Our next stop after a fabulous week at the Oregon coast was the Willamette Valley Wine Country RV park, also home to the Vintages Trailer Resort. We stayed there once, before we officially moved into the RV, and loved it. See our post about the Willamette Valley Wine Country. You can read more about the park on their website at www.willamettewinecountryrvpark.com. Also check out the excellent write-up done by Oregon Wine Press here.
This park is basically the cutest thing ever. The majority of the park is your standard RV park with rows of pull-thru spots available to travelers and a section dedicated to permanent residents. But what really stands out about this park is the entire row full of beautifully restored vintage trailers. The park rents these trailers out by the night, much like a hotel, but with a much greater “cool factor”. Each trailer comes fully stocked with everything you need to enjoy your stay in wine country, including dishes, linens, and basic toiletries. Each one also comes with two vintage-styled bicycles to cruise around town! Like I said, the cutest thing ever.
However, what we love most about this park is their top-notch customer service and extreme attention to detail. Most parks we stay at only do maintenance as needed. As a result everything tends to look dated and used. For example, at most parks the club houses, laundry rooms, and bathrooms are perfectly usable and generally clean but you can tell the last time they were updated was the late 90s. This doesn’t really bother us. We just want to shower and do some laundry. But at the Vintages the club house looks like came straight from Pinterest. Note: the clubhouse is only available by reservation but we peeked at it through the blinds.
Something else that impressed us was that the park was in the process of re-sealing all of the roads while were there. This could have been an inconvenience but they were really great about letting everyone know which roads were being paved each day and ensuring that there was always a way to get to your particular spot. But the real kicker was that they didn’t even “need” resealing. It seemed that they just wanted to make sure their roads were as smooth as possible. Trust me, this is not the way most parks approach road improvement.
Finally, as if you need any more convincing that you should stay at this park, the people running the place were so incredibly nice and accommodating! We booked our stay during the incredibly busy labor day weekend (and at the last-minute) but they still found a way to fit us in. Most parks just said, “Sorry, booked!”, but these guys figured out a way to make it work. We had to switch spots every day or so but they made it work. Seriously awesome people working here. By the end of our stay we felt like we were friends with the office staff, mostly because every time switched spots we had to check back in with the office to switch out our router. That’s right, every single spot comes with its own dedicated internet router. Most parks set up a wifi network for the entire park. In our experience, the service ranges from spotty to useless. The wifi here was as good as anything we had experienced in our old brick and mortar life. We were in internet heaven.
As I mentioned in our previous post, a fun part of having Brandon’s mom with us was having a third person there to capture all of the moments we never get on camera. Here you can see us unhooking the towing set up once we’ve arrived at our camp for the week.
And this is me pulling the Jeep into its parking spot. My skills at driving a manual have improved dramatically since we started traveling full-time, but I have to confess that most of my driving is still just driving around our various campgrounds.
Once we were settled into our spot we noticed that our neighbor’s rig looked suspiciously like ours! Everything looked so similar, from the paint job to the awnings, but it said “Continental” not “Safari”. The owners saw us checking it out and came out to chat. It turns out that Continental was another model of RV by Safari and this one was the same vintage as ours. No wonder they look so similar! The owners were super friendly and even let us have a look inside. Their’s came standard with a bath tub! I’m not sure the water usage would be worth it, but I have seriously missed my bath tub at home.
One final plug for The Vintages (I swear they aren’t paying us for this). This place looks incredible at night. They have filled all of the trees with lights that come on each night around sunset. It was so pretty and gave me an excuse to break out the tripod Brandon’s dad gave us so I could try my hand at night-time photography.
The next day we took off for a big excursion through wine country. So much to see and so little time! Our first stop was the Block House Cafe in Dayton, Oregon, just across the river from our campground. Technically, we could have walked (it’s a lovely walk) but we took the Jeep instead.
The cafe is inside of a repurposed historic church building. They did an excellent job of remodeling the inside and have even had a few photos and relics from the old congregation space hanging near the front door. The food was great, but be warned, the burgers are enormous!
Next door to the cafe is a much newer building that houses a wine tasting room and an adorable home goods shop, which was unfortunately closed.
After lunch we made our way over to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. This is a huge museum, full of planes and NASA memorabilia, but the big draw is the Spruce Goose. The Spruce Goose is a famous plane built by Howard Hughes in the 1940s. It was built entirely out of wood, though technically birch and not spurce. It famously flew for less than a mile for less than a minute.
