Saturday, May 27, 2023

Failure to Launch......Finding Gratitude

 May 23 - 26, 2023
Vale - John Day, Oregon

Tuesday morning we take our time getting ready to depart since our drive is a short 75 miles. At our last three stops the wonky slide has cooperated by going out and coming in without binding. We're feeling good about being able to use it until we get the fix in Bend, Oregon in a couple weeks. 

With ten minutes before check-out I push the Out button on the large slide. And get no movement. The motors whirr, but that's it. No matter how many times I try Out and In, or how much Bill pushes and I pull - it's not happening. 

Remarkably I don't freak out this time, although it's the exact scenario I've worried about. Bill makes a few calls to mobile techs who tell him there's nothing they can do. One helpful guy says it can only be fixed in a shop with a forklift. Great.

At the office I'm able to extend up to two more nights, opt for one, and pick up some business cards for more mobile techs. The fact we've been without sewer for six days adds to the drama. The park maintenance guy (who is super great), Teeter, comes back to our site to see if he can help. Seeing what we have, he agrees we're stuck. 

Bill has a call into a tech who can come out around 2 pm, but at this point we're pondering if we can inch it down the road to a shop with the slide out, or if we now live in Boise permanently. Neither roadside assistance nor our insurance company can help.

Mike, the tech who will come look at it, calls back and says he "has a gadget" that should get the slide in for us. At this point we're skeptical but hopeful. It's pretty much our last hope.

I wish I had taken a photo of Mike from Locals RV Repair who is now our most favorite person on the planet. His gadget does indeed get the slide in, using the override thingy in the basement. Although neither of us had melt downs, when the crisis is behind us we both need a nap - and a couple shots!

With the reservations moved forward a day at our next two stops, we stay our one extended night in Boise, and Wednesday morning are very happy to continue our travels. The slide will remain pulled in until it's fixed.

The short drive takes us north on Hwy 84 and west on Hwy 26 to the little town of Vale, Oregon. I could have easily continued on to John Day, but we have a paid reservation so we just make the stop and spend a lazy afternoon appreciating that we aren't still in Boise :-)

Hwy 26 across the plains and over the mountains is a beautiful drive. Everything is green, and all the creeks are full. Many of the meadows and fields have runoff water. We're even treated to a stunning Golden Eagle perched on a pole along the highway! 

Blue skies, no wind, few other vehicles on a well maintained two-lane road with lovely views - it's easy to put the past unpleasantness behind us and be grateful.

This is our second time in the John Day area. I'd hoped to return to the perfect little park in Dayville, but it was full for this holiday weekend so we're staying at the state park. Clyde Holliday Recreation Area is a 31-site park in the trees along the river. We're in the only pull-through, at the front, and along the highway. Lots of grass and trees with a level dirt site, and 50 amp and water. I'm hoping that being away from the tighter river sites we'll have less crowds. I usually avoid state parks over the holidays but it couldn't be helped this time.

Two levels for zoomies :-)

John Day was never in the area, never had anything to do with fossils, and his only claim to fame was being robbed. In 1812 he and another trader were robbed of everything including their clothes where the Mah-hah River meets the Columbia. People passing the spot would point out that was where the popular John Day was robbed. Soon it became known as the John Day River. It was actually Thomas Conan who is credited with recognizing the importance of the fossil finds and for naming the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument for the river that was key to the erosion that exposed the fossil bearing rock layers. 

We begin a wonderful day of exploring at the Thomas Conan Paleontology and Visitor Center at the Sheep Rock Unit of John Day NM. The exhibits are incredible, and the new video is one of the best we've seen at any visitor center. 

In addition to fossils, many bones have been (and continue to be) found here. The collection includes large specimens,

and very small ones like the horse (which were smaller than wolves).

Still happy after millions of years.

Beautiful view from the patio.

Actually before the park entrance we make a quick stop at the Mascall Formation Overlook, a location that has produced many fossils.

Sheep's Rock visible beyond one of many crevices carved by the river. 

