We just got our RV adventure on the road – finally! We just made it all the way from Vancouver, Canada to Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon, a distance of about 500 km (313 miles). We are finally on the road for the RV living adventure we have been planning for over a year. And we are staying at the RV park that we booked and cancelled twice before, due to the various speed bumps we hit trying to get this adventure started. Third time’s the charm! And it’s as wonderful as it sounded, even though we got here late in the year and the rainy season has started. The video below is our report back on the trip, and then I have written in more detail about how it went below.
It took us two days to get here. On day 1 we drove hundreds of miles into the USA, on a scary, busy highway – the I5. We made it to our destination, Little Creek Casino in Olympia, Washington.
We parked in a gravel parking lot, so we experienced our very first boondocking night (that is, camping with no hookups, and using minimal electricity). We had dinner at the casino (quite nice, except for that pervasive smell of cigarette smoke that clings to all casinos). Then we didn’t even bother to push out our slides. We just curled up in bed with the important things we remembered to leave handy – warm PJs, solar lights, two fluffy dogs, each other, and some wine!
It was a warm moment to mark the end of probably one of the most stressful days of our lives. There is a saying that declares you should do one thing that scares you every day. What happens if you do eight things that scare you in just one day?
Day 1: Surrey, Canada to Little Creek Casino, Shelton, Washington (203 miles)
Our scary first day started at 6 a.m. in pitch darkness and pouring rain – a stark reminder of why we wanted to leave Vancouver for the winter. Four days of rain and I had already had more than enough! Wherever you go in Vancouver right now, people are coughing. This cannot be healthy. In any event, we spent two hours in the rainy dark striking camp and loading up.
Getting New Tires for Our Fifth Wheel at Fountain Tire
Then off to Fountain Tire for new tires to replace the no-name rubbish tires that came stock with our Denali Fifth Wheel. Getting the tires should have been easy. We planned it in advance, ordering the tires after I did a lot research, coming up with Goodyear HD tires for RVs. We also drove the route in advance without the trailer, to make sure it was going to be OK. So, we arrived only a few minutes late for the tire fitting appointment, and drove up to the spot we had planned. All good.
Only then, they asked us to back up the trailer to a different spot.
Now, we have practiced driving forwards a lot, but we have not practiced driving backwards nearly enough. About 10 minutes total, and we still don’t even have the theory clearly in our heads. (We just remember that it is counter-intuitive …)
So, words cannot really do justice to what a fiasco that was. Maggie and I took turns failing to get the trailer to the right spot. Fountain Tires employees came out to stare in slack-jawed amazement. One of them offered advice, which totally failed to help. About 40 hideous minutes of total stress went by, as we maneuvered the Fifth Wheel into increasingly impossible positions, and I began to worry that we would have to be air lifted out.
Eventually the salesman, who clearly wanted his commission no matter what, advised us to abandon the Fifth Wheel just where it was, and they would figure it out. Relieved, we un-hitched (we are quite good at that now), and went off for breakfast at White Spot. I switched off my phone, in case they phoned to ask us to move the Fifth Wheel again. It was a relaxing hour in the midst of a tough day.
When we picked up the Fifth Wheel, they had done a great job. They also managed not to insult our reversing at all. I kept mentioning this was our first trip EVER. I do recommend Fountain Tire employees for good tire service and the ability to keep a straight face, no matter what you do. However, I will never show my face there again!
Then off to the border between Canada and the USA. On the plus side, we made it through, eventually. On the negative side, at the Pacific Truck Crossing (never again!), the USA apparently wants to make sure only intelligent people vacation in their country, so they have a challenging obstacle course to negotiate through the crossing. Basically, a tough left turn, and if you don’t make it, you get to hit a concrete pylon with the side of your trailer. Many people have managed to hit that pylon before us, so it is leaning drunkenly sideways – but it is still a major hazard. (Begging the question of why they just don’t remove it.) We came within a quarter of an inch of hitting the concrete pylon. Fortunately, we had a patient, pleasant border guard, and the people behind us politely (and hastily) backed up when we started backing our 23,000-pound rig towards them. Fortunately, Maggie’s reversing seemed to have miraculously improved since the whole tire fiasco. Eventually, we got through. No one was injured, and no property was damaged!
That should have been it for the major stress, because after that we had a dead straight interstate ahead us. And the rain stopped the minute we crossed the border into the USA. But … thanks to the delay with the tires, traffic was heavy and really quite scary in Seattle and Tacoma.
