Sometimes we might be guilty of painting too rosy a picture of our travels. We feel fortunate to have this opportunity, and we don’t want to sound like we’re complaining. But we also want to present a true account of what life is like for us on the road. With this in mind, we present a brief (each of these could be its own blog post) account of our five days after being driven out of North Cascades NP by wildfire smoke:
- We needed propane. Like good citizens, we turned off our refrigerator (active pilot light) before pulling into the gas station where we’d buy propane. The problem here is that we forgot to turn the refrigerator back on. When we woke up the next morning we realized we’d thawed about 2.5 lbs of expensive salmon and 1 lb of grass-fed ground beef. All of this went into the refrigerator and needed to be cooked ASAP!
- We tried to drive through Seattle on Friday afternoon in a downpour, which also happened to be the evening of the Seahawks first preseason game (and they take their NFL football VERY seriously in this area, even preseason). After creeping along at 30mph on the interstate for way too long, we saw a casino, Wal-Mart, Cabela’s, Panera, and Home Depot within a quarter mile of one another. We decided we’d try driving through Seattle on Saturday and settled into the comfort of suburbia for yet another night of parking lot slumber. As an aside, we are surprised by how bad Pacific North Westerners seem to be at driving in the rain.
- We found a spot among the 50 or so RVs who would call the casino parking lot home for the night and headed into the casino looking for a cheap meal.We opened the door to the casino only to be met by a wall of cigarette smoke. Jessie turned around and walked back to the RV in the cold rain to make some soup and read her book. I soldiered on into the casino bound and determined to find a cheap meal. In many casinos this is a fairly easy task (they don’t want you to leave!) . Not this one. Not a single meal under $13 in the whole place. So I went back to the RV to have some soup and a Snicker’s bar for dinner.
- On Saturday morning, after waking up in the middle of the night to an overeager LP alarm, we decided enough was enough. We needed to install a roof vent cover that would allow us to leave our vent open even in bad weather or while driving. Our LP detector simply doesn’t like air that is heavy/humid or doesn’t move (and it hates Jessie’s shampoo). Most of the time you have to buy these covers at an RV dealership (expensive!) or order them online. But, we found one at our local (for the day) Wal-Mart. So while parked at Cabela’s, we took 30 minutes to climb up on the roof and install our new vent cover. Classy.
- Jessie walked to Panera for some coffee and wifi while I did some grocery shopping at Wal-Mart. She was ecstatic to find that she had free coffee for the month as part of the Panera rewards program. So she proceeded to drink way too much coffee and spent the day with a sour stomach.
- We made one more stop before looking for camping on Saturday. Trader Joe’s. Good place for grocery shopping. Terrible place for navigating a 25 ft travel trailer.
- So after our soggy, noisy night at the casino and getting our shopping done and roof vent installed, we left north Seattle and headed south through town. There was a seemingly strange amount of traffic for a Saturday which leads us to believe that folks here spend a lot of time driving. And the city does sprawl north and south for hours. Our goal was to find a spot to grill our fish. How about a city park? Seemed like a good idea. Enter low hanging trees and tight parking lots. We didn’t incur any damage, but we do have some new “kisses from nature” on the roof of the RV.
- Clearly the parks idea didn’t work, so we headed to yet another casino to park, inspect the RV for tree damage, grill our fish, and sleep/camp for the night. Apparently, standing on your truck to inspect the RV and then getting out your grill will earn you a “welcome” visit from casino security. No grilling. “You are welcome to eat at one of our restaurants and see the Elvis show”. So we left hungry.
- Fed up with the suburban sprawl of Seattle, we pointed the truck southeast determined to get into the national forest near Mt. Rainer, find a campground, and grill our damn fish. We drove through two overpriced campgrounds, neither of which had any availability for us anyway, and finally parked in a picnic area to grill our fish. So at about 9 pm, Jessie with a sour stomach, we both ate a hastily grilled-in-the-dark gigantic piece of salmon after spilling salmon juice all over the RV during the preparation phase of the meal.
- Not allowed to camp at the picnic area, we pulled out just before 10pm to find “dispersed” camping along a gravel national forest road. We just needed a semi-level 40 ft piece of dirt to park for the night. In the pitch black, we turned off the highway and onto a gravel road. After turning the RV around utilizing an 18 point turn method taught nowhere in Driver Ed., we finally got the RV parked for the night despite the fact that Jessie, “the spotter”, feared a fatal bear attack the entire time.
- On Sunday, we left our lovely-in-the-daylight “campsite” hoping to find camping at a campground near the Sunrise area in Mt. Rainer National Park. We made it there easily. And they had availability! And a sign that said “no trailers over 18 feet”. It would have been nice of the Park Service to put this sign on the main road BEFORE we made the turn. So we backed out and turned around. Homeless yet again.
- We left Mt. Rainer and headed south into yet another national forest and another overpriced campground. But we backed into site A6 and debated staying anyway. Nope. Let’s go find free camping in the national forest. So down another narrow forest road we went. Dead-end. So we backed out, uphill about a mile, turned around in what amounted to a shallow drainage ditch and headed back to site A6 eager to pay $20 not to have to be in the truck any longer.
- Jessie now has reoccurring dreams/nightmares about finding free dispersed camping, and Jason is sick of backing up the trailer.
Clearly the more confident we feel in our travels, the more willing we are to take risks (i.e. drive down narrow gravel roads with no real idea of where we are going). These risks often mean great rewards, but sometimes they mean eating fish off a paper plate three hours later than you planned and in a location you never knew existed.