Author Topic: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)  (Read 3618 times)

Offline PBaruch

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The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« on: September 07, 2020, 07:15:32 PM »
This year has brought a multitude of challenges to everyone, us included.  While we are extremely grateful that our immediate family remained healthy and safe in the pandemic, the difficulty of being confined to home for months on end was driving DW and the kids stir crazy.  After five long months, DW and the kids were ready for an escape.  I, on the other hand, was forced to return to work at the office after only three months and I simply could not work from home for a variety of reasons.  Since I was getting out of the house on a regular basis, I didn't feel a compelling need to get away.  However, the pressure from the rest of the family eventually got to me and I agreed to a trip.

Part 1 - Planning and Preparation

We usually plan our trips six months to a year in advance, often with meticulous details.  This year, we were having trouble coming up with ideas, so B"H, we did not have any plans that we needed to cancel.  A last-minute trip with little advance planning was something new for us.  We initially considered another trip to Hawaii, but the lockdown with a fourteen-day quarantine requirement kept being extended.  We then thought about Alaska, but coordinating virus testing for all of us proved impossible, especially since I kept receiving conflicting information from various medical providers about being unable to get test results within three days of our departure, as required by Alaska.  Also, you try convincing a 6-year-old that sticking a swab up his brain was a good idea.

Finally, late July rolled around and we still had no clue as to what to do or where to go.  DW began checking various sites for last-minute one-way motorhome deals, and we hit the jackpot with a pickup in only one week, and on the exact day we wanted to leave.  El Monte advertised a nine-day, one-way relocation special, from Denver to San Francisco for $59 per day plus $16 per day for insurance, for a grand total of $75 per day.  Also included in this relocation special was 1500 free miles and $200 worth of free gas.  The El Monte website showed two such deals as available but the site kept hanging and I was unable to book it online.  I immediately called El Monte and after being on hold for over 40 minutes, finally reached a customer service representative.  I had been considering possibly booking the second deal for a friend, but was told that only one was now available.  Without hesitation, I plunked down a $250 nonrefundable deposit and booked the special.  The relocation special was for a 28-foot Class C motorhome with no extendable slides or bunkbeds.  The layout for this motorhome can be found here:

https://www.elmonterv.com/rv-rental/rv-details/cabover-style-c28-rv/

There was a bed over the front cab, a queen size bed in the rear, and a couch and dinette that both converted to beds.  The toilet was on one side of the "hallway" in front of the rear bedroom, and the shower stall was across from the bathroom.  Privacy was at a premium as there was no door blocking off the shower.  The shower was enclosed by a translucent sliding door.  The only way to get privacy while showering was to use a curtain to block the front half of the motorhome from the shower and toilet area.  This particular motorhome was far from ideal for our family of five, but for $75 a day and lots of free perks I was not about to complain.

Now came the task of planning a last-minute itinerary with stays at a campground for each night.  While we could have done some dry camping and stayed in Walmart parking lots for various nights, we would not have had any hookups, including electricity, water, and sewer service.  Not wanting to be without those conveniences (especially electricity, as temperatures were forecast to be in the 100s and I didn't want to run the generator continuously to power the AC), we splurged for campgrounds.  Also, I wasn't about to get away only to have to sleep each night in a Walmart parking lot.  Some of the campgrounds we wanted were fully booked so we didn't always get the choice locations we wanted.  However, it isn't as bad as what people write online about having trouble getting into campgrounds.  We generally did not have any problems finding availability in various campgrounds, even with last minute bookings.

Not wanting to only get away for only nine nights, we decided to extend our trip after returning the motorhome in San Francisco by seven additional nights.  Since we could not find any other motorhome relocation specials that interested us, we reserved a rental car from San Francisco with a return at the Seattle Airport (Washington state was on the quarantine list at the time, we davened for it to be removed while we were away, and it was).  We booked stays at various Marriott branded hotels along the way to Seattle.  All hotel stays were paid for using a combination of Marriott gift cards (purchased at a discount and reimbursed by the Marriott Bonvoy annual credit), Marriott credit card free night certificates, or Marriott points.

