There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who appreciate the magic that is ketchup, and those who are wrong. But that is not what this post is actually about. The real reason for this article is that I am, once again, behind, and I need to catch up on my posts. Get it? “Catch up”?

Yeah, I don’t know why you read this dreck either. But, since you’re here…

Boise, Idaho

When we set out on our travels, the capital of Idaho wasn’t high on our list of must-see destinations, but as we spent time with fellow travelers and read blogs, Boise found its way onto the list of cities we genuinely wanted to visit. Turns out, Boise has a lot going for it. In fact, it is currently the fastest growing city in the U.S.! Home to an impressive urban green space, a large well regarded university, a thriving arts scene, numerous cultural attractions, and some damned fine food, Boise is – on paper at least – our kind of city.

Unfortunately, however, we learned the hard way that visiting Boise in the summer can be a less-than-stellar idea. Behold:

Whoops.

Temperatures, parked in the high 90’s and triple digits throughout our visit, resulted in us spending many days inside, window shades drawn, giving thanks for the wonders of air conditioning.

Our RV park was located right on the famous Greenbelt, a 25 mile bike path that meanders through Boise. Our original plan was to use the trail as a gateway to exploring the city, but the insane temperatures quickly put the kibosh on that idea. In the end, we only headed out on the trail twice, which was a bummer because the path was really beautiful.

View of the Snake Rover from the Boise Greenbelt
View of the Snake River from the Boise Greenbelt

When not sticking our heads in the freezer in a futile attempt to avoid melting, we headed downtown to check out the impressive state capitol building…

and otherwise explored the surprisingly diverse food options around the city. Turns out, Boise is more multi-cultural than you might expect.

For starters, Boise is home to the largest Basque population outside of Spain. The city’s Basque Block is full of restaurants, shops, and a cultural center. The neighborhood also hosts a large Basque festival, known as the Jaialdi Festival, which takes place every five years.

The Basque Cultural Center in Boise
Outside the Basque Cultural Center

More important to us (because we’re obsessed with food) were the eateries… We’d heard from multiple sources that The Basque Market, a tiny restaurant that offers a marketplace full of authentic Basque food items, was the place to go, and we loved it! The restaurant hosts different types of meals throughout the week – tasting menus, cooking classes, “paella on the patio,” and a tapas bar on the weekend. We visited on a Saturday afternoon and sampled several delicious small plates from their tapas bar.

The Basque Market in Boise
A small sampling of the many tasty tapas available for sampling at the Basque Market
You can take as many items off the bar as you want. They count up the toothpicks at the end to determine the price of your meal.

Also to be filed under “interesting and unexpected facts about Boise,” the city has been an official refugee resettlement area for the U.S. government since 1975. Refugees fleeing Southeast Asia during the Vietnam war were settled in the Boise area, followed by eastern European communities fleeing Soviet regimes in the 1980’s. In the 90’s, citizens fleeing ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Herzegovina resettled there and, more recently, residents of several African countries have made Boise their home. The constant influx of newcomers has led to a surprisingly diverse blend of ethnicities in the city.

Speaking of which, we sampled Vietnamese (Pho Bac), Cuban (Casa Blanca), and Thai restaurants (Pat’s Thai Kitchen) and found them all to be solid and impressive.

Yum-Woon-Sen at Pat’s Thai Kitchen in Boise.

Our exploration of interesting and diverse food choices continued as we headed to the hugely popular town of Bend, Oregon.

Bend, Oregon

Bend was the location of several events and, more importantly, several people we wanted to see. Our friends Shannon and Dave, whom we met in San Diego in March, live part time in Bend and suggested we all reunite for the town’s August beer fest.

Simply put, Bend is a great town. Pedestrian and bike friendly, it is a city surrounded by gorgeous natural resources and home to an endless array of things to do, beer to drink, and interesting foods to eat. The town is young, vibrant, and eclectic, though its diversity begins and ends with various versions of white people.

The downtown is beautiful, walkable, and full of unique shops. Every inch is manicured and well cared for, but not in a phony “planned community” kind of way. The town just clearly spends money on keeping everything appealing to those who value outdoor recreation and healthy living.

