Learning to Roll With It

bend trip

It was 95 degrees when we pulled into Sisters, Ore., after a six-hour drive from Mount Rainier, and the traffic was backed up for blocks.

We hadn’t realized this was the weekend of Sisters’ annual Outdoor Quilt Show, a feel-good event that draws thousands to displays throughout town.

Hmmm. After selling our house in Seattle and moving out, we had hit the road for our first adventure. Was this going to derail our plans to stay near this pretty central Oregon mountain town?

We provisioned at the excellent Rays Food Place — including grabbing a thick New York steak — and headed toward Three Creeks Lake Campground, 16 miles south of town. Surely, there would be a site at the first-come, first-served campground.

Well, no. There were dozens of cars lining the dirt road, and when we finally got to the campground, everything had been snagged.

Shut out on a busy weekend. We were tired of being in the car, hot, and hangry, so naturally we jumped in the lake. Ahhh, yes –much better. We drove back to Sisters, discussing how to learn from our mistakes.

Next time, when you face a long drive, rule No.1 is: Make sure you have a reserved campsite waiting for you.

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Fortunately, we grabbed one of the last spots at Creekside Campground, a 10-minute walk from downtown. It was packed with RVs and trailers of every shape — which ended up being interesting for two people shopping for a vehicle.

Our neighbor, Petra Hegger from Moab, Utah, had an adorable Casita travel trailer, small enough to pull with her six-cylinder Kia. Hegger has been solo traveling for the past year and a half, and had lots of suggestions for places to visit. It’s so cool to connect with this adventurous community.

Staying in a small-town campground wasn’t how we thought this would go, but it’s a good lesson in the importance in being flexible. We are learning to roll with the challenges of the road.

Now, if we could only remember where we put everything. Next challenge: Getting organized!

Wanna connect? Please check out Our Grand Tour on Instagram.

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4 Cool Spots to Camp on B.C.’s Hot Springs Route

The “Hot Springs Circle Route” in British Columbia is a 500-mile adventure through some of Canada’s most gorgeous countryside in the Kootenay Rockies region.

We did it last April in a CanaDream RV, which proved to be a great experience. The Class C RV was super comfortable and warm, which was nice during the early spring. Best of all, it allowed us to camp in some great spots along the way.

When we weren’t soaking in British Columbia’s hot springs, we explored some very interesting towns, met lots of friendly Canadians and hiked amid the beautiful mountain scenery.

Here’s a look at four excellent spots for full-service RV camping along the route:

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Leslie hangs out in our camp spot at Williamson Lake Campground in Revelstoke.

1. Williamson Lake Campground, Revelstoke

Just outside of Revy, as everyone calls it, is this clean and scenic full-service campground. The heavy winter snows were still melting, but the campground was up and running to a hardy group of travelers. Info: williamsonlakecampground.com

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The snow was deep, but the camping was excellent at Nakusp.

2. Nakusp Hot Springs Campground

High in the mountains about 25 minutes away from the town of Nakusp, British Columbia, this campground felt very remote. We were the only people camping at the snowy site, which offered easy walking-distance access to the beautiful Nakusp Hot Springs. Info: www.nakusphotsprings.com

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Sunset dinner along the shore of Kootenay Lake.

3. Kokanee Creek Provincial Park

On the shores of Kootenay Lake about 20 minutes away from Nelson, British Columbia, this campsite was another full-service affair, and it offered fantastic hiking through the park. The nearby picnic tables were perfect for our sunset dinner. The campground was a short drive from Ainsworth Hot Springs. Info: www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/kokanee_crk

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Our site at Fairmont was convenient to the pools and hiking trails nearby.

4. Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

This resort is ginormous and has its own set of hiking trails to go along with the expansive pool. Just down the road about 30 minutes is another great place to soak — Radium Hot Springs. Info: www.fairmonthotsprings.com

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Within a few minutes, we were away from the resort on the trails above Fairmont.

 

 

6 Reasons Why We Absolutely LOVED Airstream’s Basecamp

We recently hit the highway in an Airstream Basecamp, the smallest model from the most recognizable name in trailers. Here are 6 reasons it was an absolute blast.

1. It’s So Adorable

The stylish, super sporty design of this cozy pull-along is attention grabbing. It received Basecamplogo2lots of admiring looks as we traveled around North Cascades National Park  and in one instance, it stopped traffic. As we were taking photos on State Route 20’s Washington Pass, a couple from Seattle pulled over to ask about it. Of course, we gave them a tour. Because it’s such a departure from the classic Airstream, it comes as a sweet surprise when people learn about this fairly new product. (It first debuted in 2017.)

