Breathtaking Oregon Pacific Coast on Highway 101…..
After the great hospitality of Karrie, Ed and the entire Blackstone-Brothers family in Portland we set off for our Highway 101 Oregon Pacific Coast adventure. We avoided the weekend traffic, thanks to Karrie and Ed extending our Couch Surfing stay, and made it to Cannon Beach via Highway 26 in an hour and half. We quickly parked up on one of the few remaining parking bays, it was Sunday at midday (!), and got straight to the ocean. The Pacific is a glorious sight of crashing surf and endless horizons around. Cannon Beach is a bit like Salcombe or Rock so way out of our budget and a little chi chi for us – we like a bit of rough and earthy in the places we visit – I’m from Morecambe after all……
After coming back to our car and finding a parking violation ticket, which caused me to charge down the road at a sprint to find the youthful attendant doing his rounds on his bike – it was only a warning thankfully – we got on our way. The scenery was breathtaking. Turquoise ocean, white surf, searingly high cliffs, and haystack rocky islands. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t something as stunning as this. We drove for the rest of the day, stopping continuously for more and more pictures of this beautiful scenery. Finally we came upon the town of Lincoln. We did a tour of motels and eventually settled on the Nordic Viking Hotel (a little bizarre with its life sized Vikings littered around the lot and site), which had – much to Fred’s delight – an indoor pool and Jacuzzi as well as the most amazing beachside location. Being midweek it was just within our budget. Our room on the top floor opened up the entire coast and seascape which we could access on foot in 200 vertical steps.
I went off to Safeway as we had a full kitchen, so money saving home cooking was in order, whist Fred and Dean went off to the pool. After dinner we made our way in the early dusk onto the beach. About half a kilometre down the beach 4x4s had pulled onto the sand and campfires had been lit. We walked down to see this post-apocalyptic encampment of families BBQing and set up with tents around their drift wood fires. It was blustery and wild and wonderful.
The next day we headed down the coast to Depoe Bay and Otter Creek in the hope of seeing some wildlife. What no one knew was this was the day, the first in months apparently, where a pod of Grey Whales we going to come inland to feast on the kelp beds. Before we got to Depoe Bay we saw a few cars gathered roadside with binoculars and cameras out. We pulled in. There in front of us was a lone Whale. Every 3 minutes he surfaced, blow hole spraying, before submerging and then lolling around playing. We had the distinct impression he knew full well he had an audience. Grey whales don’t jump and leap around, instead like primordial beasts they lounge without haste grazing through the ocean. Every now and then, to the delight of all around, he flicked his tail up. Everyone was waiting for the tail as it is such a rare sight. Perhaps the show was more of a strip tease……
Satisfied we set off for Otter Creek, however as we came to Depoe Bay, with parking on it’s sea wall, we saw banks of people. A quick indicator, dash across Highway 101, and I double parked up. Right in front of us again, this time closer, was a pod of 2 adults and a young grey. You cant be anything other than moved and silenced by such a sight. Long ago we decided never to visit an aquarium with Whales after seeing a documentary on the emotional and physical trauma whales suffer in captivity in places like Water World. They are meant to roam thousands of miles a year, and need to be with their families for life. Being in an aquarium is equivalent to a human being kept in isolation and never allowed to leave a room the size of the average house bathroom. When you see them in the wild, you can only wonder that we allow the practice of capturing young whales and imprisoning them to continue…… We got the most amazing pictures and video, but also made sure that we enjoyed this sight with our eyes and not only from behind the camera. Whales at play and in their own habitat really do fill your soul.
We moved on and pulled into Otter Creek. No one around but plentiful ocean birds bobbing on the waves or chilling on the rocks in the cove that is Otter Creek. We took pictures of the rich and colourful fauna, a wonderful old bridge, a house perched on the edge of a precipice, when blow us down a whale turned up. Just us and then a whale, then two and then a third. Unbelievable. To top this all off a lone otter paddled past on his back cleaning his paws. Some days are beyond special.
Coastal area explored, Fred and I decided to go surfing the next day at Broiler Bay by the Devils Punchbowl, whilst Dean enjoyed a day of solitude and writing. The introvert in him was ready for some time off from us all! We picked up our boards from Lincoln City Surf Shop, strapped them to the roof and headed off to meet Dale, Fred's instructor. Dale greeted us with high fives and a wealth of 'awsome's' fulfilling every stereotype in the first few minutes. With boards under our arms we made the rather arduous trek down a couple of hundred steep steps onto the beach. Tidy 2ft waves rolled in, perfect for Fred to learn on, and for me to make my first return to surfing for 10 years. We had a great couple of hours with Dale, and Fred even got to standing with the help of Dale pushing him off in the broken surf. Having practiced my 'pop up' on a towel on the bed the night before, I caught my first wave and curtailed every instinct to steady through my knees. I honestly think my first pop up of the day was better than any I had done before. I was pretty stoked.... (I believe in always adopting the local vernacular). Needless to say the morning came with its fair share of dunkings and nasal wash outs, and I ended our morning session with crystal clear sinuses. Fred had picked up a really bad wet suit rash on his neck which was raw. I'd completely forgotten I had a rash vest for him, and I'd let him tighten his Velcro himself round his neck. A week later he still looks like he's survived a hanging..... But he's rather proud of it and has taken many a photo of his battle scars!
