The Eccentric RVer’s Guide to Roadside Oddities of the Pacific Northwest
Average Americans become extraordinary when that new or used RV appears in their driveways. RVers just have more of an itch to escape the routine than their surprised neighbors. While some go for new vistas, others use their motorhomes to easily reach music, cultural or athletic events.
If you're looking to get away from the normal, consider getting your rig on the road to the Pacific Northwest. “Keep Portland Weird,” the unofficial slogan of Oregon’s popular city, caught on so thoroughly, it has spread too many tourist attractions in the Pacific Northwest. But, Portland doesn’t own the strangest stuff. Those traveling up or down the northern west coast (Washington, Oregon and Northern California) will find lots to puzzle, perplex and fascinate them here.
Ape Cave Lava Tube
Mt. Saint Helens National Volcanic Monuments
USFS 8303, Cougar, Washington
The parks department has created an easy path for casual tourists and a harder one for the more adventurous. The paths through this dormant volcano winds you through fascinating lava tubes of other-worldly shapes and sizes. At points, the lava hardened while flowing, leaving natural ripples. At the end of the more rigorous path, you climb a ladder out into the forest and then hike back to your starting spot. Alert: can be damp and muddy in spots.
Octopus Under Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Washington State Route 16 connecting the City of Tacoma with the Kitsap Peninsula over the Tacoma Narrows Straight of Puget Sound.By Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USA
While there’s no official museum to visit, as you cross the double suspension bridge, look down to the murky waters and know that the giant Pacific octopus pinwheels arm over arm across the floor of the Puget Sound. Typically growing up to 15 feet and 110 pounds with an enormous head, the largest octopus ever caught was 30 feet and weighed in at 600 pounds. Reddish brown at rest, the octopus can use its special pigment cells to change colors, even blending in with multi-colored coral and rock patterns. While they normally dine on lobster and clams (yum), they have been spotted wrestling sharks and birds, doing great damage with their beak-like mouths. In the 1960s, when their numbers were more robust, octopuses engaged in wrestling competitions with local men. These contests were even written up in Time magazine.
Bicycle absorbed into fir tree since 1954
Near 20312 Vashon Highway, SW, Vashon Island, Washington
Leave a bicycle left beside a young fir tree for 60 years and what to you get? A vintage bike carried five feet up a tree trunk now three feet in diameter. With only the front sprocket and rear fender and wheel rim still protruding from the bark, the tree did a consistent job of growing around the bike and eventually raising it from the ground as it reached skyward. While it's interesting to see, other visitors have given it only a three out of five for detour-worthiness.
The Oregon Vortex and House of Mystery
4303 Sardine Creek Left Fork Road, Gold Hill, Oregon 97525
Open March through October
While other tour sites promote the strange goings on in this small building as “nature and physics gone berserk,” we checked into what the Oregonians for Science and Reason had to say.
The attraction lets others say that it’s a spot where brooms stand on end, balls roll uphill and people seem to grow or shrink as they walk away from you. Some explain that a mysterious sphere of "force," half above ground and half under produces theses miracles. Rumors abound that one John Lister studied the science behind the Oregon Vortex for more than 40 years, but burned his notes just before his death! Convenient!
All this said, the site gets 4.3 stars out of 5 on 300+ Facebook reviews and 4.1 stars out of 5 from 66 reviews on Google Plus. If you’re out for a lark anyway, why not stop by. It’s a series of old buildings in a beautiful forest, just what you escaped home for anyway.
The truth of the Vortex, which you’d probably discover within minutes of arrival, is that the “Vortex” is simply a slanting building that lends itself to an array of optical illusions. In the 1890s, the Grey Eagle Mining Company built a gold assay office up the hill from a creek. Intense rain caused a mudslide that carried the building down the embankment and left it tilted against a maple. In the 1930s, entrepreneurs found the building, reinforced it and started selling tickets. It’s been an attraction every since.
