Florence Coast or Bust!–Part 3

IMG_4600Read on for a few surprises on our return journey via Suttle Lake.

Birdy’s niece continued feeling yucky, so they had returned home the night before, being only an hour from their own beds.

We woke to a cold breakfast morning. Overnight oats for the parents, and cereal for the kids. Grandma Nini had slept in her car, with a spot across from our own. I brought her a serving in a purple cup (her favorite color) before we went on a walk.

Running alongside the Siltcoos River is a friendly little trail. FIMG_4590rom WaxMyrtle Campground, it’s about 1.25 miles down to the beach. Right out of camp, it climbs a little bluff that overlooks the lazy, winding river as it flows to the sea. We lingered here a bit, went a little further, and turned around. (Time was getting short, and the kids restless.)

We returned from our walk, but found Nini absent. I assumed she had gotten the same instinct and would return soon. We hurriedly packed camp, and were ready to depart. I was about to go in search of my mom, when I received a text. She was unwell, and hadn’t made it back to camp.

After much debate, Birdy was to pilot the truck & trailer, while I drove my mom in her car. We had planned on her getting some experience this trip, so I had been pointing out things as I drove:IMG_4593

  • “See, now when it’s belching black smoke, that’s unspent gas, so just let off a little.” (it’s a diesel, ya know)
  • “The trailer’s wider than the truck, so take turns wider, but the rest of the time, stay in the middle.”
  • “Here’s the ‘oh crap’ button for the trailer brakes. If it’s not stopping fast enough, give this a squeeze.”
  • “At 55/35/20 mph, you can gear down to maintain a little speed.”

IMG_4598The last time I offered, she wasn’t comfortable ‘in the mountains’ so now she was going to get a trial by fire. We both felt nervous, but it was the best option. We took our time, and pulled over frequently to let folks pass. She was doing just fine, and as I reflected, that was the flattest/easiest part of the journey. We meandered the back roads to Corvallis, where Nini felt good enough to go the remaining 7 miles home.

We were a ways off course, and off schedule now, so I altered our route. I was thinking about the most direct route over the Cascades. One that would have lots of places to stop and camp, because I no longer had ANY idea when or where that might be. “I’m already on Highway 20,” I thought, “if I take that, it’ll spit me out in Bend, no problem!” I had never taken the Santiam pass before, so why not?IMG_4578

I’ll save you the lecture on precisely WHY this wasn’t the best route for me. The executive summary is that there is a lot of climbing and winding. These factors lead an old, low-powered truck to nearly over heat as other RV’s (towing other full-sized trucks) pass it like a fence post. The muggy 95+ day was bad enough, but turning off the A/C for the hill felt like defeat.

We finally get on top and start estimating how far we can make it, when a reader board warns us, “Hwy 20 closed at mile post 93, near black butte, due to accident.” (Like I know where that is, come on mile post, where are we?)

20170625_184232Closed? The highway is closed less than 20 miles ahead! Good grief!

I excitedly direct my co-pilot to hop on her phone. “Honey, how far is Camp Sherman or Suttle Lake area?” 17 miles… Well, let’s hope we get there before the traffic builds up! (“You’re all stuck behind me!” I cackled to myself, not pulling over for anyone.)

We pulled into Suttle Lake, with light fading. Every place appeared packed, even the non-RV sized spots. As we toured our second campground, one group was preparing to leave. (The dust never got to settle on THAT camping spot.) It was a tight squeeze between trees, so we wouldn’t have use of the awning, but we were just grateful to be off the road. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before we could see the highway lit with headlights as far as the eye could see.20170625_200033

After spending all day in the hot & humid truck, we ventured into the lake to find it a fine temperature even this early in the season! The kids burned off steam while I setup and prepared the barbeque. “Wait, is that rain? No, it’s a heck of a thunderstorm!” That figures, the one time I need my awning, it’s unavailable.

Lightning struck all around us, as we ate dinner in our camper, grateful for its shelter. Afterward, we found there was actually some light left, and we enjoyed sitting on the dock as the bats started to come out. I was back at camp, when Princess came to fetch me saying, “Mom says you have to come to the dock right away.”

20170625_191253I’ll spare you the million thoughts running through my head as I received this urgent message. I raced down to the dock expecting another scary surprise, but it was only a forest fire.

Wait. A forest fire! There, on the ridge across the river, just above the highway full of backed up vehicles, lightning had ignited a tree. It started as a small, flickering light. The authorities were aware, the storm had dropped some rain, and luckily it was already at the top of a ridge. Still, as the one flicker dropped little babies, and became more, larger flickers, it gave me concern. This situation had all the potential to get out of control, and fast.20170625_210434

Thankfully, it didn’t. They eventually opened up the highway, and were letting batches through, one lane at a time. We got a good nights rest, and had a wonderful french toast breakfast out on the picnic table.

Monday we headed out early, and emptied our black & grey tanks in Prineville. I had wanted to dump them on the coast, and have empty tanks all the way home but (with the delay) that didn’t happen. We stopped for lunch in Dayville. The city park is on the highway, with a pull out directly across. It was IMG_4612good to have the kids burn off some steam. We stopped momentarily at Austin Junction, to drop TBear off with his mom, and made it home by bed time.

In the end, we averaged 10-12 mpg, spending under $250 on gas. Compared with taking a more economical vehicle, towing the trailer pays for itself after avoiding only 2 hotel nights. While the many other benefits make the choice a no-brainer, I have one more factor to offer. I will no longer willingly spend a whole day driving each way to the coast, to only get 1 day there. There was just too much fun left behind. Guess we’ll have to try again next year, thanks for reading!

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