Our road trip up to Oregon began on October 15th (2016). We packed up the Blumebulance (our ambulance turned camper van) and headed out on to the open road. We drove west across the beautiful Mojave desert and over to the 5 Freeway North. It was a quiet morning, especially for a Saturday. The sky was permeated with billowy, white clouds layered on top of a light turquoise sky. It sprinkled in intervals as we headed west across the desert. We were brimming with anticipation and excitement. Dennis (my sweetie, also known as my TTG - Tall Tree Guy) had never been to the Pacific Northwest before and I couldn’t wait to see his reaction – although admittedly, I was slightly nervous that he might not love the Oregon Coast as much as I did. Trepidation aside, I had to be confident that he would. He often said that he hadn’t been to Oregon because he thought he might never come back to the desert. That was a good sign that he was going to love it too!
We made the long journey up the 5 Freeway North, saving time for the latter part of our trip by taking the most direct route North. The wonderful thing about heading North from Southern California is that the traffic is nowhere near as heavy as it is heading South. We were listening to music and talking so much that I got distracted and we accidentally ended up on Highway 99, headed North. Not too much of a detour, but quite a bit more traffic and about 30 minutes out of the way. Oops! Guess we were just having too much fun to take notice of the highway signs. After realizing we were on Highway 99 (an hour or so into it), we began looking for a route back to the 5 Freeway. We found a link between the two roads and got back on the 5, thank goodness!
We drove through the day and with daylight savings, found it to be dark well before we were ready to pull off the road for the night. We kept driving for a bit and took Highway 20 across to the coast to reach Highway 101 (the coastal highway on the west coast). Highway 20 was a gorgeous and sometimes windy road, but but the rain was coming down so hard I could barely see the pavement or the cars ahead. I was definitely ready to give it up for the night and began looking for an exit or place to stop and stay. Soon after, we passed two pretty awful car accidents where the cars were twisted heaps of metal, laying in the wet, dark road. I have been in two near-death collisions and get extreme anxiety driving in bad weather. Add the natural anxiety to viewing the aftermath of two awful accidents and I was immediately done driving. Dennis had to switch with me and drive on until we reached a place where we could sleep for the night. Before we left, I had bookmarked a website for finding free camp spots - freecampsites.net - to help save money on the trip – especially for our California stops (it’s much more expensive to camp in California). I went to the website on my phone and there was a casino (Robinson Rancheria Resort and Casino) on Highway 20 up ahead where we could park and camp for the night in the parking lot. Prior to our trip, we found out that quite a few casino’s will allow people to do that. So kind of them and generous!
Hungry for dinner and with the pouring rain and knowing that we would be staying overnight in the casino parking lot, we were on the look out for something to eat before we got to the casino. We stopped at a Foster Freeze and ate burgers under the florescent lights. Not my favorite for ambiance, but we were hungry, it was late and we were running out of options. In hindsight, I realize that we should have eaten at the casino. They would have had food at all hours of the night, lots of options and it would have been great to patronize their business for letting us stay in the parking lot for free. We will definitely do so the next time we stay overnight at a casino. The city we were in was adorably quaint and the entire town rested on the edge of a huge lake. It was so nice there and it didn’t seem to be a coincidence that even the town’s actual name was “Nice”.
I was so tired after we ate but feeling so much better after experiencing all of that anxiety on the road. We arrived at the casino, found a flat spot and parked for the night. Camping in a casino parking lot is not ideal. The place was glowing with an abundance of lights – both on the casino facade and in the parking lot. The good thing was that we were only stopping to sleep and then move on in the morning, so we didn’t need any amenities like picnic tables or showers. An added benefit was that it was very safe with all of those lights beaming down onto our van. It poured rain all through the night and into the next morning. Something we knew we’d have to get used to if we moved to the Pacific Northwest. Both of us have always loved the rain. On rainy mornings we always wake up with smiles on our faces and a content feeling in our hearts.
