Spontaneous Side-Trips in Ashland, OR

We opened up the whole van at Tubb Spring so we could cook and reorganize.

We opened up the whole van at Tubb Spring so we could cook and reorganize.

Starting Total Mileage: 2387 miles

I decided it would be cool if I kept a running tally of how far Danica and I have gone. So the start of each post will be Danica’s total mileage at the start of the day (she had 499 miles when we left the dealership), and the end will be the mileage we covered that day.

Cool? Cool. Onward!

I knew service and WiFi would be spotty throughout most of northern Canada, but this has been insane. July 27th was the first time in four days we had any kind of cell service or internet access. And even then, it was spotty. Hopefully today (I found a public library with great WiFi), I can get a few posts scheduled, so even if I don’t have internet access, you’ll still get the scoop on the complete and utter madness that these first weeks in the van have been.

I realized that I didn’t talk about what we ate on the first day. Except for the ice cream. And part of that is because I over-planned and was stressed out about the driving, so we didn’t really stop for meals, but snacked on and off throughout the day. I felt pretty bad when we finally got to the rest stop and Zach was convinced I don’t eat. I’m pretty sure he only survived by munching on a bag of almonds my mom gave us. Other than that, food the first day basically consisted of crackers, salami, and cheese (or bread, salami and cheese in Zach’s case).

And when we woke up in Mt Shasta, we didn’t eat, either. Cooking didn’t seem very enticing at a busy rest stop, so we just got ready and pressed on. Ashland wasn’t very far, and there was a great doughnut shop there that I used to go to every time I visited Ashland. So we decided to just grab doughnuts for breakfast.

But as we came into town, we saw some signs for Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

As I mentioned (briefly) in my last post, I’m really into stamping my National Parks Passport. It’s basically what it sounds like: a little book with blank pages for collecting stamps from the visitor’s centers, and a little snippet of information about the various parks in each region of the country. And (as I discovered when going through Grand Staircase Escalante last year) not only do the National Parks have stamping stations, but pretty much anything in the Parks system is likely to have a stamp.

After some discussion (and Zach looking up the route on his phone to find that, no, it wasn’t all that far), we took an early exit off the 1–5.

The road took us past a large lake, then sloped up into the mountains, winding tightly along the cliff’s edge, bouncing up and down as the terrain demanded, tilting in places. As if the road had emerged as part of the terrain, and was subject to all the idiosyncrasies that a natural surface would possess. Below us, the mountains spread out, and the forest crawled languidly over their faces.

We eventually made it to the visitor’s center, one small room with a visitor’s book, a few informative posters, and, yes, a National Parks stamp.

There was a map of the area on the wall, and Zach suggested we go a little farther to a stop called Tubb Spring.

Zach makes great suggestions.

Tubb Spring had a beautiful little fountain of mountain spring water, designed for filling up water bottles. The water was fresh and clear and a little sweet, so we ended up filling our 6-gallon water container with it. But first, we decided the doughnuts could wait until tomorrow, and set about making ourselves some breakfast.

Tubb Spring, and our 6-gallon water jug.

Tubb Spring, and our 6-gallon water jug.

We boiled water for some oatmeal (which Zach improved with some cinnamon), got out the applesauce, and made coffee. A little creek meandered down through a grassy, tree-lined meadow with a few scattered picnic tables, so we took our meager feast and claimed a spot away from the parking lot.

It was a great way to start the day. The food was good and filling, the surroundings were serene, and it felt like we were really taking advantage of our travels.

So, our first little adventure of the day complete, we headed back down the mountain.

I’d done a little research about campgrounds in the area as we were getting ready to leave Mt Shasta that morning, and I found one that seemed reasonably close to Ashland and within our price range, called Ashland Creekside. It was on the way back to Ashland from Cascade-Siskiyou, so we decided to stop and hopefully get a campsite before heading into town.

They did have a few spots open, so we wandered around and picked out the one we wanted. It’s actually a pretty nice campground. There are a lot of really well-laid-out campsites, and the place has a couple of cats and free-range chickens wandering around, which is kind of fun. There’s a pretty pond in front, some tables in the WiFi-enabled lobby, free warm showers with no limit, and it was all pretty clean. There are some campsites that are barren and shade-challenged, but that’s just one corner of the campground. Dan (another one!) was incredibly helpful and pointed out which sites were the most private, had the best shade, were closest to the creek, and so on and so forth. We had fun chatting with him.

That sorted, we finally headed into the town of Ashland.

A bridge in Lithia Park, donated by the Lithia Springs Rotary Club. Fun to see, since Zach and I met on Rotary Youth Exchange.

A bridge in Lithia Park, donated by the Lithia Springs Rotary Club. Fun to see, since Zach and I met on Rotary Youth Exchange.

