I’m typing this watching the sun go down over the Pacific. That in itself is a sentence which makes me really happy to be able to type. I’m back on the road, currently at the aptly named Oceanside, Oregon. While I wait for the last few rays, in the hope they will be truly spectacular, I thought I’d make a start on the Blog before I return to my base for the night in Tillamook. Got to be better typing here than in a motel room?
There’s a bit of catching up to do before the story gets here, however…
The few days with Colin, and latterly, Rosine, were really enjoyable. I was extremely well looked after, and once again I enjoyed the privilege of being welcomed unquestioningly into someone’s home. We spent the time with Colin showing me the sights of Portland, doing some touristy stuff while running a few errands at the same time. That meant I saw plenty of nooks and crannies I wouldn’t have if I’d pitched up at Union Station totally alone.
For example, Tuesday’s lunch was taken at one of the hundreds of ‘food trucks’ in the Downtown area. There is barely a car park in the city centre is not circled by these supposedly mobile/temporary structures, serving every variety of food you can think of. A truly unique feature of Portland. I chose the Frying Scotsman, a guy from Partick who has replicated his local chippy – compete with Irn Bru and deep fried mars bar if you care…. I went for a more sedate battered sausage & chips instead. Other sights that Colin introduced me to included Voodoo Donuts, which is evidently doing something right as there is, apparently, always a long queue out the door – as there indeed was when we walked by.
On Tuesday evening Rosine returned from a visit to Paris, quite frazzled by the flight and minus one bag (which she’d had to pay $100 excess on anyway). It seemed United had put the bag-tag from another passenger of the same surname and sent it to Indiana. You couldn’t make it up.
Wednesday’s lunch was at Dick’s Kitchen – a burger place whose gimmick is to celebrate all things Richard, with pictures of famous people of that name on the walls. Incongruously, there is also a panoramic photo of the new Yankee Stadium on its opening day. Not sure what that has to do with a bunch of Dicks? Rosine joined us there and we had a very enjoyable meal.
In the afternoon Colin very kindly took me flying. He is a partner in a small group who co-own a Cirrus G3 light aircraft. Though ostensibly a practice flight for Colin to keep his Instrument Flight Rules certification current, it was a jolly for me over to the coast. The fact that the weather wasn’t brilliant, with a lot of cloud about was good for Colin as he certainly got the practice he needed with his instruments flying through the cloud. There were sufficient breaks for me to take lot of photographs and the whole experience was truly memorable – especially landing in a 17 knot crosswind!
Dinner that night was steak, specially bought, prepared and cooked in my honour, every mouthful was savoured, believe me.
Having said my sincere thanks and farewell to Rosine, Colin kindly took me to PDX in order to collect my hire car. The formalities there went smoothly, though I’ve a nasty feeling National have charged me again for the one-way drop off fee as well as pre-paying it to Expedia – something for me to watch my credit card activity for. I am in a white Chrysler 200 (which is a ‘full size’ whereas I’ve paid for a ‘mid size’, the garage chap giving me a “free upgrade” as it was all he had!). It had 4,399 miles on the clock when I departed from Portland at 12:30. I’m due to hand it back to National at Denver by Noon next Thursday.
I set off west on ‘Bypass Rt 30’, skirting the north side of the city before crossing the Williamette River and joining Rt30 proper to head north. I’d called in at a Safeway as I left the city, mainly to pick up lunch in the form of a cheese & ham ‘hoagie’ and a iPhone in-car adaptor (I’d hoped the car would have one already but it didn’t). I then realised I needed to to replace the iPhone lead that I seem to have left at Colin’s. D’oh.
Northwards through Scappoose, hugging the west bank of the by now enormous Columbia River, and then a small town of St. Helens, where I pulled over and ate my picnic. Onwards along Rt30 to Astoria, where an appropriately capacious bridge crosses the said enormous river, over to Washington. I carried on through Astoria, stopping on the other side of the smaller Youngs Bay bridge for coffee at a Starbucks in a small plaza at Warrenton. I got it ‘to go’ and pressed on, southwards along Pacific Coast and the ever-present US101.
Stopping frequently at various viewpoints to take in stunning ocean view after stunning ocean view, I eventually found myself in Rockaway Beach. This place couldn’t be further from the New York suburb of the same name, in every possible way. I did toy with the idea of stopping here in one of the cheap motels, but it somehow looked a little too down-at-heel. The point is that summer hasn’t started here in Oregon yet. I understand that the 4th July is the ‘starting gun’, so it just felt a bit out of season still for a seaside town. I pressed on to Tillamook and pretty quickly regretted my decision. This is just a bit more inland, and as a result, although bigger than the other communities along the coast (which is why I’d aimed here) it is also a bit Identikit America too.
In the end I settled on the Western Royal Inn, a typical motel – but non-branded. The choice was almost random, not least as it doesn’t show up on TripAdvisor, but the sign proclaiming free WiFi was the clincher. The very friendly and helpful receptionist kindly gave me the ‘AAA’ discount rate, even though it doesn’t apply to me, so that saved me $10. With tax etc. it cost me less than £50, with a continental breakfast in the morning.
Once checked in, I walked into Tillamook centre and wasn’t overly impressed. So I went back for the car. First job was stock up with room supplies for later in the huge Fred Meyer supermarket just up the road. Then I followed the signs to the Cape Meares lighthouse. This turns out to be about 10 miles out of Tillamook, on the peninsular which protects Tillamook Bay. It is located in a State Park just beyond the village of Oceanside. The road is supposed to be a circular route around the peninsular, but a rock fall — some time ago looking at the state of the signs — blocked part of it making it a out-and-back trip.
Again there were several stops to take in wonderful views of the rocky coast before getting to Cape Meares proper. A deer standing so still in the gateway that I at first thought it was a statue, welcomed me. I was able to get close enough for a half decent photo before a yahoo in a four-by-four came roaring up behind me and scared it off. The car park and the area around the light house were totally deserted, despite it still being a warm, sunny evening. Again a function of the ‘still out of season’ vibe. I took lots of photos of the cliffs, the ocean, the sea birds and even a cheeky squirrel before heading back to the car.
I retraced my steps to Oceanside and, as I type this at the side of the road, the sun has just about finished its (quite disappointing in the end) performance and I’m off back to the room to proof read this (yes, I really do, though you’d be forgiven for doubting that) and uploading. it.
A bit later:
I’m watching the last couple of innings of a close game between the Seattle Mariners and the LA Angles on Root (the Seattle equivalent of NESN). The Mariners are the local team as Portland doesn’t have a MLB franchise, so as I noticed was the case at Colin’s, the game is blacked-out on MLB.com in this area.
I just wanted to add a final thought about Portland. Of course it completely changed things having the benefit of Colin and Rosine’s insight. However, I really liked everything I saw about the city. It seems to take the best things about LA and Seattle (west coast weather, micro breweries…!) with few of the niggles that I felt in the other two cities. There’s a very, very strong case for a return visit!
Right, having literally dipped my toe in the water of the Pacific this evening, I set off east tomorrow, the beginning of my coast-to-coast journey. I’m not sure I’ll get the chance to dip my toe in the Atlantic at Boston, but who knows…
199 miles for the day.