Having made it to the 101 Freeway on the coast, we were thrilled to finally see bits of the ocean here and there off to the left as we drove. Then there were the Redwoods – wow! The wow of all wow's! I had seen them in my youth but hadn’t ever gotten to stop and experience them. As we meandered in and out of these massive trees along the highway, we were stunned by their gargantuan size and their gentle beauty. Light rain fell as we drove with larger drops falling from the tree branches here and there making a splat on the roof of the van. We passed a sign for the famous Chandelier Tree with a hole that cars can drive through and decided to pull off the highway to see it in person. It was a quick and easy jaunt off of the highway and only a few bucks to drive in. Sadly, the Chandelier Tree is not quite big enough for our Blumebulance to travel through it. The woman at the gate warned us that our van wouldn’t fit. I was imagining it to be almost large enough and thus the warning that we might damage the van. It was of no consequence that we couldn’t drive through the actual tree once we began to traverse the narrow road through the magical forest it inhabited. Everywhere we looked was filled with an other-worldly beauty. Sedan-sized ferns, green-yellow moss, and red pine needles painted the ground around the wise, ancient trees. The fog rolled around them as if to make way for the brilliant giants. Arriving at the Chandelier Tree made me chuckle. The woman’s warning at that gate was not necessary as only a regular sized car could pass through. There were no illusions of the Blumebulance fitting in that space. We parked at the Chandelier Tree gift shop and got out to walk and experience their greatness with more than our eyes. We walked through the Chandelier Tree since we couldn’t drive through. It was incredible being in the belly of the tree. It was just tall enough that I didn’t have to duck down to walk through as it barely brushed the top of my head. Stepping back from the tree, we could see why it was named the Chandelier Tree. It has branches that extended out and down like the arms of a chandelier. They glistened with dew drops like the crystals of a chandelier. What an unforgettable experience!
As we explored more of the forest, Dennis found a portion of a tree stump on it’s side that looked like a rip curl wave! He stood in the center and pretended to surf while I took a picture. So cute. I would love to go back there some day for a picnic and to live and breathe among the trees a bit longer. It is truly a magical and wonderful place.
Leaving that bit of the forest behind, we traveled out of the little park area and back out on to the highway. There were signs posted on the side of the road that exclaimed “Confusion Hill: Canada or Mexico?!” We soon passed Confusion Hill. It looked a bit like a theme park mixed with a country fair where the creators were all on acid. It looked like fun. We’ll definitely have to venture through next time we’re headed down the highway. We also passed the Sasquatch store that looked like a museum dedicated to the hairy beast. Another fun place to stop on a the way up the coast next time.
Exiting the Redwood Forest, the sky opened up again. We could see the gray sky filled with heavy clouds waiting to rain again and the ocean waves crashing off in the distance. I had wanted to stop in Fort Bragg, California to see the Glass Beach there but we were so impatient to cross the boarder into Oregon that we decided to see the beach on our return home. We did stop for a brief encounter at a beach just before the California/Oregon boarder, Otis Beach. The beach looked as if it were covered in dark, black asphalt that glistened as the suns rays peaked through the clouds. We walked out to the beach and discovered it was covered in teeny tiny bits of rock! The farther out, the larger the rocks, the closer in to shore, the smaller they became. It was absolutely beautiful. This black beach made of glistening rocks. The waves were stormy and towering. We walked around for a bit, exploring and enjoying the ocean air sweeping across our faces. It was cool but pleasant.
Back on the road, we crossed the Oregon/California boarder and the real magic began. The ocean, the dunes of sand, the trees covered in moss, the waterfalls, the emerald beauty in every direction were all overwhelming. It is more than a person’s senses can absorb in one trip. Thank goodness I was driving because Dennis couldn’t keep his eyes from drifting back and forth from the trees out to the ocean! He kept exclaiming “Oh my god!” and “Wow, that is so beautiful!” and “Look at that!!” It was like watching a child amazed at all of the colors and flavors of candies in a candy shop. I was having a blast seeing the joy in his face and revisiting old haunts that I have loved for so long.
We drove straight past Bandon and Brookings to get to Gold Beach as quickly as possible. We would go back to Bandon and Brookings on the way home. We had two favorite homes on our list; one was in Gold Beach and the other was on Ten Mile Lake. The home in Gold Beach had the ocean literally out the back door and the price was lower than almost any other home we would like at. We couldn’t believe it and we wanted to see it for ourselves. We knew it was small and would need some work but for the low price right on the beach, it definitely had potential and the property was a third of an acre! We knew that there was some sort of parking across the street from the house on the beach from Google maps so we drove until we found the spot. Pulling into the parking area/rest stop, we were in love. The beach was so pretty and sandy and went on for miles. It had the beautiful beach grass that I love cropping up sporadically here and there. It blew in the wind. We looked at the house from where we were parked, dreaming of living on the ocean. We just had to get over on to the road to drive past it from the opposite side.
