Idaho is Prettier than Nevada

And Oregon is, too.

[When we last left our intrepid traveler, she was making herself at home in a 21-foot travel trailer parked in a casion parking lot in West Wendover, NV. You can read about the events leading up to this point here.]

I went into the casino at 5:30 AM in search of a cup of coffee. The espresso stand looked open, but it wasn’t. I asked a person who worked there what time it opened and she said 7 AM. I was about to freak out when I realized that my watch was on Mountain Standard Time and the casino was on Mountain Daylight Time. It was really 6:30 AM. I only had to wait 30 minutes.

After a peek across the street to see if there were another option — there wasn’t, unless you count McDonald’s, which is evidently getting high marks from some folks on their coffee; I’m not that brave — I went back to the camper. I busied myself finishing up the blog entry for the previous day’s drive. I’d just connected to the Internet with my Treo to upload the post when the phone rang, cutting off my connection. It was Mike. He has a real knack for calling when I’m using dial-up networking. By the time we finished chatting, my computer’s battery was nearly dead and the inverter I’d bought to power it in the camper wasn’t working. So the post didn’t get posted.

I went back into the casino, where I spent $5.08 for a 16-ounce “latte” with an extra shot of “espresso.” Note the quotes. I’m putting these terms in quotes because that’s what the casino called this stuff. It’s not what I received. In fact, it was barely drinkable.

Inside CamperI went back to the camper and packed up my bedding. The camper’s two queen-sized beds fold out the front and back of the camper and resemble pop-up camper beds. Although it’s not difficult to set these up, it really wasn’t worth it for a night of sleep in a parking lot. So I left the beds folded up and opened the sofa to a bed. This wouldn’t have been bad if the bed were long enough for my 5’8″ height. I’m thinking it’s about 5 feet long. I slept diagonally with my legs curled up. (This photo, taken with my funky fisheye lens, makes the camper’s interior look a lot bigger than it is. But it’s roomy enough for me. In this shot, the slide-out is fully extended; I usually only put it out halfway for overnight stays. You can see the closed-up front bed in the middle of the shot.) I didn’t have a good night’s sleep, but it really wasn’t bad, given the short bed and the fact that the parking lot’s lights made it bright as day outside all night long. Even the blinds couldn’t keep the light out. In the morning, when I woke up, I had to actually look out the window to see if it was daytime.

I got Alex back into his travel box — he spent the night in his cage — and loaded him into the car. A while later, after topping off both fuel tanks, we headed out. Oddly enough, it was exactly 7:05 AM. The same time I’d left Wickenburg the day before.

My route that morning took me west on I-80 to Wells. The 58 miles took about 90 minutes, mostly because of all the high elevation climbing we had to do. You see, the mountain ranges in Nevada generally stretch from north to south. When you drive north, as I did most of the day before, you’re driving on gentle slopes in valleys. But when you drive west, you have to climb over the mountain ranges in whatever mountain passes are on the way. That morning, there were three mountain ranges to cross. On one of them, the truck actually downshifted to first gear with my foot on the floor, unable to give me more than 35 miles per hour. Fortunately, I did better downhill.

The day was cloudy and it drizzled. When I approached Wells — which may have provided a decent place to spend the previous night after all — I saw that the mountains to the south were covered with fresh snow. In fact, it may have still been snowing.

I headed north on U.S. 93 again. The terrain was changing subtly. By the time I got to Jackpot, NV, on the border of Idaho, it was hilly and green and rather pleasant. I stopped at Cactus Pete’s Casino for breakfast, putting Alex in the camper while I went inside. It had a nice breakfast burrito with a cup of truly undrinkable coffee.

It was unfortunate I didn’t get all the way to Jackpot the night before. As my friend Stan had told me, Jackpot was a very RV-friendly place. It would have been a pleasant overnight stop.

Another refueling, then back on the road. I crossed into Idaho. Soon I was driving through farm country. At Twin Falls, I screwed up and followed U.S. 30 instead of 93. Although 30 was more direct, 93 would have gotten me to the Interstate a lot quicker. But the last 10 or so miles before I finally got on the Interstate was actually quite pleasant, winding alongside a river with lots of little waterfalls. (Maybe that’s what that “Thousand Springs” on the map was all about.)