Fred and I chilled out on the beach for the rest of the day resting and surfing as we felt like. By late afternoon we'd had the best of the waves and after sandy sandwiches, and even sandier crisps, we trooped back up (many many times with all the stuff I'd brought down through the day) to the car. I worked out I'd made 4 return journeys up the cliff face and my legs were jelly by the time Fred and I finished our last trip with the boards. After dropping the boards, suits, boots and gloves off (Pacific was that cold and most others were wearing hoods too!) we headed home for a soak of aching muscles in the hot tub. A carb rich dinner of Carbonara with hot dogs refuelled us after the calories spent. Did I know about it the next morning when I woke stiff as a board. Who forgot to warm up and stretch out.....? duh.
We left Lincoln City and headed south on the 101. Our plan was to get near to the California border and within striking distance of The Redwood Forests. Yet more dramatic beautiful scenery made for many stop offs and a journey that passed easy on the eye. We pulled into Brookings, a rather sorry looking large town, and did our standard tour of variable motels, finally settling on 'The Brookings Inn Resort'. Whilst it came with an indoor pool in a large greenhouse in the middle of its parking lot, it's name was rather grand for this less than salubrious establishment. Some nifty negotiation with the surley 80s throwback desk clerk, all bouffant blonde hair and vibrant makeup, by Dean got the rate down from $124 to the in budget $99. With not a lot to do in Brookings, apart from a quick tour of the harbour, we spent the next 2 days relaxing on the parking lot sun deck and refreshing ourselves in the milky pool (I don't even want to know why with goggles you couldn't see your hands underwater). On our second day returning to the sun deck we were greeted with a vomit covered wall and floor - as I said salubrious! - but once it had been quickly cleared up and disinfected by the maintenance man, appalled at the mess and muttering "who raised these kids", we ensconced ourselves for a bit of reading and email catch up.
With some savings made on accommodation over the previous few days, and with no cooking facilities at all, we decided to treat ourselves to a Mexican at the family restaurant down the road. Huge alcoholic Mahgaritas arrived just as the door opened, with a customer exiting, and clouds of black smoke from a fire blowing into the restaurant. I had apparently mistaken an external waste bin for an ashtray and set it on fire. I buried my head in my menu and did my best to look innocent.... A few buckets of water applied by the manager and disaster was averted. It wasn't until I left after dinner that I confessed to Fred who seemed to think it was utterly awesome on my part, and seemed rather proud of me for causing such chaos.
Brookings also saw us surprise Fred with a visit to the local cinema. Housed in the original 'movie theatre' it was all original and still sported the external box office and velvet seating. We had told Fred we were going out to dinner again. We stopped outside the movie theatre and the 'Jason Bourne' poster and asked him to choose from the menu. Blank looks all round. Eventually we had to tell him that rather than booking dinner, Dad had booked 3 tickets for the opening night of the new Bourne film (rating in the US is much lowere than the UK where he wouldn't be allowed to see it at the cinema). We've all been so excited about this 4th instalment from Paul Greengrass so Fred went nuts. It was brilliant. We had real butter popcorn, clothes ruined from the butter but it was sooooooo good! Was delighted to find some down my bra that night as a little extra as I got into bed.
One of our Brookings highlights was the visit to Chetco's Trading, a Pawn Shop, that was still open when we walked past after our visit to the cinema. Staffed by the burley Sam, 6ft 6in and 20st, and owned by LJ we ended up spending nearly an hour with them. Fred negotiated with LJ on a 1st edition Walking Dead comic getting the price reduced from $8 to $4. Then LJ plafully suggested a double turn of the coin bet, $8 or free. Fred rejected this, presumably he thought he already had a good bird in the hand. Fred's counter was a turn of the coin bet but $5 or $3. I kind of liked that solution. Fred lost the turn of the coin, to LJ's credit he let Fred have the comic for the original $4. After all this the conversation turned, predictibly, to Brexit and the upcoming US Presidential election. In this shop laden with guns and crossbows (as well as wetsuits, gardening gloves, memorial coke bottles etc.....) it was good to know that these guys thought Trump was nuts too. LJ took our details and said he would come visit when he comes to the UK. I think LJ and Sam in Newark could be quite fun!
For me this trip is all about having a great adventure with my family. Its taken years for us to finally stop talking about it and do it - simply because it both excites and frightens the life out me! So I'm stepping out of corporate life, where I singularly failed to achieve a work/life balance....to experience different cultures and spend time with those I love xx