My first road trip after a little sabbatical is to Astoria, Oregon on the Northern Oregon Pacific Coast Highway – also known as Highway 101. I am so excited to get back out on the road after a month-long stay in Washington waiting for warranty work to complete.
If you'll remember about a month ago, I was on the Washington Pacific Coast Highway along the Olympic Peninsula, which is the start of Highway 101 from the north. I've driven the Oregon Pacific Coast Highway before – about three years ago – in my car, and that drive was one of the moments that made me start thinking about RVing even more seriously.
I had Lily with me and had to get a hotel to sleep in while I explored the area, but it was hot and I couldn't leave her at the hotel and couldn't leave her in the car. I remember thinking, “If only I had my home with me – this trip would be different.” Little did I know then, that three short years later I would be back on the same stretch of the Oregon Pacific Coast Highway with my home.
It's funny – I didn't even remember that until I pulled into Astoria.
The manifestation of your dreams can become a reality when you start to focus on what you want to create in your life.
It's my Create. Do. Live principle.
Dream up what you want during the Create Phase, put it into action during the Do Phase, and the result of your actions is the Live Phase. I'm in the Live Phase of what I've created, and it's pretty sweet!
Related Post/Video: Part 2 of Northern Oregon Pacific Coast Highway
Hymer Aktiv Warranty Work
Warranty on the Hymer was an interesting process – not interesting as in fascinating – but a bit of challenge. I had to call Hymer almost daily to make sure things were moving quickly because the dealership doing the warranty work said it could 2-7 weeks to get repaired since they have to wait on Hymer to approve the warranty and to send the parts.
I love my Hymer, but the warranty process – well – it just plain sucks.
The dealer said the process was pretty good by most RV industry standards. Seriously?
Something needs to change in the RV industry. I realize that supply is at an all-time high with the manufacturers, but they also need to add infrastructure that supports the demand, whether that be hiring more people or creating a more efficient process.
I really want Hymer to succeed in North America, so I hope they listen to all of us who are actively trying to work with them through these processes.
Two items needing repair:
- Roof vent wouldn't open due to the hand crank being stripped inside so it wouldn't crank the roof vent open.
- Somehow they forgot to add the back awning clip to the van. I'm really not sure how they missed that during the quality control inspection.
Thankfully these were small items that needed repairing and nothing major.
Camper Van Modifications
While we're on the subject of the camper van fixes, I made two other modifications to the Hymer over the last month.
I finally removed the microwave since I didn't use it that much. Now I can use that space for storage.
It was relatively simple to remove the microwave by unscrewing the two bolts at the bottom and then pulling the microwave out. I ended up donating it to a thrift store while I was in Bend, Oregon at the Xscapers Convergence.
Next, I needed to fill in the exposed area to the van, so nothing fell back between the wall and the camper van itself.
Time to get creative!
I headed to Lowe's hardware store and found a piece of peel-and-stick flooring for $1.08 that worked almost flawlessly. Granted it's not the same color as the backboard, but once I put the storage items in there, you won't notice it.
The peel-and-stick didn't stick so well, so I instead used Gorilla Tape to hold it in place. You can see that part of the van has some exposure at the top. I left it there in case I needed access to the area, but the board is there to keep things from falling behind the wall and nothing should drop back there with how I added the flooring strip.
I also left the AC electrical outlet accessible in case I needed it.
Now I need to find a way to hold the storage items up there. I was thinking of a bungee cord hooked into eye hooks, but I think I found a solution with some cargo netting. I could also add a wood lip to the area that would also work. I'm still undecided, so more to come on this.
The other camper van modification I made was to replace the all-weather tires that came with the Hymer Aktiv to the BF Goodrich All Terrain K02 tires. Since I tend to stay in areas that are rocky, can be muddy, gravel, and dirt roads, I wanted a tire that would hold up on these surfaces and also reduce any accidental times of getting stuck again.
