Part 6: The Oregon Trail, No Dysentery

Monday, August 24th

(I’m writing this on November 19th, which means it’s been over two months since we dropped off our trailer for servicing and repairs after this trip. The metal “is still about a week away”, according to Camping World. Man, when travel trailers break, they stay broken.)

There’s something about borders. State borders, international borders, city borders, Borders Books (RIP). In some ways, a border is arbitrary; but, for some reason, a border always feels significant.

When I was a kid, I always got a weird thrill seeing one of the sundry “Welcome To …” signs when we crossed into Idaho, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, wherever. Like it was a new mode of existence over here. A strange new reality. Here, Borg; there, the Cartwrights (I grew up in a town with an entire subdivision whose roads were named after Bonanza.) Every new geopolitical entity seemed exotic. But then again, I was the sort of kid who kept a notebook on road trips for fake AAA reviews of restaurants and hotels; the coziness of bathrooms and presence of hot tubs were big for me.

I maintain those AAA reviews were only fake because AAA didn’t pay me for them. Nor did I submit them to AAA. But everything else considered, my judgements were rock solid, if you consider a 12 year old’s take on highway cafe decor as being geologically stable.

That love of crossing borders is probably the same reason I always love reading a local paper when I’m on the road. For some reason, local traffic planning disputes become fascinating when they happen in, say, Portland, compared to back home in Sacramento.

Monday, August 24th, saw our first border crossing with the new travel trailer, as we followed Highway 101 across the Oregon border.

From Elk Prairie Campground, we drove north through the redwoods, pausing for a hike to Big Tree. Not ‘a’ Big Tree. ‘The’ Big Tree.

What? When you have so many hundreds of gigantic redwood trees, they can’t all have stunning or mysterious names, can they? ‘Big Tree’ was inevitable.

But to be fair, of all the things you could say about Big Tree, “Big” is definitely accurate. “Old” would also work, because it’s 1500+. Redwoods (and Sequoias) are the Yodas of the arboreal world.

A very Big Tree, indeed.

As with all redwood forest hikes, it became an off-road scramble for P, as it should be. Running, avoiding the blond tourists from Sweden or Germany who didn’t bother wearing masks, scrambling over roots and swells and stumps, she hid among the trees like ET in a closet of stuffed animals, which is basically what all kids instinctively do in a redwood grove. Which means kids will be all right. Those woods demand that kids become Wicket.

Crossing from California to Oregon isn’t that strange. You barely even notice. (Although what is strange is the juxtaposition of the libertarian movement for the Free State of Jefferson with the fact that that public radio in Southern Oregon is called Jefferson Public Radio. I honestly don’t know how to assess that. And what will these Jeffersonians do if they ever become a state and they have to reconcile Oregon’s Drug-stravaganza and California’s relatively-Puritanical embrace of marijuana only? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it will involve a lot of bake sales, guns, and “Don’t Tread On Me” flags representing a culture that actually lost when someone, in fact, trod on it and it’s attachment to slavery – fun fact: Oregon was originally founded as a “whites-only” state. In general, Oregon has a libertarian vibe, especially compared to California – definitely progressive in many cases, but also home to many not aligned with a liberal view.)

And yes, I know that last parenthetical dragged on and on, but really, that’s just what it’s like driving over a border, with no real changes to be seen between states until you run into the need to refuel in Oregon; spoiler alert, self-service doesn’t exist. More on that later.

Anyway, we continued north, North Pacific blue to our left, until we reached Gold Beach, Oregon, and our destination for the night: Turtle Rock RV Resort on the shores of Hunter Creek.

I have to say that Turtle Rock is probably the site I’m most likely to revisit from our entire trip. It’s not that it’s an earthly paradise, but it has paradisial elements, and we got to stay there for two nights, always a pleasure (albeit having to switch actual sites).

It has an open, elongated layout, with options for tent camping, RV hookups, and cabins, wending along the river towards the rivermouth like a water snake. A restaurant (open only a couple nights a week) promised Mexican food and music, but we would miss that on our stay. However, firewood and ice were available for purchase.

We were staying two days here; on the first day, we settled at the back bend in the loop road, on the river and next to the path under the highway to a beach. We got out and started our usual signaling Keystone Koppery, and I think we could have figured it out eventually, but an older man with a heavily Germanic accent, who apparently has been traveling with trailers for 40+ years, quickly came over and took charge, advising M to look at him and not me (which was probably good advice, really) and with his signals, M, who is much more competent at all things mechanical, quickly fit our trailer into our slot for the night.

You get all sorts at RV camps, especially the sort with the “here’s how you do it” and “put that here” mindsets, who are definitely welcome in terms of their advice and expertise, but who don’t always wear masks. You never know whom you’ll meet, which is part of the fun.

Once we settled and got hooked up to the various connections, P and I headed for the water. A short, stony trail led to a wide, sandy beach of dunes and rocks, next to the mouth where Hunter Creek feeds the ocean.

It was cold, clear, and crisp. The Oregon coast is quiet, far quieter than the SF Bay Area, wilder than Monterey Bay, just as stony and dramatic as northern California.

It was beautiful. And as a bonus, we were not alone in Oregon.

M has three brothers, the sons of her father and his second wife: David, Jordi, and Will. Three of the sweetest souls you’ll ever meet. They drove from Eugene to meet us at the campground.

They are sharp men, smart, adventurous, durable. But I don’t think they were expecting the sort of grilling that Miss P had waiting for them with her 7-year-old perspective. She asked them all the questions a 7 year old would ask her uncles when she didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to ask. It was that sort of evening.

Seeing them at Turtle Rock was definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip. That first night at Turtle Rock, we sat around their campfire, under the Oregon stars, and chatted late into the night. Camping cuts away a lot of the extraneous details; we were just people talking at people.

And, being older people who owned a travel trailer, we were able to advise M’s brothers on exactly what they should do going forward in terms of life, the universe, and everything. In between moving chairs, that is, as M’s innate talent of having campfire smoke follow her was in full force.

I’m assuming they took all our advice to heart, because as travel trailer owners, we obviously know what’s up. So we resolved everyone’s angsts, anxieties, and questions about the future in approximately 23 minutes, as according to the standard American sit-com formula.

And the next day would produce river otters, hot tubs, and dinosaurs. As these things usually go.

%d bloggers like this: