Home Away From Home

The very first place we took the Alpha Uno was Champoeg State Park. It was our very first time camping together in an RV and also our first visit trip to an Oregon State Park (law school ruined our weekends for a few years). That trip was the beginning of this crazy plan, though we had no idea at the time. We still have a fondness for Champoeg because of that first trip. The park is also ridiculously close to our house and Brandon’s job. He can get to the park from his office in about 15 minutes. It takes about 30 minutes from our house. Bottom line, even with shorter days and less light, we were still able to get to our spot and set up before dark. And even without the nostalgia factor, Champoeg is a beautiful park that is very well laid out so that everyone has enough space and privacy. It is also very close to wine country and the town of Newberg (in case you forgot some necessity, like coffee or wine).

This weekend felt like the true beginning of Fall. We’ve been having a bit of an Indian Summer in Portland. Just last week it was 80 degrees! But this weekend the clouds came back making everything dark and overcast, it started to rain again, and some strong wind began knocking the leaves off the trees. By Saturday afternoon it suddenly looked like Fall in Oregon.

We knew it was going to rain all weekend so we planned to just hang out on the RV. The rain came in sporadically throughout the day but we did get a couple of significant downpours. It was really nice to see the rain again. The land really needs it.

Mostly importantly, the RV continues to hold up against leaks! Knowing that our rig is watertight is very comforting. We did have one small incident where we saw water on the floor but it turned out that we had just left a window open.

We took Rudy on walks around the park whenever the rain let up, but he was happy just lounging around the RV as well.

For lunch I made a pot of sausage, brussels sprout, and white bean soup. I love one pot dishes at home but they are extra convenient on an RV. Our stove top is smaller than a household stove and we don’t have a dishwasher, so a one pot or pan dish is just perfect.

This soup is one of my own recipes and is very simple. It is savory and filling and perfect for a chilly day. The ingredient amounts are not precise because it doesn’t really matter. Use an appropriate amount for the number of servings you want to make and to your own taste.

To begin, slice a rather large pile of onions. These will be caramelized and cook down significantly so don’t worry that it looks like a ton of onions. I used three small onions, but generally just use one of those huge sweet onions.

To caramelize the onions begin by heating a tablespoon or two of olive oil and a table spoon or two of butter in your pot. Add the onions. Keep on low heat and stir frequently until they turn a yummy brown shade. If you are having trouble getting the caramelizing action going add a little sugar or honey. Caramelization brings out the natural sugars in the onions so adding some extra sugar can help if you your onions are less sweet.

Once your onions are caramelized, add in sliced sausage. I used precooked sweet apple chicken sausage but any precooked sausage will work. Using a spicy sausage will just add a bit of a kick to the dish.

Let the sausage get a little brown on the edges, then add in the brussels sprouts. These are fresh sprouts, destemmed and halved. It helps to rinse them after halving because dirt can get stuck under the leaves.

While the brussels sprouts begin to cook add in a few tablespoons of soy sauce. Soy sauce works surprisingly well in savory dishes. It adds depth and salt but doesn’t make it taste like Chinese food. I promise. This is also the time to add spices. I added some pepper and pizza seasoning blend because that is what I had on hand. It had garlic, italian herbs, and crushed red pepper in it. All good stuff. You don’t need to spice this soup heavily, just a little works.

Give everything a good stir, then add in beef stock and bring to a simmer.

Once the pot is at a simmer, add in drained and rinsed white beans. I used canned cannelli beans here but great northern or any other creamy white bean will work too. Stir in the beans and simmer for about 10 more minutes.

I like to serve this soup topped with parmesan cheese with a side of buttered crusty bread. Delish!

Most of the heavy rain came during the afternoon. We just hunkered down inside the RV and took care of some business. Nothing too strenuous – we didn’t want to over exert ourselves. I made us some hot cider with bourbon and worked on the blog. Brandon made a reservation to have our Jeep worked on. We’re doing some modifications to make it a real expedition vehicle. It will have new tires, a roof rack, and a tire  carrier rack. We’re super excited and can’t wait to see it all finished!

We had planned on eating leftovers for dinner but during a walk with Rudy we smelled someone cooking burgers. That was it. We were on our way to town to pick up some burgers from a local pub and grill. That is one of the great things about this park. It feels like you are in the middle of nowhere, but you are actually close enough to town that you can pick up take out.

Of course, Rudy went along for the ride. But no, he did not get his own burger. I think he’s still disappointed.

After dinner we put one of the extensions in the table and set up a game of Risk. The purpose of the game is world domination. Each player has little army men and battles the other player’s army through dice rolls to take over the different territories until one player has taken over the world. I’ve been playing this board game my entire life. In fact, this is even the same set that me and my brother played as kids. I had to replace the board because it had been chewed on by a dog at some point (probably ZuZu), but the pieces, cards, and box are all original. The replacement board I found on Ebay was even for the same special edition set.

Brandon and I are pretty good about playing board games without getting too heated over who wins. In fact, we have a hard time playing monopoly because it always ends in a tie. We negotiate with one another so effectively that we each end up with half the properties and trading the same $1,000 back and forth for rent.

Here, I was playing with the red and gold pieces. Brandon was playing with the black. By the time this photo was taken things were already looking pretty bad for Brandon’s army.

Brandon was really proud of this little dice trick. It fell right after I took the photo.

In the end, I won in one of the shortest games we have played to date. Risk can take hours and hours to play. Today I conquered the world in about two hours.


Rudy was totally tuckered out but you can tell by his smile the he had a pretty good day as well. 


The rain finally cleared out on Sunday morning. We had planned to take a drive through the countryside and get some nice photos of the picturesque farmland. However, we got so caught up checking out parts of the park we had never seen that we never even made it out onto the main road! This is seriously the park that just keeps on giving.

Our first stop was the riverside day use area. The whole park is built on land that was originally the town of Champoeg, an early pioneer settlement of around 700 people at its peak. Like most early settlements, they built the town near a river, in this case the Willamette River that also runs through Portland. Unfortunately, the entire town was wiped out by a flood in 1861. Amazingly, no one died in the flood because a wealthy entrepreneur with land on high ground invited the entire town to evacuate to his property.

We had been to the other day use area before to use the bike trails but had somehow missed this one. It was fantastic and we we plan to come back when we have more time. There were lots of picnic tables and open space, a pavilion, and it was all open  to reserve for large parties. That sounds like a great idea to me!





You can see a sign noting the high water mark from the 1861 flood on the side of this building. I don’t know the exact height of this sign from current water level but we did have to hike down a significant hill to get to the river’s edge, so this must have been an incredible flood.


Our next stop was the Champoeg historic home and museum. We intended to just stop by and take a picture of the building because we were short on time. It was already 11:30 and we needed to vacate our campsite by 1:00pm. But while I was taking a picture of the building a woman came out and asked if I was interested in a tour. I couldn’t say no. It cost $6 for the tour but I have no problem supporting this type of organization. They are doing fantastic work preserving American history. Plus, I can easily blow six bucks buying beer at happy hour and this was so much better.

The tour encompasses three buildings. The first is a recreated log house style building built in the 1950s. The building project was sponsored by the governor’s wife and the Daughters of the American Revolution. The building is built in the authentic style of pioneer buildings and houses an extensive collection of historic artifacts. The collection was donated by members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and descendants of local pioneer families. There was so much to look at that I honestly didn’t do it justice. Brandon stayed in the car with Rudy this time, but he’s definitely going on the tour next time. He would love it.

The building was originally located at the site of the original town, closer to water level. However, they were plagued by river flooding every few years and eventually decided to move the entire building. The grand re-opening was just a few months ago. They had to number each log and board as it was dismantled and put it all back together again at the new higher-ground location. Quite an undertaking, to say the least.



