Helena to Oregon Dunes (long) 1 of 3

May 08, 2022  •  2 Comments

It's been a long 3 years since I've had a salt water "fix" so after MANY months of  planning the trailer made it's remodel shake down voyage.    I'll tell you we had a really rough start though so a little pre-trip information.    About 3 weeks before we left Epic started having issues with horrible pain in his neck, shoulders and ribs.   On top of that he also ended up with a raging ear infection (we suspect because of inability to shake his head due to the other stuff happening).   We did intensive rehab, acupuncture, soundwave and chiropractic literally  up to the day we left (more on that in a minute).  He was barely able to move without screaming in pain.   I cannot  tell you how stressful that was for me on top of all the work nonsense going on at the time (on top of trying to get everything ready for our trip).   I think I was as big of a mess as he was - I just wasn't in the physical pain.   So I stocked up on anything that would help his pain got helpful advice from the vet and our chiropractor and prayed he'd at least be able to travel and that being  in the truck for 4 days wouldn't make things worse.

I had planned to take the day before departure off from work but with all the added stress, appointments and such I took 2 days and am glad I did.   We left on a Thursday but again, the Gods were telling me to slow down.  As I filled the trailer water I had a hose leak in the garage.  As I went in to go shut it off, I slipped on the floor, hyper extended my left hamstring/leg and landed  on my right knee.   God bless my friend and chiropractor Terri who  offered to see me literally on our way out of town on Thursday at 7:30 a.m.   I am so glad as Epic  woke up that morning screaming in pain again and barely able to walk because his  neck was messed up.   She fixed us up and off we went - never so glad to get out of town  and away for vacation and praying we'd remain in one piece (honestly, I was really starting to wonder if  it was a good idea to leave at all).

This is a map of the first part of our trip.

The drive was uneventful to our first overnight spot.   It was sad to see how dry it  was all the way across to Spokane.   The rivers should be running high and muddy but they all looked like they do in August.  Our first night was spent at a HipCamp spot south of Cheney WA.   I've started using HipCamp as an alternative option for some overnight spots especially in areas where RV camping is sparse or crappy.   I've always wanted to have a location around Spokane that I could overnight easily on my trips to the West Coast.   The place was awesome and although I  was too tired to do any stargazing (that is one of their activities as they are out where there is no light pollution)  I still enjoyed that it was quiet, our host was lovely and the bonus was the acquisition of 1/2 dozen amazing fresh eggs for the rest of my trip!   Side note:  All the photos here are from either my phone or my little hiking camera - I had the big ones with but didn't dig them out deciding to try to see just how good (or not) the other 2 would work.  

They had chickens, ducks and kitties roaming around which of course really intrigued  my dogs in the camper and were just fun to watch.   Epic seemed to be feeling better and when he actually pulled a ball out of the toy box I had hope he was on the mend as he'd not even touched a toy (his neck was so bad he even had a hard time eating much less chomping a ball) in over 3 weeks.

Next day we took the "back way" down to Boardman where we ALWAYS stop and stay on our way as it is just a marvelous spot.   I stupidly had booked a site I'd had before (#15 which has great big lawns  and awesome views but...) not reading my notes  that it was a bugger to back into.  But we made it and honestly the trip down there (via 95 and Walla Walla) was quite pleasant.   We were rewarded with yet another universal slap in the face when my water pump wouldn't pump water.   Some trouble shooting on the phone with my handy dandy brother and discovered that at some point over time I'd gotten algae in my fresh water tank.  How did that make it through my fresh tank cleansing I did a few weeks prior AND  not  give me a problem the night before - dunno!  It sucked - or rather didn't and all we could surmise  was that it depended on the bumpiness of the roads and how much the stuff got stirred up.  Who knows.   Solution was to pull off the water filter, rinse it, run a bunch of water through the pipes (kitchen sink and shower) without their screens until it  was happy again.  Geez!  Should I turn around and just throw in the towel?