The houses are gorgeous, and priced accordingly, though we learned the city is very much a “boom and bust” kind of place – subject to incredible price inflation and the emergence of high end businesses when the economy is doing well, and plummeting home values and shuttered store fronts when the economy is doing poorly. In other words, all the people currently plunking down $500,000 for a nine-hundred-square-foot-condo are gonna get their asses handed to them in a couple years when the economy contracts. People never learn….

If you’ve noticed many of my photos for this post seem very dark and gray, it’s because our friendly neighborhood wildfires followed us to town. We got used to white skies and, at times, thick smoke that blanketed the region.

A super smoky day along the Deschutes River in Bend

Newberry Volcanic National Monument

Speaking of smoke, there was a ton of it the day we visited Newberry Volcanic National Monument, site of a rather enormous volcano which last erupted 1300 years ago. This monument is just a couple miles south of the town of Bend and well worth a visit if you find yourself in the area. We started with a visit to the Lava Lands Visitor’s Center and then wandered through a section of the lava fields.

A path leading into the lava fields at Newberry Volcanic National Monument
A path leading into the lava fields
Newberry Volcanic National Monument
The large “hill” in the back is a lava cone left by the eruption

The vast, barren landscape extends for miles in each direction. Below, you can see where the lava flow stopped, allowing trees to form a perimeter of life around this scene of epic destruction.

A forest creates a perimeter around the lava fields

Speaking of destruction, on a clear day, you can see for miles, but when huge swaths of California, Oregon, Washington, and southern Canada are on fire, that is not possible.

Somewhere, hidden in all that smoke, are a whole bunch of mountains….

As bad as our timing was with the smoke, it was good for seeing the colorful plants that only springs to life for a few weeks each year.

Newberry Volcanic National Monument

These are known as Xeric plants and are just about the only thing that lives in the lava fields. We happened to show up just as they were in bloom.

Next, we headed to the Lava River Cave, the largest uncollapsed lava tube in Oregon. A one mile long cave that visitors can walk through (and then come back the same way), it is a chilly 42 degrees at all times. In addition to dressing warmly and wearing decent boots or sneakers, visitors should bring a powerful flashlight (a cell phone light won’t cut it). Alternatively, you can rent a lantern from the Forest Service.

This picture is not creepy at all.

Most of the cave is very large and comfortable to walk through (assuming you’re not claustrophobic), but there are parts where the ceiling is much lower and you’ll have to crouch down a bit to avoid hitting your head.

Friends!

Bend is a HUGE beer town. There are craft breweries everywhere you turn and beer is serious business. Dave and Shannon suggested our San Diego reunion coincide with the huge annual brewfest that happens each August.

John, Becky, me, Kevin, Dave, Shannon, and new friends Jeannie and Erick at the Bend Brewfest.

We went on Thursday, the quieter “locals day,” and it was still incredibly busy.  I can only imagine what it was like over the weekend.

We spent several other nights hanging out with this crew (including new (to us) folks Brian and Nancy) and, as you can see, we had no fun at all.

Additionally, along with Becky and John, we went hiking at the impressive Tumalo Falls, a 97 foot waterfall located within the gorgeous Deschutes National Forest

and then hiked the nearby trail that takes visitors by a series of smaller waterfalls.

We barely scratched the surface of all that Bend has to offer, but we loved what we saw. We could easily spend a month or two here and, hopefully, we’ll have that opportunity some time in the future.

Xscapers

Escapees is a 40 year old membership organization for RVers. They offer all kinds of educational seminars, RV related products and services, and legal advocacy (ensuring RVers can get insurance, register to vote, park in various urban areas without getting ticketed, etc). They have also always provided social opportunities for their members – regional clubs, large get togethers for specific events, guided caravan trips, and smaller clubs for specific interests and hobbies. About three years ago, the huge Escapees organization took note of the growing number of younger folks moving into RVs and created a sub-organization called Xscapers, aimed at “working age” RVers. Xscapers is mostly a social and networking group, though they do offer educational programming as well. While we’ve been aware of its existence for years, we’d never joined because we were happy with our social lives. However, when Dave, Shannon, John, and Becky invited us to join them at an Xscapers event taking place in Oregon right after the Bend Brewfest, we figured it was a good reason to check it out.