It's a good thing there are long stretches with no place to pull over - or we'd still be there taking photos! The route lives up to its name: Journey Through Time Scenic Byway. 

Perfect weather continues throughout our 222 mile day trip. The only place we see more than a few people is in Spray where the local rodeo is coming to town for the weekend.

Cathedral Rock

John Day River running strong and full.

In addition to the national park service, the area includes several private farms and ranches. What a view from your tractor!

Behind Blue Basin is Foree Trail.

Robin's Lookout Service

Stories repeated over millennia. 

The road climbs into thick forest.

Several curves give us miles of layered views.

Music anticipates our next view.

Carno Fossil Unit, the most remote in the park.

More recent stories along the way.

Small but well maintained roads.

A narrow canyon of unique formations.

Several trickle falls along the canyon walls.

Photos just don't capture the beauty.

It's only the second time we've done a 200 mile day trip, and like the first one in Wyoming, this is worth every minute. I highly recommend this gorgeous loop. And we haven't even been to Painted Hills yet!

The day is so perfect that when we get home to find our toilet has been running for hours and our black tank is full we just deal with it. Again we're on a non-sewer site so we fold up quickly and drive the 50 yards to the dump. In 20 minutes we're set up again and get back to our evening. Human error is much easier to fix than wonky mechanics.

We have a few more days in the area, but I'll cover those in the next post. 

Oliver embraces his lunch.

Penelope is such a happy girl!

Henry knows the best way to peaceful sleep.


  1. Interesting story on how the John Day area was named. Seeing all those fossils makes me wonder what other treasures lie just under the surface waiting to be discovered.

    1. We too look at the surrounding hills and wonder about what's still to be found. They continue to find bones and fossils near Sheep Rock too.

  2. That is an interesting story on how the John Day area got its name. That dang slide! Here's hoping the slide repair happens with NO issues!

    1. I thought it was weird that he'd never been to the town with his name! Oh yes we are so ready to have our slide drama behind us.

  3. The John Day area is a beautiful stop. Lots of fun fossils at the VC, hard to imagine those massive creatures.
    Great pictures of the grands. Oliver with a clean spoon in one hand while eating with the other, Penelope sipping, and Henry read himself to sleep.

    1. We love the incredible geology here and this is definitely the time of year to enjoy the beauty of the river valley. Those kiddos sure make us smile :-))

  4. What a beautiful spot for zoomies! Love the photo of Tessa with all the green! I agree, what an interesting story on the area. The river is beautiful as is the drive and scenery. I love your caption…”still happy after millions of years”. Oliver has life all figured out…embrace lunch and everything else will fall into place! Wish I had know that years ago…🤪!

    1. Wish I could catch a pic of her running around on all that grass! I'm loving how beautiful it is here this time of year. Yes! I think our grands have much to remind us :-)

  5. We enjoyed our visit to that area but didn't know it's "history"! The colors and formations are fantastic and I, too, wonder what lies just beneath the surface. Dave always turns off the water at the podium when we leave Beluga.....always. History teaches......

    1. I'm really glad we came back again, so much to see and learn. We used to always turn off the water too, but alas got out of the habit. We're doing it again now :-))))

  6. Oh, dear!! Thank goodness for Mike and his "gadget!" I guess the saying when it rains it pours! You are SO lucky the black tank didn't overflow, and you got home in the nick of time. I am crossing fingers, toes, and everything I can in hopes the rest of your trip goes smoothly and so very uneventful. You certainly deserve a totally relaxing rest of your trip. We really enjoyed John Day thanks to your previous visit. Such a beautiful area. Oliver's expression is priceless! What a special photo of Penelope! Sweet dreams, Henry!

    1. Even though the slide has been a single issue, it's certainly given us more than its share of trouble! We're still loving the travel though :-) I still go to your blog to find places to stay and visit so I'm glad our stops have inspired you as well. Those kiddos!!

  7. Glad you found the guy with the gadget. No way I could drive with a slide out. You definitely picked the right time for JD.