A mercifully uneventful last
leg and another week in a Bend RV park led us to August 14, 2019, where we
pulled into our new driveway and officially ended our journey, 2 years, 15 days,
and 25,007 miles after it began.
That’s just over 100 miles
more than the circumference of the Earth.
Here’s our triumphant arrival, followed by multiple pauses in running-around-the-house to gawk at the view. We’re very happy.
At 14,411’, Mt. Rainier is the second highest mountain in the Continental US. Mt. Whitney in California is the highest, but it sits along the spine of the southern Sierra Nevada, and as such doesn’t really stand out among its peers. I can remember driving up highway 395 just to its east several times as a kid, looking up, and trying to pick it out. “Is that one it? Maybe that one?”
There is absolutely,
positively no mistaking Mt. Rainier. It
rises all the way from sea level just south of Seattle, is permanently
glaciated, and stands more or less alone.
There’s no doubt as to its volcanic status either – the only way it
could look more volcano-like would be if it had a smoking crater on top and
lava running down the sides. It’s
Tacco and I had done some
snowshoeing there many years ago, but other than that we didn’t spend nearly
the time there that we should’ve when we were Washington residents. With only time in our schedule for one more
National Park on the way from Anacortes to Bend, we had needed to choose
between Rainier and Olympic, and opted for the former.
Using lessons learned from two years of RV-in-National-Park experience, we decided to stay at nearby Crystal Mountain Resort rather than fight the crowds, tight roads, and lack of cell signal / electricity in the official NP campground. Great call, too; we basically had the place to ourselves.
Only down side was that we
couldn’t see The Mountain from where we were, but a quick and scenic chairlift
ride took care of that for us.
We only ended up with one full day in which to hike the park and bag the last set of Junior Ranger badges for the girls (they’re up to well over 50!), but it was a glorious one. The lake which we hiked up to wasn’t the sub-alpine jewel we were hoping for, in fact it was fenced off as it’s used as a water source for the ranger station below, but the trail itself more than made up for it.
Wildflowers everywhere, jaw-dropping mountain views, and we even caught sight of a black bear playing in a nearby (but not too nearby) stream. Take that Great Smoky Mountains!
The theme of the day was
mixed emotions I suppose. Bright sun,
crisp air, and some of the best views we’ve seen, yet overlaid with a touch of
melancholy knowing that this was our last real stop on our journey. On top of that, however, was the excitement,
palpable in the kids, of knowing that we were a short week or two from moving
into our new house.
In that mood, we made our second-to-last drive in Davista, from Mt. Rainier to Hood River, OR, where we’d opted to spend the night prior to pushing through to Bend. Here’s the route, which was the one presented to me when I typed the origin and destination into Google Maps on my phone.
Looks pretty straightforward,
right? Yeah, that was my thought too,
which in itself implies that I spent time thinking about it. Which I didn’t, really. I noted that it was through the Cascades, but
pictured a mostly empty, scenic two-lane road winding its way down to the
A quick internet search on the definition of “complacency” just now netted me “a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.” Ok, I’ll buy that. It’s a dragon I thought we had slain back in Carpinteria when I crunched a hole in Davista’s roof with an unfriendly tree branch. And if not then, then certainly back in the Carolinas, when we drove several hours towing a car with an engaged parking brake, narrowly avoiding fiery disaster. Or any number of the times when I took an app-encouraged “shortcut” and found myself dragging the family into peril on residential roads not remotely designed for an RV, let alone one towing a car.
But no, there we were pulling out of Rainier on our second-to-last leg, check engine light flashing away, not even self-aware enough to smugly think “I’ve got this.” More like not thinking at all. Here’s one more look, close up.
I missed a turn (more like took the wrong branch of a ‘Y’) within the first ten minutes, and found myself guiding our rig toward Yakima instead of Hood River. Perfectly good road, but in the mountains, with no way to turn around. Having lived this story before and therefore knowing how long it can take to find a place to reverse course, we opted to cut our losses, pull over into a turnout, disconnect the Toad, make a semi-hazardous multi-point turn in Davista to reverse direction, re-connect the Toad, and move on. Pain in the butt, but ultimately only about 20 minutes lost.
I should’ve paid
attention. Maybe there was a reason I
felt compelled to veer off toward Yakima.
The road got narrower and more sparsely traveled the further south we pushed, and we lost cellular signal (and consequently Google Maps signal) pretty quickly. This made things somewhat alarming when we reached a completely unmarked fork in the road we weren’t expecting. Both roads looked equally plausible (and remote), and I uncomfortably stopped our beast in the middle of the road just before the ‘Y’ to evaluate.
Fortunately we had purchased a US Atlas way back at the beginning, specifically for this type of situation. UNfortunately, it didn’t show the fork.
