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Saturday, 8 June 2013


Oregon. It’s my favourite US state. I’ve been there 6 times. If I had to live somewhere in the US this would certainly be the place.
The first time I visited Oregon was in 1968 when I was hitchhiking from Vancouver, BC to Montreal, Quebec.  It was the latter part of March and I thought traveling across the US would be warmer than crossing through the Canadian Rockies and the prairies of Saskatchewan. I guess I didn’t think about Colorado. I made it as far south as Portland Oregon on my trip before cutting east. I stayed overnight in a jail cell in the small eastern Oregon town of Fruitland. You might say I just got a whiff of the state on my first visit.
My second time in Oregon was on my honeymoon in 1981. I got married in Saskatchewan and after the wedding we headed south stopping in places like Sun Valley, Idaho, Reno, Nevada and San Francisco. We took the 101 coast highway north from San Francisco and into Oregon State. The 101 is one of most spectacular highways anywhere with amazing ocean vistas. We went for a jet boat ride up the Rogue River in southern Oregon, went salmon fishing at Winchester Bay, and took an elevator rise down to the stinky seal caves near the small city of Florence.
My third trip was with my ex-wife a few years later. We mostly hung around the upscale Cannon Beach area. We slept in the back of my van a few nights which wasn’t that comfortable. We said the hell with that and checked into a waterfront lodge by the ocean. Our suite had two fireplaces. We went from roughing it to luxury with no regrets. One night we saw Arsenic and Old Lace at small theatre on the main drag. I bought a tape of Japanese bells at a local bookstore. Why I can’t recall. I remember pulling over one morning to have breakfast in a local diner. The talk in the café among the regulars was about poaching salmon in the dishwasher. I wasn’t sure if they were chatting about the salmon partly to see our reaction on our faces.
My fourth time in Oregon was by myself after my ex-wife and I had separated. I discovered the airplane museum not far from the big cheese factory at Tillamook. I bought a reproduction of an old newspaper that had a headline about Amelia Earhart having disappeared in the eastern Pacific Ocean. I walked along the beach and felt a kind of emptiness knowing that I wasn’t sharing the time with anyone else.
The fifth time I went to Oregon was to a jazz festival on the Hood River east of Portland. It was a 3 day deal and they called it “Jazz  On The Water”. The venue was out on a little peninsula on the Hood River. They had some notable jazz greats including Chick Corea and Dee Dee Bridgewater. I’m pretty sure the festival no longer exists. The area is known to windsurfers from around the world. For some reason the winds coming over the hills provide the ideal propulsion. I spent one morning watching part of a triathlon a few miles up the river. 
My last trip to Oregon was 3 summers ago. I thought Linda would really enjoy Oregon and knew that she had never been there before.  We made plans to do some camping for several of the nights of our two week getaway. Linda made some reservations at a few motels and at 2 state parks.
We ditched the dog at Linda’s daughters and caught the Blackball ferry from Victoria, BC to Anacortes, Washington. (I once saw Leon Russell do a show in Anacortes between some fishing sheds.)  There are two main highways that run south of the state of Washington into California, Highway 101 and the interstate expressway the I-5. We took neither.
Linda thought it might be interesting if we took some secondary highways south. It turned out to be a bit of a mistake as we ended up traveling for miles and miles through deep forests which can get boring pretty fast. We noticed a number of abandoned sawmills along the way and when we drove through small towns we could see that a number of stores were boarded up.  You could tell that the local economies weren’t what they once were.
We took the long bridge that crosses over the Columbia River and into Oregon State and spent the night in the seaside town of Astoria. Astoria was named after John Jacob Astor who made his fortune in fur trading. We had dinner at a local bar that had some live music. The next morning we tooled around town a bit admiring a number of Queen Anne type of houses and we saw the Astoria Column in a nearby park that depicts the history of Oregon.
For most part our first several days in Oregon the weather was overcast. It never really rained but the skies were almost always on the dark side. All in all we spent about 4 days camping in state parks close to the beaches. Each night we had a campfire going and had a shot of Drambuie before hitting the sack. The parks were nice but each morning we would wake up in our tent and we could almost taste the moisture. It was still only June and the bright hot sunny weather on the Oregon coast doesn’t really start usually until July. We packed up our camping gear and left it in the car trunk for the duration. A nice softy comfy bed was in order.