These events, called convergences, are held all over the country and are usually about a week long. They are pretty informal, but always feature a daily activity (a hike, a volunteering opportunity, a trip to a local point of interest) and social events in the evenings (potlucks, brewery trips, game nights, etc). Shockingly, a significant amount of booze is usually consumed.

About half of the group went out on a hike together…. (we are up on the top left)

We went out on a couple hikes, went to several of the social events in the evenings, and went tubing with the group on the Deschutes River.

Our group created one huge flotilla on the river…

Overall, the convergence was a good time, however, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think these events are the best fit for us – not because the people who go aren’t great (they are), but rather, it’s just not the type of socializing that appeals to us. Back when Xscapers started all those many (3) years ago, the convergences were like 30 people. Nowadays, like everything else in the RV world, there are just too many people. Our event included 85 attendees. And the upcoming “Annual Bash” – a big get-together in Arizona in January – is slated to include over THREE HUNDRED RVs…. Do you want to walk into an event with 600 people you don’t know and try to make friends? Yeah, me neither.

Actually, for a lot of people, it’s great. Some folks thrive in larger group settings, meeting as many people as they can and quickly finding their friends. That’s just not our thing. While we like to socialize, we tend to be pretty shy around large groups and much prefer to meet people through other people or in low key settings. For two years now, we’ve been slowly building a network of friends through social media and blogs and it has worked really well. And the fact is, most of the people at the Xscapers event are also on Instagram, so it’s not like this was a different group of people. Given enough time, we would have met many of them the same way we’ve been meeting people for the last two years.

I don’t mean to sound negative. Xscapers really is an awesome concept and a great way for younger RVers to find friends their own age to hang out with. It just wasn’t a great fit for us at this point in our lives. It probably didn’t help that we were already with a group of friends we like hanging out with and we’ve had a lot of our own personal stuff going on recently, so we were distracted much of the time. Whatever the case may be, our first convergence was not the life changing experience that it is for a lot of people. But that’s just us. If you’re new to life on the road and you’re trying to figure out how to meet people, Xscapers is definitely worth taking a look at. Just realize, if you’re naturally shy or introverted, you may be in for a very tiring week.

And with that… I am still behind! But, we’re making progress!

Up next: Portland, Oregon!

___________________________________________________________________

Where we stayed:

Boise Riverside Campground, Boise, Idaho

Scandia RV Park, Bend, Oregon

40 COMMENTS

  1. So glad you liked Boise, (it’s on our short list you know). I think heat and smoke have been following you this year, while we have escaped both. We liked Bend too but it is not on the short list 🙁 ha ha . I agree with you convergence of hundreds of people is typically not our style either. But our only exception is joining with thousands of people in a big Winnebago rally in Iowa. And that was our only huge gathering that we ever attended. I would not enjoy going on in that huge flotilla nor hiking with the hundreds!
    So glad to see both your faces on your post again, we kind of misses your smiling faces.

    • We miss you guys too! You know, there’s nothing wrong with canceling all of your east coast plans and heading west instead. Just sayin…. And yes, now that we’re on the coast, we seem to have finally broken out of the heat and smoke that’s been our constant companion all summer. We were more than ready for the change!

    • Yeah, I mean, I’m not sure Boise quite holds a candle to some of the places you’re visiting in Europe, but it’s close!! Hahaha. No… it’s really not…. But it’ll have to do. 🙂 Safe travels!

  2. Wow, I had no idea Boise was so culturally diverse! Very cool – the food looked delish! I loved the waterfall pics. We are big fans of waterfalls ????. The cave was impressive, too, though not sure how far I’d venture in…..

    • We have seen a lot of really pretty waterfalls recently. The Tumalo one was especially gorgeous and we saw it at the end of the summer. I can’t imagine what it would look like in early spring. We also saw some huge ones near Portland. I definitely do not think you would be a big fan of the cave. We saw several people turn back almost immediately. It gets really cold and really dark really fast.

