Heading to Vegas via “Area 51”

We got a late start (for us) heading out of Timothy lake around 9:52, because we were extra careful to double check everything before pulling away.  One thing we have noticed is the longer we stay in a place the more likely it is we will forget something when we leave, and we wanted to make extra sure that didn’t happen to us again.  Just a few days prior Lee had noticed that two of the nuts which secure the bolts which hold the hitch rails to the bed of our truck were missing.  That was a little scary, especially coupled with the fact that the other bolts were very loose, and really drove home the fact that we need to be checking these things.  Lee was able to pick up replacement nuts at the hardware store, and thankfully everything else looked good and we were on our way.

It was raining as we pulled out, and the trees were full of autumn colors, so it was a little surprising how quickly the landscape changed.  In what seemed like no time at all we were in the high desert, although we didn’t leave the rain behind.


I know I’ve mentioned this before, but when time allows we love to take a route we have never been on before.  In order to manage this I carry a Rand McNally Map  which I use to mark the routes we are taking.  I am in year 4 of doing this, and over the summer I actually bought a new one and took the time to refill in all of the colors over the last few years.  The exercise, which took a while, showed me two things.  We had been in a lot of places, but there was still so much more to see!  Because we had time, I decided to route us on a road less traveled and we took 95 down to Winnemucca and stayed at the New Frontier RV Park.  We have stayed at this RV park before when we were traveling through and it’s definitely one of my favorite Passport America parks.  $17 for up to two nights, neat as a pin, and the sites are long and level.  The only downside is to get the discount you have to take a back in site and because we didn’t like the first place we had stopped at it was dark when we got in.  We rarely pull into a place at night and if we do we usually get a pull through so don’t have to back in, but Lee was a trooper and did an outstanding job of getting us into the site.  I stood and held the flashlight as a point of reference for him, and with minimal effort he got us in.  Still amazed by it, because that is definitely not something he would have done even a couple of years ago.

Took a picture in the morning

So you could see how good a job he did! The sites are long but a little narrow.

Lee is also much more comfortable driving on secondary roads now (he was always super concerned in the past about getting fuel and other potential problems), so he was up for us taking a route that would land us on the extraterrestrial highway and into Area 51.   I like filling in my map…it makes me happy, but I will say some roads are less traveled for a reason.  Route 6 and Route 375 are both pretty boring and although we were able to find gas, there were VERY limited options on places to stay.  Well, let me rephrase that, there were tons of places we could have boondocked, but places with hookups were much harder to find.  Ultimately we ended up spending the night at Tonopah Station, which was a casino with some hookups.  Why did we spend $27 instead of boondocking for free? Well, finding a boondocking spot we feel comfortable staying in takes some effort and it’s never Lee’s first choice when we are traveling, and it’s an overnight spot.  Since he does most of the driving, I feel like it’s dealer’s choice, so I make use of Passport America to keep our costs down.  Unfortunately the one park in the area that was Passport America was super shady (that happens on occasion) and the casino was the best of several bad choices.

I have very mixed feelings about this location, because I thought the casino itself was kind of fun and the people were nice.  There was also a great local grocery store that was part of the casino complex and we had a nice breakfast at the restaurant.  The problem was the sites.  I can deal with being in a parking lot, but the sites were very unlevel.  One of the few benefits of the parking lot structure generally is flat sites, but these were uneven and too short.  That was a major flaw in my mind.

The hotel/casino had some cool antiques


Lee refused to pose under this bear!


I loved this giant Betty Boop statue


And this sign at the front desk made me smile


We had a nice (but pricey) breakfast here


A mound of country gravy smothered scrambled eggs, potatoes, diced country fried steak, and a biscuit. Lol..Lee really liked it!


The site though was just not good.  Significant down slope.

It was OK for one night and the next day we took our time leaving, because we had a pretty short drive to Vegas.  I was excited about the extraterrestrial road, but that turned out to be a total bust.  It was open range cattle country for one thing, and on occasion we had to slow down for the cows.  And we saw very little in the way of kitschy stuff, although we did see a few signs saying this was Area 51.  There was also a paved road with a sign stating Cedar Gate, which I later learned was an entrance to a military facility.  Still you really can’t see anything, although I guess these landscapes were used frequently in the show the X-Files.

Moo cows


The rocks got pretty towards the end.


