The Oregon Trail – TBEX 11 Road Trip Day 2

My Pacific Northwest trip has been rather boring so far. Certainly nothing exotic like the international trip reports being published by Lucky with his two weeks around the world journey or the Points Guy in Tokyo. I’ve seen a few hotels and drank a few good microbrews, but my original plan to visit several national parks during this road trip has been a bust.

As I have discovered, early June is still a bit too soon to visit the mountain parks with the heavy snow accumulations from winter/spring 2011. That is why Yosemite National Park had some of the best waterfall flow in years last month. Mid-May heavy rain and snow storms kept me from visiting Sequoia National Park, California when I was in neighboring Kings Canyon National Park three weeks ago. Rain and deep snow kept me away from Lassen, Crater Lake and Rainier too this week.

There are six parks within the driving range of Monterey to Vancouver.

  • Redwoods National Park, California
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
  • Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
  • North Cascades National Park, Washington
  • Olympic National Park, Washington

From a hotels viewpoint, an interesting thing I learned this past month is two major companies run many of the hotels in several of the western states National Parks.

Delaware North is a privately owned company that runs hotels and restaurants in the National Parks of Yosemite, Yellowstone and Sequoia. The company also operates dining establishments in many major airports like Denver, Los Angeles and numerous sports stadium venues. Here is a link to hotels run by Delaware North.

Delaware North CEO Jeremy Jacobs also owns the Boston Bruins. That is the National Parks and Stanley Cup connection. Tomorrow night should be an interesting time to be in Vancouver for game five of the 2-2 tied Stanley Cup ice hockey championship final series.

Glad I have my room in Vancouver already booked.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts runs hotels in National Parks of Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Zion, Mount Rushmore and Death Valley.

Three U.S. National Parks were created around Cascade volcanoes.

California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park features Mount Lassen at 10,462 feet. This is the most southern volcano of the Cascade Range. Besides the volcanic eruption at Mount St Helens in 1980, Lassen Peak is the only other volcano in the lower 48 United States to have erupted in the 20th century (1914-1917). Lassen is the snowiest place in California and this year’s snowfall is about 36% above average.

I first learned to drive in snow and ice at Lassen National Park when I was 17 and staying with my cousin who grew up in that area of California around Lake Almanor. Those memories of spinning the car on ice tend to keep me away from the high mountains of California in the winter. The rain storms this past week also changed my mind about visiting Lassen National Park on this trip.

Crater Lake National Park (Mount Mazama) is an iconic image in my mind going back to when I was five years old. After a few minutes of internet research I realized that my fascination with National Parks started in 1965.

CBS televised a cartoon called TennesseeTuxedo from 1963 to 1966. The voice for this animated penguin character was Don Adams of ‘Get Smart’ fame. He had a companion called Chumley the Walrus. General Mills cereal was the primary sponsor of Tennessee Tuxedo and in 1965 there was a promotion offering a National Parks coloring book with national parks stamps. My favorite stamp in the coloring book was Crater Lake National Park. That image of Crater Lake National Park is one of my most vivid childhood memories.

I stayed in Medford, Oregon Saturday night and I was within 90 miles of the park. I have never been to Crater Lake National Park. The weather looked cloudy on the Crater Lake web cam when I was a two hour drive away. The rain I experienced Saturday made me think twice about heading up a 7,000-foot mountain with a possibility of rain. I decided to postpone Crater Lake on this trip and hopefully I can get there later in the summer after the snow has melted away somewhat. Though this guy looks pretty cool driving Crater Lake Rim Road surrounded by snow last week.

Southern Oregon – Rednecks, Bears and God

I took a leisurely drive up I-5 through southern Oregon.

Stopped in Grants Pass where I drove into town to check out the Rogue River. Just by chance I pulled into the parking lot of the #1 TripAdvisor rated hotel in Grants Pass, Oregon – The Lodge at Riverside.

The Lodge at Riverside, Grants Pass, Oregon

Grants Pass is mountainous bear country. Looking at my photos reveals a love for bear statues in this town.

I used my Loyalty Traveler charm to get a little tour of the The Lodge at Riverside hotel.

Deluxe Room in The Lodge at Riverside, Grants Pass Oregon

Room rates are $130 for a standard room to $325 for a suite. I think I saw a deluxe room $195.

The hotel location looked convenient with the main city park across the river and a fine dining riverside cafe adjacent to the hotel. The riverside pool seemed like a relaxing place to hang out for a couple of days when the weather is warm. Memorial Day weekend is a major event in Grants Pass with the Boatnik festival.

Outdoor pool beside Rogue River at the Lodge at Riverside, Grants Pass, OR

The Rogue River is a place for whitewater rafting and jet boat excursions. I had several elementary school students who raved about taking the jet boat rides on the Rogue River when I was a teacher in Eureka, California ten years ago. In all the years living in Eureka, we never traveled north until we moved to Massachusetts.

The Lodge at Riverside, Grants Pass, OR

So this was my first time to the Rogue River. No jet boat ride for me that day. 250 miles to go to Portland, Oregon and the forecast was afternoon thunderstorms.

River Town - Grants Pass, Oregon

I pulled off I-5 after a couple hours drive in the small town of Sutherlin, Oregon to buy soda and try to wake up for the remaining three hour drive.

My brain was fuzzy from a bad night’s sleep in Medford. There was no problem with the Ramada Medford hotel, but rather the guest in the adjacent room who had the TV blaring all night long until 6:15am in the morning.

The Best Western Plus Hartford Lodge right off the interstate caught my attention as did the Microtel, a Wyndham brand. There seemed to be a Best Western hotel at just about every small town along the interstate as I drove through Oregon.

Best Western Hartford Lodge, Sutherlin, Oregon

Best Western Plus Hartford Lodge off Interstate 5 in Sutherlin, Oregon, AAA 3-diamond hotel.