  3. What fun! Two more cities added to our list. Wish I could afford all those delicious calories & keep your figure, but alas not happening unless I hike 20 miles every day. We also are dealing with oppressive heat & humidity…..but there’s no such thing as climate change or global warming?.!!!!!

    • Yeah, it’s been a brutal couple years weather wise everywhere…. We’ve generally been pretty lucky avoiding the big stuff, but this summer was a complete fail. Between the heat and the smoke, we couldn’t get away from it. Being on the coast has been a nice change. Cool temperatures and fresh air…. So yeah, we’re gonna have to be a bit more strategic next summer because climate change is most certainly happening.

  4. Always so happy to wake up and see a new post on your blog! Sorry the smoke and heat have been your constant companions this year but you’re doing a good job of persevering. Totally agree on the large gatherings — so not our thing either, and the picture of all the people on the hike made me feel twitchy. It is nice, though, that those groups exist for folks who do love it. The cave, ooh, I dunno ’bout that! We have biked through the Snoqualmie tunnel when in the middle neither end is visible, but at least it has two ends.

    We also love the Bend area and are lucky to have family with a place there (lovely to visit, ain’t gonna live there!) Can’t wait to see what you got up to in Portland!

    • Yeah, I generally don’t get panicky about enclosed spots, but that cave was not short and, at least when we were there, there were very few other people inside, so there were lengthy stretches where we were by ourselves, REALLY hoping the batteries in our flashlights didn’t die….. Add in the fact that it was freezing cold and we’d just been told that the cave was home to millions of bats and us, well, let’s just say I wasn’t UNhappy when we got back to the entrance. 🙂

  5. Yay! You’re back, we’ve missed you but completely understand your absence. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up but we’ll take you when we get you – no pressure! We aren’t big group folks either, but evidently lots of people are…. Bend is a really great place, we always enjoy our visits there, but it gets too cold in the winter for us to ever consider it seriously.

    • For some reason, WordPress is absolutely, 100%, without any doubt convinced that you are a spammer… It flags every one of your comments for all of my posts. And I just found THIS one in my spam folder. It didn’t even flag it. It just sent your comment right to “spam.” Jeez, Sue…. How did you tick off WordPress???

  6. I understand how you feel about Xscapers. We had been members for a couple years. As soon as we got our RV we signed up! By the time we had hit the road, it had grown so large that the get togethers just didn’t appeal to us. We’re just not into big crowds. It’s good for them though and the people who are in into that kind of thing.

    • I agree. Xscapers is obviously serving a huge need and it’s been an absolute game changer for a lot of people. I expect it will continue to get bigger and bigger because this ‘young people in RVs’ trend isn’t changing anytime real soon. And who knows, maybe some day they’ll offer several shorter length/smaller number events as an alternative to these big convergences. If they do, we’ll certainly be interested.

  7. Noooo…no big gatherings for us, either! As you said, we’ve made plenty of good friends through the blogosphere. It’s also surprising how many friends we’ve made through random meetups on trails or in campgrounds when we realize that we have a lot more in common than just traveling fulltime.
    Looks like you had a blast in Boise and Bend—and you found all the great food offerings! We agree, Spork in Bend and The Basque Market in Boise are excellent. Thanks for adding a few new ones to our list for next time. By the way, your food photography is outstanding!
    Hope you’ve found your way out of the smoke and heat and that all is well.

    • Yeah, I don’t know why we never seem to make friends in campgrounds. Other than exchanging pleasantries, we tend to keep to ourselves. I think I’m always worried that we’re gonna be bothering someone on their vacation or whatever. Or that they might be a serial killer. At least with social media and blogs, I can generally stalk people enough to give myself confidence that the person is not a mass murderer. But in a random campground, you just never know. There are some weird-ass people in the world. That’s all I’m sayin. So yeah. In summary, I have no idea why we don’t meet people in campgrounds. Clearly it is not because I assume my neighbors may be murderous lunatics. 🙂

  8. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of the Xscapers group. Those large gatherings freak me out and I end up hiding in my RV instead of meeting people! We much prefer meeting and spending time with people in smaller groups. Also, not to sound old and grouchy, but from what I’ve seen on Instagram the non-stop party atmosphere is a bit much for people like us who spend 5 days a week in front of the computer working. By the way, will you guys be in the southwest this winter? We would love to finally meet in person – no 600 person gathering required.

