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We left off the last post at the beach across the highway from the Lucky 7 Casino in Smith River. Smith River is only about 3-4 miles south of the border to Oregon. We stayed there for one night, then set off on July 4th into Oregon.
I have to say, I think this was the best 4th of July I’ve ever had. Fireworks are interesting, but I think what we did this year was a lot better than any fireworks I’ve seen.
There are 2 things you have to consider when travelling the coast of Oregon:
- There is a lot of water.
- There are a lot of changes in the direction of the road (meaning twists and turns) and a lot of changes in elevation as well.
The first item may seem obvious. But I’m not talking just about the ocean. There are also many rivers, saltwater bays and lakes right along the coast. We have found ourselves travelling with water on each side of the highway many times since we entered Oregon. Also, because it is the coast, there is significant fog and moisture, just as you would see in San Francisco during the summer. We didn’t mind the weather at all.
As for the second item, this just means that it takes longer to get wherever you are going. Even though our trip was 123 miles (maybe 3 hours for a motorhome of our size over flat ground) the elevation changed quite a bit. 5600 feet both up and down, to be more exact. Our fastest average speed was about 50 miles per hour, and there were many times that we had to go much slower for hills, turns, or when the freeway passed through a town.
As I mentioned before, on terrain like this it’s important to stop along the way to avoid fatigue as well as long trips being hard on brakes and tires. We also have a general rule that we switch drivers every 2 hours, and of course we need to eat. We made 2 stops along the way. This makes the trip take longer overall, but in some ways it feels shorter because you aren’t driving for as long all at once.
Our first stop was to the Prehistoric Gardens just south of Port Orford, Oregon. If you’re ever in this area, I would recommend stopping by. It won’t take very long, and is worth the money if only to support the patch of rainforest that they have cultivated and preserved. There are some plants that I have never seen anywhere else at this park, it really adds to the experience of being in another time.
The dinosaurs themselves are 23 life-sized creations spread throughout the park with information about each animal, the period of history during which they lived, what they ate, etc. The whole operation is very well-kept. I like that it is a family-owned business, and still owned by the original family that opened the park in 1955.
We pretty much had the place to ourselves! It was very peaceful and quiet. You could easily forget how close you were to 101.
Tickets are $12 per adult. Leashed dogs are allowed in the park, but we would never bring our little crazies in there. Mack might extinct some endangered plant.
They also have a very cute gift shop, and plenty of space for RVs. When we stop somewhere, we let the dogs and cat roam free inside the RV. We close the curtains in the front so it won’t get too hot and so the boys aren’t concerned about anyone walking by (although Mickey usually likes to sit in front of the curtain and watch the scenery. In this weather, it’s cool enough that we don’t have to worry about them getting overheated.
The trip between Smith River and the Prehistoric Gardens was about 56 miles. From Port Orford, we continued north for another 31 miles to Bandon, Oregon. Here’s where my day got about as good as it could get.
West Coast Game Park Safari
Anyone who knows me can figure out why this place would be like heaven to me. All sorts of animals, and I can feed and pet some of them, including some that I’ve never been able to pet before?!? This is even better than the time I accidentally pet the tiger shark at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (before Ryan pointed out that tank wasn’t for petting)!! Anyway…
Obviously, there are some animals that it’s a bad idea to pet. Adult tigers, peacocks, bears, leopards…sadly for me, they are old enough to realize that humans probably taste good and they stay in their pens. I have some great footage of them in the video, though.
But there are goats, sheep, deer, rams, llamas and donkeys roaming around. You can feed and pet them and as is normal in a petting zoo, they will typically flock around anybody with food and can be quite insistent. One of the donkeys nudged Ryan in a rather inappropriate place in order to get his attention. ;p
The park uses a natural breeding program, even breeding some endangered species. Many of the baby animals are hand-raised, with the handlers taking turns hosting the animals at home each night. This hands-on attention is what allows the animals to be approached by other humans who visit the park (at least while they’re young, anyway), but I’m sure it makes them easier to handle as they mature as well. We actually watched one of the handlers call a leopard over to her “cave” and she went right in. No poking or prodding needed; no coaxing with
pieces of meat. He just said “come here” and she walked over to where she was supposed to go.
Possums and Lynxes and Bears! Oh my!
We got to pet a lynx, fox, a bear cub, a bobcat kitten, and a (de-scented) skunk. We got to pet and HOLD ferrets (did you know their spines are made of cartilage?) and a baby possum, who was the biggest snuggler ever. This video is probably going to be a little longer, because we recorded loads of footage at this place.
After the safari it was only another 34 miles to North Bend. In case you’re counting, this is casino stop #3 on our trip. This one has full hookups though, and we stayed there Monday through Saturday.
Alright, you’re probably more than ready to see the video now. Enjoy!