The Oregon Trail….Tail….Tale

Mark & Hilary Steves
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Editor’s Note: Mark and Hilary Steves are members of LTV’s sponsored content team, The Leisure Explorers. Do you own a Leisure Travel Van and enjoy writing? Learn more about joining the team.

Last year we posted an article on the LTV Blog page about tips and tricks we’ve learned for planning a long RV journey. As an example, we used our upcoming trip from California into Oregon and back. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented us from going last year. But luckily the plans remained, so this year we dusted them off and told Odin the corgi (the experienced traveler and blogger) and his new brothers Thor (the other corgi) and Apollo (the golden retriever) that it was time to hit the road for a 10-day trip – the longest we’ve ever taken in our 2018 Unity FX we call “Zephyr”. What follows is a record of that trip, from many different viewpoints.

Day 1 – Lompoc to Lodi

Mark & Hilary (M&H):  Today we start our trip with a long drive north from our home in Lompoc on the Central Coast of California up to Lodi, CA. Why Lodi? For one thing it’s a good distance (about 5 ½ hours) for Day 1 when we’re all fresh, but it also has some excellent wineries. We’ll be spending the night at one of them, at a Harvest Host site.

Odin:  I’ve been watching Mom and Dad fill up the mobile house for the past week, so I know we’re going somewhere. When they open the door and tell all of us to climb aboard, I’m off, with my brothers jumping in behind me. And then we’re rolling! And we keep rolling…for a long while. I guess this is longer that the trips we’ve been taking lately, so I’ll just take a nap until we get there.

Thor:  Oh goody, we’re finally stopping. That was a long time in this mobile house. I guess I should have followed Odin’s lead and just taken a nap, but I was excited. We’re stopped now, but boy, it’s hot outside. Hope we can go inside where it’s cooler.

Apollo:  Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy…we’re here! Where is here? I don’t care, we’re somewhere!

M&H: (Apollo is still a puppy and very excitable). Our first stop is at Mettler Vineyard in Lodi. The doggies get to come inside and rest on the cool floor, which is good because it’s about 93 degrees outside. And of course, they have to pose for pictures, both for us and others. After a very pleasant tasing there, it’s off to Harney Lane Winery for more of the same.

The paparazzi come out wherever we are

Odin: It’s tough to be a celebrity, but I put up with it.

M&H: Our next stop is Klinker Brick Winery, our Harvest Host location for the night. We enjoy the wine, and meet another couple staying there and their dogs, which are…

Thor: Corgis! These other dogs are just like me and Odin. And there’s a nice patch of grass outside to play on. So far this is a fun trip. Wonder how long we’ll be gone.

M&H:  Unfortunately, we run into a problem when our propane regulator springs a leak right after I put the jacks down. So, we are without propane for the night, which meant no generator, no stove top, and the fridge/freezer was thawing. This could have been a disaster, and we were already thinking that our second attempt at this trip might be over after day 1. It was a hot and worrisome night, but we’d lined up a repair place for the morning…fingers crossed.

Day 2 – We’re Not Done Yet

M&H:  In the morning, after a somewhat sleepless night worrying if we can continue, we quickly pack up and head over to the repair shop, which was only a few miles away. They do a quick look to confirm it’s the regulator. Good news, it should be an easy repair. Bad news, he doesn’t have one, and nobody else local does either. I can either turn around and head home, or find a place north, in the direction we’re going, to see if they can fix it. Another turn of good luck, and we find a place about 40 minutes north that says they have regulators and can fit us in.

Odin:  Not sure what this stop was about. We were in a parking lot for about a half hour while someone climbed under the mobile house. Then we load back up and head out again, where this time they take away the mobile house and we go inside a waiting area. Dad seems very relieved, so I guess this is a good thing. We also meet another person who says they own a similar mobile house….and as she talks to Mom and Dad she asks “is that Odin”? I’m recognized for my articles! First time. I feel like I’ve finally made it.

M&H:  It’s a quick fix with the new regulator, and we meet a fellow LTV owner (who also recognizes Odin from his blogs). Less than $200 later we’re on the road and the vacation is saved. We may need to expect these kinds of “hiccups” while on the road, and luckily, we didn’t have any big plans today. This was a “driving day”, which is now longer, but we have a reserved camp spot in Grants Pass, Oregon as a way station before tomorrow when we enter Oregon’s Willamette Valley and their wine country. Turns out to be a nice campground on the Rogue River, and we get Mexican food from down the street and settle in for the night.