The road leading to the house was a private road off of Highway 101. A wonderful bonus that it wouldn’t be occupied by tourists in the summer. There were plenty of places for tourists to stop and play on the side of the highway. There were lots of fancy beach homes tucked in between more modest homes on the street. When we reached the house for sale, we stopped out front and had a bit of a rude greeting from the next door neighbor (a real minus for me). The man stepped out of the house the moment we stopped and confronted us about what we were doing there. I had expected him to have a shotgun the way that he was acting. We mentioned that we were just checking out the house for sale next door. He turned around, went inside and spied on us from the front window. I understand a territorial neighbor wanting to protect the lot while it’s vacant, but I wasn’t very excited about the idea of living next door to someone who was so gruff.
The lot was very long and narrow, with the house at the farthest end of it from the road – closer to the beach. It sat oddly close to the house directly next door. The house next door sat at a partial angle, facing the house for sale – as if it were part of the other lot and house. Straight in front of the house next door was the house with the grumpy neighbor. It was as if someone had taken this acre lot and split it up to make three smaller lots. I was pretty disappointed with the division of the lots. We wanted to have at least 1/3rd acre to feel like we had a bit of privacy. They weren’t effectively split up so that each lot felt like it had its own space. Determined to give it a chance because of its close proximity to the ocean, we called the agent representing the home. He explained that the home was occupied by a tenant and that they would need 24 hours notice to show it. Not wanting to wait an entire day in Gold Beach, we decided to see the inside of the home when we headed back South. I thanked the agent and said we would call again on our way back through the area. All the while, we crossed our fingers it wouldn’t sell before we got to see it. We went to see the other homes on our list in Gold Beach to see if a) we liked the area they were located and b) if the house looked like something we wanted to see the inside of. We did this with all of the houses on our list, drive-by before calling the agent. One of the homes was located just a quick walk to the beach and had 2 acres but it was far over our budget. We drove by and the house was on a one-way, dirt road with a large fence all the way around. Although it was difficult to see much of the house, it was apparent that it was in much worse condition than the photos showed on Zillow and having already been above our budget, we moved on to look at the third house on our list in Gold Beach.
The third house was on the Rogue River, about a mile or so from the beach. The Rogue River is what got me dreaming about living in Oregon when I was young, so I was excited to see the home. It was on a short, winding road. The house sat above the road with a narrow driveway in that was shared with two homes on either side of it. This home was the smallest of the three homes we would look at in Gold Beach, but priced between the other two. Once in the driveway, we realized we couldn’t drive in towards the house and still turn the Blumebulance around. We stopped in front of the first house on the driveway and got out to look around a little. Quickly, of course, as we did not want to disturb the neighbors. It wasn’t the dreamy spot on the river that I had hoped. It was a very narrow part of the river and with the bad storm that had just come through, the water was all brown from the soil being turned up. It was off in the distance a bit from the home and just not quite the view we were looking for. Really, not much of a view at all.
Considering the other two were a bust and it was getting late, we headed over to one of the pre-chosen campgrounds on our trip, the Honey Bear Campground. It was located just kitty-corner from the home on the beach that we still wanted to see so it made a great place to stop and get a feel for the area. The campground host was super sweet and being off-season (mid-October), we got to pick any spot we wanted. It was a gorgeous campground covered in grass and plenty of trees and a few little ponds for fishing. They even rented little fishing boats to go out into the ponds and catch your dinner! The pond that we camped next to had a giant red and white mushroom out in the middle that contained a pump to facilitate the water throughout the campground. It was absolutely adorable! The campground had an authentic German restaurant out front but it was only open on select days during the off-season. With the rain outside and not wanting to try to cook in the rain, we chose to head back into Gold Beach proper and have dinner. There were only a few places to choose from… a Mexican restaurant with a tiny parking lot (not sure about trying to get the van in there), a fancy steakhouse, and a pizza parlor. We opted for pizza. It was a cute place with good food but did not satisfy my pizza cravings sadly. Not much sauce (I love extra/lots) and too much cheese (I usually go light on the cheese). Had I mentioned these things when ordering, I’m guessing I might have had the perfect pizza. It certainly had high quality ingredients. Dennis had a pasta dish that he loved and we sat and watched the rain on the ocean from the restaurant. It was nice to have a break from the day and relax. I knew we would be busy bees again the next day!
With our bellies full, we headed back to the campground for a good sleep before pushing on to Ten Mile Lake, Oregon – our other favorite house on the list. Stay tuned for Part 3 with more adventures, more homes, and even a “murder house”… dun dun dun!!
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