Now that the motorhome and car rental was booked, I immediately set out to arrange for our flights.  I booked JetBlue from JFK to DEN and for our return booked on Alaska from SEA to JFK.  All of the flights were booked with miles to minimize any cash outlay for this trip.  JetBlue was 13,800 points pp and Alaska was 12.5k miles pp. (During our trip there was an Alaska cash special and I tried to play around with it on my phone but didn't have much luck.  Not having patience to play around with it further, I just left the miles booking for our return flight.)

We also needed transportation from the Denver airport to the pick up the motorhome in Littleton, Colorado.  I reserved a one-way car rental from Enterprise which proved convenient as we were able to make several stops along the way to get pizza and stock up on food.  The motorhome pickup location did not offer airport transportation and an Uber would have been much more expensive than a rental car. 

Part 2 - Flight to Denver and Picking up the Motorhome

JFK - DEN by P Bryan, on Flickr

For the first time in my life, I did not want to sit in or be anywhere near F.  I had heard from others who had taken recent trips that F seats were booked solid while Y was fairly empty.  We headed to the back of the bus into a largely empty airplane. 

Fairly empty flight to Denver by P Bryan, on Flickr

After arriving in Denver, we stopped off at Brooklyn Pizza for lunch.  We now began our pizza tour of the west.  The pizza was ok, fries were salted like the Dead Sea, and the service was lousy.  Information about Brooklyn Pizza can be found here:

http://brooklynpizzadenver.com/

We then stocked up on kosher food at King Soopers, a supermarket next door to Brooklyn Pizza.  Afterwards, we went to East Side Kosher Deli for some takeout.  The kosher takeout food was ok but nothing great.  Information about East Side Kosher Deli can be found here:

https://www.eastsidekosherdeli.com/

Finally, we headed over to Littleton to pick up our motorhome.  Our motorhome was a very tired 2019 model with close to 50k miles.  It had scratches and scrapes all around.  The interior looked a bit dumpy and cheap and the bathroom was filthy.  Clearly, it had not been adequately cleaned.  The refrigerator was dirty and rusty and the plastic shelves on the door kept falling off.  Also, the waste tanks were not completely dumped.  At my request (yes, I had to ask), the attendant dumped the tanks and cleaned the toilet.  I made sure to test the generator, refrigerator, and AC before we took off.  My suspicion that the motorhome was at the end of its short but hectic rental life was confirmed when the attendant said the purpose of the one-way rental was so that El Monte could sell it.

Picking up the Motorhome:

Picking up our cheap 1 way rental. by P Bryan, on Flickr

Although the motorhome was old and tired, the main systems were all in order so we took off to our first campground where we would spend the night.  Our first campground was the KOA in Pueblo South/Colorado City.

At the KOA Campground in Pueblo South/Colorado City by P Bryan, on Flickr

After we arrived at the campground, I set out to connect all of the hookups, only to realize that the water hose was missing.  Luckily the campground store had one water hose left.  (El Monte later reimbursed me for the water hose.)  We had received warnings of two-inch hail in the area, and were hopeful to be far enough away before the storm hit, (I was told by El Monte that I was responsible for hail damage, which is ridiculous) but around 2 a.m. we were awakened by hail pelting the motorhome.  I'm not sure if the hail caused any damage to the roof but no one climbed on the roof when we returned the motorhome to inspect it.  They only inspected the front cap to ensure it wasn't struck by any low overpasses. 

Part 3 - Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

In the morning, we packed out of the campground and headed to our first national park of the trip, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.  While we had wanted to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, we were unable to get a timed entry slot on short notice.  We also wanted to visit Pikes Peak but the motorhome was too long for the road.  They will have to wait for another trip.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

With the family being all out of shape from staying home for months on end, no one wanted to do any long hikes.  Middle kid was willing to go a bit farther out with me than the rest of the family.  Little one only wanted to play in the sand with his sand toys.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

I much preferred the sand dunes in Death Valley National Park (https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=101345.0), although that is most definitely not a summer trip.  If it was up to me, I would skip Great Sand Dunes in the future.  After roaming around the dunes and playing in the sand, we cleaned off with our motorhome's outdoor shower (which had a broken hot water knob), and headed over to the next campground in Gunnison, Colorado.

