One of the best things about dry camping, besides the cost, is how easy it is to break camp to get underway. Lulu secures things inside the camper, I remove the privacy screening from the cab and check the oil. Lulu closes the overhead vents while I turn off the water heater and shut the propane off. Then we shake off and stow the welcome mat, raise and lock the step in place, fire up the engine and go. After a breakfast of migas (eggs scrambled with cheese, sauteed onions and peppers [we used your serranos, Leslie], a little salsa and some tortilla chips that are too small to use for dipping), we went through this routine and headed down the road towards Winthrop.
If you’ve ever been to Sister, OR, you know the kind of town we both detest. Sisters was once a neat little town in the mountains west of Bend. Somewhere along the line, they got the idea that they could increase tourism if they remodeled themselves to look like an old west town and so they did. The stores all got the false-front treatment, there are railings that resemble hitching posts, the store names are written in genuine old west font and are called things like “mercantile”. And, tourism does seem to have increased and along with it all the shops that sell overpriced useless junk: crystals, jewelry, fancy soaps, arts and crafts, etc. There are still a few holdouts like the diner on the east end of town called, I think, The Ski Hut, and there’s also Dari-Freeze or something like that. But mostly, we can’t get through Sisters fast enough to suit us. This is made even harder since the increase in tourism has congested the main drag. Well, Winthrop, Washington puts Sisters to shame. I have no idea what it used to look like but now I wouldn’t be surprised to see a reenactment of a gunfight in the street. Other than having paved streets instead of Wild West dust, they’ve managed to convert every building in town into a replica of the Old West. We drove through on a Friday morning and already every parking space was filled and tourists thronged the board sidewalks. We just don’t get the attraction. It seems way too much like a manufactured experience. I’ve never been to colonial Williamsburg but I suspect I’d like it more. It’s meant to be a museum piece, giving a glimpse into life in the colonies in the 1700s. This is more like Disneyland. They want you to feel like you’re in the Old West but they still want to sell you sunglasses, crystals, craft beer, and non-gluten snacks. I can’t really fault them for their efforts. You have to do what you have to do to make ends meet and this seems to work. But I don’t have to like it or think it’s cute. We drove through without even slowing down.
Twisp, on the other hand, we liked. There were a few actual old buildings, and even a couple that had the new “Old West” look, but mostly it was just small town America. We stopped at a second-hand store but didn’t find anything we wanted to make space for in the camper.
The landscape changed many times yesterday as we drove. We went from Ponderosa pine forest to much more open country with trees scattered here and there to nearly treeless prairie to dense Doug fir forest to younger fir forests with less undergrowth. The one thing that remained constant: it’s much warmer than it had been getting on the other side of the mountains.
This highway 20 is a very up and down road. We spend 2/3 of our time grinding up grades in 2nd or 3rd gear and the other 1/3 either on the flat or zooming down the other side of the grade. Well, zooming down might be a misnomer since I tend to keep it in 3rd so as to save the brakes. After all, we have 7000 lbs. of aluminum and steel pushing us down that hill. But, towards the end of the day, the totally unexpected happened: another RV actually pulled over into the slow vehicle turn-out to let US pass! And this was on an uphill grade working our way to the top of a 5000+ foot pass! AND, his rig was a Ford F-550. WTF? We had seen this rig in Omak. It was pretty interesting looking as it looked sort of like those serious trekking vehicles the Europeans seem to favor. But it wasn’t quite that radical. Looked like a pick-up and camper but not quite. The camper didn’t look like it was removable. Anyway, this guy was at a light when we saw him. He got a green and went and it was at least another full stoplight cycle before we were headed the same direction. So I was amazed when, a few miles out of Omak, we actually saw him up ahead in the distance. Over the course of many more miles, we caught up with him. Eventually there were no cars between us as we started up the grade to Sherman Pass between Republic and Kettle Falls. He was kind of pissing me off a little because he was going slow enough that I had to slow down occasionally and lose precious momentum. Didn’t really want him to pull over, though, as we seemed pretty evenly matched and I preferred to be on his ass then to have him on mine. But,at one point he did pull over to let me pass. It was just a short turn-out lane, not a bonafide passing lane. I really had no choice but to go around him. I’m in 2nd gear, going about 30 mph and I’m passing a Ford F-550 with what basically amounts to a pick-up camper on the back. I say again, WTF? I needn’t have worried about him being on my butt as I slowly left him in my dust. OK, I wasn’t actually going fast enough to kick up any dust but you know what I mean. Never saw the guy again. I can only think that he was having some sort of mechanical issues although the rig looked brand new. Possibly some computer controlling his automatic transmission and refusing to let it shift down or something. He must have been mortified when this 30 year-old 4-banger went chugging by him. But I mustn’t gloat. I know it was fluke.
