Road Trip: Wisconsin to Oregon

Having a fairly confident handle on my medical situation and after spending a couple of days in Menomonie with Luke, the day finally came to depart for my much anticipated road trip to Oregon for a month-long house/pet sitting job in Lincoln City. I had my route all planned out to travel from Wisconsin through Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and then finally arriving in Oregon over the course of 5-days. I left Menomonie, Wisconsin before sunrise on Sunday, October 24th and began making my way toward Badlands National Park.

The drive through Minnesota was fairly smooth and uneventful with no stops other than for gas and bathroom breaks. As I made my way from Minnesota into South Dakota it began to rain and continued to do so for most of the drive. Luckily it slowed down and eventually stopped before I reached the park. By the time I got there, things had completely cleared up and the sky was super blue with puffy clouds floating beautifully in every direction. Once in the park, I stopped at several areas to photograph the amazing rock formations that jump up out of the ground in every direction. Once I had exhausted the areas between the entrance and the campground, I decided to check out my campsite and get my car situated for sleeping later that night. Once everything was situated, being a collector of travel apparel, I decided to stop in at the park’s visitor center to see what sorts of shirts and sweatshirts they had for sale. Finding nothing of interest to me, I decided to make the drive to Wall to visit the famous Wall Drug to see if I would have better luck there. Unfortunately I did not find anything of interest to wear there either but at a nearby store I did find a Badlands t-shirt to add to my ever growing collection of clothes. I then made my way back to the campsite at sunset and threw on my thermal underwear and other cold weather clothing as the temperature dropped quickly when the sun set and wind picked up. Once bundled up and tucked into my blankets in the car, I was super comfy and feeling quite pleased with my decision to forego tent camp. Sleeping in my car is slightly challenging though because I can’t lay completely flat and that continues to be an issue I need to work on. Short of removing my front seat and building a platform, I’m not sure what else I can do about that. Eventually I did find a comfortable position though and slept straight through the night.

Come morning, it was easy to move a few things around in the car and be ready to hit the road in no time, a welcomed task compared to all the work that normally goes into setting up and tearing down a traditional tent campsite. I began to make my way toward Rock Springs, Wyoming where I had a hotel room reserved for the night. I made several stops along the way to take photographs of things that looked intriguing the first couple of hours but eventually things became not so interesting in the drive and it seemed as if time was standing still and I wasn’t making any progress. The wind was also picking up and making driving a bit more challenging. It was a very long day of driving but eventually I did find myself arriving at the hotel where I was grateful to take a shower, rest my arms from gripping the steering wheel so tight, and enjoy laying flat to sleep once again.

In the morning, I awoke to a cold, rainy and sleeting weather day. I decided to make a quick stop to return my refreezable ice packs I had recently purchased since they did not stay frozen for very long at all and I figured I was better off just buying ice seeing as I had no way to refreeze the packs while on the road. After gassing up, it was time to hit the road again. I made my way this day toward Wells, Nevada, stopping at Echo Canyon, Great Salt Lake State Park and the Bonneville Salt Flats along the way, all of which were beautiful and made for wonderful photographs. I did run into a little snow while crossing over the mountains in Utah but nothing that accumulated on the road to make it unsafe. Mostly it was just the high winds that made things more difficult. Once I got to Salt Lake City, things were sunny and calm. The Salt Flats were especially fun to photograph since the sky was such a beautiful, bright blue and juxtaposed with the white salt ground reminded me in some ways of the cliff sides in Santorini, Greece. After getting my fill of photographs at the Salt Flats and a t-shirt at the local gas station, I finally arrived at my hotel in Wells in the late afternoon where I was pleased to find I had a mountain view from my little old Motel 6 room. Here I enjoyed another hot shower and flat bed so all things considered, it was a good night.