MVIMG_20200806_083649_1 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Despite an annoyance with using the laundry, this KOA campground in Gunnison was one of my favorites.  (Yes, I did laundry about every two days on this trip instead of my typical five days, due to being ultra-neurotic about some virus going around.)  They had a small herd of campground animals including goats, sheep, donkeys and geese.  Little one had lots of fun interacting with the animals.

Little one learning to talk donkey:

KOA Campground in Gunnison, Colorado by P Bryan, on Flickr

KOA Campground in Gunnison, Colorado by P Bryan, on Flickr

While little one was teaching me how to talk donkey, a very specific process of cupping your hands to your mouth and making some donkeyish noises, a little boy came over and exclaimed that the donkeys don't speak English.  I mentioned, perhaps they speak Spanish?  Somehow, I don't think the kid got the joke as he didn't respond.

Hey there gorgeous:

KOA Campground in Gunnison, Colorado by P Bryan, on Flickr

Some of the donkeys had free reign of the campground:

KOA Campground in Gunnison, Colorado by P Bryan, on Flickr

Interacting with the sheep and goats:

KOA Campground in Gunnison, Colorado by P Bryan, on Flickr

This one is learning to use the lawnmower:

KOA Campground in Gunnison, Colorado by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 4 - Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

From the Gunnison KOA, we drove to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, our second national park of the trip.  This particular park is known for spectacular views, including some of the steepest cliffs in North America.  There really aren't any easy or moderate hiking to do here so we just visited various overlooks and enjoyed the views.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Enjoying the view:

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

We then headed over to the Green River KOA campground in Utah for the night.  Along the way we stopped by the Welcome to Utah Sign, at the Utah/Colorado border:

Utah - Colorado Border by P Bryan, on Flickr

We finally arrived at the Green River KOA in Utah:

Green River KOA, Utah, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 5 - Capitol Reef National Park

We contemplated going to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, but it would've been too tight to get to our next campground and prepare for Shabbos.  We were spending Shabbos slightly out of the way, since our one criterion for Shabbos was a location with forecast temperatures not over 90.  The AC in the motorhome cools to 20 degrees below the outside ambient temperature, and spending the day in 80-85 degree temperatures did not sound like a pleasant way to enjoy Shabbos.  Since it was Friday, we got a somewhat early start and headed out to Capitol Reef National Park.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

After stopping at the visitor center, we headed over to the Mott Orchard for apple picking.  Capitol Reef National Park has a number of historic orchards, which were originally planted by pioneers from the 1880's onward.

Mott Orchard, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Deer also like to eat the apples:

Mott Orchard, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Pears at the Mott Orchard:

Mott Orchard, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Picking Ginger Gold Apples:

Mott Orchard, Capitol Reef NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8262) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mott Orchard, Capitol Reef NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8268) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mott Orchard, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mott Orchard, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Weighing our bounty:

Mott Orchard, Capitol Reef NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8283) by P Bryan, on Flickr

After picking our fill of apples, we hiked the Cohab Canyon Trail.  We hiked as much as we could before having to run off to prepare for Shabbos:

Capitol Reef NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8305) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Huffing and puffing and trying to get back into shape:

Capitol Reef NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8307) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Capitol Reef NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8343) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Capitol Reef NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8352) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Capitol Reef NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8377) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Capitol Reef NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8381) by P Bryan, on Flickr

And then we were off to the Richfield KOA Campground in Richfield, Utah, where we would stay for Shabbos.  We enjoyed being in a campground rather than a hotel over Shabbos, and the kids enjoyed roaming around.  One of the motorhomes at the campground had a couple of hummingbird feeders, and we were able to spot hummingbirds flying about.  At one point the kids started fighting and DW banished them from the motorhome.  One of the campground employees, with whom we became friendly, later told us that he had heard about the banishment as word travels fast in a small campground.

Richfield KOA, Richfield, Utah, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Richfield KOA, Richfield, Utah, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 6 - Bryce Canyon National Park, etc.

