How to take the Perfect Free Form Road Trip

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Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

We did it! We fled our day to day and hit the road in the Escape-mobile.  Taking a free-form, take a break, go somewhere different road trip … Sweetie and I had only one fixed destination point and time that was Willow Creek California to spend a few days with an old smoke jumper friend of Greg’s. To and from there we had no idea where we would end up …

We may not have know how and where we’d end up, but I’d put a couple of I’d like to do’s on the list: First was an item from my wanna do list ‘experience the giant redwoods’, then maybe some time on the coast, we wanted to find roads that we’d never driven, before we wanted to have fun, and I wanted to flee from the madness and negativity being generated by “the” election … banning talk radio and news reports.

In remembrance of our last spring’s no power, food, or fuel experience in Moab, I promised myself, no more road trips with out a bit of emergency preparation on hand so into the Escape-mobile I tossed our faithful camp-in-a-box, a sleeping bag, a couple of chairs and our pillows. Of course, 2 gallons of water and foodage … snacks and power bars, and several books on cd.

But in all that preparation we forgot … maps.  At the first fuel stop Sweetie bought more maps … maps of states we already had in our map case, at home … guess a back-up could come in handy … at least if we remember them.

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Crater Lake National Park in the snow … Nov 2016

All trips from Boise, Idaho start off East or West on I-84 … for us that means turn left and head west. Ontario to Vale to Jordan Valley then a right turn onto and onward through Christmas Valley on our way to Crater Lake National Park.

I love coming to a fork in the road, consulting the trusty map and sometimes almost tossing a coin for directions … we finally made it to Crater Lake; beautiful, deep blue, and snow covered.

Dropping off the mountain hunger overtook us and we stopped at a little spot called Becky’s Cafe in Union Creek. It’s been there since 1926 and is in an old and quaint log building … I had their excellent chili …

But as I sat there, I kept looking around, and then … “I think I’ve been here before”. Déjà vu .. shivers! …it came to me, driving back from a fire assignment in Grant’s Pass, a friend and I had made a detour to Crater Lake and had actually stopped at this place for dinner  years before …

Headin' South

Headin’ South

On to Medford Oregon our first night’s stop … I tapped booking.com for a place to stay … and found a nice place downtown, the Inn at the Commons from the list and booked it.  When we pulled into the parking lot and walked inside, Sweetie looked around and said, “I think I’ve been here before … it used to be a Red Lion. I was here on a fire assignment.” Laughter and  another Déjà vu!

Gold Beach Oregon

Gold Beach near Gold Beach Inn

From the mountains to the coast then north to Gold Beach, we embraced a storm so strong rain was sheeting from the windows when we stopped for lunch … the surf was high, doing a fine imitation of a 767 revving to take off. From our ocean side beach view room at the inviting Gold Beach Inn we slept with the balcony door open to the storm.

Headin' South

Headin’ South

Next morning the sun  shone bouncing off of puddles and asphalt … I was psyched … it was visit the redwoods day … Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and a pleasant walk around the Simpson-Reed Memorial Trail … stretching as tall as possible and feeling as tiny as Tom Thumb against their magnificent hugeness.  Perfect! and another … Cliche warning … breathtaking!

Bottom Pic ... that is ONE tree Greg is standing against ...

Bottom Pic … that is ONE tree Greg is standing against …

I love checking places off my wanna do list … but I also love finding ‘that’ spot, the one I didn’t know about that just tickles me to the bones.

Like the Siskiyou Smokejumper Museum (It was cool … and we found Greg’s name on a jump log from his days smoke jumping out of La Grand Oregon). Or the It’s a Burl wood shop … I felt like I was in Rivendell.

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Our last big stop was in Willow Creek to visit a friend and fellow smoke jumper, Dick Kirsh and his wife Judy. Leaving town we stopped to check out what is billed as the largest collection of Bigfoot memorabilia in the world, but just our luck the museum was closed … and we had no sightings, fleeting or otherwise, of the creatures on our way through the mountains either. Sigh.

Willow Creek California ... Bigfoot Capital of the World

Willow Creek California … Bigfoot Capital of the World

The last couple of days of our never-drove-that-road trip we took a lot of dirt roads (which kept Greg holding his breath, fearing a flat tire).

We passed through the Hart Mountain Antelope Preserve where despite being told there were 1000’s of them … the sightings of antelope were more frequent than Bigfoot, but not by much.

Onto Frenchglen, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and stopping to see John French’s Round Barn before the miles and miles and miles of long, clear, vistas and horizon hiding roads before finding ourselves back on I-84 blacktop and home.

I’ll take a free-form, asphalt free (at times) road trip  anytime!  A couple of stats … 1500+ miles, 6 days, one 14 hour audio book, no flat tires and uncountable laughter.

I love travelin’ with my Sweetie.

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John French’s Round Barn … he was shot and died … the shooter was acquitted. Mr. French, he had a temper, so the sign says.

Until next time …

 

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