Before Vic and I got married, one of the things we agreed is that we’d each take a vacation on our own every year. This has turned out harder to follow through on than I imagined. He’s a great travel companion ninety-five percent of the time – the other five percent make exquisite stories later on. It’s tougher to find the time and money than I would have guessed since a good solo vacation makes a leaner vacation as a couple and I feel guilty about that, even if what I know I need is some time apart.

One of the reasons we bought the Westy was to make some Northwest road trips possible nearly on impulse. So with a natural closure to one part of the confusing knot that we’re untangling for Victor’s parents complete (their Seattle condo cleaned out and on the rental market), it was an opportune time to take to the road by myself.

My original idea had me heading all the way out to Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert via Pendleton and John Day. I’d hit a few hot springs, take in some country I’ve always wanted to see, and then possibly head over to Boise before returning home. Once I got going though, the driving was slower and tougher, and the days longer than I imagined. Camper Van in big wind? No fun! Camper Van on long grades going uphill? No fun! Camper Van on twisty grades downhill? No fun!

Still, pulling into camp, popping the top, firing up the heater and snuggling in with a good book, I can see a future I am liking. And I can see that future sometimes has Victor in it and sometimes is just going to be me sitting by a campfire alone.

So when I got to John Day on the second afternoon, I bought a bottle of Maker’s and tucked in early at Clyde Holliday State Park (not much more than a fancy wayside along the highway here) and then spent the next day at part of the John Day Fossil Beds. There are three main sections, separated by many miles, that make up the National Monument with a few additional overlooks and picnic spots. I’d hazard to guess that it is almost impossible to see all three in one day. Recommended? Both hikes at Blue Basin, learning about the age of mammals at the Condon Paleontology Lab (yep, you can see folks working on fossils there), and then definitely going to look at the Painted Hills section, though the hikes here are quite short.

I got my hot water time in at the community pool on the Warm Springs reservation.