On Sunday morning, we packed out of the Richfield KOA and headed over to Bryce Canyon National Park.  Although we had previously visited Bryce (https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=64756.0), we did not do any hiking on the past trip as little one was too young at the time.  DW wanted to return to Bryce to hike among the hoodoos.  On the way to Bryce, we stopped off at Butch Cassidy's childhood home.  For those who are unfamiliar, Butch Cassidy was a famous outlaw and information about him can be found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butch_Cassidy

DSC_8397 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Butch Cassidy Childhood Home (DSC_8401) by P Bryan, on Flickr

And then we were off to Bryce....

MVIMG_20200809_161442 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Bryce Canyon NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8409) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Bryce Canyon NP, Utah USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

We decided to hike the Queen's Garden Trail to walk among the hoodoos.  Little one hiked to within five minutes of the end and refused to go any further.  No matter what I did or said, I couldn't entice him to finish the hike.  Even the ice cream bribe didn't work.  I ended up waiting with him while DW and our older kids completed the hike and came back to meet us for the return back up.

Bryce Canyon NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8479) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Bryce Canyon NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8500) by P Bryan, on Flickr

MVIMG_20200809_144801 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Since we were short on time given our hectic schedule, choices had to be made as to which parks to visit and which to skip.  We didn't have time to explore Zion National Park, but drove through on our way to the next campground.  I'd love to spend some time in Zion and especially want to hike the Narrows - if anyone is up for that, let me know.

MVIMG_20200809_174140 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Zion NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8530) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Zion NP, Utah, USA (DSC_8541) by P Bryan, on Flickr

After a brief stop in Zion, we made our way to Las Vegas, along the way crossing into Arizona for 27 miles.  We restocked our dwindling food supply at Smith's, which has a great kosher take out counter and overnighted at the Las Vegas Sam's Town Campground.  This is perhaps our least favorite campground but was convenient as a stop off point in Vegas.

Sam's Town Campground, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Smith's Supermarket, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

While in Vegas, we continued our pizza tour in the west with pizza from Ariela's.  Seems like the farther west we went, the pizza got better.  This pizza had the best crust we've ever had. 

Pizza from Ariela's in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

The following day was a driving day to the Visalia/Sequoia National Park KOA Campground.  Photograph of the motorhome at the Visalia/Sequoia Campground:

Visalia / Sequoia National Park KOA Campground by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 7 - Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon National Park

Although we visited Sequoia many years ago, this was before little one was born and we very much wanted to show him the big trees.  However, we forgot that the windy roads limited vehicle lengths and that our 28-foot motorhome wouldn't make it.  We were reminded of this by the campground manager upon check in.  Luckily, an Enterprise car rental location was nearby, and they picked me up and dropped me off at the campground.   We spent an entire day wandering around the big trees and driving through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

MVIMG_20200811_113122 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sequoia NP, California, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sequoia NP, California, USA (DSC_8557) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sequoia NP, California, USA (DSC_8585) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sequoias have an uncanny ability to survive fires.  You can see burn marks on this tree:

Sequoia NP, California, USA (DSC_8639) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Hiking the Big Trees Trail:

Sequoia NP, California, USA (DSC_8709) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Somewhere along this trail, a beetle jumped on DW.  She was pretty sure it was the invasive Asian longhorned beetle, but since there was a chance it was some rare endemic beetle, she simply photographed it.  At home, we confirmed that it was indeed the invasive species.  Moral of the story:  if you're hiking the Big Trees Trail and a beetle jumps on you, kill it.

General Sherman Tree:

Sequoia National Park, California, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Driving north near Kings Canyon National Park:

Kings Canyon NP, California, USA (DSC_8790) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 8 - Pinnacles National Park

The following morning, we celebrated middle kid's birthday with an improvised birthday cake - it was the best we could do at the time.  It was a far cry from her last birthday celebration in California (https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=107346.0).  Hopefully, she will not endure any lasting emotional harm:

Improvised Birthday Cake by P Bryan, on Flickr

After two nights at the Visalia/Sequoia National Park KOA Campground, DW had the bright idea to drive to Pinnacles National Park in the middle of a heatwave.  In her defense, this was our last unvisited national park in California, and it was not yet a national park the last time we were in the area.  I did get out of the motorhome for a few minutes to watch a nearby deer, but that was about it.  The heat was oppressively brutal.  Little one and middle kid refused to get out of the motorhome while DW and our oldest kid hiked part of the Bench Trail.  It also didn't help that there was no road for motorized traffic through the park and the only way in was to hike or ride a bike.  We did see some folks on bikes but I'm not really sure how they handled the heat, unless they were preparing for an eternity in hell.  The other side of the park has some talus caves to explore, but that is not open to motorhome traffic.