About 3:00 we pulled into Canyon Creek Campground. This is another USFS spot. There are no facilities other than picnic tables, fire rings, and two pit toilets that, while clean, aren’t nearly as smell-free as the ones the night before. There’s no potable water and no dumpster. But the price reflects all this. Regular price is $6/night to camp so, with my senior pass, we only had to pay $3. Nice. After setting up camp, also known as parking and turning the propane back on so we can light the fridge, we walked around the campground to see what’s what. There was only one other of the 12 sites occupied. As we walked we came on a trail that was, of all things, paved!
Intrigued, we followed it. There were no signs indicating where it was going or how long it was. We crossed Canyon Creek and followed along its shoreline. Finally we decided to turn back as, although I’d locked the camper, the windows were wide open. Granted, there was no one at the campground when we left but things can change. So we headed back, sort of reluctantly since we hadn’t gotten to the end of the trail. On the way back, I came up with a brilliant idea. Let’s secure the camper and then return on our bikes! Of course. Let me tell ya, bikes are a much faster means of transportation than feet. In no time at all we were back to where we’d turned around. We continued to follow the trail and did eventually get to the end. It ended at a day-use area down the road a piece. The trail is a “barrier-free” trail that is open to hikers and wheelchairs. That’s kind of cool. Not too many trails that are wheelchair-friendly and it was a pretty walk/ride.
Not sure what today will bring. As soon as we get someplace with cell service we want to get hold of friends in Spokane, Cour d’Alene, and Moscow to arrange for visits. So we’ll be heading towards Spokane but likely will stop somewhere between here and there tonight.
The other side of Winthrop to Canyon Creek CG: 159 miles
Total to-date: 1068 miles
Mileage: 44.5 miles/day
9/20: After the above was written we headed down the road. As we entered Colville, we approached Walmart where, right there in the parking lot among a bunch of other RVs, was the fancy camper we had passed the day before. I pulled in to get a photo and, if possible, talk to the owner. The camper was getting a lot of attention from other RVers as well as folks who dream of owning one. Fortunately the owner was a talkative guy who enjoyed visiting. I mentioned that I was concerned that he was having mechanical issues, having passed him in our 4-banger the day before. He said the problem was that they are scared of the truck because they’ve had so much trouble with it. He said he’s deathly afraid of overheating as he had trouble with that before. He loves the camper which is a really tight-looking, apparently well-made rig but he’s got no use at all for the Ford truck that’s packing it around. He’s had nothing but trouble with it. Said that in order to replace the injectors on the International Harvester diesel engine, the truck cab has to be removed! I find that hard to believe but I don’t really know. He said that he’s into this rig for around $200K but that a new one goes for nearly half a million dollars. Even at that, he said that used ones come up so seldom that, when they do, you have to jump on it which is why he says he didn’t really do his due diligence in investigation when this one came up. Now he’s paying for it. He did enjoy the fact that his rig had solar panels and no generator. I didn’t mention to him that our little Flipper was similarly equipped. Of course, we don’t have the satellite TV antenna or an air conditioner. OTOH, we could buy 40 Flippers for the price of his rig. Different strokes I guess.