Best Western Hartford Lodge, Sutherlin, Oregon

The hotel is relatively new with an indoor pool and guest laundry room, business center, small conference room and McDonald’s next door. The sign mentioning Bakery made me curious. These people were so friendly when I told them I am a hotel loyalty blogger on my way to Vancouver and I wanted to check out their hotel.

Best Western Plus Hartford Lodge Sutherlin, Oregon

Flat screen TV, microwave and room refrigerator

Best Western Plus bathroom at Hartford Lodge, Sutherlin, OR

After telling the manager about my bad night’s sleep in Medford, she even generously offered me a room to get a couple hour’s sleep before continuing my drive. I kindly thanked her for the courtesy, but refused. Don’t want to be mired in the debate over ethics as a professional blogger.

Indoor pool and hot tub at Best Western Plus, Sutherlin, Oregon

In full disclosure to my readers, I did accept a complimentary chocolate chip cookie baked by the hotel manager herself for a nice sugar buzz as I continued my drive north. In my opinion the cookie was excellent quality, but since you will likely have to pay $1.75 for the same cookie I received gratis, I realize my opinion probably doesn’t mean much to some readers in my biased review of the Best Western bakery.

The hotel was pretty nice too.

God’s Country

Radio stations in southern Oregon tended to be one of three genres: Country, God and obnoxious metal rock. I was so happy to approach Eugene and actually locate a bluegrass music show. Although, I thought  “redneck yacht club” appropriate for the southern Oregon locale and the tune is kind of catchy.

Cottage Grove farm, Oregon's Willamette Valley

Oregon, like most places, has different regional personalities with different cultural norms. Even my family has a couple of Oregon immigrants. I have one cousin who grew up in Alaska and now lives around Portland, Oregon and spends his spare time as an amateur cyclist. Another cousin moved from southern California to southern Oregon in the mid-1980s and changed his name to Buck.

Oregon lumber

Willamette Valley, Oregon is a relatively flat area about 100 miles south to north and 15 to 25 miles wide. This area is truly heaven with great soil in a large inland valley surrounded by abundant natural resources of wood, water, wildlife and great weather. California’s Central Valley is rather arid in the southern sections and significant industrial scale improvements to control flooding and irrigate land in the dry season were necessary to make the ‘Big Valley’ an agricultural crop mecca. The Willamette Valley is a compact version of the California Central Valley with better weather.

Willamette Valley, Oregon view east from Interstate 5

The drive through the Willamette Valley finally hit home with me for how rich this Oregon land must have been for early pioneers. I taught 5th grade for several years and 5th grade history focuses on ‘Exploration of America’. The western movement and the Oregon Trail is a major component of the curriculum. After being in the Sierras last month and driving 300 miles in the hilly terrain from Redding to Eugene, I realized the geographical significance of the Willamette Valley, Oregon. This is where the major cities of Oregon are found including Eugene, Salem and Portland just north of the valley.

Willamette Valley, Oregon view west from Interstate 5

Approaching Portland I got off the freeway and drove the country roads. Found myself in the historic Christian colony of Aurora founded in 1856. There are several 19th century houses that today are antique shops.

Antique shop in Aurora, Oregon

I spent the night at the Sheraton Portland Airport. Too tired to go into town. Too noisy to sleep while the planes landed and took off. I had stayed at this hotel a couple of times before, but this was the first time I stayed in a runway facing room. It was loud!

Sheraton Portland Airport runway view room included complimentary sound effects.

Related Posts:

Cascading my way to TBEX Vancouver – Day 1

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »



  1. I wish I would’ve known you were making the trip. Somehow it slipped by me. I live in Bend, Oregon and it’s hands down the most beautiful place in Oregon. Lots of mountains, rivers, etc. Enjoy your trip!

  2. I’m surprised that, as a frequent hotel visitor, you made two (IMO) errors. You should have asked for a “buffer room” in Medford (assuming hotel was not filled) or at least a room at the end of the hall. In Portland, you stayed on the noisy side of the hotel.

    Well, at least you got the special cookie that they probably keep reserved in the display case, on the off chance that a foodie with a Michelin clipboard comes along to review the place… 🙂

  3. @Ed – At hotels I generally take what I am given unless it is a room with no view and I want a view. The room I was given at Sheraton PDX had the preferred view.

    I review hotels based on what I receive. If the hotel wants to put me in the Presidential suite then I review the Presidential Suite and if they want to put me overlooking the dumpster, then I review the hotel room with the dumpster view.


    I’ve stayed in a full suite at the Sheraton PDX, but I assume far more guests will experience the rooms with airport runway noise than the full suite.

  4. @Kyle – Good possibility I will drive home via Bend and give the eastern Cascades a view. Maybe the weather will be clear for Crater Lake next week.

  5. I’m perfectly fine with this down-home itinerary after doing the Singapore lounge and hotel thing several years ago (and with no desire at all to visit the phony Persian Gulf states).

  6. The PDX Sheraton is especially noisy right now as the north runway (the one the hotel borders) is the only long runway that is open at PDX. The south runway is closed for renovations for a couple months. There is a cross runway farther down that is open, but only used by smaller planes (i.e. not loud jets).

  7. @Ric, I almost always try for a room that is as quiet as possible (I like sleep!).

    And it’s okay for me if you take what they give you—that just makes it easier for them to accommodate my special room requests!

  8. Just saw your posting for this ; incredible report. btw…I had that runway view room when I had my wedding at that Sheraton PDX Airport….my wife thought I was crazy to book that room but she found out another side of me that she didn’t know–a side to which this day, she is thankful for finding and much respects after the countless first class traveling she has done thanks to my hobby of points and love of flying.

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