup appeared before our eyes. Not only was it a parking space, but it was only a couple of blocks from the Saturday Market. We stopped a while to watch the parade and had a great time. On our way out we stopped to listen to Hippie Love Slave, a great eclectic band with two fine sax players.

I spent much of my time in Portland repairing the damage to the trailer from the blown tire. I was lucky that the rod to the gray water tank valve broke off cleanly and I could simply install a piece of 1/4" threaded rod to replace it. Of course that meant cutting open the bottom of the trailer and sealing the incision with Gorilla tape and a can of spray foam. Working for so long on my back with my hands in the air kicked up my arthritis and left me a bit grumpy and my right shoulder is still giving me grief months later.

The other damage took a bit more effort. I once again jacked up the trailer, removed the tire and chiseled out the remains of the last repair, then cut and fit a new piece of plastic and stuffed it full of insulation, liberally sealing everything with silicone sealer.

With the undercarriage repaired it was time to do the body work. Would you believe its virtually impossible to find the trim pieces that were torn off? I went to three RV dealers and none of them could supply a replacement. I suppose I'll have to wait until we get back to Rochester, the people at Camping World there were able to replace them the last time this happened so I hope they can do it again. It was particularly frustrating as one of the RV dealers had the exact same 2006 Keystone Montana that we have sitting there in their parking lot. I wonder if they'd notice if the trim pieces disappeared one dark night?

The damage to the slideout was fairly easy to fix, but time consuming. Some body putty and a lot of sanding and spray painting and it looked pretty good. The sheet metal around the tire was too badly damaged to fix with body putty, that will have to wait until we get to Rochester and I know where to find a supply of sheet metal.

While I was fixing the RV, Judy spent most of her time helping son KD and daughter-in-law Rindy to clean up the house they had been renting and moving to a 4th floor walkup in downtown Portland. (Ah to have the energy of youth again - I'm of an age where elevators are an essential part of life!) Even though we're retired, this seemed to be a working vacation.

Lest you think we spent all of our time laboring, we did have some fun trips. Only the presence of several stern looking guards kept Judy from walking off with these boots in the Art Museum.

I guess these boots aren't made for walking, after all.

Friends had told us that we had to visit the Air Museum in Tillamook, so we did; however we took the scenic route. Last year we discovered a little gray line on the map of Oregon that runs through the back country towards Tillamook, so we decided to see what was to be seen. It was a beautiful drive through mile after mile of scenic forest of twisty mountain roads. On the way down the other side of the mountains there is a spectacular stream rushing along the side of the road and several small primitive campgrounds maintained by the Forest Service. No way we could get the Gypsy Wagon in there, but it would be a wonderful place to spend a few days away from the rush of civilization.

My favorite part of the Air Museum was the Guppy, the specially modified plane used to transport the Saturn-V rocket boosters from the West Coast, where they were made, to Florida. Those suckers were gigantic, too big to put in a ship or a rail car and arrive undamaged, so they went by air. The plane at the museum also carried the Pioneer 10 and the Goodyear Europa, the airship that was used for Charles & Di's wedding.

The main hanger was designed to hold several large blimps during WWII. The blimps were used to patrol the coast for enemy subs, so the place is gigantic.

We think we may have gotten a line on the Aliens who made off with Judy's purse in Roswell New Mexico. We're sure this must have been the getaway vehicle.

We finished a wonderful day with the sunset off Canon Beach before returning to Portland.


Some years ago, John Doan came to Rochester and did a wonderful show with Mason Williams, as well as several house concerts. We were pleased to find that not only did John live in nearby Salem, but was presenting a house concert and potluck dinner while we were there.

We made a day of it, stopping off at Butte Creek Falls on the way. The road to the falls culminated in a hair-raising drive across a very narrow dirt track across the side of a cliff, but the walk through the old growth rainforest was stunning. There are two waterfalls there and we thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

John Doan's house is perched on a volcanic plug overlooking a spectacular view of the Willamette Valley. We had a good laugh when we got out of the car - his vehicle sported a license plate holder from Doan GMC dealer in our home base of Rochester, NY. While he was in Rochester he went in to the dealer and they gave him the plate holder when he told them his last name.

The evening was a delight, with the unexpected bonus of six harp guitar players. John does a week-long class and the week ends with a concert. The setting was the grotto in his neighbor's yard with a small stage and only a few mosquitoes. It was a magical evening with slides from John's trips to Ireland in the background as he played.

The Elusive Waterfall

The Portland area is blessed with many waterfalls, many of which we saw last year. This time we tried to go a little further afield and headed for the Horsetail Falls, which Google assured us was only about 45 minutes from downtown Portland. Since we were starting south of Portland, experience has taught us to allow half an hour to get through the city because of the heavy traffic at just about any time. I punched the latitude and longitude (waterfalls seldom have street addresses) into the GPS and it said we had over two hours of drive time, but what the heck - we're retired and have lots of time.