MVIMG_20200812_130035 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Pinnacles NP, California, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

After our brief stay at Pinnacles, we drove to the Santa Cruz North/Costanoa KOA in Pescadero, California.  Part of the drive was along the pacific coast highway and the scenery was spectacular.  Also, once we hit the coast the weather cooled down dramatically to a very pleasant 60-70 degrees.  Although our campground spot felt crowded, the campground was in a spectacular location with a view of the Pacific Ocean.  We would love to return to this area at some point in the future.

Santa Cruz North / Costanoa KOA by P Bryan, on Flickr

In honor of our last evening in the motorhome, we made a BBQ and cooked burgers and fries:

IMG_20200812_214823 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 9 - Returning the Motorhome

It was finally time to return the motorhome - hopefully they will clean and fix up all the aches and pains before passing it on to its next owner. 

While I was filling out the paperwork to return the motorhome, I bumped into the unlucky fellow who managed to grab the other one way special from Denver to San Francisco.  He hadn't realized that the rooftop AC unit was broken and ended up wasting a day bringing it into a service center to have the entire AC replaced.  If this had happened to us it would have ruined our entire frantic schedule.

After returning the motorhome, I called a nearby Hertz location, and was picked up for the beginning of our seven-day rental with a return at the Seattle airport.  I returned to El Monte with the rental van to pick up the family and we headed to Oakland Kosher Foods to restock our provisions and get some takeout for Shabbos.  The cole slaw, purple cabbage salad, and eggplant salad were ok.  The matbucha was really good.  Information about Oakland Kosher Foods can be found here:

https://www.oaklandkosherfoods.com/

Afterwards, we stopped off for lunch at Frena Bakery and Cafe in San Francisco.  Information about Frena Bakery can be found here:

https://frenabakery.com/

We bought mini pizza pies which were ok and not great.  The location, however, was in what I would describe as skid row - surrounded by lots of homeless and bums.  We felt very uncomfortable and got out of there as soon as possible.

Mini pie from Frena Bakery in San Francisco, CA, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Our final destination for the evening was TownePlace Suites in Redding, California.  We asked for and were graciously upgraded to a two-bedroom suite.

Part 10 - Lassen Volcanic National Park

We had been to Lassen many years ago before little one was born.  Back then, we wanted to hike the Bumpass Hell trail but were forced to retreat to our car by grape-sized hail.  This time, the weather was beautiful, cool and sunny.  The scenery was absolutely spectacular.  Lassen was one of my favorites from all of the parks we visited.  Highly underrated.

MVIMG_20200814_081737 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Lassen Volcanic NP, California USA (DSC_8837) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Lassen Volcanic NP, California, USA (DSC_8856) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Making a new friend:

Lassen Volcanic NP, California, USA (DSC_8861) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Spectacular views along the Bumpass Hell trail:

Lassen Volcanic NP, California, USA (DSC_8863) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Lassen Volcanic NP, California, USA (DSC_8883) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Lassen Volcanic NP, California, USA (DSC_8895) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Lassen Volcanic NP, California, USA (DSC_8909) by P Bryan, on Flickr

And we finally made it to the end of the trail, where we observed the hydrothermal area:

Lassen Volcanic NP, California, USA (DSC_8941) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Lassen Volcanic NP, California, USA (DSC_8944) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Lassen Volcanic NP, California, USA DSC_8954) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Now that we are back on the way up, little one found his second wind:

Lassen Volcanic NP, California, USA (DSC_8971) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We then made our way to the TownePlace Suites in Medford, Oregon, where we stayed for two nights over Shabbos.  Once again, we were graciously upgraded to a two-bedroom suite.  On the way, we stopped off at Chabad in Ashland, Oregon, to pick up freshly baked challahs for Shabbos. 

Part 11 - Crater Lake National Park

On Sunday morning, we left Medford, Oregon, and made our way to Crater Lake National Park.  This was another park we had visited years ago before little one was born. 

