Embracing Van Life
This summer we headed out on an epic Oregon road trip in Olive, our 1985 Volkswagen Westfalia Weekender. Over the life of Refined + Rugged I’ve shared some of our other camping, hiking, biking adventures, and road trips, and I wanted to add this trip to the list of fabulous vacations that practically anyone could re-create. This entire trip could also be scheduled for fall through this gorgeous state. Hint, hint, get behind the wheel and live!
There is something magical about that Olive van, I swear. If you haven’t had the chance to take a trip in a vehicle that serves as your transportation, shelter, and adventure base camp, I/we HIGHLY recommend it. The wonderful thing about #vanlife is that you have the opportunity to roll all of your travels into one sweet location, your home away from home, your adventure capture, your very own place and space wherever you roam.
A Little Background
We chose this trip to Oregon for several reasons. First, Oregon is my husband’s home state. After he and most of his family moved to other locations we always affirmed to one another that we wanted our boys to continue to have a connection to this beautiful place. We wanted them to feel that Oregon was/is a piece of their home.
Second, when we were first dating we took a trip very similar to this together as a couple. That road trip has since affectionately become known as the Tour de Oregon to us, and we wanted to pass on some of those memories to our boys. These are just a few of the many reasons we figure eighted around Oregon.
First Stop, Portland
Portland was the first stop on our road trip. While the boys and I finished up our last week of school, Perry drove our little Olive to Southern Oregon to stay with our dear friends. Then we flew to Portland to meet up with him.
We decided to meet at arguably the most iconic spot in Portland– Powell’s City of Books in the heart of downtown at their flagship store on Burnside– and we were not disappointed one bit! Powell’s is EVERYTHING a book worm could wish for in a book store. Cozy corners, nooks with reading chairs, a small cafe and place to grab a coffee, and more books than many people will see in a lifetime are up for purview and purchase.
After Powell’s we headed to meet our nephew at McMeniman’s, another Oregon staple. My husband and I have enjoyed McMeniman’s from Eugene to Portland, and their historic restaurants, pubs, breweries, and hotels are found throughout the Pacific Northwest. The first hiccup of the trip happened when our oldest got ill at the restaurant. Needless to say, we ended up wishing our nephew farewell and eating our dinner curbside in camp chairs next to Olive around the corner from Powell’s.
There are PLENTY of other wonderful, famous, and iconic things to do on a visit to Portland that we didn’t take time to do. There is always a trip to Voodoo Doughnuts, and a stop at WM Goods, and coffee at Stumptown on Stark is recommended.
Crater Lake, Next Up
After dinner we hit the road intent on making it part-way to Crater Lake National Park that first night. We stayed in Black Canyon State Park outside of Oakridge, OR. Oakridge is famous for the Mountain Bike Oregon, one of the premier mountain bike festivals in the United State. We were there for eight hours and then pressed on toward Crater Lake the next morning.
We arrived in Crater Lake around 10 a.m. and spent about five hours there at the park, visitor’s center, and lodge. The day was perfect with bright sun, and a light breeze. We ate lunch at the lodge, enjoyed the view, and took a short hike (Lady of the Woods).
While we didn’t stay in Crater Lake for multiple days, you could definitely spend an overnight here. You can hike down to the lake itself or take the boat out to Wizard Island. Check the dates you plan to be there, however, because the boat and hike are only available during the short summer season. You could really go big and book a couple nights at the Crater Lake Lodge.
Built in 1915, the lodge is a gorgeous historical landmark overlooking the lake and the surrounding cascade mountains. The food was good, the views were breathtaking, and the opportunity to stay at historic, one-of-a-kind accommodations was hard to pass up.
Bend In Sight
We left Crater Lake that same day and headed for Bend. One of the reasons we chose not to camp near Crater Lake was that our oldest son was violently ill with the flu (which we feared might be appendicitis). Long story short, we drove to Bend and went to the emergency room. Three hours later we emerged with a kiddo who had benefited from some I.V. fluids, and a clean bill of health in terms of his appendix.
Bend was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We had visited Bend briefly on our first Tour de Oregon, but this time we took the opportunity to stay and enjoy. We camped at Tumalo State Park. A brilliant little spot along the Deschutes River a little North of town.
Bend boasts some of the most delicious fare in all the land. We ate at Spork, met friends at Jackson’s Corner, cruised over to Spoken Moto, and enjoyed the Deschutes Brewery. All delicious, all kid-friendly, and all with their own distinct Oregon vibe. Maybe you can go wrong with food in Bend, but we did NOT.
We also had a day to do some van chores. We needed to do laundry, and we also needed to have the exhaust repaired on Olive. We decided to drop off the laundry, drop off the van, and then take an Uber around Bend to a few spots. We visited CVT Cascadia Vehicle Tents, and hit up Bend’s downtown shops including Tactics Board Shop and Hot Box Betty, then took another Uber to a local skate park. The combination of time spent cruising around on foot and Ubering around the city really gave us a feel for this awesome place.
I cannot emphasize enough how fabulous Oregon State Park campgrounds are. Nearly every campground boasts Hike-in and Bike-in only sights, your usually tent camp sites, van and RV spots, as well as yurts that you can rent. There are showers in almost every camp which make road tripping all the more enjoyable. We cannot wait for our next trip to Bend!
The next installment of our road trip will post at the beginning of next week. After covering a lot of the interior of Oregon we headed out to the coast to enjoy Florence, Wax Myrtle State Park, Manzanita, Cannon Beach and more! If you have the chance to visit Oregon I hope you’ll GO, and I hope you have a lovely week.
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