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The Airstream Basecamp proved to be nimble on the roadway.

2.  It’s Easy to Manuever

Because of its tidy size, the Basecamp feels nimble on the roadway. We had an Infiniti QX80 loaner as our tow vehicle, and that sweet ride was plenty powerful to haul this 3,000 pounder. Backing into campsites was fairly smooth, though we did get into a jam in a parking lot of a trailhead, pulling too close to a barrier. Fortunately, a couple good citizens wandered over and helped guide us out of that pickle. Thanks, guys!

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Breakfast was a breeze on the nice Basecamp stove.
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Northwest succotash with prosciutto-wrapped shrimp was easy to do on the two-burner.

3. The Kitchen is Dreamy

The galley setup is at the front of the rig, facing a bank of windows. Brilliant! It has lots of cupboard space for pantry items, and the fridge is large enough to stock up for a week-long trip. Two propane burners fired up easily and cooked food quickly. The sink was off to the side, so it was a little too tight in the space for the dishwasher to be cleaning up after the messy cook at the same time. There wasn’t a ton of counter space, but we made the most it.

4. Comfy Sleeping Space

A seating area doubles as a bed, configured by moving cushions around. Not exactly the easiest bed to make — it’s roughly the same size as a queen, but is rounded at the bottom of the vehicle. However, once everything’s all tucked in, it’s comfortable. There are open shelves above that hold a surprising amount of stuff, clothes, towels, books, etc.

5. Outdoor Shower’n

If you’re in a private campsite, you can snake the shower head through a small opening and — ahhhhh, that feels good to cool off outside. If you’d rather get ‘er done inside, it’s a toilet-in-the-shower-stall kind of situation. Good to know: The Basecamp has one tank for both gray and black water, so it fills up more quickly than those RVs that have two tanks.

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The seating area was a comfortable place to enjoy wine and snacks.

6. Happy Hour in the Cafe

That’s what we nicknamed the seating area, after chilling and sipping wine, talking about our thrilling hike that afternoon. We spotted four bears — from the comfort of our car — on our drive up to the Thornton Lakes trailhead. It was one of those amazing moments that seems almost unreal, and reaffirms that insatiable desire to get out and enjoy nature.

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In North Cascades National Park, we explored the Skagit River Loop Trail in Newhalem, Wash.
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The Basecamp was a fun rig to take up in the mountains of North Cascades National Park.

 

Review: Malibu RV Park is AWESOME

Leslie says: I just returned to Seattle after a magical weekend in Southern California, where I visited our daughter. She was a great sport when I suggested spending a night out on the coast in a van. The experience was life-affirming.

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The view from our campsite at Malibu RV Park was stunning.

Stunning Beauty

There’s a good reason the wealthy have gobbled up the available land and built homes on the waterfront in this part of the world. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Long stretches of golden sand punctuated by dramatic rock formations. Sure, the weekend traffic can be a drag on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), but the scenery’s a calming distraction. Smack in the middle of all this beauty sits Malibu RV Park, high on a hill, with views that cannot truly be described in words. Well, except maybe awwwwwesome.

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Retro Cool

This rambling park has been around for 50 years, owned by the same family, and the attention to detail shows great care. When I called to make a reservation, a live person answered, and was so friendly and helpful. Same treatment when we checked in at the adorable office/corner store. The place is laid out on a series of terraces, with tent camping available up top. Spaces are tight, but, fortunately for us, we parked next to Gordon, a friendly guy from Red Deer, Alberta. His rig, the Hymer Aktiv, was new to me, and after a tour, I was really impressed. It’s going on the wish list.

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Ocean Viewing

I paid $50 for a site with a sweeping vista of the Pacific. (The price goes up after Memorial Day.) It was so worth it. We sat on the bluff and watched the sky turn pink at sunset. We spotted a pod of dolphins and pelicans drifted by in the sky. The WiFi didn’t really work, but that gave us the opportunity to catch up, and dig deep into important discussions, without those darned devices in hand. In the morning, an ultralight aircraft flew by as we ate breakfast. So entertaining.

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This trail leads to the incredible Malibu Seafood, a casual fish shack and pristine market.

Highly Recommended

My only regret about the Malibu RV Park is that we weren’t able to stay longer. We absolutely loved exploring the nearby trails, including one that led to the outstanding Old School Malibu Seafood. (Don’t miss the butter-poached mussels, and the fish-and-chips.) The bathrooms were spotless, and warm, there’s a laundry on site. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and offers $1 cup of coffee. Talk about a throwback! I’m definitely going to stay here again… when Our Grand Tour kicks off its cross-country adventure later this summer. Reservations are essential.

