Oregon Trail Part 1: Campgrounds and Football Games


They said they were coming at 7 am, and the big truck rolled down the street at 6:45. Shea put flip-flops on to take the kids to school and when he came back, every single other pair of shoes was packed. I got distracted while moving the kitchen supplies into the trailer and when I went back at 9:30 am, all the pots and pans were packed.

I had a pile of laundry because I thought they weren’t unhooking the appliances until the next day. “Good news!” Dan the Moving Man told me at noon that first day. “You don’t have as much stuff as we thought! We are ahead of schedule so I am wrapping up the appliances.”

I texted JFK Amy: Can we come over tonight to say goodbye? And stay for dinner? And baths? Can I borrow some pots and pans? And can I do some laundry?

We planned to leave by 1:30 pm on Friday and by 1, there was a crowd of friends to see us off.

I will never forget that.

We drove 180 miles across LA on a Friday afternoon and made it to Bakersfield in four hours. I was feeling pretty good about that. We didn’t have to sedate the dogs. The kids were calm. And we pulled the trailer over the Grapevine with nary a shudder from the engine.

This is our sweet old girl Sugar, cuddled up with Kate in the backseat.
This is our sweet old girl Sugar, cuddled up with Kate in the backseat.

The only thing was, it was dark. And every person with an RV knows that you should never set up your brand new RV for the first time in the dark. This trailer has a side pop out. That’s new for us. We learned that you have to place the trailer carefully so the pop-out doesn’t pop into the water spicket or the power pole.

In our case, it took two tries to learn that lesson.

The next morning we were up and off pretty early. It was the Day of a Thousand Stops. In our hurry to leave Bakersfield, we forgot to send the kids to the bathroom one more time, but we did make sure they had full water bottles.

Why can’t everyone have to pee at the same time?

We were trying to get to Merced by 1 pm, since there was a very important football game that needed watching and I had picked a campground with cable hook-ups for this very reason.

There is no shame in this game. Every new trailer comes with this kind of outdoor tv hookup.
Even Lizzy likes the Tide!

It was a little slice of river heaven.

The Merced River
The Merced River

The next day was our long day, 250 miles to Redding. It was colder, and the landscape was changing from the flat farmland of California’s Central Valley to the rolling ranchland of Northern California. We started to see more water, although I can tell you that California’s drought is real. The lakes and rivers were disturbingly below their normal levels, with sometimes hundreds of feet of exposed bottom. At Lake Shasta, we drove past a houseboat marina that had dropped more than a football field below the dock, left dangling on the hillside.

Redding looks more like Southern Oregon, and it was the first time we were cold during the day. We huddled up in the trailer with the TV on and had a movie night with Maleficent.



We arrived home the next day, ahead of the furniture. We slept on the floor in the master, all seven of us, and woke up to frosted sidewalks.

In the first week, we unpacked all the boxes that came into the house. Which doesn’t mean that we found all our things, only that we unpacked all the boxes that came into the house.

I don’t want to sugar coat something that was hard for us. The sound of Gabe wailing as we drove away from the best friends he has ever known left a wound on my heart. Sometimes when Kate feels lonely, she says “Mom, remember the day we left California and all my classmates gave me a hug and a goodbye card?” Overall, I think they were a great age to make a move like this, and they have adjusted well in Oregon. But Shea and I knew that we needed to get the trip part–in-between the old life and the new–right. It had to be a fun adventure, a special time for us to be together as a family. The kids needed to know that while lots of things were changing, this part, the family part, was not. It was still the same mom and dad, same way of doing things, same crazy dogs.

Things they can count on, things that don’t ever change.

Friday: Oregon Trail Part 2: The First Six Weeks



3 thoughts on “Oregon Trail Part 1: Campgrounds and Football Games

  1. Wish we could have been there to send you off too. We were thinking about you in Rio though and still do, everyday. I did love hearing about your journey though; it felt like we were there with you:). Excited to read part 2…

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