    • Yes!! We are actually scheduled to be out west again this winter and would love to finally meet you guys! We’ll be in southern California through late fall. Then we’ll generally be bopping around the Tucson area from late December through January and then around Phoenix February to mid March. Hopefully that coincides with some of where you’ll be? I think there’s gonna be a good group of people in that area this winter!

  9. We absolutely loved Bend too!!! And, evidently we were there the same time! We drove over by the Brewfest on Friday, but didn’t feel like dealing with the crowds so didn’t even attempt to go in. Not sure where you went after Portland, but Newport, OR has a beautiful RV Resort called Pacific Shores that’s on the ocean. Only a few site can see the ocean, but the whole place is beautiful and Newport’s a cute little town and you can walk down to the beach from the RV park. We went whale watching and saw a bunch of whales. Funny, we’re traveling similar routes but in the opposite direction. We’re in SW CO now. We also went to Arches NP, Canyonland NP etc. and your comment of “so many people…….” stuck in my head. So many people…….. ugh.

    • Holy crap! We really did just drive in opposite directions…. That’s crazy that you were in Bend at the same time. AND we are now in Newport! What are the chances? We were actually supposed to have gone to the northern part of the Oregon coast and then drive south along the coast, but our plans changed and we ended up going direct to Newport. How funny…. Sorry we missed you though. And yes, we have even been noticing how busy it is here on the coast. We thought after Labor Day things would settle down, but not so much. Blech…. Anyway, hope you have a fantastic time in Colorado. We really enjoyed our time in that area – Mesa Verde was especially cool. Safe travels!

      • That is so funny!! Are you staying at Pacific Shores? We are headed to Mesa Verde NP tomorrow. Staying at a great CG in Dolores, CO right now. At almost 7000 feet. 😉

        • Hey – we’re actually at a state park nearby. I hadn’t heard of the one you mentioned, but we’ll keep note of it for next time we come through this area. The Oregon state parks are pretty nice though. We stayed in Cortez, but drove through Dolores and really liked it! It’s a cute little town. Have fun!!

  10. Just love reading your posts. You can now consider Boise on our Bucket List, but like you wouldn’t have expected that. I also may have drooled a little as Tapas are my favorite way to dine! That farmers’ market haul also had me all flustered – YUM! Good to know about the awesome biking trail near the campground (note to self: do not travel to Boise in the heart of the summer). Thanks for sharing your adventures!

    • Thank you for reading and for your kind comments!! We definitely ate well in Boise, that’s for sure. There wasn’t much else to do that didn’t involve heatstroke, so we made do. 🙂 It is absolutely a worthwhile place to visit and yes, if you like tapas, the Basque Block will be your new favorite spot. As for the berries and tomatoes, those were, by far, the best we’ve found all summer. That stuff at that market was incredible! Happy travels!

  11. You made me nervous when I saw the headline. I thought you were going to say that you got Xscaper’s tattoos. Yes, that is really a thing. Great post as always! We’re going to spend a little time on the Oregon coast next summer.

    • Ha!! Yeah… NO. I am not getting tattoos of anything, much less a brand name. No, thank you. We’ve only been on the coast a couple days, but so far, so good. It’s certainly beautiful and if it will help you avoid the crazy heat and smoke prevalent in the rest of the west during summer, it’s definitely a winner in our book!

  12. We love Bend and always make it a stop when we head south or north that way! Did you try the Coffee Stout at McMenamins St. Francis School? It really should be a morning beer, so good! If you ever go in the fall make sure you stop at Silver Moon and try the Pumpkin Ale, they line the rim with a pumpkin spice/sugar combination and it actually works with beer … again so good!

    • Hmm, no… we missed both of those, though someone else just mentioned McMenamins to us. Small world! We will absolutely be back in Bend and the fall might be a great time to target for a visit. I can imagine it’s beautiful and yeah, all those awesome dark beers on a cool fall evening? Perfection!

  13. Bend and Boise…isnt the west great. We were also surprised what a great food scene there is in Boise but EGADS the summer heat makes it a deal breaker for me. Love Bend and the beer scene there!!!
    Hope we can catch up in Southern Cal…safe travels!!!