Once resolved though  we were rewarded with a lovely quiet evening (although cold - so glad I had brought the dog bed heating pads  for the two nekkids and two electric space heaters  for the rest of us (one of the suggestions our vet had  was to try to make sure Epic stayed warmer at night so he wasn't constricting those muscles curling up to stay warm).

Like my fun "Happy Camper" jammies?   A gift from Tinker's Mom Linda.  The next day Epic and I did a short walk at the marina where the trees were blooming and got his poop and Sterling's done (as for some reason they weren't getting enough movement in the expens to do it apparently).

Again, can't say enough about  Boardman Marina and RV Park but you must get reservations early if you want to stay there (the reservations open up online  for the season the first part of January).   Full hookups, great walking paths and quiet (this is  family friendly not party friendly) with super nice check in folks and the place is immaculate!

We hit the road headed to our next camping spot at Tumalo State  Park by Bend.   I had always wanted to see the John Day Fossil Beds Painted Hills Unit  so decided to work our way south with a planned stop there  to see what we could.  The research I had done indicated we would probably be able to park up at the Vista Point. What I didn't think about is that it was Saturday and everyone and their dog would be there.    The trip took us down 19 and through the most lovely and well kept small farm town I think I've ever seen.  Condon, OR.   After talking  with my OR expert (Lori you are the bomb) apparently Condon and John Day are pretty popular retirement communities as well.   I was so impressed.    The drive was very interesting with wind farms, what I think is a new ginormous solar farm, and lots and lots of just really cool scenery.   If you have  the chance to take that highway I highly recommend it.  It isn't the fastest drive but it is worth it.  It also goes through some great National Forest.   That said I did map out and take a cut across to get to Mitchell (207) that was okay but I think I'd have been better served with the truck and trailer to just take 19 down to 26.   Drive and learn.  It was a pretty narrow and really slow going road and not the best kept.   

I went up the gravel road to the fossil beds Visitor Center hoping to find a  ranger that might be able to tell me if the truck/trailer could go to the Vista.   None around and based on 1.  the amount of traffic we met and that went by the center and 2. the fact I barely found a place at the  center to park I decided it best to not go all the way up.  So no "iconic" photo from Painted Hills BUT we had passed a pullout that had some cool painted hills where not only could I fully pull off the road but the dogs could get out and stretch.    So we did and had the  pullout all to ourselves!

Since there was no one there I honestly believe it was a better stop than we'd have had with all the yahoos up at the "official stop".    After that onward to Bend/Tumalo where we ran into a raft of classic cars  who must have had a rally in Redmond and on to the off the trail Tumalo State Park.   Kind of confusing as the actual PARK is on one side of the road  but  you get to the campground entrance on the OTHER side of the road first and of course I missed it.  Lovely OR State  Park camp hosts (honestly I've rarely found any that were bad).  I drove up and the lady said "I hope you have a reservation?" to which I replied - "of course!".   Lovely park with quite a few tent  campers but again, some pretty tight backing.  The spots may be long enough  for the rigs but the roads to the spots aren't really wide enough.   Took some fanageling (and asking a tent camper dude to watch so I didn't hit any boulders  I couldn't see) and got in finally.   I knew we would have electric and water hookups  but was  surprised to also see sewer (although I didn't need it as I'd dumped tanks  at Boardman).    We were tuckered out and and another cold night was  upon us (and all the tent campers including the one with a 2 year old who was NOT happy to be cold the next morning).

Would definitely recommend the park but be careful with rig sizes and the spots you pull in.  We were in site 56 which had a big boulder across the road I had to avoid with the truck and a hillside of boulders behind (tricky when dropping the gate to pull the expens  out).   Next morning as I was loading the poodles into the truck (had brought along the dog ramp as Sterling too is having trouble getting his  rear in the truck) Epic had another episode and was screaming.  Got him into the truck, gave him some CBD and we left.

