Home is where we are parked

Home is where we are parked
Home is where we are parked

Monday, July 10, 2017

OR -- La Grande, 12-26 June 2017



Two weeks in La Grande, Oregon…

Why we came…

Mostly for an RV rally, but hopefully to hike and fish too!

The campground…

Grande Hot Springs RV Resort (ADD LINK) was great.  All of the sites are long, mostly level, gravel pull-throughs with decent space between neighbors.  We had full hook-ups and no problem getting satellite TV.  The Verizon cell phone was a steady and reliable 2-3 bar LTE.  Wi-fi was usually decent but slowed considerably with heavy usage.  There is a small pool and hot tub that looked inviting but we didn’t use them.  There are two laundry rooms with 2-3 washers and dryers that cost $1.50 each.  The facilities were well maintained and kept clean.  Though a few trains cruised nearby a few times a day, they never tooted.  Otherwise, it was quite peaceful.  We liked the location and were comfortable.  We’d gladly return!

La Grande OR1-13 Jun 2017

The RV park before the Northwood Rally

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During the Rally…nearly all Northwood RVs

Nearby towns…

La Grande, population roughly 13,000 and elevation 2,785 feet, is just the right size for us.  It has a super Walmart and a nice Safeway.  There is also a good selection of restaurants.  The people were friendly and we felt welcomed.  The setting in the Grande Ronde Valley is also very pretty.  It’s wedged between the Blue Mountains to the west and Wallowa Mountains to the east.  There are miles of trails, great fishing in streams and lakes, great hunting, and a couple of small ski areas.  The area is an outdoors paradise!

The similar sized towns of Pendleton,  60 miles to the northwest, and Baker City, 40 miles to the south, offer similar services, stores, and restaurants.


The Northwood Rally…

NROA was founded by Adam and Donna Sherman, "in support of their love for RVing and admiration of the quality of all Northwood products."  Though NROA is not directly associated with Northwood Manufacturing, the two have a mutually supportive relationship.

For the 15th year NROA held an RV rally in La Grande, Oregon where Northwood manufactures RVs.  Our little Arctic Fox trailer was made here!  So bringing it to the rally, was bringing it home.

Reservations for the rally open up in January.  Within a few weeks the 75 slots are all reserved. 

It was so wonderful to meet so many folks we have only known by user name on the NROA forum: Foxy RV Lady, TangoChuck, Lewis & Clark, Smokey, Orhusky, Jsymmes, Dyno Dave, Hutchman, LabLover, Tripster and so many others!

First, we attended the early bird dinner at Mamacita's.  We were a little self-conscious to find out that the strangers we were seated with knew who we were.  They were very excited to meet us because they had been following our blog for a few years! 

That conversation was repeated throughout the week.  We felt humbled but felt good to know that people were enjoying our adventure stories.

We normally keep to ourselves. However, this was a gathering of likeminded folks and we really enjoyed swapping stories with all of them! It was very evident that lots of folks have been attending for many years and had built good friendships during that time.

We attended several of the activities Adam and Donna had scheduled over the six day period. Activities included fun stuff such as OHV adventure, a walking tour in Ladd Marsh, Bingo, White Elephant gift exchange, craft gathering, golf chipping contest, and movie night with popcorn!

They also schedule educational seminars such as the Northwood dealer training program, resealing your rig, emergency travel, and safety seminars from the local sheriff and fire department.

We had two different opportunities to tour the Northwood factory. Northwood builds Arctic Fox, Nash, Desert Fox, Fox Mountain, Snow River, and Wolf Creek travel trailers, fifth wheels, and truck campers. Northwood Manufacturing was founded in 1993 by Ron Nash. Northwood employs close to four hundred people.

“If you’re looking for the toughest of the tough, Northwood RVs are some of the strongest, most durable RVs available on the market. Northwood Manufacturing produces RVs that are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and off-road terrain.”

The tour was very informative. We learned the details of why our rig is of higher quality. Northwood uses a different certified heavy-duty chassis made from structural grade steel for each model. Quality finishes prevent rust, double primed welds strengthen the joints, and battery racks are welded directly to the frame.

