The RV parking area at Cabela’s worked out fine for an overnight stop. Donna was bothered a bit by the road noise from I-5, which is just to the south of the parking lot. I didn’t notice it much and slept well.
Donna went out for a power walk before we headed out. We hit the road around 10:30am. We stopped at Uhlmann RV in Chehalis to see if they had the proper size bolts for the loose compartment door. Uhlmann was the highest sales volume dealer for Alpine Coach. They didn’t have any idea of what size bolts were needed.
I backtracked a few miles to Home Depot. I guessed the blind holes the bolts came out of were either 6mm (if metric) or 1/4 inch. I bought two of each size with lock washers and tried them in the parking lot. The 6mm bolts threaded in, but the threads felt loose. The 1/4 inch bolts didn’t fit. I think when the original bolts came loose, they vibrated and shook in the threads enough to partially strip them. I tightened them as much as I dared, but I wasn’t confident about them holding. I left the temporary safety wire fix in place.
While I was doing this, Donna fixed a green salad with leftover roasted chicken for lunch. Then she looked at the Escapees’ Day’s End Directory for a place to stay. She found a promising free boondocking spot about 60 miles west of us, near the coast.
We decided to detour west and check it out. The Day’s End Directory is updated by Escapees members and is only available to Escapees members. The directory is the only way we would have found this place. Because of that, I don’t want to give away too much detail of the location. But finding places like this in the Day’s End Directory makes the Escapees membership worthwhile.
We drove west on WA6 and followed the Willapa River to the town of South Bend. We found the gravel lot described in the directory and parked in a fairly level spot. There was a sign stating that overnight RV parking is allowed.
The Willapa River flows southwest from the nearby town of Raymond. It quickly picks up volume from tributaries and then it abruptly bends to the northwest before emptying into Willapa Bay. The small town of South Bend is located at the southernmost point of the river, right at the bend.
Donna and I took a walk across the street and found a small park and the city boat dock.
We walked along the dock and saw an interesting looking boat tied up to the dock. When we came to the boat, we saw the owner sitting on the aft bench. He was waiting for family members to arrive for a boat ride down to the bay.
His name was Steve Rogers and he’s lived her all his life. He’s a Pacific County councilman. South Bend is the county seat. Steve told us a few interesting facts about the town. South Bend, WA is undergoing a period of renaissance after being sleepy for a number of years. They are encouraging tourism and are also profiting from the legalization of marijuana in Washington.
The population has remained steady at around 20,000 people, but the local economy is growing. One of the things that held growth back was the lack of wastewater treatment. This has been addressed through a cooperative effort with the town of Raymond. A new wastewater facility has been built, which has allowed the town to issue more new building permits.
Harvesting oysters from Willapa Bay is another driver for the local economy. Steve told us that the bay holds 10,000 acres of oyster beds. Oysters are processed at Hilton’s Coast Seafoods, a few hundred feet downriver from the dock. South Bend modestly calls itself “The Oyster Capital of the World.”
After we left Steve, Donna and I walked about a half mile down the road to the city boat launch. They allow RV dry camping in an area there, right on the river for $10/night. It looks like another good find. Last year we drove through this town but didn’t have a clue about how RV-friendly it is.
We walked back into town from the boat launch. We were thirsty, so we stopped at the Chester Club and Oyster Bar. It’s a small tavern and oyster bar. I had a Dick’s Pale Ale from the tap while Donna had a Bud Light. We decided we should eat. Donna loves oysters, so she ordered half a dozen oyster shooters. I’m not so much of an oyster guy, so I had fried halibut and chips.
The oysters were fresh from Willapa Bay. Donna said they were the freshest oysters she ever had, big but delicate. The oysters in Willapa Bay are farmed. Local oystermen began seeding the bay with Pacific oysters from Japan in 1928 after the native oyster population crashed. I’ll have to try the oysters while were here.
Today, we want to explore the town. The weather at this time of year is near perfect. The forecast for today is a carbon copy of yesterday – sunny with a high of 72 degrees and an overnight low in the 50s.
We’ve decided to move to the city boat launch later this afternoon and stay for another night, right on the river!