USA Road Trip Holiday Diaries – Day 11

We woke just after 7am, tidied up and after getting dressed, went downstairs for breakfast. Breakfast was included in the price and was quite nice with a continental breakfast available, as well as some other hot and cold choices.

We packed up and got the car loaded, ready for our final day of driving big miles. BattleDad, unfortunately, had to complain to reception about the uncomfortable sofa beds in the hotel. I had shared the main bed with BattleKid and BattleDad had taken the sofa bed and it was extremely uncomfortable. This was our only grumble about what is a great hotel in Richland.

We were on the road by 9.30 heading for Portland. It felt strange to be on the last leg of our USA road trip, but we were looking forward to a few days in Portland, a city we’ve always wanted to visit. I did the driving this day as BattleDad had managed less than 5 hours sleep. We took I-84 and stopped at the same Love’s gas station we had filled up on our first day in the USA. It was here we heard news we didn’t really want.

I-84 was closed from junction 64 at the intersection with I-35 as there were fires all along the Columbia Gorge Creek, including around Multnomah Falls. We had intended the falls to be our pit stop as we drove towards Portland, so that I could photograph it. It’s been on my wish-list for some time and now we had no chance of visiting it.

BattleDad did a Google search which confirmed what he had overheard in the gas station. I was gutted. The fire had started two days before due to a teenager setting off fireworks for Labour Day celebrations. A fire was the result of him ignoring the signs around the Creek which forbids the use of fireworks and portable barbeques.

The closure of I-84 also meant I had no pictures of the Columbia Gorge Creek. I had been unable to photograph it on the day of our arrival into the States as I sat in the back of the car with BattleKid, trying to keep him comfortable while he slept. We had been stunned by its beauty and had decided to photograph it on our return trip to Portland. Alas, another thing not meant to be.

Because of the road closure, we were diverted around the back of Mount Hood National Forest, along I-35 and meeting up with I-26 and taking that into Portland. It lengthened our journey by a few hours. We also couldn’t see Mount Hood from the north side due to the smoke haze.

After two and a half hours of driving around the mountain we pulled off I-35 for a toilet break and to get some lunch at the Crooked Tree Tavern. I ordered a mushroom soup and it was terrible. A congealed, thick goo which was hardly edible. The boys, however, had a nice burger each. I did steal a few chips from them.

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The Crocked Tree Tavern off I-35 where I had my worst meal of our USA trip
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Waiting for lunch

Back on the road, we finally rounded the bottom of Mount Hood and finally caught glimpses of the peak through the smoke. We arrived at our AirBnB at 3pm to falling ash in the sky. We had experienced ash in Missoula, but this was something else.

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Concentrating on the road, with Mount Hood in the distance

While our AirBnB house was quaint and looked exactly how we imagined a house in Portland to look like, the location of the house was terrible. We went to a Walmart a few miles away and as we drove towards it, we went through a rough looking area. There were cannabis shops, beside guns shops, beside casino shops and it looked rough as hell. There was even a wanted poster for a murderer of an eight year old boy!

Now, I should explain something. Both BattleDad and I grew up on council estates in Dublin which weren’t exactly the poshest areas of Dublin. With that comes a sort of sixth sense about a place and this area of Portland was really freaking us out. For that to happen to us, it must be pretty bad. Our spidey senses (as we like to call it), were in overdrive. We felt completely uneasy about spending a night in the AirBnB, particularly with BattleKid in tow. Had it just been the two of us, we’d probably wouldn’t have been that bothered about the area, but we just knew we couldn’t stay there.

We debated in the car park of Walmart for a good half an hour before I got my phone out and searched for a TownePlace Suites in Portland. I figured we had stayed in the one in Richland and loved it, so if one was available, then to hell with it. We found two which had two-bedroom suites (so BattleDad could get some decent sleep) and we tried the first one, but it was full. However, they kindly transferred us to the other one who had a two-bedroom suite available and not at a ridiculous price either.

BattleDad passed over his Marriott rewards card number, secured the suite and we both breathed a sigh of relief. We went into Walmart to get some supplies for the rest of the week and even treated BattleKid to yet another Cars 3 toy, this time a steering wheel. We sent our AirBnB host a message to let them know we weren’t going to be staying in their place, and that we’d return the key on Saturday on our way to the airport. We returned to the house, put the suitcases into the car and drove the 45 minutes, in rush-hour traffic, to the TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Hillsboro.