Early the next morning I was hitting the road once again before sunrise. I was excited to know I would finally be arriving in Oregon on this day and was eager to explore the Alvord Desert, a place that has been on my bucket list for years and which I didn’t get to visit last time I was road tripping through the area in 2019 with Cole and my teardrop trailer. Traveling from the south, I was lucky to only have to traverse 7-miles of rough grated gravel road to arrive at the desert. I followed a narrow dirt path off the gravel road toward the desert which was a bit rough in sections due to erosion and runoff from rain storms. I was a little nervous whether my little Honda Fit would be able to get through it all but seeing as I took things slow and careful, I’m happy to report that I made it to the Playa without incident. I drove out into the desert to photograph the area as well as drive around and experience the openness that makes driving around a place like that so much fun. I opted not to push my luck by doing anything too crazy but did enjoy driving in circles and zig zagging around for a while. There is something to be said about the freedom of driving where there are no roads or lines to tell you what is expected of you or what parameters to stay within.

After getting my fill of freedom driving in the desert, I opted to take the longer route to Burns, Oregon by going back the seven miles I just came to avoid having to drive another thirty plus miles on the rough gravel road. The drive was pretty but mostly uneventful and after just a couple hours I found myself arriving at the hotel in Burns where I was delighted to find a bunch of quail hanging out in the parking lot. Knowing that this would be the last night unloading and repacking for the road in the morning felt good as it was getting a little tiring to do that each day after so many miles traveled. I slept great though and the next morning I enjoyed a more leisurely start to the day seeing as I had plenty of time before I needed to be in Lincoln City.

Eventually the time came to leave the hotel and hit the road to slowly make my way from eastern Oregon to the coast, stopping at random places to take photographs. The more west I got, the more trees I was greeted with. Before long I was in the Cascade Mountains enjoying the beautiful scenery and curvy mountain roads with scenic vistas in every direction. I was especially looking forward to stopping at Detroit Lake to photograph the stumps reputed to be best seen this time of year. I’m happy to report that they indeed were although I decided not to go down into the lake bed to photograph them up close and opted to just get the wider landscape of the lake and river. As I made my way through the Willamette Valley, the clouds started to get dark and before long it was raining in true Oregon fashion all the way to the coast. Crossing the lush rainforests of the Coastal Mountain range was wonderfully familiar, like coming home. It had been a year and half since I had been to Oregon and I was missing it big time although it was bittersweet returning without Cole who loved the area just as much if not more than I still do.

After 2,370-miles, I finally arrived in Lincoln City, Oregon in the early evening of Thursday, October 28th and enjoyed catching up with the homeowners and their adorable pets: Calder (the cat), Tomasina (the cat) and Mabel (the dog). We went over pet and house care information and then sat down to enjoy a wonderful home cooked meal of salmon, roasted butternut squash with cranberries, brown rice, and mixed greens salad. This was especially a treat after eating cold food out of my cooler for the past week. Before I knew it, it was time to call it a night and get some much needed rest. The homeowners were scheduled to head to the airport early the next morning for their trip to Morocco so we said our farewells that night and then I was off to bed.

The next morning, after a restful night of sleep, I made some coffee and then began the business of getting settled in by unloading the car, setting up my work station at the dining room table, as well as simply getting my bearings and figuring out what comes next. I felt a bit overwhelmed at first with everything I “must” or “should” do seeing as I had over 1,700 photographs to go through and people to reach out to and work to catch up on and groceries to buy. I was also thrown the wonderful curve ball of sunny weather for 3-days immediately preceding a predicted 2-week plus stretch of rain and clouds. I decided to take advantage of the sun and nice weather and put the “to do” list mostly on hold for a few days. I enjoyed walks on the beach with my camera and a couple of lunch gatherings to catch up with friends over that time. Once I got started on my to do list though, it only took a few days to get caught up on everything.

I’m happy to report that I’m finally settled in and have found my rhythm for my days which begin each morning by sipping coffee as I watch the waves roll in and snuggle the adorable animals that call this beautiful house home. My goals for my time in Oregon include reconnecting with old friends, eating at all of my favorite restaurants, preparing all sorts of my own delicious meals at home, and exploring and photographing all my favorite spots on the coast and even checking out some new-to-me ones as well. Combined with all the normal day-to-day business of work and pet sitting, my schedule is comfortably full and rewarding. Things are off to a really great start here at my favorite place on earth, the Oregon coast. I’m excited to share more about my time here as I prepare to leave in early December and embark upon my next road trip adventure home, full of all sorts of exciting stops and photo opportunities. Stay tuned…

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