When there is no defined schedule, no planned route, life’s most difficult decision each day is, where do we go next? Yes, the fact that such a trivial matter is our daily burden means that our life is utterly incredible at this moment, but somehow it still tends to become a major point of anxiety.
I look at the atlas and I am suddenly paralyzed with indecision, I read through the guidebook and imagine visiting every wine tasting, lighthouse tour and picnic stop within our general vicinity. If we miss the beach covered in mysterious ocean glass, will I ever see it again? If we head east instead of south, will I never see the continent’s largest sand dunes? What if I never smell the sea cavern that is home to hundreds of sea lions? At some point in the morning I always end up realizing that I must make a decision or we will be sitting at the Arco gas station for the rest of our lives. Luckily, for the next part of the trip I had Chase and Alex in the car to calm my worrisome mind.
We left Portland first thing in the morning knowing that we needed to reach San Francisco within the next month. If we wanted to take the shortest route, we could have cruised down I-5 for 650 miles and reached it without a hitch. But, how boring is a road trip that only drives on one road, and a four lane interstate for that matter? Instead, we left Portland and went west, back to the beach. Chase and I were still in a delightful daze from our visit to Cannon Beach and we wanted to show Alex the beach beauty. The lovely highway 101 runs all along the coast of Oregon, making it easy to leisurely explore the wild coast.
On the way to the beach we made a pit stop at the Tillamook factory. While you in the Midwest may have never heard of Tillamook cheese, it is a regional mainstay in the West. We have seen it on grocery shelves from Seattle to San Francisco. Tillamook is famous for it’s rain, they receive over 90 inches each year, which makes for lush green grass and the perfect place for cows. There are about 120 dairy farms in Tillamook County, which amounts to 28,000 cows countywide. In the early 1900’s local farmers organized their efforts and created a dairy cooperative that is still responsible today for running the Tillamook factory. Together, their farms produce about 1.3 million pounds of milk each day, all of which is processed into award winning cheese, yogurt and ice cream. We spent a couple delicious hours sampling cheese and watching the incredible workings of a dairy factory. After our tour and tastings we felt like we deserved lunch and we were well rewarded at the factory cafe with gooey grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.
After such a filling morning, we walked off our calories along Lincoln City’s beach. This isn’t any ordinary beach, this is a beach filled with treasures. Each year between October and May, the city hides over 2,000 glass floats along a 7 1/2 mile stretch of beach. They commission local glass blowers to create these wonders to promote tourism in the off-season. It sure worked for us. We called the local Visitor Bureau when we were 15 minutes from town and got the scoop. Each day they hide 7-10 floats along the beach to be found by anyone dedicated enough to walk 7 1/2 miles in the rain and wind. We were adventurous, we had rain coats, so we set off determined to search until we found treasure. Three hours later, soaked to the bone and chilly we got back into our car feeling like pirates who couldn’t remember where they had buried their treasure. I wish so much I could show you a picture of us holding our treasure, but it will have to wait until the next time I return to Lincoln City.
As evening approached, we decided that it was going to be a bit too blustery to sleep in a tent. We found the next best thing at the Beverly Beach State Park – a yurt! Yurts became our new best friend on this road trip. For only $40 a night we had the luxury of electricity, heat and shelter. After a warm, restful night of sleep we awoke to find that we were only a couple steps from the beach. There were seals swimming in the ocean and we soaked in the beauty of the coast.
We jumped in the car, eager to get a few miles under our belts, but became distracted within the first six miles by the Yaquina Head State Park. Earlier this year, we splurged and purchased a National Park annual visitor pass for $80.00. Anytime we think we will be able to use it, we do and Yaquina head was the perfect destination. We received an 1800’s style lighthouse tour from the daughter of the keeper, we watched seals bask on the rocks and we touched sea creatures in tidal pools.
Night number two found us in another yurt, this time at the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, home to North America’s largest coastal sand dunes. We walked around the beautiful freshwater Lake Marie and ended up on the ocean once more, but this time surrounded by sand as far as the eye could see. We had only managed to travel 200 miles in two days, so we decided to pick it up a bit and head inland to Eugene. We had extremely high hopes for Eugene – too high, in fact. I had spent some time researching it’s appeal as a city and on paper it checked all the boxes: decent size city, entrepreneur friendly, thriving art scene and decent weather. However, seeing something in reality is much different than reading about it online. It felt worn out and grungy, not a place where we could see ourselves living. Although we had planned to stay the night in Eugene, we ended up getting out as soon as possible and driving south. Our next destination was Crater Lake and we stayed in Roseburg for the night, a great launching pad for exploration into the Umpqua National Forest.
Only three days into our road trip and we have seen beaches, oceans, sand dunes and mountains. On the agenda next is Crater Lake, hot springs and moldy motels. Check back soon!