Tag: Joseph Oregon

RV Life in Enterprise and Joseph Oregon

I loved this part of northeastern Oregon!  Enterprise and Joseph are just six miles apart but are quite different experiences.

I first drove into Joseph from the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway and was spilled into a small town bustling with a pleasant mix of (mostly boomer-generation) tourists and old-time residents.  The idyllic scenery is the first thing you notice; with a quaint tree lined main street stretching toward the picturesque Wallowa mountains. One sign referred to the Wallowas as “The Little Alps” – and for good reason. As I drove out to Wallowa Lake on my second day, that is exactly what the small, but dramatic range reminded me of.

Bronze statues decorate the streets of Joseph, OR
Bronze statues decorate the streets of Joseph, OR

Joseph’s Main Street is the heart of the tiny town, speckled with restaurants “WELKoming hunters”, locals and tourists with names like: “Outlaw Restaurant”, “Old Town Cafe”, “Home Cooking Cafe” and “Stubborn Mule Saloon and Steakhouse” and a couple similarly themed hotels: “Indian Lodge” and “Bronze Antler B&B”. There’s also a “Cattle Country Quilt and Craft” store and art galleries full of rustic old-timey Cowboy and Indian inspired bronze sculptures, photographs and paintings of local scenery and western themes.

And then there’s the usual tourist fare: souvenir shops selling Enterprise, Oregon T-shirts, mugs, shot glasses and overpriced magnets and candy; an ice cream store; a gourmet chocolate shop; espresso cafes; and the obligatory small-town True-Value Ace Hardware that carries everything from souvenir t-shirts to washing machines to guns.Joseph Oregon WELKomes hunters and tourists alike!

Our first stop was food! We’d been driving for hours; it was past lunchtime and we were both starved.  We found the perfect spot, a diner brimming with locals and aptly named “Home Cooking Café”. After clearing a table for us in the full diner, the waitress handed us menus and giant plastic cups of ice-water. She seemed to know everyone by name and chatted them up as if she sees them every day, “Hey Joe, where’s Frank today? Did you get that part fixed on your car yesterday?”

As my friend Bob and I ate, discussing travel plans and the weather, the man next to us busted into our conversation and gave us his weather report. He was friendly and helpful, so I forgave his eavesdropping and crashing into our apparent, not-so-private conversation.

The walls were covered in old barn boards, adorned with burnt-in brands of local ranches, washed-out black and white photos of days-gone-by Joseph, and framed posters with funny sayings like, “Historical moment, an argument was won by the man of the house on this date….”. There was an old iron wood stove against the back wall that sat cold, even on that gloomy and rainy autumn day.

The meal was humongous – I ordered a veggie omelet and home fries and my plate came heaped high and overflowing . It literally took me 3 days to eat it all – and I don’t have a tiny appetite! (In my RV life, I’ve become “mostly-vegan” when I eat out. Unless I only want to eat salad and French fries, it’s nearly impossible to find vegan fare in most small towns).

Excellent diner with HUGE portions in Joseph, OR
Excellent diner with HUGE portions in Joseph, OR

After lunch, we walked the two blocks along Main Street to the post office to see if my general delivery mail had arrived from California. Along the way we peeked inside inviting storefronts and pined for ice cream and chocolates even with full tummies.  As suspected, my mail hadn’t arrived yet (it has just left California the day before) so we headed back to the RV parking lot, behind the local grocery store, to work for a couple hours before heading out to find home for the night.

We’d arrived in Joseph with two potential locations for boondocking, just a few miles from town in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. One was off of Hurricane Creek Road, which, according to Google maps, had a couple of forest roads that appeared to be worth exploring,  and the other was outside of Enterprise, on Lime Quarry Road. The question was- as always in this area – will there be cell service so we can work?