Uh-oh. Come to think of it, it didn’t really show the road we had been on either. I mean, it sort of did, along with lots of very, very minor roads in this area, but nothing that looked like anything approaching a main thoroughfare. After several uncomfortable minutes sitting and thinking, a Jeep fortuitously ambled down the road in the other direction, its inhabitants regarding us quizzically as they passed. I waved my hands out the window as I watched them continue, and was relieved to see their brake lights and white back-up lights illuminate. We asked which way to Hood River and they told us which fork to take, but something in their tone and the way they paused and looked at each other when I asked didn’t give me a warm fuzzy. I thanked them, we pressed on, and I imagined the conversation they were having right about now.
Within a couple miles we were treated to the disturbing sight of a “one lane road ahead” sign. You’ve got to be kidding.
It wasn’t kidding.
Further we pressed, past another unmarked fork, which, without much choice, I navigated via a mental coin flip. And then the pavement ended. Yes, dirt road. Single lane dirt road. Could this possibly be right? At this point we were so deep in (and really couldn’t turn around anyway) that I reasoned we had no choice but to see this through. At least we were in a motorhome with water, food, a generator, etc. It could be worse.
It was – another fork. Resigned, I chose again. Tacco offered up that at least this dirt road wasn’t washboarded like the one in Montana that rattled the fillings out of our teeth. “No! Why did you say that – we’re hosed now.” I discovered I was correct as I began to see, more to the point feel, the washboard bumps in the road.
Soon we were on a
one-lane, unmarked, washboarded, dirt road in the mountains, unable to go more
than about 5 mph, with peekaboo views of an active volcano to our left. And a flashing check engine light. And Sasquatch – wasn’t this Bigfoot country?
Other than the incessant pounding and rattling, it got very quiet in Davista as we gutted onward, and in between frantic gaming out of how to handle the possibility of getting stuck or breaking down here in the middle of nowhere, so close to our destination, and avoiding the bigger holes in the road without pitching us over the edge, I considered how morbidly perfect it was to make it all this way before having our Big Crisis.
after about an hour or two we hit some pavement. Then more dirt, then pavement again, and
thank the Lord, a road sign. We were
going the right way!
At long last we cruised into White Salmon, WA, and across the narrow bridge over the Columbia to Hood River. Relief. And a well-deserved beer at the pFriem brewery in town after showers for everyone and a general calming of the nerves. It turns out complacency serves you no better on day seven-hundred-something than it does on day one or two or twenty. I fell asleep that night somewhat fitfully due to a combination of the parade of trains honking their way down the riverside tracks right behind our campsite and the understanding of the bullet we’d dodged today. One leg to go now, though, the ultimate.
It’s fitting that we opted to return to Anacortes for the last month of our travels. This is where it all began, after all. Our last visit in the Spring had been more focused on getting our house ready for sale, and somewhat rushed. Also, Spring is notoriously fickle in that area – you get teases of gorgeous weather and the long, lazy days that summer will bring, but then a grey blanket of temperatures in the 50s and sideways rain will descend for a few days to remind you that you’re in the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest, not Southern California. The standard jokes are that June there is actually called “Junuary” and that summer doesn’t really begin until July 5th. It’s funny cuz it’s true…
So we made the drive back up to Anacortes from Bend in time to catch the 4th of July celebrations. Anacortes does it right, with a morning town photo followed by a picture perfect small town parade with candy and beads tossed from the participants’ floats and the like, a lazy day of barbecues, concerts on the waterfront, and an entirely decent fireworks show over the marina after dark (which doesn’t come until about 10PM that close to the solstice).
Despite the July 5th joke, I’ve never known the weather on parade day to be inclement. This time it was a bit, and instead of watching the fly-by over Commercial Ave’s parade route by NAS Whidbey Island’s F-18s, P-3s, and now P-8s, we heard them pass overhead a few times, evidently searching for and not finding holes in the overcast that they could punch through.
The kids cleaned up on the
candy front though.
And after doing the concert
thing, socializing with some old friends, and getting a few faces painted, we
settled in from our waterfront motorhome site to watch the firework show.
The Saturday Farmers’ Market
is another must-hit, and the marina where we were camped happens to sit right
across the street from it. It’s also
peak berry season, so we behaved accordingly.
Slightly disappointingly, our renters had removed most of the raspberry plants I had planted at our house. Keeper had remembered from living there that each day in late June and early July would net us a very large bowl of ripe raspberries in multiple varieties (not to mention some gooseberries and currants) and had gotten his sisters excited about that prospect, but alas, only a few plants remained. The Asian pear trees, on the other hand, had flourished – whoever buys our house is going to get a treat this Fall.