These shuttles drive around the parking lot offering people rides to the front door. I asked the driver if I could take his photo. He responded, “Well sure, but that’s not very interesting. Let me take a photo of you driving!” unfortunately, he didn’t actually let me drive it. Also, the woman in the background is indeed wearing a bridesmaid dress. More on that later.
A little background information about the Goose. Hughes’s “flying boat” was originally designed for the military during WWII but was not completed in time to see actual use. The plane took its only flight on November 2, 1947, before being permanently stored. Many attribute the delays in construction to Hughes’s excentric personality and OCD-level perfectionism. He was a pretty strange dude and his life makes for interesting reading if you’re into odd history.
A favorite tidbit I found. Hughes once became so obsessed with Baskin Robbins Banana Nut ice cream that he had his staff order it in bulk. When Baskin Robbins discontinued the flavor his staff placed an order for 200 gallons specially made (200 gallons was the minimum order Baskin Robbins would take for a custom flavor). When the 200 gallons of Banana Nut finally arrived, Hughes declared that he was tired of Banana Nut and would only eat Chocolate Marshmallow ice cream. Unable to return the ice cream, free Banana Nut ice cream was served at one of Hughes’s Las Vegas hotels for a full year. A few gallons reportedly still live in the freezer.
The interior of the Goose was never completed but was designed to carry both soldiers and large equipment like tanks.
Carla was just barely tall enough to touch the bottom of the wing.
This plane was called a “Jenny” so, obviously, I had to take a picture with it.
So about that bridesmaid dress. Someone was getting married underneath the Goose!
The actual wedding would not be until after the museum closed for the day but we saw the wedding party arriving as we were leaving.
From the museum we drove out into the many hills full of vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Carla had never been to a wine tasting before!
Rows of picture-perfect grapes and classic red barns dot the landscape.
We took Carla to Bella Vida, a family run vineyard that we always enjoyed visiting for its incredible view.
See? Pretty much perfection. The wine’s not bad either.
We were lucky to pick this particular spot on the deck. These were the only chairs protected from the rain, so when the rain arrived a few minutes after we did, we ended up with the whole porch to ourselves.
When we pulled back into our spot at The Vintages we were met by this duck, just chillin’ in our yard. He (or she) then started begging for food like a dog! Well, technically we have no idea why he was following us around quacking but he seemed pretty pleased when Brandon brought out a slice of bread.
Our next big adventure was to go and play tourist in our old hometown. We got a late start because we had to move the RV into a new spot but we eventually made our way to downtown Portland for lunch at the food carts.
This seemed like an appropriate place to park the Jeep.
Bike commuting has been popular in Portland for quite some time, but I believe this rent-a-bike system is a recent addition.
I’ve always enjoyed the way the food carts are set up in Portland. All over the city you can find “pods” of many different types of food carts. So if you don’t know what you want for lunch you can walk around the block checking out all the different menus before deciding. And if you are with a group of people, everyone can eat somewhere different!
Brandon has always loved the burgers at Altengartz.
Carla and I both went with sushi and pork steam buns.
I can’t think of a better activity when playing tourist in Portland than going to Powell’s City of Books. This bookstore is amazing. It is seven stories (including the basement) and covers an entire city block. The owners claim it is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world, and I believe it.
Street parking can be tough to come by in Portland. I suggest parking in the Powell’s parking garage attached to the bookstore. The first hour is free with purchase! But be warned, this is not for tall vehicles. The Jeep just barely fit. Also, remember to remove your super tall sand-wheeling flag in advance. It made an awful racket banging on all of the pipes along the garage ceiling. We had been driving around with that giant flag on the back of the Jeep ever since Pacific City and hadn’t even noticed!
Powell’s has a section devoted to nearly every subject you can think of (store maps are available to help find your way), but I always end up lost in either travel or cooking.
“Speculative history” might be the strangest category I’ve come across in my many trips through Powell’s.
I loved this display of Harry Potter books from other countries. The books have been printed in so many different languages and with such a variety of cover art. However, my favorite is the new illustrated edition! The illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets comes out in October!
I came away with a few California travel guides. Carla picked up a dream interpretation book she used to own and love, but had lost somewhere along the way.
The final stop on our tour of PDX was the Japanese Garden in Washington Park. We would have loved to show Carla the nearby rose gardens as well but the blooms were looking pretty sad this late in the summer. The Japanese Garden, on the other hand, is lovely year-round.
It’s difficult to really show their size in photos, but these koi are some of the largest I’ve ever seen. Some very well fed fish here in Portland.