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Going Big: We’re Trying a Class C RV

For a tour of Canada’s Kootenay Rockies region, we’re supersizing things.

As we travel from Revelstoke to Nelson to Golden, we’re going big in a Class C RV from CanaDream of Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s our first attempt at driving a big RV.

No surprises here — this thing is a beast. It’s powered by a Ford F-450 engine and at first it felt huge. Ginormous in fact, hard to maneuver, all the things we’ve tried to avoid as we get into #vanlife.

On the plus side, it is undeniably comfortable. It has a full kitchen, a large sitting area and an absolutely huge bed. It feels like a one-bedroom apartment on wheels.

And let’s not forget it has a full bathroom with a shower, toilet and sink. All nice things, until you have to deal with the inevitable black-water “sani-dump.”

It’s a trade-off. Comfort vs. driveability. For this trip, we’re trying out comfort.

 

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An F-450 engine powers this beast.
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The Upper Arrow Lake Ferry in the Western Kootenays — a gorgeous journey.
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Pizza, made in the full kitchen of the CanaDream Class C RV.

 

 

 

San Diego’s Beaches are Great Any Time of Year

With spring here,  it’s nice to think back on a trip we did last winter to San Diego.

Even in December, San Diego County’s beaches were pleasant and inviting. We spent three days exploring, and John’s story just appeared in The Seattle Times.

Read about it here:

www.seattletimes.com/life/travel/getting-to-know-san-diegos-lovable-beaches

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Ocean Beach in the heart of San Diego.
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Sunset Cliffs, a great area to get a view.
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The recreation path at Mission Beach.
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The downtown passenger ferry to Coronado.
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The historic Hotel Del Coronado.

 

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Black’s Beach below Torrey Pines.
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Walking the nearly deserted Black’s Beach.
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The beach at La Jolla.
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A surfer at San Onofre.

 

How to Build a Raging Campfire

She says: When you’re hanging outside, a campfire is everything. It’s entertaining, and warm, of course. You can cook on it, searing steaks and turning marshmallows gooey. Stare into it and think deep thoughts.

It takes skill, patience and practice — and lots kindling — to make an awesome fire. Here’s some tips from Johnny.

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Prepping

A hatchet is key for cutting logs into drumstick size kindling. Crumple newspaper and form a pyramid of kindling around them. Add fire starters around that pyramid, if you’ve got them.

Light That Fire

Once the flames get going, don’t think the work’s done. When the kindling phase of this project is burning hot, it’s time to add the larger logs, one at a time. If those pieces don’t take off, add more newspaper. Johnny tears off strips of paper, laying them on top of the fire.

Essential Tool

A pair of extra long kitchen tongs are really helpful in moving pieces of wood around. It’s important to create airflow. The more oxygen moving through, the bigger the flames. Careful, though! Cuz, you know… it’s fire!

Here’s a quickie Instagram story, shot on our recent trip to the Olympic Pennisula:

3 Cool Tips for Teeny Kitchen Cooking

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She says: I’m now obsessed with looking at photos of people living the van life. (Considering we’re strongly thinking about heading down that road.) But one scene I rarely see if some real cooking happening in the carefully curated, Insta-worthy scenes.

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That’s probably because it’s HARD. Here are a few ways I tried to make it work in some super small spaces.

Take it Outside

Of course, it’s nice to have the option of scrambling eggs or simmering a big batch of chili inside on a drizzly day, but when it’s sunny, there’s nothing better than cooking out. Am I right? As much as I love the char that comes from searing meat on a fire, I’m a recent convert to the camp stove. They’re lightweight, heat up quickly and cook in a flash. Also! Invest in a grill pan. I absolutely love mine from my friends at Lodge Cast Iron, pictured below.

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Invest in a Lodge Cast Iron grill pan.

Get Extra Organized

On our recent adventure in the Peace Van, I was so impressed with how the crew had tucked all the essential cooking tools into bins. Need a spatula in a hurry? There are only two place it could be. It made me feel more efficient, and isn’t the smaller footprint what this whole Van Life movement is about? Keeping it simple.

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Plastic bins help keep everything organized.

Big Flavors, Small Containers

I’m forever searching for the best seasonings and condiments as a way to elevate other ingredients. New discoveries include Mike’s Hot Honey, Dank Sauce and San Juan Islands Salt and Pepper grinder. It’s so much fun to try them on my road food menu. That smoky/spicy Dank Sauce is now my go-to finish for fresh oysters, and the fiery honey warms up my post-dinner chamomile tea. Go get you some!

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What’s your favorite meal to cook outside? Please let us know in the comments.