Champoeg State Park

Even though Alpha wasn’t totally legal and would be back in the infirmary on Monday, we were really itching to take our new RV out for the first time. We decided to check out Champoeg State Park because it is only about 30 minutes from our house. We could easily be rescued if we had a mechanical problem. For our first test run we didn’t want to do anything too adventurous and Champoeg sounded perfect.

We were having unseasonably lovely weather for Oregon in late February. It was sunny and in the 60s during the day and clear and in the 40s at night. This time of year in Oregon is usually cold, rainy, and pretty dreary. Clearly other people also wanted to take advantage of the weather because by Saturday night the campground was almost entirely full.

Camping (either in RVs or tents) is a really popular weekend activity in Oregon. Some people actually reserve spots up to a year in advance. We thought the park might fill up because of the nice weather so Brandon drove to the park at lunch on Friday and put a barrel full of firewood in our chosen parking spot. It had a sign taped to it that said “Reserved and Paid”. This was not entirely true. We had not paid yet. But it looked pretty official and the park ranger said it was ok with her, though I’m pretty sure we would have been out of luck if someone decided to steal our barrel.

When Brandon got there after work the barrel was still there (as was the firewood)! Brandon backed Alpha into the spot, got the electricity plugged in, and the fridge chilling. I had to work late that day and arrived a few hours later with Rudy. It was already dark when I arrived so we just had a simple dinner of turkey sandwiches and hit the hay. We quickly realized how attached we are to the noise of a fan when sleeping at home. As a compromise we played a rain sounds playlist to fall asleep and made a mental note to get a small fan for the RV.


Saturday morning at Champoeg was absolutely beautiful but we quickly realized that I forgot to pack a very important bag of groceries – the one containing the coffee and creamer. I had also forgotten the wine, but that wouldn’t come up until much later in the day. I am a wee bit dependent on my morning coffee so I got dressed and headed into town.

Before going to the store for coffee and wine I stopped by a farm and garden supply store to pick up a horse lead. Dogs are welcome at state parks but they must be leashed at all times. Horse leads work really well as extra long dog leashes. They are usually about 20 to 30 feet long and come in lightweight versions that resemble a typical dog leash. You attach one end to the dog’s collar and the other end to something sturdy like a picnic table or tree. Then your dog is still technically on a leash but can wander the campsite a bit more. Now, I wouldn’t leave your dog on a long lead like this unattended. They can easily wrap the leash around trees and get tangled, as Rudy demonstrated numerous times throughout the day. We used to use this long lead system for Rudy while hanging out in the front yard when we lived in Austin, Texas. We lived on a busy street and didn’t want him to run out into the road. It worked really well at the campsite but I’m looking forward to taking Alpha somewhere where Rudy will be free to hang out off leash.


Rudy and I also went on a couple of long walks while Brandon worked on vetting all the various RV systems. The first weekend we had Alpha at the house we were having some trouble with the hot water heater. The system uses propane to heat the hot water, which then sits in the hot water tank until you need it. However, we notice that the heater would start up then shut off after only a few minutes. It appeared that it wasn’t getting enough air to keep the fire lit. Brandon had planned on doing some valve adjustments but during our trip the system seemed to work out whatever bug it had and functioned just fine for the whole weekend. In fact, we haven’t had any problems with it since that first weekend. So, until further notice it seems to have fixed itself.


Brandon also found some leveling jacks in one of the hatches and learned how to put the awning in “patio mode”. Patio mode, as Brandon called it, just means that the awning arms detach from the side of the RV and sit on the ground. This makes the awning arms a little less intrusive because you don’t have to walk all the way around them. You can walk straight under the awning and to the front door. This is great for clumsy people like myself that tend to just walk into things without looking.

Later in the afternoon we played bean-bag toss (some people call this corn hole) and had a surprise visit from Brandon’s boss and his boss’s teenage daughter. Brandon’s boss lives nearby and knew we would be camping at Champoeg over the weekend. Brandon had been talking about the RV at work and his boss was excited to see it in action. While Brandon showed his boss around the RV I chatted with his daughter. She was only 16 and much more together than I remember being at 16. She was already taking college classes knew that she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher when she grows up. I was rather impressed.

We made burgers for dinner and built a nice campfire to keep warm as the temperature dropped. Overall, a very successful first trip.


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