Last year we paid a brief visit to Astoria, a funky town at the mouth of the Columbia River, and really liked it so we were determined to spend a little time there this year. As Thanksgiving approached, we knew it was time to get to the coast and begin our (slow) drive south, but instead we made a slight detour north to Astoria.
We stayed at Fort Stevens State Park, a beautiful park just outside the town. The campground was pretty empty, so we found a cozy, private spot. Check out my review of the campground here.
Astoria was named after John Jacob Astor who founded Fort Astoria as a fur-trading port for his American Fur Company in 1811. During its early history, Astoria’s primary industries were fishing, fish processing and lumber.
Astoria’s deepwater port still serves as port of entry and trading center for the Columbia basin. But both the fishery and timber industries declined, forcing the town to reinvent itself. And it did so by supporting a burgeoning art scene and bringing light manufacturing into its fold.
It also succeeded in growing a tourism industry. With its location on the Columbia River, Victorian architecture poised amongst hills, proximity to the Pacific, surrounding lush forest and fascinating maritime history, it gained the nickname of “little San Francisco”. Astoria’s deepwater port now welcomes several major cruise lines.
Port Townsend Washington has been on our list of places to visit since last year when we first visited the Olympic Peninsula. At that time we stayed in the heart of the peninsula. So this year we decided to explore the area closest to Seattle.
Back when we set up camp in the casino in Seattle, we discovered that the back of the motorhome and the front of the car were covered with a film of oil. And realized that during the annual service for Island Girl in Canada, the oil was overfilled. We did not realize the gravity of the situation until we drove to Port Townsend, when we discovered the oil cap had blown off! This would need attention.
But first we set up camp at Jefferson County Fairgrounds, a very reasonably priced and simple RV park. Check out my review of the campground here.
Yes, we are back! Back in the lower 48 and back to blogging. I must admit that we needed a break after our Alaskan adventure. Time to rest, a break from driving and visiting places, and a break from blogging. In fact, this is the longest gap we have had from blogging since we began doing it three years ago.
We also needed some time to reflect. In September we marked our three-year anniversary of being “on walkabout”. What an amazing adventure we are having. This was to be the end of the journey as we had planned it but we are extending for a year. So this will be a transition year as we decide on the place to begin our next chapter, and yes, there is another sticks and bricks home in our future. And there will be more adventures as well.
Upon reaching the lower 48 there was lots to do. Every inch of Island Girl was dirty inside and out, and she had a couple of service issues. The Coquí was also filthy, as were our bikes and kayaks and there was the matter of our broken windshield and sunroof.
We have now made it to Portland and taken care of most of Island Girl and the Coqui’s issues, rested, and (loosely) planned our drive south for the winter. We also flew across the country to visit family and friends in Miami, while Island Girl and Angel remained with friends in Portland. Not exactly restful but it was wonderful. But more on all that later.
So where have we been since leaving Canada? We crossed the border from Osoyoos, British Columbia, to Oroville, Washington. Our plan was to drive the Cascades Loop and visit the North Cascades National Park on route to Seattle.
We scouted several National Forest sites searching for a campsite. And saw firsthand the after effect of the Okanogan fire, the largest in Washington state’s history. One campground had lots of trees down, some on the campsites. At times we could still smell the fire in the air. But now that and the other wildfires have been eradicated, thanks to those who risked their lives (and some who lost their lives) to contain the wildfires.
Arriving in Forks, Washington, a small logging town which also happens to be the setting for the Twilight books and movies, we immediately witnessed the town’s earnest efforts to capitalize on the Twilight craze.
It was a surreal experience. Vampires and werewolves unseen in the background. Brilliant rivers and lakes, verdant meadows, towering trees, rugged peaks, and a wild coastline. And then there were the various forests: lowland, montane and subalpine.
While staying in La Conner, we had a fun day in Seattle on the fourth of July. We met my friend, Veronica and her husband, Carl at the iconic and “world famous” Pike Place Market.
We arrived a little early so that we could enjoy the market. On the walk over from our parking spot, we noticed a really cute umbrella store. With very interesting umbrella designs and photos of wedding parties with umbrellas. But we found out later that the store sells mostly to tourists since Seattleites don’t use umbrellas 🙂
Pike Place Market is Seattle’s original Farmers Market, established in 1907. It’s a colorful mega farmers market with produce, meats, specialty foods, crafts, restaurants, flowers, fresh seafood and more.
My favorite vendors when I visited in the past were the Pike Place Fish guys who throw the fish and yell. Unfortunately, they were not there. Good for them that they took the fourth of July off, but I missed them. There was other wonderful seafood though not quite as entertaining.
We met our friends by Rachel the piggy bank, a 550 pound bronze sculpture that is the mascot of the market. “Legend has it that if you rub Rachel’s snout and make a donation, you’ll have good luck.”
