There was no plan for my drive down the Oregon coast. I had not really done much research on what I would find, or where. There certainly was no need to do the whole thing, state border to state border. Some years ago I had stumbled onto the insight that a need to bookend a journey at arbitrarily defined places was as likely to make more stress than a nice trip. So I went pretty slowly. There were at least 5 full days from when I started in Astoria to when I expected to return to Portland. I made it 170 miles south, to a pretty little overlook a bit beyond Yachats, a turnout and picnic table called Bob’s Creek. But my rental’s odometer said I had gone about 400 miles. I was not following the crow on this journey.
First stop after leaving Portland was the town of Astoria near the mouth of the Columbia River, staying for a night in the little independent 50s built Atomic Motel. Inside the lobby was an old TV seemingly on a never ending loop playing the Flintstones and the original series Star Trek (mercifully for the staff, the volume was muted). They have a motto there: “We’re Fun.” A good start.
Then based in Cannon Beach for a couple of days, I used that time to explore further south while not moving camp. While staying there I did circular routes partly along the coast and partly through the large agricultural area responsible for Oregon’s substantial dairy output. Home to its largest cheese maker, Tillamook.
At one time I had thought to actually stay in Tillamook, the town, rather than stay for an extra night in Cannon Beach. But some of the inn and motel online reviews alluded to the need to keep windows closed at night. With that and vague references to dairy cows I finally figured out that Tillamook had an atmosphere issue.
So I didn’t stay there but I really wondered just how bad it could be. I lived in a farming community growing up. I had been around cows. I even helped a vet once do the whole impregnation thing on a southern Illinois farm. I got to hold the cow’s harness, gently caress her forehead and speak softly into her ear.
Driving down hwy 101, there was a sign indicating Tillamook in 5 miles. And sure enough, there it was. Like the presence of a road kill skunk coming through the vents. But this wasn’t going away in half a mile. It was by all accounts going to get worse.
Nevertheless, once arrived in Tillamook there was an impressive and modern dairy building with corporate offices next to the cheese making facilities and a very nice looking visitors center with gift shop. Figuring the restrooms would be clean, I stopped and hastily made my way across the huge, but presently empty, parking lot (indicating the size of summer crowds) and stepped inside.
There I read up on the history of Tillamook cheese, which began around 100 years after Lewis and Clark came nearby to trade blubber with Tillamook’s eponymous natives (Lewis and Clark) and then studied with interest stories of their founder, the “cheese king of the coast,” Mr Peter McIntosh. I eventually purchased some cheese and some saucisson aux noisettes, dried salami sausage with hazelnuts, for future picnics as needed.
And then I hurried further along, back down the coastal road.
As I’ve said, some of these days involved loops and so sometimes retraced steps. For that reason I was stealing myself to pass through Tillamook once again, when passing through the little town of Bay City I noticed a pier sticking out into the water with what seemed to be an oyster processing plant. I made my way out to the end of the pier. This was indeed an oyster firm. It was hard to tell, but based on the number of cars outside I guessed that there was a retail operation in there as well. I had been looking forward to west coast oysters but so far had not had many. Most of my Oregon seafood thus far had been Dungeness crab.
I went inside to find the Pacific Oyster company’s headquarters, processing plant, gift shop and most importantly small cafe selling fresh oysters and other seafood. The offerings were up on a chalkboard and indicated that their oysters that day were either petite or medium. No large, and no fancy merroir names here. I could respect that. Regardless of size, a dozen on the half shell would cost $20. A great price. The lady behind the counter indicated that mediums were pretty big and gently recommended the petite. I was having none of that and ordered half a dozen of each.
The mediums came out with the others and were in half-shells the size of softballs. Now I do love oysters. But I will admit that there is something unnatural about putting that much joined mollusk flesh down your gullet at once. After a few, I ended up having to cut the rest in half to muscle them into my mouth. That might amount to some sort of sin in some quarters. But they were fresh. And I enjoyed them. However, I wasn’t hungry for awhile after.
And I still needed to get through Tillamook again.
It is hard to overstate just how amazing is the scenery. It might not surpass views I have seen elsewhere, but it is the equal of the best. And though there were a lot of miles, the driving was never hard since at this time of year (end Jan-early Feb) the roads, towns, parks and overlooks were virtually, if not entirely empty.
The hardest part of driving was just to decide at which overlooks to stop, I ended up pausing at most of them.
I think what I perhaps enjoyed the most however was having the luxury of not needing to be anywhere at any fixed time. The Oregon coast is a place one could easily drive right through and still have a great time. Highway 101 is on the water for much of it’s length, providing fantastic views at even 55 mph without getting off. One could do this in two days, even just one. And it would still be beautiful.
But why rush?
©️ 2019 D Abbott