View original topic: Trip report: MN to the PacNW and back
BitterBeerFace Sun Sep 09, 2012 7:33 pm

The stats:
29 days
7215 miles
1 transmission issue
1 speeding ticket
1 random stranger's car engine fire extinguished
5 nights staying with friends
2 nights hotel
22 nights camping
Camping costs ranging from $0/night (forest service) to $53/night (Fishing Bridge inside Yellowstone).

My main gripe about the trip was the heat... I'd spent July in MN and TX with most days over 90 degrees, and I managed to follow clear blue skies and heat almost the whole trip. Clear skies are good, except when you're a redhead and prefer shade :)

The first two days of the trip were basically straight to Thermopolis, WY.

My '2nd leg' up arriving in Portland, but neglecting Saturday's jaunt to MogFest:

The '3rd leg' of MogFest until driving straight home from Kalispell, MT:

And yes, those are routes only a Vanagon driver (or possibly a drunken lemur) would choose.

On the way to Thermopolis, the highest pass I (very slowly) crossed:

Thermopolis, WY

One thing I can't resist is artillery on display!

Next stop, Yellowstone!

Enjoying a good beer on the Old Faithful Inn balcony

Old something-or-other

Old Faithful complex from Observation Point trail

Vanagon drivers don't even like to stay on the main trails!

Roosevelt Arch. I absolutely agree with the escription!

Take all the park's little side roads!

I've seen enough Bison that I don't usually take photos, but this is just too perfect!

Next stop: Grand Tetons

Right at the base of the Tetons

Climbing up to Inspiration Point

Next stop was Lava Hot Springs, then American Falls... didn't get any decent photos.

Picture says it all

The up by Rexburg to see what's left of the Teton Dam

Driving north-east again almost gets back to Yellowstone, but it does lead to Mesa Falls

The head straight west across the desert and you find

EBR-1, first generation of electricity from nuclear power. Also the first 'breeder reactor' that bred Plutonium as a by-product

Outisde are two experimental nuclear aircraft engines

Driving north in Idaho, just a nifty place to stop for lunch. In the shade, along a lakeshore.

Heaven's Gate fire tower. The drive up here is an experience unto itself! (20 miles of over 6% grade)

Part of the road to the firetower switching back all over the place

Coming back down from the Heaven's Gate, my brakes started smoking, so I had to give it some time to cool down... figured I should clean some of the gravel dust off, but not before a pic!

Winding through Idaho's moutains, I started hearing a helicopter... close... looking up and I couldn't spot anything, but suddenly, holy #$!7! You really do see interesting things on the side-roads...

Mountain goats inside Hell's Canyon

Hop museum in Toppenish Washington

If you know "The Farming Game", you might appreciate this grouping:

Hood River, OR has an awesome antique vehicle museum, everything is kept in driving/flying condition!

Mt. Hood

Golden Eagle in Astoria, OR

Sea Life in the tidal zone on Oregon Coast

Snagged a great pic of my friends on the beach!

McMinville Evergreen Aviation Museum... the "Spruce Goose" does have a little more interior space than a Vanagon...

Their rocket/space side is cool too!

Tillamook's "Hangar B"... I might be able to fit all the vans I'd want in there...

Back east of Portland heading to Multnomah Falls--love seeing the winding road sign!

Wayside rest circa 1916... "Vista House"... marble floors, brass railings...

Then up to the north side of St. Helen's

Up to Olympic National Park

The trees are kind of big, and the parking areas a little vague...

Over on Vancouver Island... I wussed out and decided this wash-out was too deep to get past going uphill in the AC westy.

Getting pretty far west on Vancouver island

Botancial Beach near Port Renfrew

Fully-functional steam powered lumber mill near Port Alberni, BC

Back in Washington... Anacortes. maybe this is how I should treat seam rust?

Boeing's Museum of Flight, 5 hours wasn't enough time for me to see it all...

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier's 'grove of the patriarchs'

"The big cedar"

Grand Coulee Dam

Unfortunately, Grand Coulee was basically when I had run out of time, had to drive almost straight home.