People line up to put money into this piggy bank (while being photographed of course). Donations support the Pike Market Food Bank, Senior Center, Medical Clinic, Child Care and Pre-School and an assisted living facility. Rachel has raised over $200,000. Brilliant!
And near Rachel the pig was a guy playing a saw with a bow. An interesting sound. Sort of like a B science fiction movie aliens metallic sound.
Veronica, Carl, Hector and I had lunch at a brewery where I had another beer flight. We had a marvelous time together and we promised we’d spend a little more time in Seattle on our next visit.
As we left, we spotted a wedding couple with their wedding party being photographed. Hector and I come across weddings all the time, and, of course, he always takes a photograph. This group was especially cute because the bridesmaids all had orange umbrellas. Such a cute idea!
After lunch we stopped at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. One of the largest private air and space museums in the world that Hector really wanted to see. I’ll let him take it from here.
Hector here at the keyboard instead of the camera 🙂 Well, Seattle is Boeing country and this museum is located adjacent to Boeing Field. A general aviation airport also an airport used by Boeing for various purposes over the years. Currently they use it for final testing and delivery operations of new 737 aircraft.
Although the museum is not a Boeing museum, as you might imagine, Boeing is well represented in the collection. Including a couple of interesting artifacts like the first Boeing airplane factory now displaying the history of Boeing (the red barn) and the prototype of the 747, serial number 1, made so many years ago. Cool.
A Lockheed Super Constellation. Such a graceful airplane.A B47 bomber from the Strategic Air Command scary cold war days.And the first jet Air Force One. A Boeing 707-120 delivered in 1959 that replaced Eisenhowers’s Lockheed Super Constellation. It was used as the presidential aircraft by Eisenhower, JFK, Johnson, and Nixon. And then in the VIP fleet until 1996 carrying Kissinger, Nikita Krushchev and many others.
There is a British Airways Concorde that you can walk inside.A well done collection of military aircraft through the years. From WWI early flying machines.
To WWII Warbirds.
An impressive collection of kiddie planes that could be “flown” at an adorable little “airport”. Built by one of the volunteers!
And the impressive Great Gallery with a broad mix of artifacts hanging in mid flight.
And a space gallery with a collection of hardware. But the centerpiece was the shuttle simulator used by all the shuttle crews and moved here from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Brenda was a great sport being dragged to yet another airplane museum. My appetite for this stuff is pretty high 🙂
All in all a really fun day in Seattle.
Note: As we publish this post, we’re about to enter Canada to spend a few weeks there. Our next post will be about the beautiful Olympic Peninsula, our last stop in the U.S. before crossing the border.
One of the things I most looked forward to in the San Juan Islands was kayaking with the whales. When I was in my twenties I saw a photo of a kayaker looking over at a whale breaching and have wanted to do it since. So in search of the beautiful orcas we went.
Our plan was to visit a couple of the islands, and, especially, the area where the orcas are prevalent.
Our last stop in the Oregon area was Portland and the Columbia River Gorge, although our campground was located by Stevenson, Washington, on the other side of the river. As we drove inland towards Portland we came to a detour. Turns out the direct road was closed and the police were diverting everyone. So we had to take the long way around.
But, since Portland was on our way, we had planned a couple of errands on our way there. One was a stop at Camping World. We had an unfortunate incident at our last campsite – one night someone stole our barbecue and our one-gallon propane tank – just like that. We were both pretty furious about it, and it was the first time anyone ever lifted something from our site – after a year and ten months of fulltiming. Ugh!
Even with the detour we still had time to stop at Camping World and buy a replacement barbecue and propane tank, as well as some water filters. We also stopped at the Blue Beacon to have Island Girl washed. Not bad.
Mt Hood Oregon
Our first day we took a driving tour of the area, including the Fruit Loop, a loop drive that goes through “approximately 35 miles of orchards, forests, farmlands and friendly communities” on both sides of the Columbia River. What a great idea to create and “event” that connects these places for visitors.
Darkness reigns at the foot of the lighthouse. Japanese proverb
We cannot claim that we are very knowledgeable about lighthouses. But during our journey we have visited quite a few along the East Coast and now along the West Coast and we have definitely developed a love of lighthouses.
The reasons that we love them are many. Lighthouses are usually located in wild and rugged spots along the coast – places that are very scenic in and of themselves, they have a really strong connection with the history of their towns, the hardworking keepers, their families and their assistants are worthy of admiration and the lighthouses themselves are beautiful – the gorgeous Fresnel lenses, the architecture, the materials, the staircases…
And the obvious, they have guided and protected all types of vessels and their crews.
Here are some sea captains looking out at the horizon trying to see the light.