MVIMG_20200816_091440 by P Bryan, on Flickr

We first hiked along the Castle Crest Wildflower Trail:

Crater Lake NP, Oregon, USA (DSC_8987) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA (DSC_8988) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Crater Lake NP, Oregon, USA (DSC_9000) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Crater Lake NP. Oregon, USA (DSC_9012) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Afterwards we hiked the Pinnacles Trail to see...pinnacles:

Crater Lake NP, Oregon, USA (DSC_9080) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Not sure what this looks like....

Crater Lake NP, Oregon, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

The wildflowers were in full bloom:

Crater Lake NP, Oregon, USA (DSC_9108) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We stopped off along the many overlooks to view the beautiful lake:

Crater Lake NP, Oregon, USA (DSC_9032) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Crater Lake NP, Oregon, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Apparently, there are many vicious squirrels at some of the overlooks:

Crater Lake NP, Oregon, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Oldest was posing for a picture when a bunch of those little rascals ran right up to her looking for a meal. Who knew that squirrels can be so scary:

Crater Lake NP, Oregon, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Once we had our fill of Crater Lake National Park, we made our way to the Marriott Residence Inn in Bend, Oregon. 

Part 12 - A Really Annoying Day

The following day we visited Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  If it hadn't been so close to our hotel, we probably would not have bothered with a visit as some of the attractions were closed and we were pressed for time.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument (DSC_9201) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Oh no, the floor is lava!

Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Oregon, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Afterwards, we made our way to Portland, Oregon, crossing the 45th parallel along the way, halfway between the north pole and the equator.  In Portland, we stopped for lunch at the Garbonzos food truck, located in the parking lot of the Mittleman Jewish Community Center.  We called Chabad of Portland while en route and were told where to find Garbonzos, as there was no information about this kosher food truck online.  Apparently, food trucks are a big thing in Portland.  Alas, there was no kosher pizza store in Portland, so our pizza tour of the west was temporarily put on hold.

Garbonzos Food Truck, Portland, Oregon, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Garbonzos Food Truck, Portland, Oregon, USA by P Bryan, on Flick

We ordered veggie burgers in pita, falafel plate, eggplant sandwich and fries.  The burgers and the pita bread were really good.  The falafel plate and the fries were ok.

After lunch, we drove to Olympia, Washington State, where we were scheduled to spend the night at the TownePlace Suites.  We chose Olympia as it was the most convenient place to stay near Mt. Rainier National Park.  As soon as we arrived in Olympia, we realized that something wasn't right.  The place looked deserted, stores were boarded up, and there were many homeless people walking around.  Right in the vicinity of the hotel we saw a lot of homeless people and people that looked like they were drugged up as high as the sky.  When DW went inside to check in, she asked the manager about crime there.  The response:  "we haven't had a [car] break-in in a while...about a month."  We cancelled the reservation and hightailed it out of there, then called the TownePlace Suites in Renton, Washington, to ask if they could add a third night to our reservation and upgrade us to the two-bedroom suite. 

However, when we arrived at the TownePlace Suites in Renton, we were told that they didn't have any two-bedroom suites available but we were offered a second room for no additional charge.  I went to inspect the rooms before checking in (as we always do), and found that both were filthy and disgusting.  In one room there was a piece of a candy bar on the floor in full view and there was food residue and other gunk strewn about both rooms. 

By this point, it was already around 9:30 p.m. and I was tired and in a really foul mood.  Two strikes down and only one more to go.  I went to the Marriott website and found a nearby Residence Inn and booked two rooms for three nights at 25k Marriott points per room per night.  It was 75k more Marriott points than the TownePlace Suites but at this point, I had enough.  I suppose this was bound to happen as we were booking hotels on the fly at the last minute.

Either way, we hit the jackpot with the Marriott Residence Inn in Renton.  It was a modern and clean hotel and no homeless and druggies walking nearby.  Unfortunately, we couldn't get a room with more than one bed and there were no connecting rooms.  We stayed at this hotel for the remaining three nights of our trip.

Part 13 - Mt. Rainier National Park

We last visited Mt. Rainier National Park in early summer 2017 and enjoyed it so much that we wanted to go back.  (https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=81754.0)  Back then, we went in early July and it was covered in snow so I couldn't photograph the mountain with wildflowers in the foreground, as I had always wanted.