Meanwhile, the weather remained variable: mostly cloudy with scattered rain showers. By 11:30 AM, I was feeling as if I needed a nap. That’s not a good thing when you still have about 400 miles to drive. I started thinking about maybe not getting all the way to Quincy by nightfall. Maybe an overnight stay in a nice campground would be better. Someplace with an electric hookup and WiFi.

By the time I got to Boise, it was pouring. I kept going. When I reached Nampa, I got off the highway and fairly stumbled into a Wal-Mart parking lot. I wanted to stop at a Wal-Mart or a Target to buy a cheap vacuum cleaner for the camper. You know, the kind on a stick. My mother used to call them “electric brooms.” I figured a walk around Wal-Mart might wake me up a bit. And maybe it would stop raining while I was in there.

I turned out to be a Super Wal-Mart, with groceries. I thought I’d take the opportunity to pick up some food for the camper, just in case my overnight stop wasn’t anywhere near shopping or dining. I bought some soup and eggs and orange juice and cereal. That kind of stuff. Then wiper blades for the truck and the vacuum. I brought it all out to the camper and stowed it away. Then I studied the map and came up with a plan — I’d press on and see how I felt by 5 PM. If I wanted to stop for the night, there were a handful of state park campgrounds I could try.

So I fueled up again and headed back out on I-84. It was about 2:30 PM and the rain had let up considerably.

A while later, I passed into Oregon.

I don’t know if it was my tiredness or my lack of enthusiasm for Nevada’s dull scenery or the changeable weather, but the ride into Oregon on I-84 was beautiful. Rolling green hills, farmland, irrigation canals, streams, rivers, snow-capped mountains, trees, rock formations. The interstate twisted through all this, with the inevitable climbs to slow me down so I could get a good look. Unfortunately, the rain came down very hard sometimes, making for bad visibility and tricky driving. It was also making me tired.

I pulled off the highway at Baker City and consulted the map. There was a state park with a campground about 50 miles farther up the highway. I got back on the road and homed in on it.

Hilgard Junction State Park is a tiny sliver of land alongside a creek just off the freeway. It offers primitive camping that includes a paved parking spot, picnic table, and fire pit. There’s a water faucet every 3 or 4 sites and a garbage pail every 2 sites. There’s also a restroom with cold running water. A campground host watches over all this. The fee: just $8/night.

Camper At Hilgard Junction State ParkI drove in to check the place out. The campsites were right on the creek. I drove down the little road toward the turnaround loop at the end. The sites were not pull-throughs, so I’d have to back in. The hell with that, I thought. I found one with a nice, long driveway and pulled in head first, parking the truck’s nose facing down the creek. This pointed the camper’s front door right up the creek. I just fit in the space. Works for me.

There’s one major drawback to the campground. I cannot get a steady cell signal. This almost caused me to leave — if I didn’t check in with Mike, he’d worry and I’d get scolded. But as I walked toward the self-pay station and tried unsuccessfully to telephone him, I managed to get a few text messages out and get one in return. It seemed the signal would hold just long enough for sporadic text messaging. I’d succeeded in communicating with him so he wouldn’t worry and I could stay.

A while later, Alex and I were settled into the camper. I perked a small pot of coffee — of course I have a percolator! — and made some soup. I enjoyed both while sitting on the camper step, looking out over the creek. My closest neighbors, two sites away, made their dinner on the fire and retired into their Minnie Winnebago with their two dachshunds. I made my sofa bed with an extra blanket on it, did the dishes, and fished out the 300 watt inverter to charge up my laptop. I even ran the heat for a while to get the dampness out of the camper.

As I finish writing this, rain is falling gently on the camper roof. Alex, in his cage, seems to be settled in for the night. I’m less than 200 miles from Quincy. While I probably could have made it there if I drove hard, this one last night on the road is like a little vacation before I get to work.

2 thoughts on “Idaho is Prettier than Nevada

  1. Maria,

    I might suggest that you look into a Gear-vendors under-drive or a lower rear end (higher numerically) ratio for towing.

    I also highly recommend an additional cooler for the transmission, but don’t mount it in front of a/c condenser as it will negatively affect a/c performance.

    Truck and trailer look nice, please be extra careful cherry drying!

What do you think?