In the photo below you can see our tour guide dressed in period clothing. She was very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. She is a member of Daughters of the American Revolution herself. She might have been in her late 30s or early 40s and joked that she is the youngest member she knows. It reminded me of when Brandon joined the Model T club here in Portland. He was the youngest member by about twenty years. He inherited a Model T from his grandfather and has been working on it ever since. One day it will run again.




The next building was the old one-room school house (right next to the town jail). The jail was literally twenty feet from the school house. The buildings have been relocated farther from the river but they kept them at the same distance as they were originally located. The jail was a small wooden building with two bar-covered windows and a dirt floor. Not a pleasant place to be but nothing compared to our modern prison system.

The pictures below are of the interior of the school house. This particular school house had an attached “teacherage”. In pioneer days teachers would either find housing with a local family or would stay in the school housing or “teacherage” if one was available. This entire building was just two rooms, one for the classroom and one for the teacher’s living quarters. It would have been rather spacious by pioneer standards, except that the teacher that lived in this particular school building had six kids of his own! The room is currently set up with one bed. I have no idea where all those kids slept.


The tour guide was actually a teacher herself. She taught music at one of the local primary schools and also worked with an organization that taught classes here at the historic school house. Groups of students come in, sit at these very desks and learn lessons in the old style. They use individual chalkboards, adopt period appropriate names, and even use Mcguffey Readers.


The final building on the tour was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Newell, the wealthy entrepreneurs that took in all of the towns people in the 1861 flood. Unlike the other buildings, this home was still in its original location. This was an elaborate home during its time, but was in terrible condition when they opened the museum in the 1950s. It was almost beyond salvage but they acquired the original blueprints and rebuilt the home, using as much original material as possible. The result is outstanding. They were even able to recreate the original wallpaper. With a little research they found the manufacturer of the wallpaper in London, still in business and still in possession of the original printing plates.

This is a guest bedroom, complete with a private camber pot and wash basin.


This piano was not original to the home but was original to the period. It was transported by ship up the Willamette River. It was even in tune and played beautifully. Our tour guide knew enough piano to play us a few view bars.


This was Mr. Newell’s office. In addition to his various business ventures, he was also a doctor and a free mason. You can see the mason symbol on his jacket to the left of the photo. Apparently, the free masons all kept of picture of George Washington in their homes. Mr. Newell was not a doctor by trade or training but as one of the few mountain men that could read he became the go-to guy for minor procedures and ailments. He could read up on the symptoms and treatments in medical books and follow step by step directions for small surgical procedures. This earned him the nickname Doc Newell. Doc Newell played a prominent roll in early Oregon politics but was written out of most historical accounts due to his strong Native American sympathies.


The sitting room and stairwell of the Newell house. The fact that his house even had an upstairs made it exceptional for the time period.


I found this sign hanging outside of the kitchen. It shows prices for various goods during the mid-1800s. My how times have changed. In 1846 women were paid 75% less than men, rather than our modern rate of only 25% less than men.


The Newell family kitchen. Obviously, there was no refrigeration.


The metal tub in the middle of the frame was actually the bathtub, used for both children and adults. It was so tiny that I’m not sure I would even fit.


The floral wreath pictured below was made entirely out of human hair. The time and effort exerted to make something so strange is astounding.


One of my favorite parts of the tour were the upstairs exhibits at the Newell house. These rooms were originally where the children slept. They now housed a large collection of period quilts and Native American artifacts. The final room housed a collection of dresses from Oregon First Ladies. They had at least one dress donated by the family of every first lady dating back to Oregon’s statehood in 1859 and continuing up until the 1990s.

This wall of dresses represents the 1800s.


This wall represents the 1900s.


In conclusion, we really love this park. I’m making our next reservation right away. I need to spend a few hours in this museum rather than 30 minutes.

As a perfect end to a perfect weekend, we were greeted by this stunning sunset when we arrived back home.


2 thoughts on “Home Away From Home

  1. I don’t know how i missed this post but i’m glad i finally saw it. What an interest place and a spectacular sunset. You get so much information in a short amount of words. Love it! 🙂


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