From there we headed to the Oregon Dunes to meet my brother.   I headed down 20 and cut across 58 to I5.  Again 58 was an amazingly beautiful drive, 2 lanes but plenty of pullouts and passing lanes.   Quite a bit of truck traffic but gosh the mountains and lakes were great.   We found a fabulous chain up area (they weren't in use this time of year and provide great spots to pull off and stop if you need to) where everyone got out for a stretch, potty and lunch.  Epic seemed to be better as I now was being extra careful getting him  in and out of the truck and always used the flexi lead as to not put pressure on his neck (we also put on his harness when we could).   I5 was exciting as always but only a short hop to get to 34 and head west to Reedsport.    Another lovely highway to drive and even more entertaining to watch the 100s (I kid you not) of toyhaulers, trailers with toys, toys on trucks heading home after a weekend at the Dunes (this was Sunday after all).   I arrived at Riley Ranch (an ATV people's campground Kent had stayed at before) that allows direct access to the dunes.  I was there right at check in time (2:00 and check out was at noon) and low and behold, both my spot and Kent's were still occupied and NO ONE around either spot.   Kent, who was probably only 20 miles behind me pulled in and we did the loop again, still no one around to even indicate they were packing up.   Now after making reservations 6 months in advance and driving 2-4 days to get there the LAST thing I want to find is that my spot is taken!  So I parked up in the entrance lot  and Kent went to every one of the 3 campground hosts spots - not  a  hosts to be found.   He also talked to someone picking up the garbage and was told basically "good luck finding one of those hosts".  He also stopped and talked to someone in one of the other loops who also indicated that there had even been a big domestic dispute the night before and not a host to be seen.  Great!   So we parked in a field not far from our assigned spots.   About 4 p.m. the motorhome finally pulled out of his spot but meanwhile we  found out the spot down below  that had been empty all weekend - and gee not reservation slips so I went up and parked in his reserved spot (the  idiots in MY spot didn't leave till after 6 that night) and by 5 p.m. decided that Kent would pull  into the one below.  What a cluster and after Kent revealed that the same issue had happened last time he was there we decided one of our missions would be to find someplace else to camp next time  we did the Dunes.  None the less, the spot he got was better than what we had reserved, not a single park person came by to ask why he was in that spot (and that mine was empty), no one came  by with reservation tags (altho a park truck drove the loop at least twice a day) and we never EVER in our 5 nights there saw any one of the camp hosts!  Whatever.   On our last day there some old lady who proclaimed herself to be the "manager" (Kent remembered she was the camp host that gave him loads of excuses last time he was there and his spot was taken) rolled by and asked Kent if we were leaving and was oh so surprised when he said we'd been there all week.   Bottom line - Riley Ranch, Coos Bay (run by the county I believe) - NOT RECOMMENDED - not because the place is bad, the sites were really nice but because it isn't managed at all (read "the wild  wild west for getting spots" even if reserved).   Okay enough whining - here's some photos:

I got my first side by side ride with my brother (actually we did a few) and oh my word the expanse of those dunes is just amazing (as is the opportunity to get lost).   It was super fun and I thank him for bringing it along so we could go play.  Last ride though I did end up with a grain of sand in one of my eyes that took almost a week to work out.  What I didn't know was he has no windshield so next trip I will invest in a full face helmet to wear!

I'm going to leave you here with a couple of videos from the side by side rides (youtube links) below.

Oregon Dunes 1

Oregon Dunes 2





So glad you came out to OR for vacation again! There's just so much beautiful country here to see. I think there are 40 miles of dunes on the coast, so easy to get lost. And I've heard that you have to drive fast so you don't get bogged down in the sand :-)
So good to see and talk with you. Hope Epic continues to heal.
Far Side(non-registered)
So good to see you blog again! I hope that Epic is better by now, poor guy! You really need a side by side in Montana! Just think of the places you could go! We love ours it is enclosed...but you could wear safety glasses or goggles! Sorry to hear that work is still a stress for you. So happy you could spend time with your brother!
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