Tough to hit all those marks,but we'll try. First let's talk about what we learned, we who almost always hit the road right after Labor Day for a range of reasons: warm autumn light, vacant campgrounds, no insects.
Failure of imagination Living in Chicago, it never occurred to us that people camped between the Christmas and New Years holidays. But in California, where temps were ten degrees higher than normal in some places (in the 80s), they did. And they did in droves, with kids who were on holiday break. We wouldn't do that again, but it was a fun ride while we were figuring it out.
Here's a favorite state park for both of us, Harris Beach State Park on the very tip of the southern Oregon coast. This was the view out the door of our camper.
Favorite food (Art says "anything Heidi makes," along with his holiday eggnog and rum. Nice). But again for both of us, the seasonal Dungeness crab were a true highlight.
Best no-guardrail road Without question, Highway 101/Highway 1, which has occasional guardrails but, frankly, not enough for this passenger. I wanted to get out of the car and walk this magical coastline, but in most places that's impossible. Northbound is far more relaxing in my view, given the extra lane of highway between me and certain death. Needless to say, this is southbound.
Will definitely do it again: Rogue Rover We were reintroduced to Oregon's Rogue River from terra firma after taking a boat trip on it more than 20 years ago. This camping spot, quiet except for the riffle of the river over rocks, was a highlight of our winter tour, absent all people save the ones who ran the place. We learned this part of Oregon is called the "banana belt" because of its moderate temperatures.
Point A to B...and the weather We took Amtrak to Portland, picked up the camper, and drove south, hugging the coast, ending in Anaheim after a wee diversion east. 1500 miles and some change on the truck. A little light rain fell in Portland, but none thereafter. Outdoor nirvana.
Tillicum Beach Campground in the Siuslaw National Forest, midway between Newport and Florence, OR. This one tops our list as well, for its campsites nearly as close to the Pacific as shown below. Another federal site that costs $7 with a senior pass.
Campground quality uniformly inversely proportionate to cost As we traveled we stayed at some commercial campgrounds--more than we ever have because I needed a strong wi-fi connection to occasionally transmit work on this trip. Bottom line: commercial campgrounds invariably cost more and rarely deliver the kind of beauty and stillness one finds in state and federal parks.
Witness...Joshua Tree National Park at dawn No cell reception, no wi-fi, no distraction from its essential splendor.
Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park We took the auto-tour on xmas day, 30 miles through the coastal redwoods--the oldest trees on earth--feeling like a couple of specks in a grand universe (and feeling like we wished the nice guy who made this picture would have shot it vertically).
More highlights: seeing our extended family Kathy and Caroline in Portland.
And who could forget the bird in a syringe
Most unusual new year's eve: celebrated at noon Dec 31, 2011, at Lake Casitas in California, 80 degrees, blue skies, Myer's and citrus on ice. Happy 2012.
Favorite people would have to feature Lionel, new owner of Robert Redford's Airstream. And so many more.
And Amtrak, a trip in itself.
With luck, Art has a video or two to come. Meanwhile, follow the speed limit and we'll be right behind you...