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Garmin Prefers the Scenic Route…
My Garmin is old. Really old. It costs the same to buy a new Garmin as it does to update the maps. In fact, when I purchased mine, I don’t think they even offered lifetime updates. It’s done a great job over the years. Aside from one little area in Las Vegas, it’s never really gotten me lost. But it has taken me on the “scenic” route a couple times.
This time it did something really strange, though. After reviewing my atlas and Mountain Directory West, I’d already chosen the route I thought I wanted to take — a drive of approximately four and a half hours. But when I punched in my destination on the Garmin, she wanted to take me up 97 and then pick up 84 — also a four and a half hour drive. Great! It meant I’d get to see even more of interstate 84 and the Columbia Gorge. But more than an hour into the journey Garmin decided it was a six-hour drive, instead! There was nothing I could do. I would arrive in Chehalis after dark.
Surprisingly, I managed to navigate two steep hills, back in, and set up in total darkness with very little difficulty. Here’s the view from my desk window…
Chehalis Thousand Trails
Chehalis is the original Thousand Trails with almost 400 acres to explore. It is probably the quietest campground I’ve ever stayed in. (Granted, it is the rainy season and only one section remains open after some devastating winter storms).
Every day I wake up to the sound of a woodpecker. Every afternoon I can see several deer grazing nearby. One regular visitor claims to have seen black bear and even a mountain lion once! This area is absolutely teeming with wildlife.
Despite quite a few difficulties I’ve somehow managed to take a few hikes and explore the property. Some areas have the feel of a ghost town at the moment, with many of the amenities shut down due to the storm and an elusive water break. Unfortunately, this is why I won’t be able to take advantage of the adult lodge and swimming pool.
Some of the outdoor amenities such as tennis, pickleball, mini-golf, and horseshoe pits haven’t seen any love lately. It’s difficult to tell if this is simply the weather, moss, and mud during the rainy season — or if these facilities haven’t been maintained in years.
I don’t care. As much time as I’ve spent in the desert and drought-stricken California the past few years, I’m just loving the RAIN! There’s no need to spend money on car washes and RV detailing when you’re staying in the Northwest this time of year…
My Quest for Vision
My personal challenges have not gotten any easier since Jeepers has passed on. During his 6-month demise, I have really neglected to realize just how serious my own health issues may be.
It’s been two full years of trying perhaps 15 different prescriptions, none of which have worked. My eye doctor in Vegas says he has never seen a variance like this. My doctor here in Seattle has also never seen anything like it! I’m a medical oddity, it seems.
I originally intended to stay here for only four days. But it turned into VisionQuest 2017 and a full two-week stay. I have spent over $600 and the majority of my time here bouncing around between my eye doctor and various Lenscrafter stores (as far as 2 hours away) in an attempt to quickly secure some high-powered lenses and an interim solution. After several fails, we discovered my vision changes a full 3 points in each eye throughout the day. I now have 5 eyeglasses to get me through each day — 3 for distance, 1 reading, and my nasty progressives to fill in the gaps when necessary.
The prognosis isn’t good: Between 3 optometrists, one believes I may have diabetes, the other two seem to think I’m heading for a major surgery — cornea replacement! This is a result of a surgery I had about 25 years ago. Radial keratotomy was laser surgery’s predecessor. It gave me 20 years of terrific vision. Unfortunately, my eyeball is now mush. I’m cutting this trip short to get back to Vegas before May for my physician and opthalmologist appointments.
On the days I can break away from VisionQuest early (finally, today was my last for awhile), I’ve done some sightseeing. But it’s been such a frantic pace, that a handful of my best days in Chehalis has actually been setting up shop at the family lodge to take advantage of cellphone service and wi-fi. I’ve even managed to watch some basketball!
Honestly, when you have a terrific campsite surrounded by natural beauty, this is not where you would expect to make best use of your time. But life happens on the road and the lodge has been my refuge this time around. I utilized my resources to make the best of my situation…
And what a place to do it!
I finally got confirmation that I’m working an event in Pendleton, Oregon. This is music to my ears after bleeding money this entire trip — weather delays (throwing off my weekday Passport America rate calendar), bad poker, bad health — now maybe I can maybe get back to Vegas not limping quite as bad.
I’ll still get to spend a week on the Oregon Coast, a couple days along the Columbia Gorge, a two-week working vacation in the Pendleton area, and maybe even a fun journey back to Vegas! Who knows…maybe the best of this journey is yet to come…
After two weather days I finally made my way over the mountain passes!
Highway 97 between Redding and Bend is a photographer’s dream! In fact, when I someday learn how to take decent pictures I intend to spend an entire month on this stretch of road. Add it to my bucket list.
A little north of Klamath Falls I observed several feet of snow. Clearly, quite a bit of it was fresh from the winter storms the two days prior. It’s a good thing I waited it out.