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Hello Portland rush hour!

The same lady BattleDad had spoken to was on reception and, Gracele I think her name was, couldn’t have been nicer. The hotel was lovely, the staff were friendly, and it really put our minds at ease. I was so grateful we were in the position to be able to switch accommodation just like that. I dread to think what the remainder of our week would have been like had we not been fortunate enough to be able to afford an accommodation change at a moment’s notice. It is the first time we’ve ever done something like that and the first time we haven’t felt comfortable in an AirBnB house.

BattleDad later spoke to a colleague who regularly uses AirBnB with his family, who travel the world, and he said they’ve done the same on a few occasions; booked into a hotel when they’ve gotten a bad vibe about an AirBnB place or the surrounding area. He said we did the right thing. This made me feel better knowing we weren’t the only ones to ever do this.

After checking in, we found our room and it was just gorgeous. Large and comfortable, I knew straight away this was a good place to end our USA road trip in, whatever the rest of Portland had in store for us!

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Bedroom 1
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Living room
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Bedroom 2

We unpacked and then drove across the road to find somewhere to have dinner. We decided on a Red Robin and were really impressed by the place. The food was great, portion sizes weren’t ridiculous and reasonably priced too. It felt so good to sit down, comfortable with where we were going to be staying for the next four nights.

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Enjoying a non-alcoholic cocktail in Red Robin

We got back to the hotel at 8.30 and had BattleKid in bed half an hour later. It was then we realised he had done 3000 miles in the car, spending 60+ hours in it and he had been an absolute star. He never complained once or had a tantrum. He did it all without a tablet or electronic gadget in sight and his overall behaviour had been amazing. We couldn’t have asked for a better travelling companion and I was glad we had some things in store for him to enjoy in the coming days.

We went to sleep that night feeling a lot safer, excited to explore Portland.

Cath x

USA Road Trip Holiday Diaries – Day 10

I woke at 7.30 with BattleKid to a lot of smoke outside. It was even thicker than previous days. I was glad we had experienced smoke haze and the associated smell in Portugal as it didn’t panic me like it might have. That said, I was glad we were going to be leaving this day.

BattleDad woke at 8 and after showers, we had breakfast before tidying up the apartment and packing up the car. Even he remarked how thick the smoke haze had gotten overnight.

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Smokey sky of Montana as we left Missoula

At 9.30am we left the apartment and filled up with gas just down the road from the apartment. We stopped at Cabela’s as I wanted to swap my trapper hat for a larger size. Despite trying the first one on in the shop, we came to realise after that I could do with a bigger one. BattleDad bought himself a cap and hoodie.

I have to say that the staff at Cabela’s were one of the nicest set of people we’d come across in a shop. Extremely friendly, and very helpful, it was no wonder the Missoula store had been voted best in America, 3 years after first opening up.

I started the driving for the day, taking us 230 miles until we hit the other side of Spokane. We drove all of those miles through smoke haze, there was just no let up. In parts you had limited visibility, until it would open up again, giving us hope we might be coming through it. But to no avail. It was everywhere we went.

BattleKid got an hour sleep and woke shortly before we stopped for lunch, just outside Spokane. We pulled into services off I-90 and decided to try a Denny’s for some food. We’d seen these advertised on many of the highways and BattleDad wanted to try them. I had a chicken salad, BattleKid had chicken nuggets and BattleDad enjoyed a Phily sandwich. All the food was good and definitely filled a hole in our bellies.

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Denny’s, our lunch stop for the day

BattleDad then drove the last 120 miles to Richland, our stopping point for the night. Again, all we saw enroute was smoke haze.

We arrived at our hotel for the night, the TownePlace Suites by Marriott again, the same place we’d stayed at on our first night in the States. The same guy was on reception and he was very welcoming and accommodating. And I have to say I highly recommend this hotel, apart from the sofa beds.

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The TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Richland

I spent the first hour doing laundry as I knew there were no washing facilities at our next AirBnB, having checked with our host. Guest laundry is a room with a few washing machines and separate tumble driers. I managed to get all of our washing done and most of it dried before heading back up to the boys to sort what we were going to do for dinner.

BattleDad did a TripAdvisor search and we settled on visiting the Steppe Smokehouse Brewery for dinner. I’ll be honest and say this wasn’t the best meal we had in the States. The meat was nice and quite tasty, but the sides were just okay. BattleKid wasn’t too fussed on the meal either.