Before nightfall we headed out of town, past the tiny airport to Hurricane Creek Road. At the Joseph Grange Hall, Hurricane Creek Road turned toward the National Forest and within ¼ mile pavement turned to gravel. We passed several residences with big signs warning travelers to slow down. The forest road that Google Earth Maps showed, off to the right about two miles in was nowhere to be found (and now researching this blog, it shows a house there – that was not there a month ago!)– another Google maps mystery!

Hurricane Creek NF Campground, Joseph, OR
Hurricane Creek NF Campground, Joseph, OR

We’d passed a National Forest campground and decided to turn around and stay there for the night rather than drive to Enterprise and explore another forest road so late in the day. When I found a wide spot in the road, big enough for my RV to turn around in, we made our way back to the campground. As suspected there was no cell signal – so we had the night off of work! For $6/night, with all three spots that were big enough for my rig and Bob’s van open, we decided to call it home.  It’s a small campground with about 13 sites, resting right on Hurricane Creek, which even at this time of year was flowing freely, providing a nice backdrop to the already cool and misty evening.

The next day we drove back down to the RV parking lot in town to work for a couple of hours before Bob took off for Salt Lake City to meet up with his son who flew in from Alaska.  When Bob invited me to go, I debated, but in the end was looking forward to some time alone to finish exploring that part of Oregon.  We’d been planning to head to Seattle to see Bob’s friend Suanne and I thought I might still head there – or maybe the Columbia River. Or Maybe Couer d’Alene, Idaho. “Who knows?” I thought, “that’s the beauty of my new life. I can go anywhere I want and I can decide tomorrow!” But I couldn’t go anywhere until my mail arrived- I still have a couple clients who pay me by check – and they are on their way!

hydrant-in-josephAfter Bob left for Salt Lake City, I worked for a few hours and then headed toward Wallowa Lake to do some exploring. But first the post office… no mail – sigh. It was Friday. That meant I was stuck there through the weekend, which wasn’t the end of the world, but I hate feeling trapped! .

The drive to Wallowa Lake was scenic and I found a day use area with good 4G, a beach and a gorgeous view of the lake. I made a mental note and continued toward the State Park sprawled at the base of the Little Alps on the other end of the lake.   Once there I discovered a little touristy lake-side community with cafes, restaurants, hotels and the Wallowa Lake State Park.  I considered spending the $30 to stay there, but there was no cell signal.  I decided I’d rather stealth camp in town. I spent some time at the day use area, took Capone for a walk on the lakeshore and relaxed a bit before driving back to the RV parking lot in town to get some work done.

I ended up parking in front of Joseph Community Center  across from the Forest Service for the night. Other than a little bit of traffic and loud drunks passing by when the restaurants and bars closed, it wasn’t bad.

I woke up early and drove to the Wallowa Lake day use area and boat ramp, made coffee, turned on my generator and got to work.

another-lake-view-wallowa-joseph

Later I drove to the small neighboring town of Enterprise. A really cool, sleepy little town, with streets lined with buildings that used to house bustling businesses – now scarce with a consignment shop, a couple of restaurants and cafes and empty storefronts and offices.  Unlike the relative bustle of Joseph, Enterprise felt like a ghost town. It’s wide streets, empty and plenty of room for me to park my RV.  Which was convenient since I found Gypsy Café and couldn’t resist stopping in for an almond milk Cappuccino!

I also noticed ample opportunities for stealth camping around town both on the streets and near the small city park off the main drag. After hitting Safeway for a few groceries, I ended up at the little league field behind it. The parking lot was far enough away from homes, that I doubted anyone would even notice I was there. I spent the whole afternoon without seeing a single person visit the field – it was only near nightfall that a few people showed up to walk their dogs and play with their kids. I could see the curious looks as I peeked through my curtains, but I spent the night with no issue. The next morning, after coffee and a couple hours of writing, I moved on to another location to get a blog published and then back to Hurricane Creek Campground.

I spent a peaceful night in the dewy forest and headed out the next day to get my mail (it HAD to be there by now!) and hit the road to Coeur d’Alene!