While I was in Mount Vernon, Washington area, I contacted Discount Tire to order the tires and have these mounted. They also bought my all-weather tires at $70 a piece, so I didn't have to deal with trying to sell the old tires after installation of the new AND I don't have anywhere to store the tires waiting for a buyer.
The difference in the tread is incredible and, well, the all-terrain tires are just much cooler! Not only do I get a zillion questions a day about the Hymer Aktiv, but now I get stares and head-bobbing-approval nods from people on the street when they see my tires. It's pretty funny!
Cons of All-Terrain Tires
People have said two cons to getting all-terrain tires are:
- Road noise
- Reduction in gas efficiency
So far I haven't heard a difference in road noise, but I have had a decrease in gas efficiency.
With all-weather tires, I was getting about 16-17 mpg on average, and now with the all-terrain tires, I'm getting between 14-15.5 mpg which is about a 10%-15% loss of gas efficiency.
So with most things, there is a trade-off.
In this case, I'm okay with the loss in gas efficiency to ensure that I can travel to those remote boondocking spots without bursting a tire and possibly save myself from getting stuck.
Prevention in Getting Stuck Again
To also ensure I could get out of a jam if I did get stuck, I heeded the advice of a friend and purchased the Maxtrax extraction boards that you can push up next to your tires to gain traction and also dig out the sand around the tire if needed.
These boards are kind of long, so I wasn't so sure I wanted to even purchase it due to the limited storage in the camper van. However, I felt like I wanted the peace of mind in case I really needed to get unstuck; I could do so without calling a tow truck.
Last time that cost me $300 when I was in Yuma and got stuck in the sand!!
So when I received the Maxtrax boards, I found a convenient spot that was a bonus.
I missed my adjustable bed in my sticks and bricks home where I always slept with my upper torso slightly elevated. Score!
Not only did the spot under the head of the trifold mattress work for storing the Maxtrax boards, but now I have an adjustable bed again. Sweet!
Overall, I love the new tires and can feel a difference in how the Hymer drives on those rougher roads. Now I need to get the Sumo Springs to stabilize the ride a bit more on the rear side of the camper van.
Astoria River Walk and Overnighting on Oregon Pacific Coast Highway
My first day here I overnighted next to the Astoria River Walk on the east side of town at a place I found on the Chamber of Commerce website. There's a map that shows all kinds of things to do in Astoria, but interestingly also indicates RV overnight parking. I ended up staying over in that street parking area for several nights as I explored the area.
So when it was time to stroll along the Astoria river walk, we were really close and just had to walk across a small parking lot.
The Astoria river walk is alongside the Columbia River that pours into the Pacific Ocean and where cyclists, runners, and walkers are enjoying the scenery. Alongside the river walk is the Astoria River Walk Trolley system that takes you all along the river walk from beginning to end.
There's shops, restaurants, breweries, and cafes all along the river walk too. Walking along the path and visiting the local eateries you'll also discover the sound, and maybe a sighting, of the sea lions in the area. If you don't like noise at all while sleeping, the area I parked is probably not the place for you. You can hear the sea lions, somewhat faintly, but you can hear them.
Lily and I enjoyed a pleasant stroll along the waterfront and people-watched along the way and took in the sights around. I even spotted a sleeping sea lion all by himself around the shore area.
Rising over the Columbia River is the Astoria-Megler bridge that connects Washingon and Oregon. It's the longest truss bridge in North America at just over four miles long.
It was such a beautiful day with the sun shining and the cooler temperatures. Thankfully all the forest fire smoke had also cleared out.
We've been under siege in the Pacific Northwest for weeks now with the forest fire smoke. It's just awful, and it's hard to breathe – not to mention all the ash dust in the camper van.
Astoria Difficult Area to Overnight in for Free
Overall, the Astoria, Oregon area is a tough place to find free overnight camping. There is a Walmart not too far away, but the police regularly patrol it and give out fines. The rest areas show restrictions signs for no overnight parking.
There's a Safeway in town that has an area for RV parking, and I've seen people stay there overnight, but there is also a clearly marked sign stating no overnight parking by City of Astoria ordinance.
