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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

The vortex strikes back!

May 20, 2022 (Fri)

Once again, “free Wi-Fi” and “working internet connection” are two different concepts in the RV camping world, so we’re off to find someplace where we can get caffeinated and connected.

9:00 am Dunsmuir

We thought we’d try a local coffee shop, figuring that we’ve given enough of our bucks to Starbucks, so we head to a local coffee shop. The place is listed as being open Wednesday to Sunday, but (checking calendar) today is Friday, so we should be good to go.

On arrival, there’s a sign on the door, “Closed for Maintenance.”

“Hey Siri, where’s the nearest Starbucks?”

9:45 am Weed

We’re now in a town that has to regularly replace their town sign as people keep swiping it: Weed, California. There is a Starbucks here, and boy howdy is it busy!

“Those women behind the counter are on roller skates, they’re moving so fast!” says Gini. And all four of them are in pretty constant motion filling orders. Two bad the local coffee shop can’t cash in on this business…

A wide awake Robert eagerly writes our trip log

In answer to the inevitable question (or at least Robert’s inevitable question): Yes, you can buy weed in Weed. In fact, there are four marijuana stores in town. We take a pass, because driving 70 mph in a slightly rickety RV on twisty mountain roads isn’t compatible with being high.

But you can't get weed at Starbucks

11:00 am

We finish up the trip log and get it sent (lots of pictures of our caboose yesterday!). Now that we’re in the mountains (and there seems to be a lot of mountains here in Northern California), the temperatures have plummeted down to 48 degrees.

The driving would be a lot less fun during the winter, it occurs to us.

12:00 pm Yreka! We almost found it!

This entire trip, Gini has been in search of a restaurant where she and her family would stop on trips. At first, she thought it might be in Eureka (which you might recall we stopped in, partly to see if we could jog any memories).

Now she’s sure it’s in Yreka (obvious confusion), so we criss-cross Old Yreka a few times, but nothing stands out.

Finally, on our way out of town, she spots it! All boarded up.

It was called Grandma’s House and was a cornerstone of the community (according to local press). It closed in February of 2016 (it’s been 20 years since Gini visited) and they were well known for their bread pudding ”made from scratch.” How the heck else do you make bread pudding? It’s only like three ingredients. Is there a Betty Crocker Bread Pudding mix we’ve missed? Can you get canned bread pudding?

(You will not get answers to our many bread pudding questions, however.)

12:30 pm

While we’re in town, we stop by the Ford dealership. Harvey started life as a Ford Econoline E300 van, before the Chinook company in Yakima, Washington, turned him into an RV. For things related to the van part—like why do the side mirrors keep folding in while we’re driving—we consult with the Ford folks.

We asked on an on-line forum for tips on dealing with this. A person there said they dropped by a Ford dealer who took care of it in a jiffy.

We’ve got enough time and we’re tired of pushing out our folding mirrors, so…

The service guy looks at it, scratches his head, and goes to get a roll of duct tape. A few minutes later, the mirror is securely wrapped and we’re off. We don’t think this is the same as the on-line solution, but an hour of 70 mph driving later, it turns out to be a working solution, so we’ll take it.

The inelegant, but working, solution

1:45 pm The vortex!

This is one of the original roadside attractions in Oregon, and you can see faded signs for it scattered about this part of the country. They advertise “The House of Mystery at the Oregon Vortex”!

We’re suckers for this kind of thing so we point Harvey in that direction. It’s not exactly a “roadside” attraction, though. It’s more of a “five miles off the freeway down a rural road” attraction, but it’s got plenty of parking, so we pull in.

Even after our numerous discounts (“Wise ones,” “ex-teacher,” “left-handed brother”) we still pay $17 a piece to visit, so we’ll save you a bit of driving and a few bucks.

It’s essentially a 45 minute magic show, that’s not terribly interesting. Too much patter, not enough illusions. It’s all based on optical illusion stuff as a quick trip to Wikipedia will confirm. They claim that mass is being added and subtracted as you move through the vortex, and Robert has a hard time not bursting out laughing.

The “House of Mystery” part is a house that slid downhill and got all wonky, so what seems to be level isn’t. It’s a little nausea-inducing.

Here we are in front of the "House of Mystery"

The slightly wonky backside of the "House of Mystery"

Inside the mysteriously crooked house

3:00 pm Revenge of the Vortex

We return to Harvey in the Vortex parking lot and Robert has some leftover garlic chicken (“Still garlicky!”) and Gini enjoys a PBJ sandwich (“It’s one of the food groups!”).

As we’re getting ready to leave, the Vortex—sensing our snarky attitude—strikes back by making a nut on our rear stairs disappear! It was there before, but now it’s gone! There’s no other explanation! It couldn’t have been the hundreds of miles of teeth-rattling rough roads we’ve driven over at high speed!

There are two ways to get into the main cabin of Harvey, where the bed, stove, bathroom, and so forth are located. You can squeeze back there from the front seats (it turns out we’re not so good at impersonating toothpaste) or you can walk around to the back, put down some folding stairs and walk in like a human being.

The stairs are a clever bit of folding engineering that are always a little cranky and sometimes bite the unwary. Seems that a nut holding everything together has departed and rendered the steps un-steppable.

Since we’re not eager to jump three feet from the ground into the back of Harvey, we head out on a quest to get it fixed! On a Friday afternoon. In a strange town. For a 22-year-old RV.

4:45 pm Caveman RV

Well, after getting our directions confused and going a few miles out of our way (and almost knocking on somebody’s door and asking if they had an RV service business in their backyard), we found Caveman RV in Grants Pass. It took some finagling (for some reason, our American made RV uses metric bolts?), but we no longer need to be Olympic jumpers to use the bathroom.


Our heroes!

This has, of course, put us a bit behind schedule, so we’re off to do some serious driving!

Gini getting some serious driving in

9:30 pm Eugene

We find our lovely RV park in Eugene, Oregon. First we run out for a quick steak and potato (“Another important food group,” says Gini). This means we end up backing into our spot in the dark, and out here in Oregon, they have some serious dark! We almost run over the campground provided table and chairs and we’re not entirely straight in our site, but we’re here! We climb up our newly functional stairs and fall into bed (well, “fall into bed” means “clear off the table, fold it down and move the seat cushions over, then convert the couch into the other half of the bed and pull down the bedding,” but we’re champs at this by now, so it goes quickly).

Gini & Robert

Harvey Staff

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