The Trip That Started It All

It seems a bit quaint now, but in late October 2020, we were feeling a bit claustrophobic. We hadn't slept anywhere but our own bed since late February that year, and the ensuing 8 months seemed endless. But pre-vaccine, we weren't ready to book a hotel, so we decided to rent a camper van and see life exclusively from behind the wheel.

Using RoadTrip Oregon we rented a little Nissan camper with a pop-top and hit the open road in mid-November. Maybe gray, 40 degree days aren't your idea of vacation paradise, but we were just tickled to be somewhere that wasn't the confines of our house. We picked up the van on a Friday afternoon and promptly parked it in the driveway.

Strange car, strange sleeping arrangement, we wanted a test run on the van. So we slept that first night in the driveway. It was Friday, the 13th after all, so can you blame us?

The next morning we left super early and headed to Wine Country. I had a vague itinerary in mind, and I knew we'd be sleeping in McMinnville, so the day was ours to fill as we desired.

So we're cruising down Highway 18, and Debbie saw a sign for something called Erratic Rock. We had to stop, and in fact, it's not just a rock, but a state park! Considered 'erratic' because it's a different kind of rock than everything else around it, the erratic rock has great views of the countryside, a lovely, quiet hiking trail, and lots of wind.

Back in the van, where it wasn't windy, we had a light lunch and then continued exploring. My plan was that we'd spend the night at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. They generously allow RVs to stay overnight for free in their parking lot. We found a good spot about dusk and set up for the night. We popped out the top to give us room to stand up and to stow extra gear up top while we had the back bench open as the bed.

That all seemed like a great idea until the storm came. A torrent of rain and wind came sweeping down on us about midnight, and we quickly discovered that the pop-top had a slight leak in the back corner, right where Debbie's head was. So, down came the top and out came the towels to clean up and dry off. The next morning was clear and lovely, so we got a few pictures before heading farther south on our adventure.

We kicked around McMinnville for the morning and had lunch at a little park in town. Then we set off for our next destination - Sunset Farm Animal Sanctuary, near Brownsville, Oregon. For a small fee, we were allowed to park the van and join caretakers Deedee and Brian as they cared for the goats, sheep, turkeys, pigs, cows, and more who enjoy their days free from abuse and exploitation.

We especially enjoyed the goats and sheep, and we had a couple of turkeys who decided they liked the vanlife vibe enough to hang out near us.

We "roughed" it that night with wine, cheese, and bread as yet more rain and wind pummeled the van. It's exactly what we should have expected from November in Oregon, and we certainly got to stress-test our sleeping bags and rain gear.

The next day it was goodbye to the animals and hello Portland! Our trip in the rented Nissan Recon was over, but our desire for more road trips was just beginning.