Our September Travel Adventures

Well I’ll tell ya.

After a few weeks of preparation and stocking up on camping supplies, gizmos and gadgets, we launched a test effort up the road at the Corps of Engineers park at Riley Creek along Priest River. We arrived in mid-afternoon of the 29th of August.

The camp site was great, the equipment mostly worked as intended. The old tent (supported by tent poles I had personally repaired) eventually got set up just about the time of sunset’s arrival. A small back up tent intended for personal privacy rather than a walk to the community bathrooms was set up.

The ice chest carrying fruits, vegetables and selected meat appropriate to our special diet was off-loaded and sat under the picnic table ready for action.

I was struggling, I knew. Lietta knew it and confessed that watching me struggle was an painful sight. I was doing my stoic best to get us moved in. By the time our artificial lights were on inside the tent, we both had reached a silent conclusion that a long tenting trip was out of the question.

We left the next morning and returned home physically chastened having eschewed the second scheduled night.

Lietta went back to work redesigning our trip with a focus on RB&B lodging and yurt campgrounds where available. It was time-demanding work but at last we had a schedule beginning on the 8th of September. Although Lietta had a legitimate concern about how many hours I could drive each day we bit the bullet with my promise to be honest and tell her when I was feeling drowsy rather than simply toughing it out.

We left Coeur D Alene the morning of September 9th heading East on I-90 to Missoula, then South on U.S. 93 to Salmon where we would be staying at something that would remind me of my summer with my grandfather herding sheep when I was 11. He and I lived in a sheep camp in which the bed was in the far back end and a small cast iron stove dominated half the front. There was a fold out table not unlike what you find in a modern pickup camper or travel trailer. Inside one of the benches I only remember Grandad kept a large slab of bacon and his sourdough starter.

I spent most of my time outside figuring out how to manage Secret, the horse Grandpa had given me, carving initials on trees, floating homemade wooden boats down trickling streams near the camp and of course helping in my small way with the sheep. Among other things, Grandad taught me a few simple elements of cooking, like making pancakes and cooking bacon. At night by the light of a kerosene lamp I remember him reminiscing his earlier times as a child and young adult. He talked in a very non-censored way about his antics at school, his marriage to Grandma and his relationships to other family members. When too tired to talk, he’d turn on a transistor radio. I remember listening to Gun Smoke mostly.

A sheep camp of the 50’s and 60’s vintage

The drive went smoothly and on I-90 we made good time since the speed limit was usually 75 mph or higher. Once headed south on US 93 we had to slow down. South of Darby, Montana we began a climb into the mountains. The road was dominated by many sharp curves which forced me to drive no more than 45 mph. Once we reached Salmon, we still had another 25 miles south on Hwy 93 as it followed the Salmon River.

We stayed in the closest thing Lietta had seen to a sheep camp, a green restored and redesigned carnival wagon that would accommodate two adults. It was in fact the equivalent of an oversized camper that might sit on the back of a pickup truck. It was enjoyable, well-furnished but in the end, we found it too small for getting around after I had off-loaded our travel bags and accoutrements from the Toyota Highlander.

The wagon was not much more than 100 feet from the banks of the Salmon River and we sat out there in the late afternoon and early morning sipping coffee.

We had a reservation for the 10th at the Grey House Inn not more than ten miles north of the Gypsy Wagon place where we had spent the 9th.

The highlight of this visit turned out to be what for me was the most powerful thunderstorm-created wind storm I had ever seen. We could hear large tree branches hitting the metal roof and at one point heard a very loud crack somewhere outside. I had a genuine concern that one of the many trees surrounding the cabin would topple onto us. When the storm subsided I went outside and saw a large tree limb laying on the ground just in front of the steps onto the porch. Then I looked beyond that branch and saw an entire half of a two-trunked tree sitting on the ground, it’s upper branches leaning on the nearest tree. Either lighting struck that trunk half or the wind caused it to split off. Within the hour the landlady had two men cleaning up the debris and sawing the large trunk into maneuverable pieces.

Next morning (the 11th) we planned another 5+ hour drive North on Hwy 93 back to Lolo, Montana where we took US Hwy 12 west across Lolo Pass and followed the river across the the Bitterroot Mountain Range in Central Idaho. We had taken this drive back in 2001 when returning from a Flint Family reunion in Missoula and remembered frequent views of river rafters along Lolo Creek, the Lochsa River and eventually the Clearwater River which would run all the way to Lewiston, Id.

We made our way to East Kamiah where we were delighted with what we had reserved at River’s Bend. An enjoyable night on the 11th.

Spacious, well furnished (including a much-needed washer and dryer. In another circumstance we could have stayed two or three days. The views were spectacular. In truth we were in East Kamiah which was a small “suburb” of Kamiah itself which had a population in excess of 1200 and is the largest town in Lewis County. Kamiah has a strong historical heritage with the Nez Perce tribe led by Chief Joseph.