Where I parked overnight that was on the Chamber of Commerce map, there are no signs for no overnighting which makes sense considering the Chamber of Commerce has designated that is RV overnight parking.
There's the Fort Stevens State Park along the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean; however, it's incredibly full right now, and everyone is packed in like sardines.
Along the Oregon Pacific Coast Highway, there are some recreation areas, but signs clearly marked “no camping” though I saw people camping over there.
Fort Stevens State Park along Oregon Pacific Coast Highway
While I didn't stay at Fort Stevens State Park overnight, I did make use of this beautiful park during the day.
It's right off of Highway 101's Oregon Pacific Coast Highway and overlooks the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River.
It felt so amazing to breathe in the ocean air and feel that crisp ocean breeze on my skin! This is my happy place! It's Lily's happy place too in the sand. I think she loves it as much as I do.
We also stumbled upon this shipwreck on the beach which I later discovered was the Peter Iredale, a four-masted ship that ran aground in 1906 on its way to the Columbia River during a northwest squall that forced the ship into the shore.
Story Chasing Crew – Insider Crew Access on Patreon
It's finally here! The Story Chasing Crew insider access page on Patreon where you can decide on what level of insider access you'd like. I took your suggestions and added different reward levels for different pledge access levels. You get to choose how much insider access you want.
So – to make sure I got your requests right and didn't completely mess this up, I'd love to chat with you all this Saturday, 9/1/18 at 10 am PST on a Live Stream Q&A on YouTube so you can tell me your thoughts on the page and see if I need to make any changes.
This will be my first time doing a Live Stream, so I'm sure I'm going to be nervous – so be gentle with me! I'm so accustomed to talking to the camera and editing, so this is all new to me. I can't wait to speak with you all this Saturday.
I hope to see you there and get your feedback!
A special thank you to Francine Roach for being the first Patron to subscribe to the Story Chasing Insider Crew page on Patreon!! Thank you!
It's time to move on and continue down the Oregon Pacific Coast Highway and find our next adventure and hopefully some prettier spots to overnight camp. See you Saturday! This is only part 1 of the Northern Oregon Pacific Coast Highway journey with more to come soon as I accomplish 3 different quests along Highway 101:
- Northern Oregon Pacific Coast Highway
- Central Oregon Pacific Coast Highway
- Southern Oregon Pacific Coast Highway
All three are different quest drives in the National Geographic 300 Scenic Highways & Byways book.
Related Post/Video: Part 2 of Northern Oregon Pacific Coast Highway
Road Trip Report & Map
Take a look at all of the places I've been on: Full map of all my travels
Average Miles per Gallon: 14.35
Road Conditions: No issues, roads are clear.
Weather Conditions: Cool at night and warmer during the day between 65-75 degrees.
Time of Year Visited: Mid August
Overnights & Places Visited
- Designated Chamber of Commerce RV Overnight Street Parking – Astoria, Oregon / $0
- Astoria River Walk / $0
- Fort Stevens State Park / $30 annual pass
- Downtown Astoria / $0
- You can drive through here on the main road in any RV though some streets in downtown Astoria will be tight and even more narrow through the residential streets on the hill.
Cell Phone Signal Strength: No signal in some areas of Fort Stevens State Park and 4-5 bars everywhere else in Astoria.
Park Pass: Oregon State annual pass
Panasonic Lumix G85 Camera – For most still images and vlogging
Sony Action Cam FDRX3000 – For dash cam and walking/talking video
Joby Gorillapod – Used for holding the cameras as a tripod or mounting to just about anything to capture a shot.
Xenvo Iphone Wide Angle (and Macro) Lens – Clips onto your iPhone did give you a wide angle view of your surroundings.
Ulanzi Metal Smart Phone Cold Shoe Mount – Attaches to a selfie stick, but allows you angle the camera and it has a mount for an external microphone.
AllStays app – Use on phone or desktop for finding gas stations, RV parks, campgrounds, propane, and more on your travel route.
Verizon Data Plan – Best nationwide coverage as of this post while traveling.