Even despite the white scenery during the drive, I was quite surprised to pull into my camp near Bend and find this…
It was a little slippery backing up, but not too bad. When I was all done, I found myself quite cozy in my own personal winter wonderland. My nearest neighbor being a good 50 yards away, I’ve already enjoyed a movie in “surround sound” with no worries of disturbing anyone.
The centerpiece of Sunriver Bend Thousand Trails is a rustic little town square that includes a general store, library, seasonal snack bar, and a courtyard where large bunnies and full-grown cats coexist together!
But my favorite part of the town square is the family lodge. The fireplace keeps the lodge quite toasty and, with strong wi-fi and satellite TV, it’s a really good place to set up shop. Surprisingly, I’ve had it all to myself! It seems the winter campers are content staying put in their RVs.
I’ve just been hired for a 10-day dealing job in Pendleton! This is one of the first pieces to fall in place during a puzzling trip. It gives me some financial stability at a time I can’t seem to win at poker and allows me to feel comfortable proceeding to Seattle and taking my shot at a “satellite” to win my way into a big event.
Should I win the satellite event, I’ll get to play in 5 big tournaments and stay in the area for a couple weeks. Should I lose, I now at least have my campgrounds narrowed down knowing I’m heading towards Pendleton to work. In all likelihood it would be the Oregon Coast for 18 days.
But this is also contingent on solving my vision problems. My distance glasses are being sent to my first camp near Seattle. If they are sufficient, I can then order my reading glasses — and who really knows when and where I’ll be able to secure those. My worst-case scenario and biggest fear is that I’ve done more damage while wearing these multi-focals and my prescription has changed once again. That could lead to one big headache of a logistical challenge: A new optometrist in the Northwest, reordering and securing my distance glasses, then reordering and securing my reading glasses. Ugh! That would pretty much “ground” me near an actual city to see the whole process through.
But it’s all good. When you live on the road, life still happens.
After waiting out a snowstorm in the hills Monday I got to enjoy a rainy day in camp and do some reorganizing. There was nothing in the forecast about Tuesday. Apparently the weather changes fast. And, with no internet connection at Wonderland, I had no way of knowing.
I pulled out of Redding in a light rain. In the next hour it became a heavy rain. It then became a respectable snow. All this, while ascending 3000 feet! When I pulled into Weed I was battling high winds. I pulled over and double-checked the weather conditions further north on Highway 97. A winter storm was wreaking havoc in Oregon! Several of the mountain passes had packed snow and ice on the roads, with several reported accidents.
I sat down at the coffee shop to regroup.
After evaluating the situation further, it was clear I was going nowhere. (It’s a good thing I encountered the rogue storm on Mt. Shasta. Otherwise I would not have checked the reports). I jumped on my handy-dandy Passport America app and discovered Friendly RV Park.
Disheartened by my 2nd straight weather delay, the Friendly staff, an elderly couple, immediately cheered me up. I had a nice chat with the lady about our brief work stints in Laughlin, and the gentleman was all too happy to direct me into my site. It was a great start. The fast internet and warm, super-clean showerhouse sealed the deal — I really like this campground. And, with a $400 monthly rate, this park is a top prospect as a place to settle in and be super-productive without the distraction of poker.
I Love Weed
There are no shortage of gift shops in this little town. And, when your town is named “Weed”, the obvious play on words is going to sell a lot of t-shirts. That’s not to mention the Mt. Shasta merchandise. But what I didn’t realize is that this area is Sasquatch country!
I wandered into a rustic-looking “mall” situated next to a small city park. But it wasn’t a traditional mall. The two-story building is separated into a bunch of small “stores” — the gift shop, the craft store, etc — but is actually one large not-for-profit thrift store/community center.
The owners, another wonderful elderly couple, explained that a couple years ago a fire consumed 150 homes in Weed, and 10% of the town’s residents were displaced. The couple worked without a day off for two months to provide for those in need — delivering provisions, clothes, board games, and even VHS movies to all the local hotels as the refugees awaited the verdicts on rebuilding their homes. It’s clear these store owners really care about their community.
Last, but not least — I found the greatest macadamia nut cookies ever! Be sure to drop by Ellie’s if you’re ever in the neighborhood.
Where’s Mt. Shasta?
The 14,000 foot Mt. Shasta has been pretty elusive. It has been covered in billowy storm clouds nearly to the base. But, as I prepare to hitch up, I see blue skies. It’s time for a walk…
Hoover Dam is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States. But did you know it is only the 4th largest in the country? Welcome to Shasta Dam, the second largest, boasting 6.5 million tons of concrete — more than twice that of Hoover!
To get an idea of the massiveness of this great structure, take a look at the tunnel spanning the width of the dam!
Shasta Dam produces enough hydroelectric energy to supply the entire city of San Francisco.
Here’s one of the old diversion tunnels integral in moving water around the construction of the dam during World War II.
The tour guide was very informative, explaining in stages how the dam was built, how energy is produced, and how most dams have a sister downstream to control water flow.
I bet you never got to see THIS at Hoover!
Cost of the Shasta Dam Tour : FREE