As you know from my last blog that didn’t quite go as planned and I ended up staying an extra day to get some repairs done on the RV. But at last, on Wednesday I was on my way! Only I’d changed my plans:  instead of Coeur d’Alene I headed to Walla Walla, Washington!

 

Wallow Lake, Joseph, OR

Oh Lord Stuck in Ole’ Joseph…

Another exciting week of RV Living!

I had a great time in Joseph Oregon and learned that when my RV, Big Bertha speaks to me, I need to  listen! Here’s how I handled a break down while living in my RV.

I’d been hanging around Joseph and Enterprise Oregon for three days waiting for my General Delivery mail (client checks!) to arrive from my UPS mail forwarder in California. My friend Bob left for Salt Lake City Saturday and I’d been enjoying being alone and free to wander, explore and do a little stealth camping in town (Bob doesn’t do stealth camping!).

Bronze cowboy joseph oregon
Bronze statues decorate the streets of Joseph, OR

Stealth-Camping in Joseph, OR

After one night at the community center in Joseph and one at a little league field in Enterprise (another small town, 6 miles from Joseph), I was ready to go legit – even if that meant doing without internet for a night.  I went back to the Hurricane Creek National Forest Campground where Bob and I had stayed our first night in Joseph. It’s just a few miles outside of town and for $6 I got a pretty, wooded campsite along the creek, in a remote setting. And even more importantly, the peace of mind knowing I wouldn’t get a knock on my door in the middle of the night.

I got to the Joseph post office around noon on Monday (after doing laundry at the small (and expensive) laundromat a couple blocks away), hoping that my third visit would finally produce my mail.  The tiny post office parking lot and side street were full so there wasn’t any place big enough for my RV to park (I don’t fit in a regular parking spot and take up about 4 spaces sideways).  I ended up on  a side street and stopped in front of an old farmhouse where an elderly lady and (who I assumed to be) her caregiver sat in lawn chairs on the plush green grass in the shade of an apple tree, escaping the mid-eighties heat (the first hot weather eastern Oregon has had in weeks!).

As I pulled my RV to a stop they stared at me and  a wave of self-consciousness engulfed me; I realized  I shouldn’t have parked there. Even though I was on the street, it was her street- and I was kinda sorta blocking her driveway. I wouldn’t be surprised if she grew up in that old farmhouse and remembered Joseph before the post office moved next door and the fancy art stores, cafes and gift stores cluttered the main street that used to be her backyard.  I jumped out and ran over to the other side. “Is it ok if I park here for just a minute while I run into the post office?”, I pleaded.

The frail elderly lady stood up and with waning authority in her voice, said, ‘yeah, but just a minute – and no more!”

“Ok, thank you very much. I’ll be right back.” I ran into the

Diner in Joseph Oregon, great breakfast and lunch
Excellent diner with HUGE portions in Joseph, OR

post office, got my mail (yay! Finally!) and anxiously hoisted myself into the driver seat of Big Bertha, ready to take off. Idaho, here I come!  As much as I’d enjoyed my stay, it was time to hit the road.

Excitement fluttered as I basked in my freedom… nothing like the beckoning open road…. CLICK, CLICK… Oh noooo… I turned the key again. CLICK. CLICK. NO!!! Not here!  Not when I’m intruding on an old lady’s peaceful day. I turned the key again. Nothing.  Just the same empty, loud CLICK.  CRAP!!!

The panic was hitting me like pebbles before a rock-slide: oh shit, what am I going to do. How much will THIS cost? Where will I stay while it’s getting fixed? How will I get out of this old lady’s way? NO! NO! NO! I want to go and I just got my money and now it’s already gone…!

I reigned it in before the panic-boulders fell and crushed me. My inner calm, rational, let’s-just-deal-with-this self took over:  It’s ok. You can handle this. You knew, when you bought an old RV shit would happen. You said that would be part of the adventure! Remember???

