Now, where did I leave off prior to posting our two Alaska recaps? Oh, yes. Our route from Eugene to the Teton Valley and the five - count 'em - five Elk Lodges we settled into over just three days.
In an effort to avoid Bend and the mind-numbing drive across Oregon on Highway 20, at Sisters we diverted to Highway 26 to Prineville and the first of our Elks Lodge stays. This route is somewhat north of 20, but the drive might as well be on a different planet. At least, it seemed so to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive into Prineville, home of Les Schwab Tires.
The word in my mind while descending into Prineville was "oasis". It was beautifully green, blooming and manicured. Prineville is the epitome of small town America with the Elks lodge located just a couple of blocks from downtown. We headed that way and parked in one of the designated spots. Because we didn't use the electric outlet provided, the bartender told us "no charge". How awesome is that?
After a coffee run the next morning we continued our drive on Highway 26 toward John Day. Our intent was to visit the Painted Hills, but things didn't quite work out that way. As we were driving, I asked Steven if he was sure the Painted Hills were near John Day, the actual town, and he assured me they were. He was wrong. By the time we had set up at the Elks Lodge in town, Steven sat down to map our outing only to find out that we had passed the Painted Hills 32 miles earlier and the better place to stop would have been Dayville, which we had driven through about 40 minutes prior.
I don't like to backtrack and Steven mostly doesn't like to photograph landscapes at high noon on a cloudless day, so we were in agreement that we'd just close up and head on down the road to the Caldwell, ID Elks Lodge, number three in a 24-hour period. The Painted Hills would have to wait for another trip, hopefully with better planning and a few more clouds in the sky.
We spent an uneventful night in Caldwell and hit the road early the next morning. Our destination was the Elks Lodge in Pocatello. Just as in Prineville, the lodge was located in the downtown area, but instead of cute, small-town USA, we got busy, loud, kind-of-trashy downtown right-next-to-the-railroad USA. We nonetheless got ourselves squeezed into the parking lot right next to the highway and after an uneasy hour or so, decided this was not the place for us.
We once again packed up and headed out toward Idaho Falls, where the Elks Lodge looked to be in a more suburban setting. We did not get very far. The first turn I made to get from downtown to I-15 landed us squarely in front of a tunnel with a clearance of 12' 2". Uh, oh.
I don't know about you, but I've been expecting this. At some point in our travels, it was bound to happen. Given that we were already tired and a bit rattled, I'm surprised we handled it as well as we did. Steven unhooked Toadie and moved her out of the way while I called 911 to explain our situation and request assistance. Before long Pocatello's finest showed up and held traffic as I reversed and turned away from the tunnel.
At this point, we decided to just drive separately to Idaho Falls. I jokingly said to Steven, "if I pull over it's because the front door has swung open!" I was doing probably 60-65 on I-15 when the door did just that! I couldn't believe it! It has NEVER happened before! Thankfully, nothing flew out and the force of traveling kept the door somewhat under control, as it didn't swing completely open until I had slowed significantly and was coming to a stop.
Needless to say, after we rolled into the Elks Lodge in Idaho Falls, our fifth one in three days, we enjoyed a well-deserved Happy Hour!
Once again we did a quick overnight and the next morning drove to our destination in the Teton Valley. We have been coming here for more than a decade, ever since we decided to purchase property in the area. There is a great campground in Tetonia, which we have stayed in several times over the years. Unfortunately, this year they raised their rates to over $65 a day and we said "no thanks!"
We did some investigating and found The Big Eddy, a free boondocking place with public-access to the Teton River. It was just a few miles from our property, so we thought this would be perfect! What we didn't know was the best route to get there. We decided to just follow our non-RV GPS, which took us down five miles of dusty, washboard dirt roads. We got there, but only after shaking so hard the electric shade above my head fell right into my lap! Over the next few days we would search out a less hazardous route, but there was no getting around the deep craters in the road at the campground.
NEXT UP: Our Beloved Teton Valley, Henry's Lake & Yellowstone