Now I just need to find a way to get another 4 weeks off so I can go back and catch all the stuff I missed!

ragnarhairybreeks Sun Sep 09, 2012 7:44 pm

very nice pics, thanks for posting them. btw, the Van. Isle. washout, while I can appreciate being cautious while on a trip, doesn't look that bad in the pic. Well, at least it wasn't still flowing :).



WhiteH2O Sun Sep 09, 2012 7:46 pm

Nice trip, I enjoyed your pictures!

BitterBeerFace Sun Sep 09, 2012 7:53 pm

ragnarhairybreeks wrote: very nice pics, thanks for posting them. btw, the Van. Isle. washout, while I can appreciate being cautious while on a trip, doesn't look that bad in the pic. Well, at least it wasn't still flowing :).



It doesn't look that bad in the pic, , and I'm sure I could have made it downhill (was actually really steep there, probably at least 8%)... I don't think I'd have made it uphill. I was thinking about it and realized I had no digging tool if it'd gone bad. An entrenching tool-type shovel is on my list of things to add now :)

JeffRobenolt Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:14 pm

Awesome trip, great pics!!

1 question for ya, how did you plan the trip? Did you know all the places you wanted to go or just wing it?

We leave for NC in 3 weeks and have no real plan. I like it that way but I'm afraid I'll be 30min from something really cool and not know about it.


EvanDJ Sun Sep 09, 2012 9:06 pm

Looks like it was an epic trip.... thanks for sharing.

singler3360 Sun Sep 09, 2012 9:29 pm

I've been head down all weekend working on some upgrades to our Westy and your post reminded the true reason why we like our van so much. It's not what else I can do to the van, but what else We can do with our van. Thanks for the post.

Stevie Ray Van Sun Sep 09, 2012 10:37 pm

I wish we had known you were going to be in our neck of the woods. Perhaps we could have met up for some sight-seeing. We had the Westy up to Mt Rainier just last Sunday. Glad you got to see Mt St Helens. That is one awesome sight isn't it? Also that drive up 101 to the rain forest, Forks, La Push & back south is a nice drive too. Great pics too by the way. :wink:

BitterBeerFace Sun Sep 09, 2012 10:39 pm

I winged this trip the whole way. The only times I really "pre-planned":

Yellowstone, I spent one night 3 miles east at a National Forest camp ground, then drove directly to Fishing Bridge in the morning and got a spot for that night.

When I knew I would be in Lewiston, ID, I found internet access and reserved a spot on a Hell's Canyon boat tour.

During the tranny repairs, I called ahead for hotel and reservations for a San Juan islands/Whale watching tour.

In Port Angeles to find a ferry, I just showed up down at the docks... turns out they had a spot in a couple hours so I hit up a street vendor for lunch and a small aquarium to kill time. But if I'd have had many hours to wait, or even days, I had alternate ideas in mind... the ferry back to the mainland was a nighttime one, so there was no problem finding a spot.

I did have a pretty good idea of places I wanted to visit, even had a list of stuff I knew I'd like.

Otherwise, pre-trip planning is to get the AAA tour books for these areas, and basically draw lines between the "gem" attractions. I've found that I'm almost never disappointed in a "gem"... I do skip children's museums and stuff, but I don't think I've ever been disappointed in a "gem". After that, internet research, asking people I know in the area and when driving, sometimes it's just following random signs. The timing of meeting my friends in Portland and MogFest dictated some decisions, but most of the time it was "stop when I want to".

Most of the nights on the road, I'd spend a little time with maps/books/etc plotting the next day's route/stops... I always carry a "north america" road atlas, and generally find a tourist info spot in new states/provinces to get info. Combine all that and include my pre-selected list and I almost always knew generally what I was going to do the next day or two.

carterzest Sun Sep 09, 2012 11:39 pm

Congrats on an epic advent! Great pics can't believe I photographed you and didnt meet you. Feck!!!

1621 Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:16 pm

Great pics, looks like you had a very full trip. Thanks for posting!

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