We spent a few days in the Cannon Beach, Manzanita, and Tillamook areas.  We walked along the beaches at Canon Beach and Manzanita, skipped the cheese factory at Tillamook and spent an afternoon at the Air Museum which is in a huge concrete air hanger. Apparently at one time there were 2 hangers but one burned down. The site was used for flight training during the Second World War and there are a number of vintage planes on display. In 2016 the owners of the museum plan to move the whole shebang somewhere in Oregon where it isn’t as damp. I guess they don’t want those old planes rusting away.
Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach
Air Museum, Tillamook
Air Museum, Tillamook
We visited an aquarium in Newport, Oregon. It was a bit overpriced for what was offered and the building it was in seemed to have seen better days. I guess when one is familiar with first class aquariums like the one in Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC comparisons are inevitable. We skipped the seal caves near Florence, Oregon. I told Linda about taking an elevator down to the caves a number of years before and how stinky it was and she was happy about taking a pass on that deal. We saw plenty of seals out in the ocean.
We were now staying in motels. For some strange reason many motels all along the west coast, including Washington and California, are owned by East Indians.  Most of them were OK but nothing fancy. Linda had made a number of reservations as we were getting into summer peak season and we didn’t want to have to spend hours looking for a place to stay. I have to say that there wasn’t one motel that we would ever go back to or highly recommend. To be fair, we weren’t staying in the most upscale places. Sometimes a bed is a bed and it sure beats the hell out of sleeping in the car.
Dune country
We were now getting into dune country.  We spent a bit of time watching the dune buggies race across the countryside. Once in while we would hear a maniacal shriek as one of the dune buggies sailed in the air at the top of a hill. For some reason I pictured in my mind Toadie the frog and his stolen motor car in The Wind and the Willows Disney cartoon with his eyes glazed over in his madness.  They seemed to be having great fun but the dune buggy thrill seems to be something meant for folks a bit younger than me. I don’t need any more back problems.
We stopped off at the marina at Winchester Bay where I had gone salmon fishing 30 years before. I asked the folks in the bait and tackle shop if they had ever heard of a marlin being fished out of the nearby waters. (Marlin are a rarity off the coast of Oregon). Indeed they had heard about the marlin from years ago and in fact had it on display up until a year or two before our current trip.
We stopped in a number of towns as we headed south. A few times we ate in seafood restaurants with ocean views. It is always nice to kind of experience a bit of the local flavour. We were now winging it a bit with no more reservations ahead of us. Most days we would spend on one beach or another. Personally, I can be quite happy with a spot in the sand sitting there watching the waves roll in for hours on end. We also ventured inland a few times just to see something other than the ocean. We found some very pretty creeks and smaller rivers.
Pacific Ocean views
Local coffee shop in some small town in Oregon
The skies didn’t clear up totally until we got to southern Oregon. Up until then most days had been rather cool. There were two places still that we wanted to see. One was to take a trip up the Rogue River on a jet boat and the other was to see the giant redwood trees in Northern California.
Gold Beach is the town on the Pacific coast where the Rogue River jet boats are located. It is not that far north of the California border. We found a nice motel by the ocean and went down to the marina the next morning to book our river trip. Without making things too complicated the Rogue River jet boats are able to navigate through waters as shallow as a few inches because they don’t have propellers below the surface and use powerful engines to force the water out behind them. Huh? The boats are flat bottomed and quite large in that they are capable of carrying around 40-50 passengers.
Things hadn’t changed much since my last boat trip 30 years before other than that one of the operators of a fleet of the boats (Jerry’s) had bought out their lone competitor. We were offered 3 options. The 1st was the 64 mile return trip “Historical Mail Route” at 50 bucks. Years ago the mail was delivered to settlements up river by boat which wasn’t an easy task.  The 2nd option was the 80 mile “White Water Excursion” at 70 bucks and the 3rd option was the 104 mile trip “Wilderness White Water Adventure”.
We decided to take the 80 mile trip. We took off shortly after donning our life vests. I am guessing there were about 30 of us in the boat. We would have lunch 40 miles up the river at a little restaurant before returning. Lunch was not included in the deal. The skipper of the boat had a microphone and gave us some history of the area and what critters we could see in the water and possibly on land as we made our way up the river. Turtles, otters, deer, eagles. There was no mention about the white man forcing the native Indians off of the land and placing them in distant reservations. No surprise there. After all we were in America.
A few jokes were told by the skipper and you could tell that his verbal observations were well rehearsed from many other trips. Whatever, it was keeping the customers happy. About an hour into the trip the skipper decided to jazz things up a bit and did some sharp turns which resulted in everyone getting soaked. A few of the older folks didn’t seem to find the soaking that much fun but we enjoyed it. At one point the skipper let us all know that he was a Lutheran minister when he wasn’t guiding folks up and down the river. There is a bit of power when one person has the mike.
We had about an hour for lunch part of which I used to take a short nap on a picnic bench. Not much was said by the skipper on the way back. I mean we were passing things we had seen on the way up so there really wasn’t much point repeating the jokes and whatever.
Not my dog.