Ugghhh. Me and my damn adventures. Maybe for once, it would be ok to take the easy route!

Hurricane Creek Campground Joseph, OR
Hurricane Creek NF Campground, Joseph, OR

The panic began to slide away and was replaced by gratitude: at least it happened in town and not at the campground where I was miles  from town with no cell signal – or someplace even more remote.

My First Breakdown and a Full-time RVer

Ok, let’s figure this out.

Maybe the battery connections are loose again. I hopped out and popped the hood. Once they saw me do that, the elderly owner of the house and her caregiver stopped being annoyed and became very helpful.  The frail old woman walked toward me and I noticed a blank look in her eyes as she mumbled incoherently. I hoped it wasn’t Alzheimer’s, it’s such a sad disease…  She stood next to me while I fidgeted under the hood (as if I knew what the heck I was doing) and suddenly became coherent: “Why don’t you put it in neutral? Neutral. Put it in neutral. Did you try to put it in neutral?”

I had no idea what that would do, but what the heck- I had nothing to lose! I hopped in, slipped it into neutral and turned the key again: CLICK. CLICK. CLICK. Well, it was worth a shot.

As I climbed back out, the old woman’s caregiver was on her phone yelling something to me from her lawn chair in the shade.  As I walked toward her, I wiped the sweat from my temples, it figures, it’s been a pleasant seventy degrees the whole time I’ve been here now I have to deal with this in the heat!  I was dressed for fall, not Indian Summer.

The caregiver was telling me that there are two auto repair shops within a few blocks.  “You can walk, they’re close.” She yelled to me, apparently not realizing people carry cell phones these days. While the elderly lady mumbled, “did you put it in neutral? I’ve had many cars die on me over the years, but I’ve always managed to get them started by putting them in neutral…”  I thanked her, wondering if she was suggesting I try to jump start my fourteen-thousand-pound RV!  I mixture of gratitude and sadness overwhelmed me; oh, the memories she has – and has lost.

Little Alps in Joseph, OR
Little Alps Joseph, OR

Before trying the local auto repair shops, I called AAA – I paid for the premier service, so why not try them first?  I got through in a few minutes and was put on hold for ten. And then a new operator came on and I had to start all over again – and she put me on hold again. Patience is not one of my virtues, so while on hold with AAA I walked the 3 blocks to Alpine Auto and talked to Peter, the owner.  After explaining that I was stuck behind the post office and that I suspected it was the starter (it starts slow when hot and drags at times. I’d had a feeling it was on its way out), he closed up shop, grabbed the mechanic’s version of the doctor’s house-call bag and headed over. Wow, you gotta love small town service! The AAA operator came back while I stood in Peter’s lobby – “Never mind, I already got my own mechanic, thank you very much.” I curtly told the her.  Apparently there’s an issue with my account – something I’ll have to deal with later…

Peter did some testing under the hood and then crawled underneath Big Bertha explaining that if it is a bad starter, we may be able to get it to started by hitting it with a mallet. That’s my kinda fix!!! “Ok, let’s try it!” I was enthusiastic and hopeful!

Once positioned he yelled, “ok, give it a try” Click. Click. And then music to my ears, her engine  sputtered and whined into motion. “Yay!!!” I was practically jumping out of my seat in relief! But the relief evaporated as Peter explained it was a temporary fix and that it may not start once I turned it off. I needed a new starter.

So, I drove to his shop and parked on the edge of the grassy yard of the hotel across the street. Without turning off the engine or locking the door (you can do that in small towns!) I went into the front office to explain my situation and ask if I could park there overnight.  The lady at the desk seemed a little reluctant, but said yes! I’m amazed at how nice people are! I think I’ve lived in big cities too long!

