It’s been a stressful week. Laura’s mom fell on Friday and broke both legs. She had surgery on Saturday, and is looking at a long recovery time. Laura had flown down to Florida so she could drive back with Amy and her mom and some time with us. Her mother fell as they were getting ready to go to the airport to pick her up. So, with Laura in Florida with no way back and not enough supplies for an extended stay, I packed more gear for her and clothes for me and drove down Sunday.
Monday was spent in the hospital. Tuesday I had a bit of a break. Amy and Laura stayed with their mom, and I headed ab hour down the road to Jupiter, where my niece, Katie, and her husband, Aaron had just moved. My sister, Glynda, had come down to help them get settled in, and it was also their son, Jack’s first birthday.
Apparently first birthday cake smashing is a thing. If you buy the first birthday cake from Publix, they throw in a “smashing cake.” Katie thought that the small one was too small and wouldn’t show up in photographs well. She bought a larger one. She had a little set in place, so we put Jack in front of the cake… (more…)
We were enjoying our time on Samish Island. After driving many, many miles up the west coast from San Francisco, it was refreshing to hold still for awhile. We still had lots of chores around the house – sorting through some things, and packing up a few things to ship back east for her mom. We worked through the morning, and before we knew it, it was time for lunch.
The problem with Samish Island is that it takes awhile to get into town. We didn’t have much in the refrigerator, so we didn’t have too many options. We timed it so that we could go to the Bow post office and ship some stuff, and get lunch. As we were driving through the town of Edison, which is about a mile from Bow, we counted at least three cafes, and wondered why we couldn’t try one of those. We decided to see what was available locally.
We selected Slough Food as our experiment in local cuisine. There were a few seats out front, but decided to eat out back next to the slough. We had an interesting little one-sided picnic table set in a lovely little garden next to the water.
We started with beer and olives.
Lunch itself was a light sandwich on homemade bread with light deli meat and greens. It was fantastic.
When we’ve visited in the past we’ve had Laura’s mom with us, and we were somewhat limited in our food options. We just hadn’t tried any of these local places, and now I’m glad we did.
After lunch we started wandering around the tiny town of Edison. There was a biker bar…
…and several art and antique stores that used to be something else.
We spent the rest of the afternoon doing chores around the house and relaxing. Our time on the island seemed to be slipping past far too fast.
It was another day on Samish Island, and we had a full day planned. Most of this involved taking care of some family business in town, but there were opportunities for shopping and photography.
One thing I wanted to do was try some time lapse photography on the island. I had done this before, but that was with limited equipment. I had an iPad, which I couldn’t leave outside for extended periods. Now, with the GoPro, I could set up a session and leave it for much longer.
My first attempt was actually yesterday evening. I set up the camera and let it run for a couple of hours over the late afternoon, evening. While the GoPro worked great and I like the overall view, the wide angle made it so that I couldn’t capture the incoming tide as I wanted.
It had been a long week+ of traveling, but now we were settled in for awhile. I got a good night’s sleep, but, as usual, was awake far too early. I think it also has something to do with the longer daylight up here. I’ve never been this far north in winter, and would be curious as to how that would affect me. I’d probably still get up early.
From a photography standpoint these long days are fabulous. Long morning and evening light means you’ve got much more optimal time with the best possible light. Even with longer light, I wasn’t going to waste any of it, so I headed out early to take some photos of Skagit Valley.
First, though, I did get did get distracted by a small bunny right outside the window while I was having breakfast…
This part of the Skagit Valley is mostly reclaimed farm land. Samish Island was once a true island, but has been reconnected to the mainland by land reclamation. “The Flats” present and ever-changing landscape, depending on crops, weather, and lighting conditions. Today the weather was clear and spectacular. (more…)
We got a good night’s sleep in our quaint little hotel, but it was time to move on. We were very close to the end of our journey, but we still had some exploring to do. We got up and had a large breakfast at a local joint, where I demonstrated my prowess with one of the triangular peg puzzles.
It had been a long day already. We had seen some amazing waterfalls, some incredible vistas, and some enormous crowds along the Columbia Gorge. It was time to move on. I didn’t want a repeat of Friday’s scramble to find a place to stay in Portland, so Laura dove into the task of finding us a place for tonight. Our only requirement was that it needed to get us further on our way, preferably somewhere on the Washington State coastline, but not too far of a drive. Laura was successful, but I didn’t know anything about the town or location. Regardless, I set the GPS and we set off.