Lithia Park sometimes seems more “jungle” than “park”.

Lithia Park sometimes seems more “jungle” than “park”.

Ashland has been one of my favorite places for a long time. Lithia Park is lush, full of bright flowers and happy trees. The Shakespeare Festival presents some of the best theater in the West, and the shops in town are quirky and unique. We grabbed ice cream for lunch at Zoey’s Cafe, then walked through Lithia Park as we ate. We dipped our toes in the stream, finished off the cones, and then wandered back into town and right into a little street market.

Street markets and fairs are an adventure, with surprises around every corner. The things for sale are always so beautiful and unique, and I enjoy chatting with the vendors about their work. They’re so passionate about what they do, especially in places like Ashland, where passionate, creative types tend to congregate. And one of the fun things about Ashland, is that there always seems to be at least a couple of these sorts of artsy, community events going on no matter when you visit. We wandered slowly through, and Zach spotted a bar called Oberon’s, which had a happy hour starting in about 20 minutes.

The Renaissance Rose is practically a landmark. At least, to me it is. I remember Drama Club field trips to Ashland, when a group of us would inevitably spend at least an hour laughing at all the joke items and trying on the crazy costumes and regal masks. So I dragged Zach in to kill those last few minutes before we could make our way down to Oberon’s.

We capped off our afternoon with a drink and a 2-out-of-3 shuffleboard contest. I’m sorry to admit that Zach beat me, 2-to-1 (I mean, obviously I let him win…). We’ll see who comes away victorious if we get a chance to rematch.

Spot-on theming at Oberon’s.

Spot-on theming at Oberon’s.

On our way back to the car, we swung by a bookshop, which is an easy way for both of us to completely lose track of time. But we did (eventually) make it to the campground, and went about what was to become our evening routine.

The camping situation is… less than stellar. Those of you who have been keeping track will remember that I haven’t finished the bed, sink, or most of the storage areas. And as we discovered that first day, keeping things from sliding all over and making a mess is an art. An art that I was still working on mastering (and, as of today, July 26th, I think I can say I’m darn close to mastery). So during the day, all these boxes and bins and bags are packed into the back, as tightly as I can get them. And at night, it all has to get rearranged. We each have a sleeping pad, which is a heck of a lot better than sleeping on subfloor, but the Four Seasons, it is not.

And I kept forgetting to take pictures of our set-up. But hopefully I’ll remember to take one tonight, so I can include a photo of the new and improved version.

By the second night, I hadn’t figured out that I could stack four of the things on top of each other, or that the cab could be used to store a lot more than the Reflectix (which will hopefully be made into window coverings sooner rather than later). So we basically laid out our sleeping pads (me diagonally across the space where my bed will eventually be and Zack next to the bank of cabinets I’ve already finished), put the comforters on top, and arranged all the boxes, bags, etcetera around the sleeping space. The two big tubs went up on the countertop, and in Ashland we actually left the camp chairs and the water jug outside for the night, but it was still pretty tight.

The cooking situation took some getting used to, as well. Zach is a great cook, and he was pretty excited to finally show me some of his skills(and teach me something, since I’m basically inept as a chef). So he whipped up some rice, veggies, and chicken to make a healthy, but tasty, rice bowl.

Let me preface this by saying I’ve seen ample evidence of Zach’s killer cooking since Ashland.

It was really salty.

This is coming from a girl who will literally wet her finger, stick it in salt, and lick it off. A girl who drowns everything she can in soy sauce. A girl who adds more salt to just about everything (everything savory, at any rate).

Our box of kitchen supplies is severely lacking, which put Zach in the position of trying to compensate for the way he would usually make a recipe. And also having to deal with constantly looking for things at the bottom of boxes while watching what was on the stove, dancing around all the containers on the floor, dealing with a small counter space and a stove that seemed pretty unpredictable. And me, trying and failing to make fire outside and regularly prodding him for assistance.

So, yeah, it came out like we’d cooked it in seawater. And then added soy sauce. And then preserved it in salt brine for a year or two.

That being said, I could make out all the flavors underneath the salt, and it would have been crazy delicious if it had just a tad less.

We did get the fire going, just in time to decide we were ready to call it a night. So after putting it out again, we settled into our blankets and played a dice game (Shake Dice, which Zach taught me, he says it’s basically Farkle with a better scoring system), which allowed me to redeem myself.

I’m sorry I’m a little short on pictures in this post. Apparently I didn’t take nearly as many as I thought I did. (Or, I’m going to find a whole bucket load stored somewhere else in three or four weeks, and will add them all to my Instagram account, which you can follow here.)

Today’s Mileage: 105 miles

Up next: Crater Lake National Park (More stamps for my National Parks passport!)