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The meat was tasty enough
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Unfortunately the sides left alot to be desired

Back at the hotel by 8pm, we got into our pj’s and got BattleKid into bed. We had a one-bedroom suite this time and it worked out great, as BattleDad and I were able to watch some Ozark before getting into bed ourselves by 10pm, ready for our last day of long driving.

Cath x

Portland to Yellowstone and Back Again – A Two-week Itinerary

Many of you who read the blog and follow us on Instagram will know we have just returned from an epic two-week USA road trip in which we went from Portland to Yellowstone and back again. It was 11 months in the planning, from Portland to Yellowstone, and came around rather quickly after we moved to Portugal. Before we knew it, we were getting ready to go.

I have so much to write up about our trip. From amazingly beautiful Yellowstone, to smoky Montana, to hip and trendy Portland, we packed in a lot over our two weeks. I’ve had some people ask me about our itinerary so I thought I should get cracking with it. So, in the first of a few (ok, maybe many) posts about our wonderful trip, here is what our itinerary for our two-week trip looks like from Portland to Yellowstone and back again, with 36 hours in London.

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Portugal to London – Thursday, 1000 miles, 2 hours 30 minutes

When we booked our flights to Portland from Heathrow last October, we were still well and truly living in Wales. Delta Airways had just opened their new (and the only) direct route from Heathrow to Portland, in association with Virgin Atlantic. This made a huge difference to how our trip was going to work out. When we had previously looked into the trip, we would have had at least one, if not two stop-overs. With a toddler in tow, this would not have been ideal. But a direct flight most definitely was.

That said, once we moved to Portugal, we needed to book flights to and from the UK to connect with our Portland flight. The only airline flying to Heathrow from Faro around the weekend of our trip was British Airways. We flew to Heathrow on the Thursday evening (there were no other flights before our Portland one), two days before our flight to Portland. This flight was just under two and a half hours. Following this, we had 36 hours in London and we had a great day in London. More on that to come.

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Starting our epic trip

London to Portland – Saturday, 4897 miles, 10 hours

Our flight from Heathrow to Portland with Delta Airways left London at 12.30pm and was scheduled to be 10 hours 55 minutes, arriving at 3.15pm local time. We actually arrived ahead of schedule at 2.30pm. This is the longest flight we have done with our son to date and it was us adults who were getting bored long before he was.

Portland, Oregon to Richland, Washington – Saturday, 227 miles, 3 hours

Our first destination on our road trip was going to be Yellowstone but to drive there in one trip would have involved between 762 and 829 miles, and a minimum of 12 to 13 hours driving, without stops, depending on the route we decided to take. You can either go over the top of the Nez Perce Clearwater National Forest or around the bottom of the Sawtooth National Forest. We had a look on Google Maps and saw nice roads around the Nez Perce route, so opted for that.

But with our son in tow, we decided to break up the driving by stopping at a town called Richland, in Washington state, for an overnight stay before driving the rest of the way to Island Park close to Yellowstone. So, after picking up our Hertz car for the two-weeks, hubby drove us to Richland via I-84 and the very beautiful Columbia Gorge Creek.

Richland, Washington to Island Park, Idaho – Sunday, 607 miles, 12 hours

From Richland we made our way to our AirBnB accommodation in Island Park, Idaho, located 30 minutes from the West Yellowstone entrance. We had looked into staying within Yellowstone itself but this proved to be outside our budget.

Leaving our hotel at 6am, our route took us along some stunning scenery past Coeur D’Alene, along I-90, until we turned off onto US-287. From there we met up with I-20, just south of West Yellowstone and it was a short hop to Island Park where our log cabin was located. This was a long haul and we stopped four times along the way, twice to fill up with gas (as the Americans would say), once to stretch our legs, and once in Missoula for lunch. It took us a total of 12 hours to drive the 607 miles. Our drive from Santander to Tavira, when we moved to Portugal, was good practice for this trip.

Yellowstone – Sunday evening to Friday morning

We spent 5 nights in our AirBnB wood cabin and toured Yellowstone National Park over four days. Although we didn’t get to see absolutely everything, we came away from our visit thoroughly content with what we did see. Our son did not complain once during the trip, as you have a lot of driving around the park to do. We got to see some stunning natural wonders along with quite a few of the animal inhabitants of Yellowstone. I cannot recommend Yellowstone National Park enough.