I-84 took us through downtown Portland and over the Willamette River on another spectacular bridge. We didn’t linger for sightseeing, or even for a photo of the bridge and skyline, but kept going. We left the interstate for the coastal highway, which mimicked our Friday trip over from the coast. We passed through rural lands, then ascended over the coastal range, dropping back down at the appropriately named community of Seaside.
We began seeing signs pointing to historical locations for Lewis and Clark. Seemed fitting. Our last two week road trip was ten years ago, when we followed the Lewis and Clark route across country in another convertible.
The highway followed only a short span of the Oregon Coast before turning back eastward. Most of this was through developed seaside communities. Soon, though, we were crossing the Young’s Bay Bridge toward Astoria. We didn’t linger, though, because we immediately drove onto the Astoria Bridge across the Columbia River.
We wanted to get an early start. However, gas and more coffee were calling. We found a Starbucks in the little planned community of Wilsonville, then headed on our way. We circled past Portland on I-205 until we came to an overlook of the Willamette River. We had a good view of the Willamette River Locks.
Soon we found ourselves headed east on I-205, and entering the Columbia River Gorge. The gorge was much wider than I had imagined. I don’t know what I was expecting – perhaps a narrow river gorge like the Green in North Carolina?
It was time to continue our trek up the west coast. We weren’t really sure where we would end up today, but from Aunt Ellen we had gotten suggestions about a couple of place we wanted to stop along the way.
We retraced our steps northward from yesterday’s trip, driving along miles and miles of dunes. It would have been tempting to stop at several of the locations with dune overlooks, but with Dunefest in full swing that wasn’t very appealing.
Soon we came to the town of Florence on the Siuslaw River. As we crossed the river we made note of the fascinating architecture of the bridge. It turns out that this is one of the historic bridges along this road designed by Conde McCullough, an architect active during the 1920s and 30s. McCullough had a penchant for adding art deco elements to his designs, such as unusual obelisks at the entrances to the bridge. We had already crossed several of his bridges, including the ones at Coos Bay, Umpqua River, and Gold Beach. This wouldn’t be the last one we crossed today.
The town of Florence looked like it would be a great place to explore, with an interesting waterfront along the Siuslaw. However, we kept going. The dunes also continued, ending abruptly at Cox Rock, near Sea Lion Point. The dunes stretch for over 35 miles of the Oregon Coast, and it was interesting seeing the massive piles of sand right up against the highway in some areas. I had to wonder about the shifting nature of the sands, and how hard it must be to keep the highway clear. I was also glad it wasn’t exceptionally windy in an open top car. (more…)
Where did July go? Normally this date would cause major consternation as I panic about the start of school. This is the second time around that I haven’t had to worry about it, and it shouldn’t bother me. Occasionally, though, it does. That’s why it’s nice to be traveling this week.
Laura and I found breakfast at the hotel, then headed over to Fred Myers to pick up a few supplies before meeting Aunt Ellen. I’ve not seen these stores in our area, but they are up in the Northwest. They are like a really nice Walmart, with groceries and higher end household goods. This turned into a more extensive shopping trip than we planned.
Back at the car we were approached by an older gentleman with an unusual proposition. He was admiring the Mustang, and said that his wife had one just like it. Unfortunately, his wife now has Alzheimer’s, and he was looking for someone who would appreciate the car. He would basically give it away for $5000.
It was tempting. If legit, it would be the buy of a lifetime. We made our apologies that we couldn’t take him up on his offer since we were traveling. However, I kept kicking myself mentally for not at least seeing if there was some merit to the offer. I’m retired. I could have driven the second Mustang back home across country. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve driven a convertible that far in that direction.
We picked up Aunt Ellen about mid-morning and set off for a drive, this time in her Mercedes SUV rather than the Mustang since it would hold more people. First we went in search of the lighthouse we had seen last night. Last night I had found that it was the Cape Arago Lighthouse, and wasn’t too far from where we had been. We retraced our steps through Charleston and past the Bastendorf Beach turn off. There was a road marked “Lighthouse Road” at the correct spot, but it was also marked Private.