Plus, we were barely minutes into our trip before someone hailed us and we all stopped so he could tell us our trailer lights were out. A great good Samaritan, thank you, anonymous stranger! Our power plug from the Fifth Wheel to the truck had come loose, but not loose enough to trigger a warning in the cab.
Next, we stopped at Bow Hill Rest Stop, just 20 miles south of Bellingham. A really nice rest stop with lots of space, clean washrooms, highly recommended. But it was also at that point that we realized we had lost our passenger side tail light. We tried our road side assistance insurance, but their only remedy was to tow us, which would have been just silly. We eventually managed to get it to work by cleaning corrosion on the bulb contacts.
Finally, we got to our overnight stop, Little Creek Casino near Shelton, Washington. I walked around in the foggy cold finding a drive-through spot to park, and almost got run over. Another lesson learned – put on reflective clothing when walking in the dark in a busy casino parking lot. We managed to find an excellent spot where we could park for free. As mentioned, we had dinner and a pleasant evening cuddled in our small but cozy bedroom.
That was short-lived, as we were awoken at 2.39 a.m. by the Class A RV parked right next to us. Its owners decided to idle their diesel motor for several hours, causing both noise and air pollution. Wonderful! We managed to get a bit more sleep, but we certainly learned that free RV parking spots can come with some serious downsides.
The next morning, I fetched some decent coffee from the casino, but then we were almost asphyxiated as we hastily prepared our Denali for the day’s trip. Thanks to another neighbor who decided to idle his enormous diesel RV. Making us once again glad that we opted to spend extra money on solar panels. We really do not want to be that guy who idles in parking lots!
Day 2: Little Creek Casino, Shelton, Washington to Fort Stevens State Park, near Astoria, Oregon (113 miles)
Before we set off, we pulled in at a gas station. Another first, and another scary thing done! If we were only going for one scary thing per day, we would have been done already by 9.30 a.m.! Unfortunately, there were many more scary things awaiting us that day …
I took the first shift driving that day, and was thrilled to find that route 108 was a much quieter road than the I5, with little traffic and just two lanes. I engaged cruise control, and had nothing to do but steer and vigilantly monitor my lane position. And the rain continued to stay away! It seemed as if we had left the rain behind in Canada, and there was nothing but sunny skies ahead.
But then we got onto even more secondary routes, with single lanes, and often tortuous curves and constant uphills and downhills. And of course, inevitably, a lineup of motorists behind us because, for the sake of safety, we had to go slower than the speed limit. That was certainly stressful. Capped off by driving across the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which is one of the longest and most impressive bridges in the world, crossing the Columbia River and linking Washington to Oregon.
The scenery as you cross is magnificent, but unfortunately, on the Oregon side there is a shipping line, so the bridge ascends steeply. As you approach, it really looks as if you are ascending into heaven. It was intimidating for us because we have not yet fully tested the ability of our truck to tow our Fifth Wheel up huge hills. And it is single lane, so stopping on the bridge would have been out of the question. In any event, as you can see in the video, we made it over pretty well!
After that we were almost immediately in Astoria, and a short time later, arrived at Fort Stevens State Park. It is really a premium park, beautifully laid out and well managed, and situated in the midst of many natural and man-made attractions. Including our primary goal, good cycling and hiking trails. Plus, a lake and several beaches! We had booked a pull through site, so it was a cinch to park our RV. Before we go to our next destination, we absolutely have to practice reversing, in case our next site is not as easily accessible!
As always, our dogs, Billy and Ripley, traveled really well the entire time, good as gold. They seem to love their spots on the back seat, especially as they cannot see out the windows, so they are not nervous!
However, when we got to Fort Stevens, I hitched the dogs to a tap while we set up camp, and an entire gang of squirrels decided to sing out at them. Plus a few frogs. Our poor little dogs were terrified – such city dogs!
We have got quite good at setting up camp, and were soon comfortably organized. Just in time to go into Astoria for shopping and a really fabulous dinner at Bridgeview Bistro. This bistro offers a lot of gluten-free options, and had a really great pianist. It was lovely to have live piano playing for a change, instead of having conversation drowned out by loud recorded music. And the interesting thing was that we were underneath the bridge that had been so scary to drive over. I must say, we definitely preferred being underneath that bridge!
Our first day at Fort Stevens was rainy, and we were focused on nothing but recovering from three tiring days. But we did look around a little, and there are clearly many fun activities to do here. Most notably, the sand dunes next to the Pacific Ocean to explore, the cycling trails that seem to be everywhere, and the many historical attractions that this area is famous for. I look forward to reporting back on these soon!
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