No clue what this was about


But I did like this

We were both relieved when we got onto 93, although of course I took a turn driving right when we hit a 6 mile stretch of 35-mile an hour curves and 6% grade.  It was good practice for me and Lee talked me through it, but once he took over it was totally flat again…figures!  The one neat thing we saw was the Pharaganat National Wildlife Refuge.  It was a shock of green in the middle of the desert and we were excited to see that the Upper Pharaganat Lake had 15 first come first serve (and free) campsites along the lake.  These sites were holding big rigs and it looked lovely.  Definitely a place I would like to go back to and stay!

The picture doesn’t do justice to how green it was

Finally we arrived in Vegas around 3pm and made it with no major traffic issues to Circus Circus RV Park.  This is definitely NOT my favorite place to stay in Vegas, but Lee loves staying right on the strip, so here we are.  It is also a parking lot RV Park and a pricey one at that, but I will say they had done a better job of maintaining the grounds since the last time we were here, although I did find a pair of men’s underwear in the rocks next to our site.  I picked them up with a baggie and put them in the trash, and it was not an auspicious start to our time here.  Seriously, people.  We went inside and the tinkle of the slot machines caught my attention and we ate some McDonald’s for dinner (yes, there is one in Circus Circus) and caught the circus act which lasted all of 5 minutes.  Crazy right? Well, this is what Vegas looks like on a budget. Next up we will see my Mom and maybe do some fun things while we are here, but it is a balancing act for us (no pun intended) because this is our life, not a vacation. Well it’s sort of vacation because we aren’t working, but we need to watch what we spend…oh well, we will figure it out.

Our spot in the RV park.  The sites are long but narrow.



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First Time Camping in Mount Hood National Forest

There are several different ways to get from Nevada to Oregon, and because we wanted to avoid the recently hiked California fuel prices and explore the road less traveled, I picked Nevada State Route 95.  As I have mentioned before, I use a large paper Atlas to keep track of the roads we have already been on, and this section of road was a new one for us.  Although it was incredibly barren, I found it quite beautiful, and the road was well maintained throughout our drive.  We also skirted Death Valley and from what little I got to see, it definitely calls for a longer visit in the future.  The rock formations were stunning, and although the desert was missing my favorite Saguaro’s it was beautiful in it’s own way.

When we travel we generally look for either free campsites on US Public Campgrounds, Passport America, or  Freecampsites.net.  All things being equal we will take a decent Passport America option because they are generally close to the roads we are traveling, and are more efficient for one night, but this area of the country has lots of free land to camp on so we got a little more creative with our choices.  Due to where the campgrounds were available we chose the amount of travel miles per day, and unfortunately it broke down to two longish days with a short day in the middle.  I would have loved to have evened that out a little, but since we were traveling in sparsely populated areas it was more difficult.

Our first stop was a great find  at Sportsman Beach which is a free BLM campground near Hawthorne, Nevada.  This campground is right on  beautiful Walker Lake and the views were stunning.  Plus we saw wild horses and burros along the lake edge and there were only a few campers there.  Sometimes you stumble across a place and wish you could stay a few more days, and this definitely would have been one of those places, but as usual we were on a schedule to reach our next work gig in time, and that was not possible for us.  Still, we were glad we stumbled across it as it was a nice end to a long driving day.

The view from our campsite on Walker Lake.  The picture doesn’t really do it justice, and yes, the water was that blue.

Next was a short day where we stopped in Winnemucca, Nevada.  This is the last town before hitting Oregon and they had a decent Passport America park called New Frontier RV Park where we got full hookups for $19 for the night.  The sites are crammed close, but all brand new and beautifully maintained.  It also had tons of little three person cabins, which turned out to be man camps for the miners who work nearby.  We saw lots of man camps up in the Dakotas, but this one was really nice and new.  I hope they manage to keep it that way, because it was a nice place to stop for the night.


The next day was the longest drive because we wanted to be relatively close to our summer gig in Mount Hood National Forest.  There were lots of choices of routes to take, and since we had to cross some mountain passes we ultimately ended up trusting the GPS route.  One advantage of  our Rand McNally RV GPS is that it knows the length and height of our RV, and will avoid potential hazards.  Standard maps on Lee’s phone and of course the paper map don’t really help with that much, so when in doubt we tend to trust the RV GPS.  Plus, cell coverage was pretty spotty, but the GPS works well despite that.  It doesn’t always pick the most efficient route, but it does pick the safest, and since these were all new roads for us we chose to trust it.  Even using it though we had several downgrades that were not well marked with highway signs.  We were both surprised since generally there is good signage, but there were some long steepish grades that had no signs at all other than telling trucks to chain their tires on the climb.  It’s tough driving blind in these situations and was pretty stressful for Lee, but he did a good job especially when our route to the campground took us down into a deep canyon in Terrebonne, OR.