The gardens have a rotating feature of traditional and modern Japanese art forms. The current theme was bamboo weaving.
A Japanese Garden would not be complete without a meticulously maintained zen garden.
This watercolor paper we saw in the gift shop was really cool. The ink was on the board underneath the paper and bled through when you applied water. Brandon thought the little symbol I painted looked like the letters J and F combined. My new initials!
The final adventure in Carla’s grand tour was a drive through the Columbia River Gorge all the way to Hood River. We got lucky and had a full day of beautiful weather so we could really appreciate these amazing views.
Looking back through these photos makes me realize just how much fun we managed to pack into Carla’s nine-day visit! Having someone with us was such a great motivator to get us out of the house and go exploring!
These portraits were all taken at the Women’s Forum, a scenic viewpoint off of the Old Historic Columbia Highway. This was one of the places Brandon and I stopped to take engagement photos last spring.
The historic highway was built during the early years of the automobile and was specifically designed to be a scenic drive. It runs parallel to US 84 and is totally worth the extra time. However, don’t do this drive in your motorhome. The road was designed with tiny Model T Fords in mind, not giant modern RVs.
Next stop on the historic highway, Vista House! The Vista House is an incredibly popular viewpoint and pit stop for day trippers on the highway. The parking lot is often full so be patient.
This gorgeous building is technically just a rest stop. That’s right, a public toilet. But with a view this scenic they couldn’t build just any rest stop. It had to be the grandest rest stop this side of the Columbia.
And of course, the reason most everyone makes this drive to begin with. Multnomah Falls!
Multnomah Falls is nearly always crowded and on a sunny day it’s even worse.
However, the falls are still breathtaking, even when you have to fight through a crowd of people to see it.
My personal advice for touring the falls is twofold. First, go see the falls when the weather is terrible. Just put on your rain gear and acknowledge that you are going to get wet. You will have the whole place to yourself. We did this once with our friend Robert and it is still one of my favorite visits to Multnomah Falls. As a side note, wineries are also great places to visit when it’s raining. You may miss sipping vino on a sunny patio but without all the crowds you will have the complete attention of the tasting room staff. I’ve also noticed that the size of the tasting pours is directly correlated with how nasty the weather is. Second, spend some time exploring some of the other waterfalls along the historic highway. There are many just as beautiful as Multnomah Falls (though none as tall) but without all of the people.
This older couple enjoying their ice cream cones were just too cute.
If you continue on US 84 beyond the end of the historic highway you will eventually come to the town of Hood River. We loved visiting this little town when we lived in Portland. We once spent a very memorable weekend here in the dead of winter. We had planned the trip a month in advance but didn’t count on a snow storm blowing through the day before we left. The roads were covered in ice but we couldn’t be deterred. We were literally the only people on the road driving towards the storm and not away from it! The temperature was in the teens and the whole town was covered in snow. It was like our own personal winter wonderland. Again, just going for it despite the weather can sometimes work out in your favor.
The weather this trip, however, was gorgeous. And our first stop was for lunch at the Full Sail Brewery where we could look out onto the Columbia River and watch the windsurfers.
The beer here is also ridiculously tasty.
After lunch we did some shopping and eventually found ourselves at the Naked Winery. This is always a fun stop because it is probably the least pretentious tasting room I’ve ever been too. They specialize in sweet wines, which is not really my cup of tea, but I enjoy the vibe here. This is also the only tasting room I’ve been to that also serves beer.
There had been a party the day before celebrating the release of a new German-style wine. Lucky for us, they had yet to take down this awesome photo prop!
Hood River and the Columbia Gorge are well known as a destination for wind surfers. The gorge creates a wind tunnel effect, providing the perfect wind surfing conditions. There was a competition going on that day but we only caught the tail end of it.
It’s a very impressive sport that I imagine takes extreme upper body strength.
Most of the surfers were already out of the water, drying their kites before backing them away for the day.
I feel like this wind surfer, with his Westfalia camper fan, flannel shirt, long hair, and no shoes, really encapsulates the outdoorsy adventurous spirit of Oregon.
From Hood River we made our way back to our little home at the Vintages in Dayton, Oregon. In the morning we would be taking Carla to the airport to catch her flight back to Texas. It was so special to share a little bit of our new life with her and for her to finally see where we had been living for the last five years! As for us, we’ll be sticking around the Portland area for a few more weeks as we get ready for the next leg of our journey. California or bust!