There was a good bit of interest in our house once it went on the market a few weeks back. The first offer came in within 24 hours, but turned out not to be a serious one as the buyers turned tail at our first counter-offer, claiming that the timing wasn’t right. (Timing. Soooo, why did you put in the offer? Never mind.) Still, we’re optimistic. Taking advantage of it still being ours for what we hope is just a few more weeks, we made several visits back to the deck and hot tub for some chillout time, and before departing, took a couple last pictures and updated our signatures on one of the semi-hidden studs (this has become a tradition of ours).
We also prioritized the three houses we had narrowed down to in Bend, and put an offer on the first. It was accepted, but as there was already a contingent offer in place that we were attempting to bump, we didn’t get our hopes too high. For good reason it turns out, as the original buyers were able to remove the contingency at no-kidding the last minute. No problem, they were there first. So we proceeded onto the second one, which is a stunner, perched over the north side of the town, with 200 degrees of city, river, and mountain views, multiple floors, a pool table, a theater room, and a fire pole (!). It was the kids’ favorite and would’ve been ours if it were a bit more practical – it’s quirky, which will affect its eventual resale we think, and being on a hill makes it less bikeable and there seem to be fewer kids in the neighborhood. It’s awesome though, and fits our collective personality, and our offer was eventually accepted. Looks like we’re doing this!
The last couple weeks in the
area we spent bouncing between our beloved Cliffside RV park, back at Whidbey
Island, and the marina, getting last visits in with friends in the area and
doing some summer playing.
Tacco and I had enjoyed kayaking together when we lived there, and though we never got as seriously into it as we would’ve had we stayed, we wanted to make sure we gave the kiddos a taste of it, and so rented a couple kayaks to supplement the inflatable one we had kept with us & explored the island a bit.
Below you see the free and natural version of a hot stone massage, in which Woodsprite partook prior to paddling.
One interesting side-note: it was difficult not to notice that this summer wasn’t as summery as we were expecting. In fact, we almost felt cheated out of it — it’s one of the few things about which I’m completely fine with having a sense of entitlement. By July, every Anacortes resident is owed a summer. Both of us remember, correctly I think, that once summer does kick in, it’s pretty much guaranteed beautiful weather every single day. With the exception of fires that occasionally darken the skies with smoke (like they had done in 2018), it’s clear and in the mid to high 70s as a rule, with occasional forays into the lower and upper 80s. This summer, not so much. The overcast that had somewhat dampened our 4th of July celebration kept poking its unwelcome head into the July and early August mix. Not every day, but enough that we commented about how it was pushing us toward confirmation of our decision. Not that we needed it.
For our final hurrah in the area, we managed to put together a repeat of the previous year’s visit to our close friends who live on Lake Washington near Seattle for SeaFair and the Blue Angels airshow. The timing was both tricky and perfect, as he had very recently been informed of an opportunity to transfer to Tokyo for work, and they were the chaotic process of getting affairs in order so that they could depart in a week or so.
Once again we shoehorned
ourselves into their driveway and spent a few days cooking, eating, drinking,
boating, tubing, and watching the Blues do their thing.
That never gets old, nor does time with them; I was thrilled that we were able to make it work and that the kids were given an opportunity to reconnect, however briefly. We even bought their car from them, with an arrangement for them to leave it in Seattle when they flew to Japan and for me to pick it up at the airport after a work trip and drive it to Bend — win/win!
One bittersweet moment took place out on the boat after a solid tubing session. Their kids were going through an even more concentrated period of upheaval than ours with the impending move, and an air of poignancy hung over all of their interactions. At one point their younger son, who is extremely wise for his age and was wringing every last moment out of a visit with one of his local friends while we were there, observed to Keeper “So wait… basically your only ‘friends’ for the last two years have been just the kids of your parents’ friends?”
Oof. I let that one hit me in the gut from my perch at the back of the boat. Keeper answered in a tentative affirmative; he has done an outstanding job of keeping close online touch with his Maryland friends over the past two years and will continue to do so. But… that’s not the same. As much as we imagined that our kids would be close with their kids if we were to live nearby in Seattle (and they likely would), I was faced with the realization that a couple quick visits, even when they get along well, does not necessarily equal the seeds of a lifelong friendship. Also, that when Keeper and the girls have lamented at times that they’re not getting time to spend with kids their age, that’s not an idle observation. We’ve kept them somewhat isolated, and it really will be important to do all we can to get them dialed into our new community. And in a larger sense, though this has been an incalculably rich experience for all of us and overwhelmingly positive in the aggregate, there have been trade-offs.
Our journey’s last leg will
take us to Mt. Rainier National Park, and then two driving legs to Bend (we’re
breaking it up by stopping in Hood River, OR for a day). And then we stop! We’ll camp in Bend until we’re able to close
on the house, which will hopefully be no more than a week. AND THEN WE STOP. I had to write that again because I’m not
quite processing it.