Without cheating and looking at the last post, by the photo above can you guess where we went last week? Was it Big Sur? Hawaii? Maybe Ireland? Nope, something humble-sounding, no big tourism pushes, nobody in big flowery shirts, with odd brogues or zinc-white noses or thong buns anywhere. Well, I guess we did see some surfers in Florence, but they were completely covered, even out of the water. No, not Florence, Italy but Florence, Oregon. The most spectacular place to be where spectacularity is still a little undercover.
We made our way down Highway 101, chomping sweet, dark sugar-bombs that turned our tongues mahogony red.
After making it over the wide Columbia River, we stopped in Astoria, Oregon and bogarted a table at an ice cream shop to eat our brown bag turkey sandwiches and homemade lemonade (incredibly sour, because I believe lemonade should be more sour and less sweet). Sitting at the shop, we looked out over the Columbia and felt the cool wind sweeping off of the water. We were practically sitting under the great big bridge that brought our little car from the Washington side to Astoria, Oregon. The ice cream parlor sign said 'Tillamook ice cream served here". We'd see those Tillamook signs all down the coast, well past the town of Tillamook with its big fancy dairy palace churning out cheeses and ice cream that show up on our store shelves back in Seattle.
Before we hit our first town to stop and camp for the night, we made a few little stops to look out at the beaches and the haystacks that rise from the water like rocky, cruel guardians of the coastline.
After a night camping in Pacific City, we decided to take our morning run on the giant sand dunes and beaches in the tiny downtown. Amidst the surfers and sandboarders (yes, I swear there is such a sport, think snowboarding, but with sand.) we dodged the towels and sunbrellas to take a long run. It was an experience, and if I would have had my camera with me on the run, to take snapshots of the sunbathing seals, the views of clifftop mansions peeking through the hazy sea mist, and mile after mile of the widest beaches I've ever seen, I'd have photos for you now... but alas, the photos came after.
Beer. The Pelican Pub and Brewery lives up to its hype. I usually avoid the big huge Bar & Grills that look like I'm about to enter a really bad chain restaurant with burgers as big as small dinner plates. I was proven wrong, however, after I relished their Pelican Microbrew beer sampler (I believe every food and beverage should be made into flights in restaurants, it would save my wandering fork from invading table territory). I had the Ono fish sandwich and a perfectly made green salad. I especially enjoyed the post-meal (and post a few ales) banter. Mark: What kind of fish did you have in your sandwich? Cod? Chrissy: Ono. Mark: Salmon? Chrissy: Ono Mark: Halibut? Chrissy (laughing hysterically) ONO! Mark: Well fine, you better just tell me because I have no idea.
Next on the agenda: More coastline, and camping in Florence. The views on Highway 101 were no less stellar down south.
Haceta Head Lighthouse
Me taking advantage of the model-like wind conditions at the lookout
The little town of Florence made me want to stay another night, to experience all of the way-too-cute but chic restaurants lining the river. After setting up camp, Mark wanted to have dessert in town, so we made our way to the business on the riverfront that had the most traffic, with people spilling out onto the porch of what looked like a large old house. BJ's ice cream served him up quite the hot fudge marshmallow cappuccino ice cream sundae. I looked in puzzled amusement as he scooped up the gooey, sickly-sweet mess. But he seemed happy.
For our next stop we headed inland, spending a night in Salem as a time out from camping. The next day we were to drive out to wine country. Salem is quiet and seemingly a bit backwards, but it was mostly a cheap place to rest our bodies after camping. However, the town of McMinnville in the Willamette Valley was everything I thought it might be. A little bit Napa, but a whole lot more Oregon. The Hotel Oregon owned by McMenamin's pub is a fine place to stay, and you're within walking distance of just about everything in the historic district. We poked around in the few shops that were open on July 4th. In one of the more trendy clothing stores where Mark was trying on shirts, the chatty shop owner recommended we check out one of the tasting rooms in town that her daughter managed. "Just tell her I sent you!" and gave us a flier. A little bored and not feeling like driving out to the vineyards after one too many days of driving, we walked 10 blocks in the heat of a 93 degree afternoon to taste wine at Walnut City Wine Works. It was worth the walk. When we arrived, as soon as we breezed through the door, a pretty young lady behind the bar yelled "You two! my mom told me you were coming! I knew you by your cowboy hat!" gesturing toward Mark's head. Gotta love small towns. She quickly filled our glasses with some of the most amazing Pinot Noir. It was wonderful, and I barely walked out of there without a few bottles in hand.
That night we watched the fireworks while standing on the rooftop bar of the Hotel Oregon. No better way to end the night... except, well, with maybe more ice cream.
Summer is finally here.