By 2:00 the next day, the new starter was installed and I was looking forward to being on my way… oh, wait. NO. Peter told me my brake fluid was extremely low and my brake pedal was too spongy. “You’re going to Lewiston?” he confirmed, “have you ever been on that road?” I told him I hadn’t, “It’s very steep, and narrow and windy. I don’t think all of your brakes are working. I’d get them checked before driving on that road, it’s dangerous. There have been fatalities… There’s a Les Schwab in Enterprise…”

Ughhhhh.

Chief Joseph bronze statue in Joseph OR
Chief Joseph, Joesph, Oregon’s namesake

Ok, Ok. I did kinda notice my brakes seemed ‘off’ the other day when  my RV skidded in the dirt and came to a bouncy, soft top. And yeah, now that I think about it, I’ve been moving my seat further forward to reach the brake pedal because it’s going so far to the floor. Oh – and the brake light and rear ABS lights have been on for months -OOPS!

I’ve been checking my fluids regularly, but I never checked my brake fluid because the front brakes were replaced when I bought the RV (I know because when I test drove it they were metal on metal).  I figured the brake fluid had been filled and would still be full. It never dawned on me there might be a leak!

On to Enterprise I went… I started to feel like I was in some warped  version of an old CCR song and I sang as I drove, “Oh Lord, stuck in ole’ Oregon again..”  Whatever it takes to get through the day!

Les Schwab in Enterprise was as awesome as Peter from Alpine Auto in Joseph. They got me right in, did an inspection, told me it looked like a leak on one of the rear wheel cylinders and gave me a best case scenario quote (about $150) – and worst-case quote ($700 or more). After two hours I was out of there with a new brake cylinder, a brake pedal that  feels super-sensitive and a bill on the better side of ‘best case scenario” – just $200.

All in all, it was a great day! I no longer have to worry about my starter or my brakes (Les Schwab did a visual inspection and everything else looked good!) and the bill for the day was only $550! I couldn’t ask for much better than that!

Gorgeous fall views at Wallowa Lake in Joseph, OR
Gorgeous fall views at Wallowa Lake in Joseph, OR

So here is what I learned about RV Maintenance and Repairs:

  1. Don’t take anything for granted with an old RV: Before my RV Living adventure, I’d been driving a 2006 Toyota Avalon that I bought brand new. I diligently had routine maintenance done and I knew that car inside and out. Big Bertha is OLD and worn out and I have to assume it wasn’t maintained properly.  So that means when I suspect something isn’t working right, I need to get it checked out right away.
  2. Pay attention to the little things! I was on my way to a very steep, narrow and harrowing route in a 14,000-pound vehicle with bad brakes. It dawned on me: if my starter hadn’t gone, I could be dead right now. Dramatic? Maybe. Maybe not.  I’d ignored the ABS light for months thinking, “oh, it can wait, my front brakes are new- who needs ABS anyway?” (yeah, I really thought that). And, when my brakes skidded, it didn’t’ register. I will now pay attention to everything and not take any chances.
  3. I’m driving a huge, heavy vehicle! When my ex-husband became a truck driver, he had to pass a test to learn how to drive a big rig. And every time he got in that rig he had to do a pre-trip inspection to make sure everything was in working order. Vehicles that big can be deadly when not handled or maintained properly. While my Class C RV may not be a big rig, it’s no passenger car either. Proper RV maintenance is not only important to keep it running, but to keep me -and others on the road safe!
  4. Routine RV maintenance is critical – Checking all my fluids regularly, getting oil changes and tune-ups, checking tire pressure and tread and getting brake inspections are things that I will now be diligent about.
  5. Peace of mind is priceless. Little by little I’m learning more about the condition of my RV by taking care of problems as they arise. For $550, my RV starts right up with no dragging, my ABS and brake lights went off and now I know my brakes are in good shape. Even if it had cost $2000, it would have been worth not having the nagging worry I’ve had for five months!

I think I’ve learned my lesson:  my old reckless,  “it’s all an adventure” days are behind me.. well for today anyway!