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Gibbon Falls, Yellowstone National Park

Island Park, Idaho to Lolo, Montana – Friday, 280 miles, 4 hours 30 minutes

Leaving our AirBnB accommodation in Island Park at 9.30am, we took I-20 to US-287. We stopped once to fill up and use the toilet and, taking I-90, we arrived at Missoula, Montana, the main town beside Lolo at 2pm. Since we arrived early and before our check-in time for our next AirBnb, we stopped for lunch at a great Five Guys in Missoula.

This drive back was not as clear as the drive towards Island Park. We later discovered that a lot of Montana’s forests were on fire and the smoke we drove through was pretty awful, reducing visibility quite a bit.

Lolo and Missoula, Montana – Friday evening to Monday morning

We spent 3 nights in Lolo, the next town over from Missoula. Our plans were to visit Lolo National Forest while we were there but unfortunately those plans went by the wayside as there were wild fires across Lolo National Forest, along with many of the other forests in Montana. So, instead, we discovered some other delights close to Lolo like the National Bison Range, the Garden of 1000 Buddhas, and Missoula town itself.

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The incredible smoky skies in Montana

Lolo, Montana to Richland, Washington – Monday, 350 miles, 6 hours

As we made our way back towards Portland, we had another overnight stay in Richland planned. Leaving our AirBnB accommodation in Lolo by 9.30am, we travelled back along I-90, through 350 miles of smoke haze, which had various degrees of visbility, until we arrived in Richland at 4pm, local time. We had crossed a time zone when we left Montana.

We filled up just once on this trip and stopped once for lunch in a town called Spokane. I drove the first 230 miles, while hubby did the last 120 miles. We passed Coeur D’Alene again but could barely see this beautiful lake due to the smoke haze.

Richland, Washington to Portland, Oregon – Tuesday, 227 miles, 5 hours 30 minutes

We left our hotel in Richland at 9.30am but didn’t arrive at our accommodation in Portland until 3pm. The reason for this was the forest around Multnomah Falls and along the Columbia Gorge Creek had gone up in flames on the Sunday, and as a result, I-84 was closed. This meant we were diverted around Mount Hood, adding a couple of hours onto our journey.

Our intent was to visit Multnomah Falls on our way to Portland as I really wanted to photograph it, but that never happened. We filled up once on this trip and stopped for lunch off Highway 35 for lunch. Our final long leg of driving had come to an end.

Portland, Oregon – Tuesday afternoon to Saturday afternoon

We spent four nights in Portland and thoroughly enjoyed our break from driving. We visited a few places where our son could relax and enjoy himself like Oregon Zoo and the Children’s Museum. It was nice to have a chance to relax after an epic 11 days, 3000 miles and 60+ hours in the car. We did a little shopping, ate good food and got ourselves ready for our return trip to Portugal via London.

portland to yellowstone - trendy Portland building right out of Grimm
Hip and trendy Portland

Portland, Oregon to London Heathrow – Saturday, 4914 miles, 8 hours 42 minutes

As always, on the return trip from America, we had a good tailwind, so our original flight time of 9 hours 55 minutes was a lot quicker and we got to Heathrow ahead of schedule. I managed a few hours’ sleep, along with our son, but hubby never manages more than a few minutes on planes. It was a pretty uneventful flight.

London to Portugal – Sunday, 1000 miles, 2 hours 15 minutes

We had a few hours to kill in Heathrow between flights, so once we got rid of our bags we had lunch and did a little shopping before our flight to Faro was called. Unfortunately, we were delayed by almost 2 hours as they couldn’t get a passenger with a broken leg off the aircraft. Not what we wanted at the end of our holiday, all we wanted was to get home to our beds.

portland to yellowstone

So, there you have it, our full itinerary for our recent USA road trip from Portugal to London, to Portland to Yellowstone, and back again. We covered a lot of miles, both in the car and by plane, and we’d do it all again. That said, if we were to do it all again, the only thing we would change would be the time of year we go.

Due to wild fires in many of the forests in the Pacific North West, we didn’t get to visit Lolo National Park or Multnomah Falls. We also drove through 600 miles of smoke haze from Montana all the way to Portland and had it until our very last day in Portland itself. We’d perhaps choose to go earlier in the summer before it gets hot, and dry, enough for wild fires. Other than that, we wouldn’t change a thing.

Have you done an epic road trip similar to this? I’d love to hear all about it!

Cath x

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