We continued past Sunset Bay State Park, looking for any place that might grant access. We found none. There was a scenic overlook, and Laura suggested that we pull in. I was just going to turn around, but she wanted to take a look. Good thing. There were several other lighthouse hunters there, and they had been informed that this overlook was about the only place where one could view the lighthouse. It was otherwise inaccessible. Unfortunately, it was about as visible from this point as it was last night because of the fog.
Strike one for the first lighthouse. However, that wasn’t the only one I had in my GPS. There was another a little ways up the coast. We headed north and crossed the bay itself. Aunt Ellen pointed out the beginnings of the Oregon Dunes, a long stretch of massive sand dunes along the coast popular with off roaders. As we road past we saw a couple of ATVs out on the dunes.
We continued on for another sixteen miles or so. There were sand dunes to the west, and lakes to the east. All along the route were state parks and campgrounds. However, all of the campgrounds indicated that they were full.
I found the proper turn off, and we soon found ourselves at Umpqua Lighthouse. It was still very foggy, but at least we could get to this one…sort of. The lighthouse was surrounded by a chain link fence and what appeared to be active Coast Guard housing.
There was an overlook with information about whales that might be visible from this point. However, what drew our attention was not whales, but a roar from below. On the dunes below we could see hundreds of RVs and campers, and even more ATVs riding in every direction. We would learn later than this Dunefest, and it would last all weekend.
It was absolutely crazy. However, I couldn’t spot any of them wearing Still Suits.
Nearby was a building that served as a Coast Guard museum. At one time it housed sailors with the coast guard and served as a base of operations for this area. We walked in and reserved a tour for ourselves, then checked out the displays as we waited for our tour.
Our tour guide, Roger, was another RV’er who volunteer as he traveled around the country. He and Aunt Ellen had quite a bit in common, as she and Uncle Larry had similarly volunteered in their RV travels. He gave us a bit of the history of the area, and also describe the self-righting rescue boat on display next to the museum.
The lighthouse is still in active use, and this is still an active Coast Guard station. We were led past the barracks, then through the fence to the lighthouse proper. Roger described the architecture of the light, and how the tower structure was designed to act as a chimney so that it didn’t fill with soot from the original oil lamp.
Inside we were given more info about the light. This one has a first order Fresnel lens, and has an alternating red and white pattern. A weighted chain was used originally to drive the clock mechanism. I took the obligatory spiral staircase shots, and pretty much the same shots I’d taken at Coquille Lighthouse yesterday.
We couldn’t get all the way to the top as we could with yesterday’s lighthouse. However, we were allowed to poke out heads into the Fresnel Lens as it was rotating. Pretty spooky.
Laura managed to get a bit of video as the light was rotating.
We climbed back down, and another tour with a different volunteer took our place. We thanked Roger, then headed on back to the car.
Aunt Ellen wanted to have lunch at Winchester Bay, which was below the light house. However, when we drove down there we found the place overrun with off-roaders. There was no way we were going to get into a place for lunch here. We wound up driving all the way back to Coos Bay to find a burger joint near Aunt Ellen’s House. Afterwards, we returned to her place and just hung out with her for the afternoon.
Aunt Ellen was getting tired, so we reluctantly said our good-byes, and headed on back to the hotel. It was walking distance to downtown, so we set off in search of dinner. There seemed to be things going on – the town wasn’t dead. However, we couldn’t find anything that really appealed to us. We settled for Wendy’s salads, then turned in for the night.
We had arrived in Coos Bay, Oregon and checked in at our hotel. Now it was time to visit Laura’s Aunt Ellen. Ellen is Laura’s mother’s younger sister. Upon retirement, Aunt Ellen and Uncle Larry sold their home in the desert in California, bought a large RV and spent several years traveling around the country. We were privileged to have them stay with us for awhile. When it was time to settle down from that adventure, they chose Coos Bay. Uncle Larry passed away two years ago, and this was the first chance we’d had to visit Aunt Ellen.
We found the house with no trouble and spent a good bit of time catching up. We had an early-ish dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, then set out to see what we could find. It was still early evening, but since it was now clear I asked if there was a spot we could watch the sun set over the beach. Ellen had the perfect location.
The town of Coos Bay is on the eastern (inland) side of the peninsula along the bay. Like a mutant amoeba, it expanded and swallowed up the surrounding communities into its city limits, including North Bend and Empire. Aunt Ellen lives near the Empire area, which is closer to the coast. This put us in a good position to reach the beach before sundown. (more…)