California Oregon Washington

To the mountains we go

The Santa Rosa to Portland leg of our Los Angeles to Seattle road trip was the longest driving day of our 10-day monster road trip. We drove US-101 exclusively until we hit Crescent City near the California/Oregon border. At Crescent City, we cut across to the I-5 on US-199.

Including our stop at the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree Park in Leggett (a stop I somewhat regret, more on that later), it took us a little over 13 hours to get to our Airbnb in Portland. The best part this drive was zipping through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park which is located literally across the 101 from Redwood National and State Parks.

After visiting Muir Woods the day prior and learning of the history of gigantic trees, I had mixed feelings about visiting the tree park but we slated it on the original agenda and we needed a break from driving so we paid the $10 and entered the “park”.

The drive-thru tree is located on private land just off of 101. The tree is approximately 2,400 years old which is why I have regrets about stopping to see it. It took nearly 2,400 years for the tree to grow to its current size and then a human came along and decided to carve out the middle of its trunk to make money.

The tree is 21 ft / 6.4 m wide and is 315 ft / 96 m tall. As mentioned previously, the Corvette is the size of a compact car and it would not have fit through the tree. I guess my advice is this: If you plan to actually drive through the trunk of the tree and you are driving a car larger than a Smart Car, then your dreams are going to be crushed.

In addition to the tree, there are a few big wood-carved animals scattered in the park and along the gravel path road from the pay shack to the tree. That is what $10 gets ya.

The drive was mostly scenic through dense forests, a range of altitudes and the occasional ocean view. Two hours later we found ourselves driving through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park with gigantic redwood trees inches from the curvy road. Many trees were marked with reflectors!

Due to time, we decided to skip our visit to Redwoods National Park. If I could do that day over again, I would choose to stay in a hotel near the California/Oregon border (versus Portland) and spend some time in Redwoods National Park. It’s just that I don’t know when I’ll be in that area again and I do not think Peter and I would set aside a long weekend to visit the park.

Shortly after crossing into Oregon, I announced that we would need to stop for gas and warned my dad that Oregon is one of two states which ban self-service gas stations. His reaction told me that he did not believe me so I recommended he “Google that shit”.

He started reading what he found…

  • In June 2017, a law was passed in Oregon which allows customers to pump their own gas but only in counties with less than 40,000 residents.
  • Many residents in rural Oregon do not know how to pump gas.
  • Many believe that pumping gas should be a service left to qualified professionals.
  • Gasoline fumes are dangerous to pregnant women.

You can read more about Oregon’s gasoline policy here.

I personally like the idea of someone else handling the dirty and smelly gas pump handle. The process begins pretty straightforward. You pull up to the pump and are greeted by the attendant who will ask you how much you want (you can request by price or by volume).

That is where normalcy ends and awkward begins.

Do you stay in the car while they pump the gas? Do you get out of the car and have a chat? Do you put your credit card in the machine or do you had it to the attendant to put it in the machine on your behalf? Will the attendant wash your windshield or is that the driver’s responsibility? Do you tip the attendant for pumping gas (answer: no)? What about tipping if the attendant washes your windshield (answer: no)? Do you go to the bathroom whilst they are pumping gas or when they are done? If when they are done, do you move your car away from the pump or keep it there? What about buying a snack in the shop – can you do that while the service professional is doing their thing or must you wait until they are finished?

We arrived at our Airbnb in Portland around 8pm and quickly chatted with the host who lived in the unit upstairs. We were booked to stay at the Airbnb for two nights but decided we would instead drive to Seattle the following morning and reduce our 11-day road trip to 10 days.

A couple of factors played into this decision. First, the Airbnb was not up to standard. I do not believe it was cleaned prior to our arrival with the exception of a quick change of sheets and bath towels. The host was not fooling anyone with the state of that apartment. It is the only Airbnb property I have not reviewed, mostly because, in my experience, Airbnb does not take action on negative feedback. A couple of days after the review period ended, Airbnb reached out to me and asked me one question: How do you feel about your stay at Carla’s in Portland?

It was a multiple choice question and I answered “terrible”. As expected, there was no further follow-up by Airbnb.

Second, the things my dad wanted to see were located outside of Portland. Third, we were both eager to get to Seattle and have a few days off from the road.

