I’d like to introduce everyone to Clifford the Big Red Van. Clifford comes to us via Wayfarer Vans. This has been a purchase almost four years in the making. Originally inspired by our friends The Manvilles and their Mercedes Sprinter conversion van. Mia and I spent lots of conversations on the pros/cons of a Class B, Class C, conversion van, tear drop trailer, etc. It finally settled on something rather simple and clean as opposed to overly complex.
Clifford is a Ram Promaster 1500 with the added Walter Kit from Wayfarer. We also opted for the add-on of a driver’s side window and a roof top vent fan. The kit appealed to me for the simplicity of it. We are not going to be living out of our van for months on end so a shower and toilet were not “must haves” for us. The ability to sleep, have water and prepare meals in comfort was high on the list. Clifford will be ideal for bike racing, running races, long weekends and week long trips. We can bring Codi with us and not worry about having to find a hotel that accepts dogs.
I flew into Colorado Springs, Colorado on Thursday morning to pick him up. I wasn’t thrilled to be traveling by air during COVID but I did everything I could to minimize my exposure. Copious hand washing, KN95 mask, not eating anything until out of the airport.
I also go to spend about 2 hours chatting with Renee Eastman a friend from back in the New England racing days. She now been in Colorado for 26 years and been a professional coach with CTS pretty much since the beginning of the company. It was nice to catch up face to face with her. Social media is nice to keep in touch with people but actual conversation and interaction is much nicer.
I hit the road about 4pm with the goal being Rock Springs, WY. A city that Mia and I stayed in back in 2013 as we were moving across the country. My familiarity with the city and a chance to revisit Cowboy Donuts were the deciding factors.
The other reason for choosing Rock Springs was because it had a Walmart in it. The goal wasn’t to go shopping, the goal was to spend the night “boondocking” (AKA as Wally-docking) in their parking lot. For those that do not know….unless city ordinances specifically say otherwise you can dry-camp at any Walmart parking lot. It’s not exactly a glamorous overnight but it’s free and there isn’t a chance of a window knock at 3 a.m. from the local constabulary asking you what you are doing.
The temps dropped down to 30 F overnight and I was comfortable with my sleeping bag and slept decently after a looonnnggg day of traveling (started at 3AM back in Oregon). Breakfast at Cowboy Donuts and I was quickly on the highway headed east once more.
I didn’t have a ton of structure to this trip. Mostly to get home before Saturday night. I did build in a whole extra day in case of bad weather. Luckily it wasn’t needed.
I wasn’t that far from the Grand Tetons or Yellowstone at one point. Either of those choices would have added a good half day to the travel plans though. It would have also meant a very brief visit to either location and it just didn’t feel worth stopping. But Shoshone Falls was only nine miles off the highway. It was totally worth the side trip. Very beautiful! I also got to do a quick 30 minute run on the paved trail along the river. Great way to get out and literally stretch my legs a bit.
After the falls it was my goal to hit Ontario, OR. I arrived in town about 4:30 PM and wasn’t really ready to call it a day. I grabbed some food from the local Red Apple Grocery and then headed out once more.
I wanted to take the highway (I-80 and I-84 most of the way to this point) but then take the opportunity to do a little more mellow pace. I opted to take Route 26 west towards John Day, Mitchell, etc. Unfortunately most of this part was done in the dark. I was really hoping to see some of this area but the sun set while I was eating dinner. I didn’t want to extend the trip by staying the night in Ontario so was shooting for Mitchell, OR vicinity.
The drive over the Wallowa-Whitman NF area was a bit sketchy at times. The temperature was dropping quickly and the light rain turned into snow. On top of the snow was gusty winds and fog that dropped visibility to less than 20 feet at times. It was some white knuckle driving at times. Toss in the random deer, coyote and for some strange reason…a lot of mice running across the road and I had to be on my toes.
I finally dropped down into Prairie City and the rain and snow had stopped but temps where in the low 30s F. The camping at Depot Park wasn’t very appealing and I decided to continue on to John Day. The camping here was asking $30 and just had an odd vibe about it. I was starting to get tired from another long day but opted instead to head for Mitchell, OR.
I’m familiar with Mitchell from staying at the Spoke’n Hostel twice now. I was planning to park at the small city park which allows overnight camping and maybe hit up the Painted Hills in the morning.
On a total whim though I turned up Hwy 19 to head up through the main part of the John day Fossil Beds. I found a wayside area that was dark, sheltered and I was able to be set back from the road and park there for the night. The temp was 39 F here and never dropped any lower throughout the night. It was a great little spot and it was pitch black when I crawled into my sleeping bag. No ambient light from anywhere to be seen unlike the Walmart parking lot from the previous night.
I was on the move early on Saturday morning. Hoping to get home and see Mia and Codi once more. The drive along Hwy 19 and into Fossil before following 218 over to Shaniko.
from Shaniko I headed briefly south on Route 97 and then followed 197 into The Dalles. The views up on 97 and 197 around here are absolutely stellar. You can see the three Sisters, Hood, Jeferson, and Adams on multiple occasions.
From The Dalles I jumped on I-84 again and boogied home after a quick stop for coffee and food. The winds were gusting STRONG in the eastern part of the gorge and it was more white knuckle driving until around Hood River.
I pulled into the driveway about 10:30 AM after 2.5 days of driving. I feel Clifford and I have become well acquainted and here is to a long and adventurous relationship together.
Mia saw on another website how some van owners bolted some shoe holders to their back doors. It’s a cheap and effective way to add additional storage.
Thanks for reading,
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Oh yeah, Depot Park in Prairie City. I spent the night there on a tour in 2010 and was very underwhelmed. I was hoping to stay in the “historic hotel” in town, but they wanted way too much. There was definitely a weird vibe at Depot Park–it was basically deserted except for a couple RVs and a few sketchy tent campers that I tried to avoid.