Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To The End of the Road

   We've been here for five weeks or so, long enough that it's getting hard to keep track.  I have been working nearly full time for three or four weeks.  The house isn't quite organized still.  But it is livable an we've started to relax rather than shuffle furniture around and dump out boxes of books or clothes or records.  It seemed like time to get out of this daily reality, even for just a day. 
   Our plan was to head out to the coast, complete the journey and touch the Pacific ocean's frigid waters.  Saturday we were warned early by a friend visiting in town from Portsmouth, that there would be snow in the Coast Range passes and the roads were slick.  That gave us pause but only for a moment.  We needed to get to the Pacific Ocean. 
   Late breakfast and a little morning scrambling put us on the road around noon.  There was sun shining but the gray clouds were not far away.  Through the city center, the tunnel through the west hills and out the other side in a down pour we drove west.  At Burns we cut off onto Highway 6 bound for Tillamook.  Weather alternated between bouts of rain and bright sunshine.  All in all things seemed promising.
   Ascending into the coast range the rain did get thick until we were being pelted with slush and then snow until we were crawling along at 35 mph along twisting mountain passes.  The mountains were beautiful under a layer of snow hanging heavy on the boughs of the Douglas Firs.
   The snow-phobic pick up didn't slip once and with some patience we got through it.  Down the other side carefully and eventually the snow was behind us.  Such rich colors all shades of green reflected back at us from trees, grasses, ferns, and moss.  It all looked familiar and yet new to me, like seeing the face of a long lost friend who looked the same and yet has changed.
   The road eventually straightened out and became flat as we entered the farmed flood plains east of Tillamook.  Once into town we got out and walked around getting a feel for the town which appeared to be holding on if just barely after all these years.  Eli and I made the usual stop into the Tillamook cheese factory north of town to watch through the windows as the cheese maker people in their lab coats and hair and beard nets, formed and bagged, weighed and checked the blocks of orange cheese.  These people were probably lucky to have such a job in a place like Tillamook, mundane as the work is.  Many of the jobs had been automated and the remaining employees seemed to mostly be working at quality check.
   Some postcards and ice cream cones later we were on the road again headed up to Nehalem Bay State Park to see if we could secure a yurt for the night.  We drove into the park and up to the check in kiosk only to read a sign that stated "No Yurts Available".  So we headed north, ending up next in Manzanita in search of dinner.  The sun dropped into the drink until we were sipping the last drops of light when we walked into El Mariachi Loco.
   After dining it was time to explore the town a little to see if we couldn't find a room in our budget.  I was skeptical judging from the number of spas and acupuncture clinics, yoga centers, and the like, packed into this small village.  One motel quoted $70 and we should have taken it, rather than getting back in the truck to drive north past Cannon Beach, through Seaside, before finding an available room for $60 in a dilapidated weekly rate joint in Ghiribaldi.  Turns out our chosen weekend to visit the coast coincided with the Seacoast Jazz Festival, a highschool basketball tournament and the Fisher Poets gathering.  The inns were booked.
   We backtracked the following morning to Seaside to dine at the Pig N' Pancake before back pedaling further to visit Oswald West, my favorite spot on the Oregon Coast.  The beach is at least a 1/2 mile hike through the state park campgrounds.  Through the mossy forest walking beside the giant Douglas Firs until the forest gives way to a long stretch of sandy beach tucked in a cove and punctuated by large cliffs on either end.  A gigantic pile of drifted trees lies at the bottom of the trail on the beach as if piled for a fire by creatures of enormous size.
   To one end of the beach and back we walked, getting closer looks at some details like the many waterfalls that end a river's path, or the beautiful rocks, the cliffs themselves, all of it almost too beautiful to be real.  The sun was out and only occasionally did a rain cloud pass to remind us it was in fact, still February. Even those were never a surprise as we could see them coming from a mile out to sea and plan accordingly.  It is these moments where I realize what a special memory this will be.  I try to pay close attention to the smells, how the sun and the breeze feel, the sound of Eli's voice mingling with the crashing waves and  the breeze through the pines.  I try to capture every sense of the present in hopes I will someday be able to return here in memory, when I am physically far away.
ELI, Northwest
      Back to the truck and north bound we headed for Astoria, the Crown Jewel of the Oregon Coastal towns, still a working fishery with visible reflections of the Norwegians, Swedes, and Finns that came to settle there long ago.  A stop at a thrift store and a small grocery for dinner were all we had time for.  The sky was darkening and we still had 95 miles to go.  Eli drove us home on Highway 30 along the Colombia River and landed us back at the house by 7:30.  Not bad for a first approach.  Next time we'll plot our time out a bit better and perhaps keep our feet in the sand a little longer. 

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