They include solid wood cabinetry, one-piece laminate fiberglass walls, aluminum superstructure, and 4-season insulated coaches. In addition all their products are free of formaldehydes. Our only regret is that we did not take a tour before we purchased our Arctic Fox.

Back to the Rally! Of course no gathering is complete without food. We had a pre rally dinner, a post rally dinner, an evening pot luck, a breakfast potluck, an ice cream social, and evening campfires with s’mores.  Northwood also hosted a great BBQ and gave generous gifts to everyone.

Finally, we gave a presentation on our Mud on the Tires full timing RV adventure. This was the first time we had done any public speaking since retiring from the Air Force. We were nervous but everyone said they enjoyed it. We were certainly happy to share information and answer questions.  It’s very gratifying to inspire others!

It was sad to see all of the Northwood RVs pull out shortly after the rally ended. We had a good time, met some great people, and are glad to finally put faces to NROA user names!

La Grande OR21-19 Jun 2017    La Grande OR5-17 Jun 2017

This is the 15th NROA Rally.  Roughly 20 people attended this first one in 2003.  150 people attended this one!

La Grande OR19-19 Jun 2017

Welcome dinner at Mamacita’s restaurant

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Bingo  /  Welcome gathering where everyone introduced themselves

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Ice Cream Social

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White Elephant gift exchange.  We got the traveling pig, autographed it, and made sure it will return next year.

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Roughly 70 people attended our presentation about full-time RV’ing

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Ladies social gathering and crafts

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Northwood factory tour

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One of the assembly warehouses.  It was impressive.

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Northwood hosted a great BBQ and a very generous raffle

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One big happy Northwood owners group!

On 14 June I fished the upper Grande Ronde River…

As we dropped into La Grande heading east on Interstate 84, the road parallels the upper Grande Ronde River.  It looked great and I wanted to check it out.

Poor Arleen was nursing her back and I was antsy to get out.  The Grande Ronde River is known for its fall steelhead trout fishing on the lower river.  My research turned up limited information about the upper river. 

I headed a few miles west on Interstate 84 and exited on route 244, the Hilgard Highway.  There were no other cars on the winding road so I drove a bit slow to scope out possible fishing spots.  Though the river looked inviting, I didn’t see many holding places for trout.  It was mostly a long riffle.

There was a long sweeping “s” bend near the Red Bridge State Wayside with a couple of fishy looking pools so I suited up. 

I started at a nice run at the top of the Wayside area.  The water was a little high, but very clear.  Though the road was right next to the river, there wasn’t much traffic, and it was mostly peaceful.

I fished hard for an hour and really enjoyed it.  I caught one decent sized whitefish and one decent sized rainbow trout.  Both put up good fights and were pretty.

My next stop was at the downstream section of the Wayside.  There was a nice big deep pool on either side of the road bridge.  I knew there had to be trout in there, but they didn’t cooperate.  I’m also quite sure that this hole gets hammered by a lot of fishermen!

My final stop was at the Bird Track Springs Campground.  The river here splits from the road and a nice nature trail provides access.  I fished a good looking run for about an hour and got no takers.  This section was very peaceful and I enjoyed fishing it.

The upper Grande Ronde is a beautiful river.  If I lived nearby, I’d get to know it and fish it regularly.

La Grande-14 Jun 2017-fish     La Grande OR3-14 Jun 2017

Map of places I fished on the upper Grande Ronde River  /  Just another silly selfie

La Grande OR2-14 Jun 2017

The upper Grande Ronde was pleasant to fly-fish.  I caught a rainbow trout and a whitefish.

On 18 June we learned all about the Oregon Trail…

“Using life-size displays, films and live theater presentations, this Center tells the story of Oregon Trail pioneers, explorers, miners and settlers of the frontier west. The 500 acre site includes remnants of the historic Flagstaff Gold Mine, actual ruts carved by pioneer wagons, and magnificent vistas of the historic trail route.”

The Interpretive Center is near Baker City, Oregon which is 45 miles south of La Grande. The center sits atop a hill and is clearly visible from I-84. From the hill, you have a great view of the Wallowa and the Blue Mountains.