We crossed the Columbia on the Bridge of the Gods, a pretty fancy name for a pretty old bridge. Turns out there was a landslide some hundreds of years ago that blocked the Columbia for a time, which became known as the The Bridge of the Gods in native legend, so the man-made bridge appropriated the name. In any case the trip across the narrow bridge was exciting in itself, being 90 years old and showing its age a bit. After a bit of driving we passed the borders of the a National Forest, which seemed like a good place to find a waterfall. We turned off on a small side road, then on a gravel road, then on a dirt road.

Judy was starting to get a bit nervous, but being a guy with a GPS I bravely soldiered on, after all there wasn't anyone to ask for directions even if I admitted I needed them. When the GPS directed us onto something that looked like a wide hiking trail even I had to admit we were on the wrong track, so I managed to turn the pickup around and retraced our path without a single drop of falling water in sight. For the fun of it we drove back along the North side of the Columbia, which was a worthwhile drive in itself, catching a picture of one of the many hydro dams along the River.

The Elusive Waterfall Reprised

When we got back to Roamer's Rest I took a look at the help section of the GPS and found out there are three ways of entering Latitude and Longitude into the thing. Naturally the coordinates from Google were in one form and the GPS defaulted to a different form. So I set the thing to the same system as Google was using and punched in the coordinates. This time it showed us right off the Interstate that runs along the Columbia. So a week or so later we tried again and Jolene's voice happily announced we had reached our destination at a parking lot that was overflowing with cars. In fact cars were parked along the road for as far as the eye could see, which wasn't so far as it is a very curvy road. We finally found an open spot quite some distance on and parked, then walked back. Along the way was an interesting tunnel that the old Route 30 went through before modern large vehicles became common. They had to go through a tunnel because the railroad had all the flat land at that point. When I-84 came along the tunnel was abandoned and filled, only to be later excavated and rebuilt as an historical site.

There was a nice stream running by the tunnel, and I took this shot of a mother and daughter enjoying the water, but no waterfall.

So we waded a bit and enjoyed the cooler air along the creek, but returned to the pickup frustrated once again. About 100 yards ahead of our parking spot, around the next curve, we found the sign for the falls. By then it was too late for a three mile hike so we once again came up dry in our waterfall quest.

Mount St. Helens

The last time we visited Mount St. Helens was six years ago when son KD got married. His lovely bride Rindy's parents took us on a tour and told us how they were up on the mountain the day before it blew. We came in from the southeast, where everything was green and normal, then suddenly we were on the blasted plains of Mordor. It was an unforgettable experience.

It was a cold and windy day, so windy that the barn swallows were flying furiously but almost stationary before us as they could barely overcome the wind. Surprisingly, there was cell phone service there and I called my son Alan from Mount St. Helens - when it blew he was completely fascinated with the news stories and kept close track of events.

This time we came from the west and the view was entirely different. There were several viewpoints along the way and the mountain grew as we drove.

This time we got up close and personal at the new Johnson Ridge Observatory. Despite the devastation, life is returning to the mountain. There are green things taking root in the volcanic ash with birds and small critters running around in abundance. Life is certainly persistent.

Somewhere around this time I remembered our landing gear was not really working, so we called the Good Sam people to have someone look at it. The mobile mechanic came out but he wasn't all that familiar with the leveling legs on an RV. Together we took apart the gearbox and found nothing wrong, so we achieved consensus that the problem must be the motor, since each time the gears went clunk the motor shaft seemed to hang up. He said he would order the part and get back to me.

The 4th of July came and went and still no call, so on July 5, the day before we had to leave, I went out to find a motor myself. The RV place near Roamer's Rest had a used one, but the price was outrageous. Camping World didn't have one, but knew who did, so I drove all the way across downtown Portland, from Southwest to Northeast (no mean trick in Portland traffic) to the supplier, then back again. As the day closed I installed the motor and it seemed to work, no clunking. Hurrah!

Remember the foreshadowing? You'll have to wait to read the next installment to find out why I was living in a dream world.

The Family Reunion

I haven't seen my cousins in a good thirty years, they moved to the west coast and I moved to Pennsylvania so we lost touch. I vaguely remembered they had landed in Bellingham, Washington, and darned if Google didn't find them. It felt weird to tell some stranger on the phone that this was their cousin Ralph calling, but we did get together on our way to Canada. We spent a very pleasant evening together over some roast lamb and vainly tried to fill in thirty years of history in a few hours. That's Cousin Martha (born 11 days before me) behind Judy and Cousin Steve next to me. Steve's wife Sharon in the middle

There is one cousin left who lives in New York, so we intend to turn up on her doorstep Labor Day weekend since she never answers her phone. That ought to be an interesting afternoon.

Sadly, our cat Harry Houdini (she were named long before we knew her sex) escaped from the trailer and didn't come back. We knew that it could happen, but after almost two years we thought they had figured out the routine. She has a chip so we hope to get a call someday if she is found. She is not a sociable cat, so the only picture of her I could find was of her as a kitten, but who knows someone may find her.

There was one more interesting find before we crossed the Canadian border. In a rest stop we found a giant tree stump and a sign explaining it. The reflection in the photo makes it a bit hard to read, but here's the story.

The Canadian Border lies ahead, the next chapter will tell you about our trip across Canada on the TransCanadian Highway.

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