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.

bend trip casita

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.


The Vintages: Retro-Cool Trailers in Oregon’s Wine Country

Like the wines of Willamette Valley in Oregon, the retro trailers at The Vintages Trailer Resort  come in many flavors.

Which one is best? Oh — so hard to choose.

You’ve got the ’53 Vagabond. Or the ’65 Boles Aero. Or the ’47 Spartan Manor. And then there’s the many flavors of Airstreams, with their sexy chrome styling.

We were lucky enough to stay in the ’57 Airstream Sovereign, like all the trailers at The Vintages, beautifully restored and finished. Located on the road between McMinnville and Dundee, it’s a great base for a tour of Oregon’s wine country.

So take a look. Which one is your favorite?

The Neutron – Couples Edition.
The 1958 Oasis.
One of several Shasta trailers.
The Airstream Bambi.
Logos from some of the trailers.
The Vintages is on the road between Dundee and McMinnville.

Round You Go: On the Rim of Crater Lake

On the rim of Crater Lake, one of the best rides you’ll ever do.

As I topped a ridge near 8,049-foot Llao Rock on the north rim of Oregon’s Crater Lake, I had that giddy moment cyclists get when everything comes together.

I felt great. I had just finished one of my biggest climbs of the day. And I was alone on a road ringing one of America’s natural wonders.

I picked up speed on the downslope and screamed for joy.

It was early October. I had left my home in Seattle a week before on an extended road trip around the west. I had no real itinerary, except to camp, hike, bike and enjoy beauty.

I hadn’t planned on coming to Crater Lake National Park. But while camping on the Oregon Coast, I met a fit retiree who had just done the 33-mile ride around the rim.

“It’s incredible,” he said in a hushed tone over the campfire. I decided then and there I had to try it.

A few days later, under cool, clear skies, I clipped in and started what would be one of the best rides of my life.

When you tackle the Crater Lake ride, the first thing to understand is that almost none of it is flat. You’ll do more than 4,000 vertical feet of climbing over the next few hours, so get used to the long ups, and the lovely, all-too-quick downs.

Climbing along East Rim Road at Crater Lake.

I started at the park headquarters and immediately had a 1,000-foot climb to the rim of the lake. Cresting the top of the rim, I was treated to views of something really special.

Crater Lake is America’s deepest lake (1,943 feet deep, to be precise) and rests in the caldera of Mount Mazama, which collapsed during an eruption 7,700 years ago. The average annual snowfall here is 44 feet, which melts in warmer months, keeping the lake filled with some of the purest water on earth. Its color is a dramatic deep blue.

The rim road sits many hundreds of feet above the lake. From a car, the view is stunning. From the seat of a bicycle, it’s much more than that—you become part of the earth, water and sky as you grind past each jaw-dropping viewpoint.

Click on map to enlarge.

If you go

Which direction? Most people choose to go clockwise, which puts you on the lake side of the road on your journey. Starting at park headquarters gets a big climb out of the way early when you have the energy to do it.

Fitness concerns: The ride is strenuous and not to be taken lightly. Besides the many ups and downs, you’ll be pedalling at up to 8,000 feet elevation. Temperatures vary wildly from below freezing to well into the 90s.

Safety: Auto traffic can be heavy in the summer months, and rubber-necking drivers don’t always watch for cyclists while taking in the views. Wear bright clothing. If you want to avoid cars, visit on one of these dates in 2016: Sept. 17 or Sept. 24, when the East Rim Drive will be closed to automobiles for runners, walkers and bicycles. Information is here.

Water, food: The Rim Village Visitor Center is a good place to load up. Bring lots of water for the ride: There are no drinking fountains along the rim. The Visitor Center has cafeteria-style food service if you want a meal.

Stops: There are 30 overlooks that ring the lake; plan on stopping frequently to rest, take pictures and enjoy the views.

Accommodations: Inside the park, the historic Crater Lake Lodge has commanding views from its location at Rim Village. You’ll need to make reservations a year in advance to book one of these in-demand rooms. The Cabins at Mazama Village have scattered availability through summer and fall of 2016. Reservation information is here.

Camping: Two campgrounds are available. The full-service Mazama Village Campground has 214 tent and RV sites. A limited number can be reserved, the rest are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The primitive Lost Creek campground has 16 non-reservable tent sites.

National Park Bicycling Info:  Highly useful guide to the Rim Drive, including safety, camping and ride information.

This article also appears on SeniorsSkiing.com. You’ll find it here.