    • Couldn’t agree more, the west really is best!! We love it out here and expect that, wherever we end up settling down, it will be somewhere in the western third of the country. And yes, hopefully our paths will cross this fall. Unfortunately, these western states are just so damned big… being in the same state doesn’t necessarily mean being within 3 hours of someone. Fingers crossed!

  14. We really enjoyed both of these cities. Boise is a nice place to visit and has a lot to offer, but we don’t do snow so it never made the list. We made two visits to Bend last summer. We first arrived in May/June for a month. We had lovely weather. The problem was the extra heavy snowy winter Bend had. All the higher elevation hikes we wanted to do were still under snow. They were skiing on Mt Bachelor on July 4th! As a matter of fact we had a great time hiking the Tumalo Falls trail, but eventually the snow was mid thigh deep. We made it to several of the smaller falls beyond and had fun in, on, and around the snow. So we decided to return to Bend on our way back in September. This time we couldn’t hike the higher elevations because of the wildfires and unbelievable smoke. A few times the campground in Bend was completely filled with smoke. One day we will try again. While Bend had a lot to offer, it didn’t call to us. And…they get too much snow! Huge crowd events aren’t for us either. We did a couple rallies when we started and realized we didn’t enjoy being with that many people. So we have been keeping it small ever since. You can be too social sometime. Sounds like you are really enjoying life on the road. It is wonderful!

    • Yeah, we were talking to folks that live there and they said the weather is completely different from one winter to the next. Some years they get tons of snow, and others, not much at all. They did say wildfires are a pretty standard thing around there, so to expect that. We don’t think it’s a good match for us for settling down purposes either, but its certainly a place we could spend a summer in the RV. There are so many places to hike and bike, and we love the active restaurant and brewery scene. We drove by some of the lakes too and they were absolutely stunning. It really is a pristine natural area. We will be back!

    • I think you will like it… there are a lot of interesting options. I would love to just go explore more of the Basque block. There is a museum/cultural center there that is supposed to be pretty interesting, and, obviously, lots of good food options. If we knew about it earlier, we would have signed up for a cooking class at the Basque Market. That, in and of itself, would be fun.

  15. We’ll have to check both of those cities out whenever we make it to the left coast. Sorry you’re still being plagued by the wildfires, while we got away from them in IA we traded them for the heat and humidity that is still following us. We’ve been to a few big Grand Design rallies, have another in Oct. which will probably be our last. Just not a fan of the large gatherings, we’re happy with meeting friends at places we stay for awhile or through blogs.

    • We have FINALLY apparently escaped from the wildfires and heat. The Oregon coast has been the perfect spot for us to rest and regroup after months of crappy weather. I am sure many of us are ready for it to be fall. It’s been a pretty brutal summer. And yes, after the Xscapers experience, I am 100% sure that the big RV rallies are just not gonna be our thing. All of which is OK…. we’ve had no issue meeting nice people using other mediums. 🙂

  16. Sounds like you had a great time. I’d love to explore the lava tube! And check out all the cool waterfalls! It’s funny, as outgoing as I am, Xscapers would not be for me. When our paths eventually cross, it won’t be because of a convergence, other than the stars! We are heading to Henrys Lake today. Hoping to have some of the same adventures you did.

    • Yay!!! I’m so glad you’re headed to Henrys. It is such a fantastic park in such a magnificent part of the country. I think you’re gonna love it! Have a great time!!!

  17. OMG – just discovered your blog and while reading this post – I’m in the Xscapers hiking pic sitting right below you on the rock – I’m in the red tshirt. Gosh I can’t remember if we chatted during the Convergence. I found out from your interview that we are both from DMV – I went to college in DC too. I’ve been enjoying reading your blog!!!

    • Oh wow! That is crazy! I can’t remember if we chatted either. Honestly, that whole event was such a blur – between all the people and all the activities and all the other things we had going on in our personal lives at the time, it was a pretty overwhelming experience. AND you went to school in DC? What a small world! Anyway, whether we previously met or not, I’m happy to connect through here. Happy travels!

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