Day 3 – Time to Start Wine-ing

Thor:  I liked where we stayed last night, as it was right on a river, although Mom & Dad didn’t let us play in it (something about “wet dog smell”). I’m ready for another long driving day, but we only go a few hours today before our first stop and Mom & Dad are ready for some of that red juice they seem to like.

M&H:  We only go to three wineries today. First stop is Pheasant Court Winery, which is small but they have a large variety of wines. They suggest our second stop, Airlie Winery, which is super dog friendly!

Apollo:  So far I haven’t been able to really run around (and I need my runs!), but this place is awesome! There are dogs walking around and Mom and Dad let us all off the leash. I get to say hi to everyone, I get lots of pets, and there are other dogs to play with. I love this place!

Thor:  They even have a big swimming pool (which dad says is a “pond”) and I take a little dip. Mom wasn’t happy.

Odin: My two little brothers do run around a lot. They don’t have the experience in this “wine tasting” that I do, but I enjoy walking around as well. Soon we’re off to another place where Dad makes the mobile house bigger, which means we’re going to spend the night here.

M&H:  We spend the night at Emerson Winery, another Harvest Host site, and our pups get to play a bit with the wine dogs there before we pull them inside and they finally crash hard for the night. Overall, a great day. And we have another day in the Valley to go.

Day 4 – Cruising up the Valley

M&H:  We start the next day with a surprise for the pups. We figured they’ve been cooped up in the RV and on leash for a while, so we find a local dog park and start the day there.

Apollo:  Oh boy! More run around time! And other dogs to play with!

Odin:  What a nice way to start the day. It’s fun to stretch the legs and run around a bit. Then we’re back in Zephyr and soon pulling into another winery. They have a nice big (and cool) inside place, and after the obligatory pictures, Thor takes a nap while Mom and Dad enjoy some red juice.

M&H:  After Eola Hills winery, we head into the Dundee Hills area to Ghost Hill Cellars. Then we walk around the cute town of Carlton, which has more tasting rooms. But we don’t taste there, as we’re heading to our final stop, another Harvest Host site called Plum Hill Vineyard at the northern end of the Willamette Valley.

How did they know Thor was so Big and Bold?
When can we go back to play in the dog run?

Thor:  I’m starting to get the hang of this, and I’m thinking this place may be where we spend the night. Dad seems super happy that he can plug in the mobile house here so we have “power”, but me and my brothers are happy about the area for us that we can run around in. Odin says he’s never been at a winery which has a fenced in area like this for us. I just like to play with Apollo in it.

Apollo:  What a fun day. I think I’m liking this mobile house and where we go.

Day 5 – Swing to the Coast

M&H:  Our good weather doesn’t hold, and we start getting rain so the doggies don’t get more time in the dog run area in the morning at Plum Hill. Instead, we pack up and drive west to the coast. First, we must stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory! Pretty amazing to watch the cheese being made, and while they’re not giving samples these days, we do pick up some treats for later. And then it’s over to the coast to finally see some of those sights.

Inside the Tillamook Cheese Factory – where the good stuff is made
Odin is wondering how long we’ll be in there

Odin: After Mom and Dad leave us to go inside some cheese place (but they do bring back treats for us!), our next stop is cold and windy. I’ve been to the beach a lot back home, but these waves are much bigger and I don’t want to go swimming here.

Windy on the coast
The Devil’s Punchbowl

M&H:  We stop at Devil’s Punchbowl and watch the stormy seas for a bit. Then we head south to Beverly Beach State Park, our campground for the night. It’s a nice park, and our spot is among the trees with a short walk to the beach. This beach has two things going for it:  there are fossils here that you can collect, and…the dogs can run free.

Apollo:  Oh boy! We get to run on the beach. Thor and I take off and have a blast. I love running on the beach and playing with my brother. Mom and Dad are looking at rocks, which seems pretty boring, so we just run around and get dirty. What fun!

Fossils in the rocks at Beverly Beach State Park
Dogs on the beach – not interested in the fossils

Odin:  Sometimes they embarrass me. But they’re puppies. They’ll learn to be more dignified at some point.

“Youth can be so annoying” – Odin

M&H:  The boys (mostly Apollo and Thor) really enjoy themselves. It’s nice when they’re tired! Not so nice they’re so dirty. But we have full hookups so we can wash them off and towel them dry. Tomorrow we may hit the beach to look for more fossils and then we have sightseeing to do.

