The inn was full near Glenns Ferry, Idaho. We were unaware that the Three Island Crossing was taking place, the annual (and this year, final) reenactment of (yes) the Oregon Trail settlers struggling to cross the dangerous Snake River with their wagons and horses. Every RV park for miles was full: the state park, Power Pop Campground, everything. (“Power Pop”, that cracked Ralph up. “Is that next to Speed Metal RV Park? Across from Hair Band KOA?”)
We met Stan, the caretaker of Carmela RV Park, who took pity on our ignorance and graciously offered us a place to hook up in the parking lot of Carmela Vineyards, right next to the vines and tasting room. We reluctantly pulled away the next morning, sidetripped to Sisters, Oregon to visit friends, and returned, exhausted, to the driveway in Portland.
What we learned together, trapped in a car
• We moved too fast. Each new location really requires a day for driving and set up, a day to see, and a day to reflect.
• Schedules are bad. I never again want to stumble upon an event like the final reenactment of the Three Island Crossing and not see it because the calendar dictates that we must leave the morning it takes place.
• Easing up on the tight timeframe may help us avoid confrontations like this typical exchange:
Ralph (driving) (congenial tone)- “Say, there’s a scenic overlook up ahead. Would you like to pull over and see it?”
Rhonda (laboring to post a tweet with continued lack of connectivity, looks up from iPhone)- “What? Uh, ok I guess. Yes!”
Ralph (now agitated) (eyeroll)- “Well all right, we can stop, but then we really have got to get going!!!”
• If you change the bread and dance up the chips, you can tolerate turkey sandwiches in the car for lunch everyday for more than two weeks without growing bored with them.
• Traveling with dogs necessitates going no longer than ten days before everything must be ejected from the trailer and tow vehicle for a complete HazMat-level cleaning.
• Making Chex Mix in a ziplock bag in the back window doesn’t work.
• Don’t leave home without bike tools.
• Airstream dealership information on the internet is woefully outdated.
• New Mexico kind of sucks.
• They don’t know this but the national parks “Oh, Ranger!” campaign is just flat funny and vaguely obscene. (Here’s what’s adorable, though: any child who obtains a workbook from a visitor center, completes the necessary assignments, then presents it to a ranger who “checks their work” will be awarded a certificate appointing them as a “Junior Ranger”. How old school is that?)
• The DWR may be tiny but it has everything we need.
Comments about it as we traveled ranged from “Wow, that’s swanky!” from a young couple at Arches who took its picture, to “Your trailer is so cute, how can I get one!?” shouted from a woman at a gas station in Idaho. (Ralph took the time to actually explain the various Airstream models and advised her to visit airstream.com—and spelled it and repeated it. The husband gave him a withering, dude-what-are-you-doing-to-me look.) My favorite: As we passed through the biker gauntlet in Keystone South Dakota, a young man yelled happily, “Holy shit! That’s the smallest f*cking Airstream I have ever seen!!”