36848 US Highway 101
Port Orford, Oregon
Tucked in a valley with a very wet climate, Port Orford is one of the few authentic rainforests in the United States. In 1953, enterprising new-comer E.V. Nelson saw the dripping mosses, giant ferns and towering trees and knew he finally found a place to make his passion for dinosaurs come alive. It took him two years to create the 23 life-size replicas. While he deemed these creatures “scientifically correct,” he took quite a bit of artistic license with the paints, giving a pterodactyl a yellow belly divided by mosaic shapes. Reviewers explain that the pop-art touches he added make the dark forest shimmer with color. Sounds awesome!
Mount Angel Abbey Museum
1 Abbey Drive, St. Benedict, OR
The Mount Abbey monastery for Benedictine monks has been in operation since 1882. In addition to Catholic artifacts like a replica of Jesus crown of thorns, the monks have been gathering the strange artifacts from their farm. These include the world’s largest pig hairball and several smaller versions cut in half, revealing the strange, protective substance that covers the hairball and the furry insides. The monks have also stuffed mutant animals with extra legs and partially absorbed twins. The Mount Angel Abbey's museum has everything for the twisted!
Trees of Mystery
15500 US-101, Klamath, CA 95548
36 miles south of the Oregon Border, the Trees of Mystery make touring the Redwoods convenient and fun. Giant statues of Paul Bunyan and babe the blue ox wave hello at the entrance, and the mile trail through the forest takes you past the breathtaking trees and carvings. Those who do not care to walk can take the Sky Trail gondolas through the tree tops and enjoy the downward view. The End of the Trail museum features artifacts and information about the “First Americans,” namely the Yurok, Karuk, Tolowa and other tribes. It also includes Edward Sheriff Curtis’ photography which chronicled life in the area in the early 1900s. The many native inhabitants permitted him to photograph them because of his respectful attitude and kindness.
Bigfoot Discovery Museum
5479 Highway 9, Felton, CA
Most Americans may have forgotten Bigfoot, but Mike Rugg never did. The 1968 Stanford University graduate has been collecting both evidence and memorabilia since he was a kid in the 1950s. He had a lucrative career in the computer industry until the early 2000s when the tech bubble burst. Deciding he had enough of coding, he opened the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in the early 2000s. Far from a parody, the museum is divide into three sections: Biological Bigfoot (physical and witness evidence of Bigfoot’s continuing existence); Mythical Bigfoot (legends and tales); and Paranormal Bigfoot (catering to those who attribute the creature’s existence to UFOs, and other dimensions).
Throughout the museum, you’ll find newspaper and video accounts, including the famous Patterson/Gimlin video of Bigfoot striding through the forest. The physical evidence includes skull fragments, footprint castings, hair and even scat. In addition to the artifacts, Rugg is always available.
He shares that many of the people who visit pull him aside to tell him they saw or heard or smelled (or all three) Bigfoot, never failing to ask him if they are crazy. He reassures them they are not. His explanation fascinates:
"Fifteen years ago, scientists could just laugh about Bigfoot, because there really wasn't anything they could look at that would even convince them of the plausibility of Bigfoot, really. Until we found out Neanderthals mated with humans. The latest DNA test — just published yesterday — claims what they are is a hybrid cross between a human and a caveman. That is what the Bigfoot is going to turn out to be."
La Mesa RV Finds All the Hidden Gems to Liven Up Your Next Trip
RV owners have endless opportunities to explore every nook and cranny in the United States in comfort. Here at La Mesa RV, we help make sure you find just the type of attraction you’re looking for. The oddities these states offer can sometimes reveal as much about the history and the environment as a museum! While RVers love to see the traditional attractions, we know an eccentric detour can be fun and refreshing, too.
Before you fill up your tanks however, make sure your RV is road ready. We offer smart RV service packages that save you time and money. Have a particular issue you need to discuss? Feel free to call us at 800-496-8778 or contact us here. We want to support you in the RV lifestyle!