Day 6 – Sunny Skies and Sights

M&H:  We take another walk on the beach in the morning, minus the dogs (don’t need them all wet and dirty again), and then head down the coast with our first stop at Yaquina Head Lighthouse. It’s a short walk from the parking lot up to the lighthouse, and while the dogs can’t go right up to it, we get some good pictures before heading down the coast to our next stops, the Devil’s Churn and Thor’s Well.

Odin:  We make short drives today, but we don’t get out at every spot. Sometimes it’s just Mom and Dad, and sometimes just Dad. So, we wait in the mobile house for them to return. Maybe if they left the keys, we would try to go somewhere ourselves.

M&H:  At Thor’s Well there’s a blow spout, which is fun to watch, and then we drive to a nice overlook at Heceta Head Lighthouse. Overall, this was a good day for scenery, and we get to our spot for the night in the late afternoon. Mill Casino in Coos Bay not only has a dog park, but we thought it would be a good spot to be fully plugged in and to give the humans a night for entertainment out of the RV. We do love our Zephyr, but having a “night out” every now and then is good.

Blowspout at Thor’s Well
Spruce trees are tall…until we get to the redwoods later

The Zephyr at Heceta Head lighthouse

Day 7 – More Coastal Sights

Odin:  This campsite has been okay, although Mom and Dad left for a while last night and didn’t take us with them. That’s okay, because we got to run around in a dog park so we were all tired. Today we get some more time in the dog park before getting back on the road.  Overall, we don’t seem to drive too far, but we stop a lot. There are some pretty views on this road.

M&H:  Today we enter the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor for some truly stunning views of the Oregon coast. We highly recommend it, especially Arch Rock and Natural Bridges. The entire coastline, and all the viewpoints, are magnificent and great for pulling over to admire the view and snap a few photos. If you have the choice of visiting the coast going either north or south…choose south! There are so many turnouts, and traveling south, you don’t have to cross traffic.

Arch Rock along the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
Whaleshead Beach

M&H: As we leave Oregon and re-enter California, we stop for the night at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. We’re off hookups for the rest of the trip, so time to conserve water and power. It’s a quiet park with mostly tents (we’re the biggest RV there!). Luckily the LTV is small enough that we easily fit.

Day 8 – Redwoods

M&H:  Our second-to-last day is our “Redwoods Day”, and we drive through the Redwoods National Park areas down to the Avenue of the Giants. Today’s a short day, so we have some time after stopping at our campsite (Humboldt Redwoods State Park – Burlington Camp) to walk among these spectacular trees.

Odin:  I know I’m short, but these trees look REALLY tall!  And they’re all around us.

Apollo:  I like these tall trees. Since I’m taller than my brothers, they seem more “me”. Dad takes us all for walks around the campground, and of course we get our picture taken. Then we get to sit outside while Dad enjoys some wine and cheese. He doesn’t share, though. Not fair.

M&H:  Unfortunately Hilary isn’t feeling well today, but she does get to see the trees and, luckily, it was a short driving day. After the stars come out, Mark uses the astrophotography function on his phone to get a view of the stars…that you can just see through the gaps in the trees. It really does get dark earlier here when you’re surrounded by so many tall trees. What a nice way to spend the afternoon and night.

Looking up – Daytime
Looking up – Nighttime

Day 9 – Wine Some More

M&H:  Our last day of “fun” travel takes us into Sonoma County in California, and more wine country. We had planned to visit a few wineries before reaching our Harvest Host site for the night, but Hilary wasn’t really up to it, and I was getting a little tired as well, so we decided to just go to Mayo Family Winery to taste and then spend the night.  But first, we’ll make a little detour for a visit to a…

Thor:  …dog park! This is a nice big one, with lots of trees. Not a lot of other dogs there, but we can all run around, meet some new friends, chase the ball, and run around some more. It’s been nice of Mom and Dad to stop at places like this. Makes this long trip more fun for us.

Day 10 – Homeward Bound

M&H:  No more stops, no more sightseeing. Today is just a long drive (~6 hrs) to get home. And as we drive, we contemplate this entire journey. As our longest trip yet in Zephyr, it was an interesting experience. We had the bad (the regulator failure, Hilary getting sick) but had much more good. We got to try new wines in a new region and saw spectacular sites along the Oregon Coast and into the California Redwoods. We took hundreds of pictures and made many more memories. We also realized that long trips are not only doable, but fairly easy in our LTV. And yes, traveling with three dogs has its challenges, but they were all good, settled in nicely, and I think they enjoyed it as well.

Odin:  We did.

Thor:  Yep, it was fun. Especially the dog parks!

Apollo:  Oh boy!  When can we go again!?

The boys are ready for the next adventure
Mark & Hilary Steves

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