Unbeknownst to the boat passengers there was somebody hired by the boat tour company up on a bridge near the home marina taking photos of the boat which would be available for a price when the boat reached the dock. There was a big sticker on the windshield on the back of the boat where the skipper stood that said tips were greatly appreciated. Of course you couldn’t get off the boat without passing the skipper and looking him in the eye as he was now situated at the exit spot. 30 boat people at 10 bucks a head in tips is about 300 bucks in tips. 30 boat people x 70 bucks admission equals 2100 bucks. My guess is the skipper’s take for the day was about 600 bucks. Not too shabby. Maybe he is giving half of it to run a soup kitchen somewhere?
All the math aside about the profits, we had a great time and would heartily suggest the boat trip to anyone. It is a unique adventure. Well worth the money.
Ginger Rogers the actress, supposedly owned a ranch near the Rogue River and spent the latter part of her life there in the summers before buying a house in the nearby town of Medford.
The next day we headed down to Northern California in search of the giant redwood trees. Crescent City is about 20 miles south of the Oregon border and this where the site of The Redwood National Forest is located. The tallest redwood is something like 379 high with a girth of about 26 feet. Redwood trees in the US are sometimes called Sequoias.

The park was amazing. Taking pictures of huge trees may sound easy to do but it isn’t. You can kind of get an idea of how big the trees are by having someone stand in front of one but then you can’t see the height. The drive through the forest was along a very narrow road but there were plenty of places to pull over. We spent several hours in the park. There is something humbling about standing near giants.
It was time to head home to Vancouver Island. To make better time we decided to take the I-5 interstate highway. We were totally surprised how much hotter it was inland. We had become used to brisk days out on the coast.
I had heard and read lots of good things about Portland, Oregon and we planned to stop there for a day or so on our way back to British Columbia. We spent a night at a motel on the outskirts of the city and went investigating the following day. I had heard about a well-known local bookstore in Portland called Powell’s. We stopped and asked some people on the street to see if they knew where it was and they turned out to be fellow Canadians on their way to the same place. They also told us they had been checking out some restaurants they had seen on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on TV.
Portland, Oregon
Powell’s didn’t disappoint and I came away with several used Studs Terkel books and one written by Jean Shepherd. Linda picked up some art books. We spent the rest of the day at some kind of festival near the river. We saw some live music and ate some stuff before packing it in. I don’t know much more about Portland than I did before this visit. I think there is still a lot more to see there.
The rest of our trip back home was pretty uneventful. We did a bit of shopping near Bellingham, Washington and as per usual bought some duty free booze at the border.
I would like to go back to Oregon again in the next few years, maybe next year when we are planning on seeing the Grand Canyon we will stop off there for a few days. I would also like to see Ashland, Oregon where Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader is published. It seems like a cool town. Maybe something like Austin,Texas?
What I would really like to find is an affordable place halfway down the coast in Oregon with a kitchenette that allows dogs. I kind of like the idea of just relaxing with long walks along the beach with the dog and a small stack of good books to read.
If you know of such a place let me know too. It would be much appreciated.



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