I picked up our van last Thursday and started the trek home to Seattle. There were basically two choices for routes. Head to I-5 and start driving north, or have fun. We decided to skip I-5 as much as possible.
After spending most of the day in Fresno while they finished off some things on the van I headed out in the late afternoon. After stopping for dinner, I spent a half hour in a casino. I didn't make enough to pay for the van, but did win enough to pay for a couple of over priced cigars and trinkets to take home. I called it good and headed off to Von's for provisions. I camped in a quiet rest area just outside Yosemite. In the morning I started out for real.
Yosemite was amazing. Most of the time there was smoke in the air due to wild fires.I started at the south entrance then up to 120 and over the pass toward Mono Lake. When I wasn't stopped due to work on the roads the drive was beautiful. I know the family will head back when the younger kids are old enough to enjoy it. The twisting and steep mountain roads were a heck of a way to get used to driving a big truck again. Though, I have to admit, I've never had anything this tall before. Overall the van handled amazingly well. It's a real pleasure to drive.
I made it to Reno late Friday afternoon. Being from Seattle I had to hit Costco and REI. Costco for a $1.50 polish dog and soda combo, REI for a roof box and a few other camping goodies I didn't bring, including fuel for my stove. My oldest son (17) flew down after school and arrived in Reno about 8pm. After I picked him up we headed a couple hours east of Reno and stopped for the night at Rye Patch State Recreation Area. We had the campground to ourselves. It was very pretty. We'd wanted to stay at Pyramid Lake but didn't think we had the time. We'll have to hit it next time.
Before crawling out of my sleeping bag Saturday morning I used the remote start from the alarm fob to warm up the van and use the diesel engine as a subtle alarm clock for my son. Worked pretty well as an a wake-up device, but I'd turned of the engine with the A/C going.
Yogurt and chocolate donuts for breakfast then we headed up 95 into Eastern Oregon. We took Whitehorse Ranch Rd across the Alvord Desert to 205. It was a great drive and I reccommend it if you're in that part of the state. It's about 50 miles through canyons, cows and high desert country. We passed through a couple large ranches as well. There's another road a little bit north, Steens Mountain Rd I think, that I want to explore next time. We really enjoyed the area. I know we'll be heading back.
We started up Steens Mountain Loop Rd. If you do the whole loop it's a little less than 50 miles. The top 10 miles or so are supposed to be kind of rough, best done with a high clearence vehicle. After it got dark we stopped for the night at Fish Lake Campground, about 20 miles in. We cooked our first dinner in the van and watched a movie. It had gotten down below 30 and had started to snow by the time we turned in after 11. I drained the flat plate heat exchanger before heading to bed which didn't take too long. We ran the diesel heater all night just up from it's lowest setting which worked well. It kept the van from getting too cold, but didn't let it get too warm to sleep.
When we woke up there was about four inches of snow on the ground. After doing a lot of tent camping it was nice to wake up in the snow not freezing. Another breakfast of yogurt and chocolate donuts then back on the road. We wanted to finish the loop but only made a few more miles before we hit a gate. I didn't see a lock and if I didn't have my son with me I'd have inclined to try it anyway.
The snow wasn't really enough to need four wheel drive. It was comforting having that and the lockers when it came time to turn around, though. The hillside beyond the edge of the road was very steep. As long as an EB is there was really no way to turn around without the wheels dropping down the side a bit.
We headed back down the way we'd come to the town on Frenchglen and ran right into a Saturday morning traffic jam.
The rest of the drive home was beautiful. We took the day getting to Portland, hopped on I-5 and were home by 9:00pm. It was a great trip. Driving through beautiful country, spending time with my son, and roughing it with out roughing it too much was one of the big reasons I want a Sportsmobile. I'm thinking it was pretty successful.