Here is a picture of Mt. Rainier last time we were there:

PANO_20170703_175746 by P Bryan, on Flickr

We didn't remember the name of the trail we had done and wanted to do over.  DDF TR to the rescue.  It was the Nisqually Vista Trail.  This time the meadows were covered with wildflowers:

Mt. Rainier NP, Washington, USA (DSC_9263) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mt. Rainier NP, Washington, USA  (DSC_9238) by P Bryan, on Flickr

The mountain in all of its glory:

Mt. Rainier NP, Washington, USA (DSC_9229) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mt. Rainier NP, Washington, USA (DSC_9291) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mt. Rainier NP, Washington, USA (DSC_9305) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Another beautiful vista:

Mt. Rainier NP, Washington, USA (DSC_9282) by P Bryan, on Flickr

For supper, we ordered a pizza and fries at Island Crust Cafe, information about which can be found here:

http://islandcrustcafe.com/

In my opinion, this pizza was the best of the west and the winner of the west pizza tour.  However, middle one liked the pizza from Vegas best.

Pizza from Island Crust Cafe, Mercer Island, Washington, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Some of us were really looking forward to Indian food from Pabla Indian Cuisine, which we had eaten at a few times on past trips.  Unfortunately, when we arrived, we found out that the kitchen was closed on Tuesdays, so we just picked up some prepackaged food (nan, pakoras, samosas) to supplement our pizza meal.  You can find out more about them on their website:

https://www.pablaindian.com/

Part 14 - North Cascades National Park

The last day of our crazy trip was spent exploring North Cascades National Park. 

MVIMG_20200819_132247 by P Bryan, on Flickr

North Cascades NP, Washington, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

North Cascades NP, Washington, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

We first hiked the Happy Creek Forest Walk:

North Cascades NP, Washington, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

North Cascades NP. Washington, USA (DSC_9330) by P Bryan, on Flickr

North Cascades NP, Washington, USA (DSC_9335) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Afterwards, we hiked the Cascade Pass Trail.  However, since it was pretty late in the day (it took a while to drive there, partially over a dirt road), we weren't able to hike the entire trail.  I would like to return to hike the entire trail at some point in the future.

DSC_9343 by P Bryan, on Flickr

North Cascades NP, Washington, USA (DSC_9375) by P Bryan, on Flickr

As seen from the road :

MVIMG_20200819_190857 by P Bryan, on Flickr

When we were on our way back to the hotel, we called Pabla Indian Cuisine to place an order.  This is what we ordered:  channa batura, aloo gobhi, mixed vegetable pakoras with mint and tamarind chutneys, paneer nan, Pabla special chilli cheese, mango lassi.  Included was two containers of basmati rice.  We also bought two kinds of ice cream:  mango and coconut with cardamom.  It was all delicious and filling.  DW to kid, "Have some channa batura."  Kid: "I don't like chickpeas, and that rice is weird."  DW proceeds to make a plate of food, kid proceeds to eat it all. 

The following day we checked out of the hotel, returned the rental car to an empty and unstaffed Hertz location at the Seattle airport, and made our way home on a relatively empty flight.

map by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 15 - By the Numbers

1 motorhome
3 rental cars
3 mountain ranges
4 pizza pies
7 states
12 national parks
16 days

Miles driven:
Denver to Littleton in car rental to pick up the motorhome- 57 miles
Denver to San Fransico in the motorhome - 1832 miles
San Francisco to Seattle in the rental car - 1739 miles
Rental car for day trip to Sequoia National Park - 193 miles
Total miles driven: 3,821

Our Google Maps Timeline:

Timeline by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 16 - Conclusion

It was a crazy trip but we saw a large swath of the country.  We drove through mountains, deserts, forests, and countless farms and fields.  One time we were driving past strawberry fields in California and the fragrant smell of strawberries permeated everywhere.  Would we do something like this again?  I guess it depends if we get another awesome deal on a motorhome. 

