Friday, April 29, 2011

Northwest Campers, Hoodstock Jamboree– Part 1, Overnighting at Memaloose State Park

It’s been a while since I last took the poor old Redneck Express out on the road. As you’ll recall, my last tale on here that actually involved traveling with the ole’ Express was back in October of last year during the NATCOA Fall Color’s Rally up in Washington.

Since then, the KIT Kamper has been quietly sleeping in its docking station out here on the island while I finished my latest work contract and resumed my down time on unemployment before taking on another contract.

During the time since the Redneck Express and I last traveled the black top, gas prices have crept up rather staggeringly and with my income having shrunk quite substantially when switching over to unemployment, doing a whole lot of travel is not all that possible, especially with a peak fuel economy of only 8 miles-per-gallon.

Nonetheless, I’d been saving my pennies up to take at least one trip this spring and this time, we were going to attend a rally I had to skip last year because of the timing and my having just moved to my little spot on the island.

Every year in April, a little known Jamboree gets together up in the tiny Oregon town of Odell and participates in what they call “Hoodstock.”

I've been with a local camping group here in the Pacific Northwest, mostly made up of Classic Winnebagos and a few newer Class As, for roughly a year and a half now by the name of "Northwest Campers".

Every year in April during the Hood River Blossom Festival, they hold a Jamboree up at the Hood River Fairgrounds in Odell, gathering together to chat, show off modifications they’d done to each other’s RVs and to do the “Tour of Homes”, or more simply we all go and visit one another’s RVs.

In addition to the good old fashioned fat-chewing and tall-tale swapping, everyone brings a dish for the big group Potluck dinner on Saturday Night.

Each year is usually themed, most years had been themed to the 60s, given the vintage of a number of the Winnebagos that started the group, complete with tie-dye and mullet wigs.

This year, the group decided to try something new, doing a “Hawaiian” theme. So, I was looking forward to seeing how my first Hoodstock was going to turn out.

I started getting things ready on Monday the week of the Jamboree, washing the truck and camper, vacuuming out several years worth of sand, dirt and grit from the cab of the truck, and doing a couple minor mods to ready the camper for travel once more.

As per requirement it seems, a number of running lights needed to have their ground screws retightened and one of the turn signals had stopped working again.

Originally, I had planned to pull out early on Thursday and meet everyone at the fairgrounds, Les and several others had already headed out that direction to start acquiring sites for the group. However, between the unceasing rain and the headache of trying to trace the right turn signals lack of power problems, I didn’t get on the road until 6-7pm.

After chatting with Les on the phone, he informed me that it would be best to not try and show up and navigate the camping area at the fairgrounds at night. Since I was already on the road by that point, I at first decided to stop at one of the two RV Parks in Cascade Locks, Oregon.

The drive on I-84 was completely uneventful other than the near-constant dump of rain from the sky and the horrible ruts in the slow lane on East-Bound I-84 tossing me all over the place.

After about 45 minutes, I pulled into Cascade Locks and followed the signs to my first planned stop, Sternwheeler Park. I discovered that unfortunately, their Campground was closed for the evening at that the entrance had a 12’ clearance limit to get under the railroad tracks.

After a tense few minutes getting turned around and back up the steep narrow driveway to the closed campground, I headed down the road a little further to park #2, the Cascade Locks KOA.

I almost stayed there, until I saw the “No Pets” sign underneath the Night Check-In box. Well, Moby the Wonder Dog was with me once again, so no KOA for us. Just as we were turning round to leave, a second even better reason came rumbling right through the edge of the park, the Union Pacific Mainline that had a crossing right near the park, so not only did the park have the mainline tracks going right along through it, it also had a near 30 minutes process of blowing train horns.

I was honestly amazed that the park had as many RVs in it as it did!

So, onward further east we drove, our next destination The Dalles, hoping that we could find an RV park or something. At around milepost 73, I missed my turn off for a rest area which I was at the time thinking about sleeping at, as both my poor pooch Moby and myself were getting fairly tired by that point and wanted to get off the road, the day had already been fairly long from getting the camper into travel ready condition.

As we kept going east, getting a little desperate, I spotted one of Oregon’s brown State Park signs for “Memaloose State Park”.

The name tickled the back of my mind, I’d heard of Memaloose before, but I couldn’t remember why. I knew of Viento, which was one of the less pleasant parks along the Columbia River, but suffered from the same shortcomings as the KOA I’d looked at back at the Cascade Locks.

The surprise came in that when we got to exit 76, the signage there actually directed us back onto the interstate again, heading back west again.

That was when it came back to me, Memaloose State Park is the only State Park in Oregon that you actually enter through an interstate rest area!


As I pulled in to the rest area, I began to wonder if a park with this convenience to to the freeway would have any sites open at all at that time of the night?

Quite as number, was what we found out.

There was roughly ten rigs in the park, several were bigger class As that looked like their owners were visiting the area for an extended period of time, a few travel trailers and one other truck camper.

A quick listen out the window confirmed that while one could hear the freeway, the placement of the park twenty or so feet below the freeway on the slope and above the railroad tracks actually cuts the noise down quite a bit from either.

While audible, both were very low background noises, and completely blocked out once inside the camper.

So, we picked a site and Moby and I took a little walk to stretch our legs and pay our $20 for our night with full hookups.

Afterwards, we settled in, Moby munching happily on his dinner, then curling up on the dinette seat while I went off to use the showers.

Discovered that the lights in the men’s showers weren’t working and ended up using the handicap stall, never got really any hot water out of the shower, warm would be the best description one could give to the shower I had. Add in that it was down in the 40s at night, and that the bathrooms didn’t really have any heating in them, it was one seriously cold shower.

The next morning came and the rain had reduced itself back to a drizzle, I decided to bring the camera along as I took Moby out for his morning walk.

The population of RVs was even lower, now, than it had been we’d pulled in the night before. There was probably five RVs left. All of the trailers I had parked to last night were long gone, only a couple with a couple small dogs staying in a Wells Cargo trailer were left on the side of the loop I’d parked on.

One of the pleasant surprises was how close we were to the river. When I’d pulled in the night before, the river was completely blanketed in a deep darkness. In the morning, the blanket was pulled away revealing the river nestled amongst low clouds and fog.

We managed to make our way all the way around the park before Moby was quite tired of the constant drizzle and was ready to curl up in the cab of the truck and be on our way.

The adventure continues in Part 2!….


  1. Nice recap, Matt. Interesting location for the park, indeed!

  2. Memaloose is one of the better State Parks I've visited along the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon side.

    Ainsworth and Viento both suffer from heavy rail and freeway noise.

  3. Through a rest area? Valley of the Rogue State Park comes close, but not quite.

  4. Yeah, you enter via the west bound rest area. At the ramp leading back to the freeway, there's a turn off that goes down behind the hill that leads into the State Park.