I had found a Passport America site that was pretty far off the main road, but the price was right, and we headed that way.  Unfortunately it was the worst kind of Passport America with beat up old trailers and worse, no availability, but luckily there was a very nice Good Sam park just a mile down the road.  We were both tired and unwilling to drive up the canyon to find another place so we spent the $35 and stayed at River Rim RV Park.  Although the sites were close to each other, hardly anyone was there, and since they put us in the camp host site we had a beautiful view of the surrounding cliff walls.  Lee also discovered a little path which took us to an observation deck and the views were stunning. I probably wouldn’t want to stay here in season, but what a great choice for one night, and we enjoyed both the full hookups (we needed heat because it was cold that night) and the beautiful setting.

The view from our site

View from the observation deck

The next day we had only a few hours to drive and it was a good thing because we had to go over several mountain passes.   When we finally stopped for lunch it was at Government Camp, and I was surprised to see some people sledding in the ski area that still had snow on the ground.

We drove out of the snow pretty quickly though, and eventually made it to Promontory Park.  It’s not open for the season yet, so it required some coordination to meet someone to open the gate, find our site, and get keys, but everyone there was super nice and accommodating.  Our site isn’t finished yet, so we were given several choices and eventually ended up in the general area we will be staying for the summer.  We have 50 amp power, potable pressurized water, and they brought us a waste tank so this will work for a week or so until they have an opportunity to finish the pedestal and move the storage container out of the way. The site was a little disappointing at first, but then I saw a path and a short walk down took us to a beautiful boat ramp we can hang out this summer. Once we get all settled in it should be nice and quiet, plus since it is outside of the campground proper we won’t have folks knocking on our door at all hours.  There will be two campground hosts for the campground next door, but we will be covering the marina and a couple of offsite locations.

We needed to be close to power

The storage container that will be moved so we can move back and down a bit

We have a peekaboo view of the lake

The trail leading down to the Clackamas River

The flowers are starting to bloom

View to the left

Stunning view to the right

I sat on the dock and put my feet in the water, which is deep and pretty chilly but felt great in the sun

These Yomes are sort of like a yurt. They’re close by and their path meets ours down to the boat dock

Once we arrived and got set up we spent the rest of that day and the following getting oriented.  This part of Oregon is full of really small towns and each one has it’s own personality.  More of that in the following months, but for right now we found a Supercuts and got hair cuts, grocery shopped at a WinCo which is an employee owned grocery store with fantastic prices, and a great selection, and saw Mount Hood!! You can’t really miss the mountain, although with the very tall trees, views of it sort of spring on you and since it creates it’s own weather I am sure we will be taking lots of pictures of it.  Everything was super green and in bloom and the weather (rain aside) has been wonderful after the desert.  The contrast between the two landscapes has been striking.

One of the upriver boat launch areas with changing rooms that. This is part of what we will be covering.

This is around the corner from us and on our daily rounds! The road we live off of is an Oregon Scenic Byway

We saw numerous waterfalls including one 200 feet high!!

Big trees pulled out of the river near the marina

Hooray!  Cheap and consistent hair cuts for the summer

Part of how I judge an area is grocery stores and this was was one of the very best we have seen and the staff was super friendly

Mountain views from the highway

We drove closer to the mountain to get this pic.  The mountain has 11 glaciers on it so I am sure you will be seeing more of it!

So, first impressions are fantastic.  I traveled to Portland for work many years ago and fell in love with the area, and I was hoping it would be as I remember.  Super green, people are generally very friendly, and lots and lots of nature.  The traffic is pretty congested, but since we will be working weekends hopefully we can avoid the worst of it and unsure about the weather but yesterday was 82 degrees, very sunny, and absolutely beautiful.  Oh, and our We Boost is working so I am able to blog from the comfort of our rig.  Our booster has been hit and miss on the road to be honest, and usually it’s not worth the trouble of putting it up.  But in a situation like this, where we are in one location for a while and have a very weak signal, it works pretty well.  We barely had one bar and couldn’t do anything but text before putting it up and now we can use the internet and make phone calls.  It’s not a perfect solution, but I am really glad we have it.

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.