Artie as Plan B

After our fun-filled house sit in Metchosin, British Columbia, we returned to Vancouver to celebrate Ken’s Mom’s 90th birthday. It was a balloon- and flower-filled affair with many friends and family–including a granddaughter from Spain and a son from The Bahamas–sharing memories and laughter.

Our next location was to be a 3-week house sit on Bowen Island, 20 minutes by ferry from downtown Vancouver. Ken’s parents owned a home on Bowen for many years and, since they were both school teachers, the family spent many weekends and most of the summer there. I had also been lucky enough to enjoy many visits to their piece of paradise. We were looking forward to rekindling memories, kayaking, and spending a few weeks on the seaside with two furries for company. This sit was cancelled due to illness in the homeowner’s family, so we found ourselves with a free June.

Since we were already in the vicinity, it was Artie to the rescue (Artie lives 40 minutes by ferry from Vancouver). We didn’t really have a plan, but a comfortable roof over our heads combined with free camping at Thousand Trails campsites (we’ve had a membership for decades) would keep costs down. We could certainly do worse than roaming Oregon and Washington.

Reminder: Artie is our shared-custody RoadTrek Mercedes Sprinter van conversion.

We started our drive with a two-night stay at Similk Beach near La Conner, Washington. Nearby Kukutali Preserve State Park had been closed the last time we came through and we hadn’t even noticed it on the many times we’d visited the area in the past. We rode our bikes to the park entrance and then hiked in (no bikes are allowed past the parking lot) along an open spit and up into a small forest before finding our way to the beach. It made for a lovely afternoon of cycling, hiking, and reading on the beach in the cool breezes of Skagit Bay, part of what is now called the Salish Sea.

Our next stop was two nights at a campground in Silver Creek, Washington. We had never visited this park before and were quite amazed at the view as we arrived. The ranger station at the top of the park overlooks Mayfield Lake with both Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helen’s in the distance. Ken enjoyed several hours of fishing on the campground’s private ponds where a license costs only $7 for a day.

We were leaning to spending some time on the Oregon Coast since equipment problems on our last Artie trip forced us to bypass this beautiful area. We also wanted to go through Vancouver, Washington, to pick up some top-up fluid for that same equipment. I found an old note about a must-do activity in the Portland area, which was a visit to Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods in Milwaukie, Oregon. So we headed inland rather than directly out to the coast.

We found a Harvest Host (referral link for 15% off membership) location, the Mountain View Golf course, about 15 minutes away from Bob’s. This was our first Harvest Host experience–we were more interested in staying at one of the many wineries but, alas, only the golf course was nearby. We called and booked to stay the next night.

Our parking spot was beside the 18th hole with lovely greens all around us. Once golfing ended at 6:00, the pathways through the course became dog walking trails for the neighbourhood. After sundown, it was quiet and peaceful and we were on our own.

The Harvest Host arrangement is that self-contained vehicles can stay free for one night with the request that the visitor patronizes the host’s business in some way in exchange. The golf course had both a restaurant/lounge and a cafe on site. Since the cafe opened really early, we had time to enjoy breakfast there before making the short trip to Bob’s place.

Tours of Bob’s Red Mill factory run every weekday at 10:00, no reservations required. We learned a lot about the Red Mill history, products and processes and left with a few samples and coupons.

Their public building, a huge store and restaurant, is about a mile away from the factory and on our route. Our tour guide had made a couple of lunch recommendations and the timing was right, so we made a stop.

While we waited for our food to be delivered to our table, we experienced a celebrity sighting. 91-year-old Bob, dressed just as he is on the product packages, lined up with a few other folks to grab lunch, too. If his jog up the stairs to the upper eating area is any indication of the impact of eating his products, we’re sold!

We only allowed ourselves a couple of hours for a quick walk in downtown Portland. We parked up the hill and then walked down through Pioneer Court Square (AKA Portland’s Living Room) to the waterfront, only to find that most of the waterfront park area was fenced off for a festival that had been recommended by our breakfast server, but obviously wasn’t taking place in the middle of the day.

After a brief stroll along the promenade and around the fences, we headed back up to Artie and then onto Seaside, Oregon, where we would stay for the next few nights.

The campground isn’t on the water, but it is within easy cycling distance of the town’s waterfront boardwalk and surrounds. From the central plaza, we rode both directions on the boardwalk and throughout the town, picked up ice creams and ate them while people watching and enjoying the antics of a bubble-making busker and his audience.

Though we intended to go south along the coast, the weather was looking poorly in that direction, but quite nice going north. So we switched our reservations and direction and spent a week at a campground in Chehalis. Though busier over the weekend, we never had anyone around us so felt like we were in our own private park. Except that our park had a large heated pool, a lodge with WiFi (which we needed for planning), sport courts, plenty of walking and riding trails, and mini-golf.

Nearby is the Willapa Hills State Park, which is also the trailhead for the Willapa Hills Trail, a railroad bed trail that runs 56 miles from Chehalis to South Bend and the Willapa Bay on the Pacific Ocean. Much of the middle section of the trail is unimproved and impassable (it will be improved with future funding) but the section we rode was a treat.

Heading further north, we landed back at Similk Bay near La Conner for the final 9 days. (I had not purchased additional travel insurance for this spontaneous trip so we realized that our stay was restricted to our credit card’s 25-day maximum.) We managed to snag a beautiful seaside spot that had cell service and even picked up WiFi from the nearby lodge. Though we spent plenty of time playing pickleball, walking and riding the trails, riding into La Conner, and reading in the sun, the access to WiFi from the comfort of our little home made getting things done online a lot easier at any time of the day. We especially appreciated it on those days when the wind howled and it was much too cold to sit outside.

It’s not difficult to relax in this beautiful place.

The campground is on indigenous lands so we can only observe the crabbing and fishing activity. One day we were watching a couple of men place their nets when they both jumped around the boat cursing and poking hooks into the water. They pulled up part of their net and removed a headless fish. Since they were fishing for Sockeye salmon and this seal-damaged fish was a King (and would likely have been tossed back), they asked us if we wanted it. Heck, yes! Dinner was delicious as were sandwiches the next day.

Next, we head back to Vancouver where we will swap Artie for our car. While Artie rests for a month we will make the long drive to Calgary in time for the Canada Day long weekend, a couple of house sits, and plenty of family summer fun time throughout July.

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