We were very impressed with the displays that walked us from the beginnings of the trail in Missouri, through all the hazards the pioneers encountered along the 2,170 mile trail. They finally, with great relief, reached Oregon's Willamette Valley.

We walked over to the remains of the trail itself. We could clearly see wheel ruts that remained from the estimated 500,000 pioneers that passed this way over a 50 year period of time in the 1800s.

We were able to put ourselves in the mindset of those pioneers forging across the dusty, harsh trail with the hope of making a better life for themselves and their families.

La Grande OR7-18 Jun 2017   

Heading into the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center  /  Adding another stamp to her passport book

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The displays and dioramas were very well done and informative.  We learned a lot.

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Just two of the many interesting signs

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Part of the wagon trail display


It’s amazing that some of the 150 year old wagon tracks still remain!

On 21 June I checked out Morgan Lake…

Morgan Lake is just five miles southwest La Grande.  The 60 acre lake sits in an open bowl on the plateau above town.  It has a few camping and picnicking areas, and a trail around the pretty lake.  It is also stocked with rainbow trout and no motors are allowed on the small lake.

Flowers were still blooming around the lake and there were a bunch of geese.  There were a few people spread around with lots of room.  The only sounds were the gusty winds and chirping birds…it was very peaceful.

I fished the north end hard for about 90 minutes with a hopper and a pheasant tail nymph.  I was 0-5.  I think they were little 2-3 inch long fry.  Though the fishing was slow, I liked the peaceful lake and had a pleasant adventure.

La Grande OR25-21 Jun 2017    La Grande OR26-21 Jun 2017

Morgan Lake was very pleasant.  There were lots of geese and wildflowers.

La Grande OR28-21 Jun 2017

Though the fishing was slow, I enjoyed Morgan Lake

On 22 June I had a nice bike ride…

The truck needed service and the weather was nearly perfect.  Instead of hitching a ride on the service shuttle, I rode my bike back to the campground.

The Grande Ronde Valley is wide, flat, pretty, and has minimal traffic.  Most of my enjoyable ride was through farm fields with various crops and pastures with cows and horses.  The bright yellow rapeseed fields were especially pretty.  I got a little tense each time I passed a farm house, expecting a dog to run out and chew on my ankle.  Thankfully that never happened!

I also rode past the little airport and checked out the “Life Flight” helicopters, the rappel building for fire training, and the Oregon National Guard.  Next I rode by Northwood Manufacturing, the birthplace of our little four-wheeled home.  There must have been 100 virgin RVs parked out front.  Later we’d learn they’re already spoken for…Northwood can’t keep up with demand.

Shortly after I passed the end of the runway, I was back in the farm fields.  I slowed to watch a hard working farmer work his crops.  Then I wound my way through the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area (LINK).  The gravel road narrowed to one lane and I kept hearing scurrying in the tall grass as I rode through.  I saw a wide array of active birds that seemed to thrive in the protected marsh.

My final leg was a half mile on State Route 203.  I was glad to leave the gravel for the pavement, but a little on edge each time a vehicle passed just a few feet away doing 60mph.  I rode the bridge over the railroad tracks and passed the historic Hot Lake Springs Resort (LINK).

My 15 mile bike ride through the Grande Ronde Valley was very enjoyable.  I was so glad I chose to ride my bike! 

La Grande-22 Jun 2017-bike    La Grande OR53-22 Jun 2017

Bike route from Dodge dealership to RV park  /  Leaving the service center

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Freshly rolled hay bales  /  A pretty rapeseed field

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Horses, potatoes, cows

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My route went by the small airport, Northwood Manufacturing, and many farm fields

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An old abandoned farm house  /  The last few miles of my route were through the bird filled Ladd Marsh

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A boardwalk to a bird blind in Ladd Marsh

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Train tracks to La Grande  /  The historic Hot Lake Springs Resort  /  Arriving back home


We are currently in McCall ID.  We will spend the rest of the summer in Missoula MT to get Arleen’s back fixed.

Parting shots…

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These ospreys were very active near the RV park  /  The La Grande Farmer’s Market