Pros and cons of a motorhome versus a car and hotels:

Motorhome Pros

1. You have your home wherever you go - easy to cook, shower, and use the restroom;
2. Most of the time you will not need to rent a car - the motorhome is your home and car;
3. If your kid needs to use the bathroom, just find a place to pull over - no hunting for restrooms and no accidents waiting to happen;
4. When you get to a location that has kosher food, you can stock up and keep it in the fridge and freezer;
5. If anyone gets hungry, easy enough to pull over and make some food;
6. No need to hunt for decent hotels each night and no need to unpack for each night and repack the following morning;
7. You have the ability to stay very close to your intended destination for each day instead of sometimes driving for an hour or two from the nearest
    gateway city where your hotel is located;
8. Some campgrounds are lots of fun to stay at - and most have a BBQ pit and picnic table at your campsite.

Motorhome Cons

1. You have your home with you wherever you go - depending on the vehicle length, you cannot take it everywhere and you might have to rent a car, as
    we did, when we visited Sequoia National Park;
2. Can be difficult to drive in urban locations;
3. Have to find campgrounds to stay at each night for an added cost or find a free location (usually without hookups);
4. Have to deal with emptying your waste tanks;
5. They are gas guzzlers - even with relatively cheap gas, it is an added expense;
6. Travel times are longer in a motorhome - you will not be able to drive as fast to your intended destination as you would with a car.

Well, that's about it for our crazy road trip.  Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoyed this trip report.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2020, 09:29:19 PM by PBaruch »
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Offline Yehoshua

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2020, 07:30:07 PM »
Wow! This TR certainly looks like it took a long time to compile. Sounds like it was a great trip.

Offline CRACKERJACK

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2020, 07:52:15 PM »
Big fan of your trip(s) reports!
I hope one day ill do this with a family of my own! thanks

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2020, 08:52:06 PM »
Awesome TR and great pictures.

Also, new life goal:

One of the motorhomes at the campground had a couple of hummingbird feeders
Check out my site for epic kosher adventures: Kosher Horizons

Offline Moshe123

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2020, 09:34:23 PM »
Amazing as usual!!

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2020, 09:34:40 PM »
Great TR
"I've done some things I'm not proud of, and the things I am proud of are pretty disgusting"

Offline PBaruch

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2020, 09:46:21 PM »
Awesome TR and great pictures.

Also, new life goal:

I think you need somewhat more lofty goals.   :)

My life goal is to be able to carry your bags on some of your trips.
What do you do after your dreams come true?

Offline PBaruch

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2020, 09:55:21 PM »
Wow! This TR certainly looks like it took a long time to compile. Sounds like it was a great trip.

Yup, took an insane amount of time to write up and edit/compile the photos. 

Big fan of your trip(s) reports!
I hope one day ill do this with a family of my own! thanks

Thanks!  I'm really glad you enjoyed it. 
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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2020, 10:53:44 PM »
Great TR,
And the pictures... Something else!!

Offline Joel

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2020, 11:04:18 PM »
Wow! sounds like an amazing trip!

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2020, 11:35:28 PM »
Great read as always! Island Crust Cafe is the best kosher pizza I have ever had!

Offline EliJelly

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2020, 12:11:38 AM »
Great and unique TR!
Just curious, what's the covering on your tires for by your shabbos stay photo? Some sort of היכר so it looks less like a vehicle? ;)

Eta: Yep i guessed it, found that on your Death valley TR you linked above.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2020, 12:17:22 AM by EliJelly »

Offline PBaruch

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2020, 12:16:41 AM »
Great and unique TR!
Just curious, what's the covering on your tires for by your shabbos stay photo? Some sort of היכר so it looks less like a vehicle? ;)

It was discussed here by @Something Fishy

https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=42569.0

We bought those wheel covers on Amazon and have used them in Death Valley.  Basically you cover the wheels to show that the motorhome isn't being moved on Shabbos.
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Online Kobe Bryant

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2020, 12:53:46 AM »
Beautiful TR.
On a side note, those little "rascals" are chipmunks.

Offline ah giten

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Re: The Great American Road Trip, by PBaruch & Family (August 2020)
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2020, 01:56:08 AM »
Nice TR, but looks like something I won't ever be able to pull off. But def enjoyed the read.

Off topic. But ur family is from the %1 referenced here.



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