We decided to find takeout and I drove into the closest town, Kooskia, a village of 600 people with a downtown no larger than that I remembered in my hometown of Bancroft, Idaho. I found a Chinese restaurant which looked to be the busiest place in town and ordered supper.

Next morning, the 12th, we made a tragic discovery. Lietta had not packed a medication she needs, having brought with her only what fit in her little carry case. We were faced with a hard choice. Our next stop was supposed to be a gentle drive through Lewiston, Idaho and on to Walla Walla, Washington. But we could not do that without replenishing needed medication. We absolutely did not want to cancel the rest of the journey.

After an agonizing conversation, we elected to continue west from Kamiah and then turn north on US Hwy 95 and drive back to Coeur D Alene, pick up the needed medication and head back west on I-90 toward Ritzville, Wa before turning south toward Walla Walla.

So from Kamiah we headed west following the Clearwater River toward Lewiston and soon found ourselves in the city of Orofino which was absolutely gorgeous.

At Lewiston we turned north on U.S. 95 which runs straight to Coeur D’ Alene and arrived around noon and collected the medication.

Back on the road. It was a bit of a long trip and toward the end, I was getting more and more impatient to get there; so impatient in fact that just outside the tiny community of Starbuck, Washington I received a speeding ticket by a conscientious city constable. Messed up my mood for at least 75 miles.

At Walla Walla we offloaded our travel bags and drove a couple of blocks to El Sombrero for supper. To bed somewhat exhausted.

The Columbia Gorge is a familiar drive; boring until the cliffs show up and entertaining the rest of the way. At Hood River, we crossed the bridge to White Salmon and made our way west via State Highway 14 to Carson, Washington. In Carson, after some difficulty locating the RB&B which was essentially brand new and up a hillside near a cliff where you could look down at the Columbia River, we had arrived. The owner admitted that her directions were weak (mostly a picture of her location) and that she assumed visitors would find her using cell phone GPS (something we eventually used to figure out where her place was). We parked above the large house and hand-carried our luggage down the path to our suite.

It was a great location although still a work in progress. We parked alongside a narrow dirt road on a ledge above her newly constructed home which included by design three B&B sites in the same building. Our site was lovely and the plan was that the three tenants would share an amply-furnished full-size kitchen and dining room. There was a large array of books and a few games on shelves in the dining area. Had we known and with more resources, we would have been tempted to book more than one night.

We left the next morning and wended our way back across the Columbia and drove on I-90 to Gresham where we had a reservation at what turned out to be a location that was adequate but we would not recommend. It looked good from the outside but was in the industrial part of Gresham and included a clientele of patrons whose circumstances were limited. When we registered, we were issued pots, pans and cooking utensils to take to our room which did have a stove and refrigerator but otherwise nothing to use to prepare our meals.

After offloading baggage, we went into Portland proper to visit granddaughter Miranda and newly-married to Josh. They had recently purchased a home on the near East Side where we spent the rest of the evening visiting and enjoyed a Thai supper that was delivered.

Next day (the 13th) we drove to Lincoln City to an Air B&B on the coast where we would spend two nights.


We were not disappointed, although for the rest of our journey, the Gresham experience haunted us and we felt leery of our accommodations until we actually saw them. Next day we drove South to Newport where we toured a town that we had visited often with Lietta’s mother and stepfather, Joy and Charlie Ellsworth who had a membership at The Embarcadero Inn. After exploring the streets closest to the coast, we drove back to Lincoln City for the evening.

On the 16th since we could only get two days at the RB&B, we found another location in town at Captain Cook’s Motel which included a kitchenette.

On the 17th, After a drive to the beach where we finally satisfied our hearts’ desire to walk in the sand and see the ocean again up close, we said goodbye to the Oregon Coast and headed back to Portland.

In Portland we visited Chris and Janna Coy whose children, Everleigh and Rylan, are the youngest of Lietta’s grandchildren and with whom we have an exciting and enthusiastic relationship. It seems that not a month goes by without Lietta sending them cards and gifts. We spent the early afternoon watching Everleigh in her school’s soccer game before sharing a meal in a nearby restaurant.

Later in the evening we adjourned to a Holiday Inn at Janzen Beach. We would be leaving the next day, tired and ready to go home.

I have to comment on the extensive  presence of homeless “communities” in the Portland Metro Area. It is an on-going problem and the plight of the homeless whose tent communities and scattered tenting along the freeways and major roads is troubling. We have not seen the homeless communities in Seattle

We drove out to I-84 and headed toward Coeur D Alene Sunday Morning, September 18th. The drive was longer than expected and we felt ready to collapse as soon as we arrived.

The trip overall will be as strong a memory as the one we took with Lietta’s mom, Joy, in 2015 as her last big fling down memory lane to the Oregon Coast. This trip involved more hard work, more challenges and a constant reminder that in our seventies, stamina is a daily factor in managing to achieve the objectives of each day’s agenda.

At Last!


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