We set the agenda for the following day and went to bed. The agenda was as follows:

  • Vista House/Columbia River Gorge
  • Mount Hood
  • Mount Rainier National Park

We arrived at Vista House before it was open and before people were crawling over the place like ants. This was my third visit to Vista House and it was the most peaceful of the three. My dad took this awesome photo.

Our next stop was to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. Mount Hood is big and can be seen from miles away.

Timberline ski resort boasts the longest ski season in North America, operating every month of the year. In the summer, non-skiers can ride the Magic Mile chairlift up the mountain for stunning vistas so we did just that.

There was hardly any snow on the mountain and there were a lot of kids skiing as this is a popular destination for summer ski school. Large boulders and dirt were exposed on 85 percent of the mountain.

Hikers were hiking up the runs while skiers were skiing down them. The situation was bizarre and there would be no way in hell I would spend the time or money to ski down a mountain with almost no snow in June.

The photo above is the upper-most chairlift which still had snow all the way to the chairlift, however, the snow ended well before the lower chairlift so skiers were forced to remove their skis and walk to the ski lift along the hiking trails.

Whilst the vistas from Mount Hood was nice, I’m still in the honeymoon phase of my Whistler love affair. It is hard to beat the views from Whistler peak.

We left Mount Hood starving and stopped for a quick bite to eat in The Dalles before crossing over the border into Washington state. Our road trip was coming close to its end and I was kinda sad but also happy that I would not have to repack my suitcase for an 11th night in a row.

We drove the one-lane US-97 through from The Dalles to Yakima. It was a flat and mostly boring drive with the occasional passing wind turbine field.

We stopped in Toppenish for drink replenishments and a bathroom break. Immediately upon entering the city, we noticed the many murals painting on the buildings. Due to a bladder that was about to burst, I only had time to take photos of a few murals.

The reason why we chose to drive to Yakima versus backtrack from Mount Hood to Portland and take the much faster I-5 route to Seattle was that my dad and I both wanted to drive through Mount Rainier National Park. There are two scenic bypasses through the park and we chose to drive the Chinook Scenic Byway. It passes through Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and Mount Rainier National Park.

The weather was perfect and visibility was great. We spent a lot of time on this drive and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. There is something about being in the mountains that is very peaceful to me.

There were still large drifts of snow at Chinook Pass which sits at an altitude of 5,430 ft / 1,655 m but no jacket was needed. The temperatures were autumn-like.

Mount Rainier National Park was the final stop on our epic road trip across 11 states. We drove thousands of miles listening to only the radio and our voices. We saw mountains, rivers, lakes, deserts, canyons, prairie land, rolling hills, gorges, and the Pacific Ocean. We lived through the heat and humidity of Illinois and Missouri to the dry heat of Arizona to the chilling temperatures on top of Mount Hood. We rolled through the northern-most, southern-most, and western-most states. And I think I speak for both of us when I say we had a good time.

Since this trip, I’ve thought about doing a similar trip with my dad beginning in Maine and driving down the east coast all the way to the Florida Keys. I want to see for myself if the West Coast really is the best coast and the only way to do that is to experience the East Coast in its entirety.

We arrived in Seattle on tires that were literally worn down to their cords. One misstep of our mountain adventure was that we failed to take into account the altitude and that tires deflate at higher altitudes which makes them wear more aggressively.

The following day we dropped the Corvette off at the dealership for an oil change. I drove to the dealership in my car and he followed me so that we could leave the car with them for the day. During this drive, I drove over something in the road which became implanted in one of the front tires.

After dropping off the Corvette, we drove to Audi and dropped off the car for a tire replacement. This is the third tire we have replaced on the car in two years and each tire has been replaced when we are hosting visitors.

down to zero cars, I whipped out my phone and found the nearest BMW car share. We walked there, unlocked the car and off we began running errands. The amount of transport options in Seattle is one of its only redeeming qualities.

A few hours later, the Chevrolet dealership confirmed that the tires were basically falling apart and so my dad spent the rest of the day trying to find Corvette tires in stock in the Seattle-Bellevue area and was ultimately successful. The following day we dropped the car off to have the tires replaced so that there would be no surprises on his drive back to Minneapolis.

Beginning mileage day 110,630
Ending mileage day 1115,356
Total miles driven4,726
Total gas purchased~$800

Next up, a synopsis of my trip with Peter to London and Malta back in July (I may be a tad bit behind on blogging).

1 comment on “To the mountains we go

  1. That picture of your dad is adorable!

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