Not Dead Yet II: Still Not Dead!

Oct. 3, 2000

Fifties, my butt. Let's try thirties, and close to frost level. At least I had the foresight to sleep with my clothes on, and I survive by keeping my head under the bedsheet until the sun gets high enough to begin to warm the air. As I had bought the last of the milk at the store nearby, I had tried to save the half of the quart I hadn't used by keeping it in the large cooking pot filled with the cold well water from the spigots at the campsites. Unfortunately, it seems to have backfired, as the water acted as an insulator against the much colder air, and the milk is sour. I make a couple peanut butter sandwiches to coat the hunger and pack up, anxious to see Lincoln City, Oregon, and its famous whale watching.

And five freakin' hours later I'm still anxious to see Lincoln City, but I'm not sure I'm going to make it there today. Traffic is nuts! Every podunk town with a name demands that everyone slow down to 25 miles an hour, and with the window shopping from within the cars and the slow winding road filled with RVs and Sunday drivers that refuse to use the "Slow Car Turnouts", I'm cussing like a sailor at every gear shift. I'm still waiting for that glorious Oregon coast I hear about, that everyone tells me is the best coastline in the country, but meanwhile, I've seen the ocean for maybe five minutes, and the rest of the time I've got one eye on the guy ahead of me who's looking for the ocean and not watching the road, and one eye on the guy in the rearview mirror who's looking for the ocean and not watching the road. It must be me, but I just don't get along with Oregon. The drivers are rude, they speed up when you try to pass them, a couple have even moved over to block me if I try to pass across a solid yellow line, because they are moving too damn slow and refuse to turn out, and the gas station attendents practically yell at me for doing as little as swiping my credit card in the gas pump. "It's illegal for you to touch the gas pump, sir." What, do they have a problem with people being too stupid to use a pump? Were they spraying gas all over the place and then setting it afire? I'm aghast when one attendent takes the nozzle out from the pump and then pours out the remnants in the nozzle ON THE GROUND. And I shouldn't be handling the gas pump.

Other things about Oregon bother me. Unlike in Washington, I do not see any significant efforts to reforest, and from what I can see from the road, Oregon is running out of trees, at least in the northwest part of the state. Lots of strip cleared hills with not too many left. Oh, and ever wonder about how the scientists claim cows produce more ozone destroying methane than all of human efforts? Come to Oregon, you'll believe it. I first noticed this in Idaho, along I-84, but it is really bad in the Oregon section of I-84 and all down the coast. And I remember years ago (about 20) coming down from Alaska with my parents and we passed through Eugene and wow, talk about wanting to shove cigarettes in your nostrils to kill the smell! Like I said, me an' Oregon don't get along.

Lincoln City is a bust. Tourist trap, just an overgrown ocean-side city with none of the charm of the smaller ones, not that they have much themselves. I don't even bother slowing down. I need lunch and I need gas. I wanted to spend a couple days here, but forget it, I'm out of here. At this rate, it'll be three weeks before I'm in San Diego. The only cool thing about Lincoln City is shortly before you get into town, you pass through the 45th parallel, marking the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole. I passed through it on the way up, but I forgot to mention it.

A few miles south of Lincoln City I hit Depoe Bay, and the first continuous oceanfront. I stop at a place called "Mr. P's" and order breakfast, at 3:30pm. For $6, I get three large pancakes, two scrambled eggs, and a cup of hot chocolate. Sure, it isn't some fancy "resort" or "bistro", but is on the oceanfront and the food is good. Stop in if you're in that area some time. Right on Hwy 101, on the ocean side.

While eating I look at my progress for the day and am dismayed. I see that there is a KOA campground about 40 miles ahead, and not too many after than for a long stretch, so I decide to stop there. Seven hours after leaving Bay Center, and only 200 miles farther down the road, I stop for the night, at Waldport. Nice view, of both a bay and the ocean, but the wind kicks up something fierce a couple hours before I pull in, so I have to pick my site carefully. I find a good location that is shielded from the wind and set up, making sure the tent is nice and rigid. When things flap is when they break. Looks like another night around 40, and the wind stops when the sun goes down, again. For most of the night it is comfortable, and I try sleeping in my t-shirt and underwear, as I am feeling the effects of wearing my clothes for 23 hours and forty five minutes every day (the last night in Victoria was close to freezing, and I needed to sleep in my clothes even in the Kabin because the heater dried out the air too much to keep the windows closed all the way). Sometime in the night I realized I wasn't going to stay warm if I didn't put some clothes on, so I do but a chill has already set in, and I sleep fitfully until daybreak.

Oct. 4, 2000

My choice of locations kept me out of the wind, but now keeps me out of the sun as well, and this slows my start. Camping in two straight nights of near freezing temperatures are taking their toll. I know it's warmer further south, but if I keep getting these lows I may have to turn inland after Crescent City and the Redwoods. Motels are not cheap anymore, and besides, I hate them. I have 250 miles to cover today, which if the last two days are any indication, that mean today is going to be a long, tiring day. I depart around 10am, some of the sluggishness and chill gone, but not all. As if in a trade-off, instead of mindnumbing traffic, the road is a fast two lane and four lane through few towns. I am actually making some ground, and I feel like a long distance runner free of the crowd, able to stretch his legs. It's still cold, though, and the few thermometers I come across in towns read 52 to 54 pretty much. On a whim, in Port Orford, I pull off and follow the sign reading "Ocean view", mainly because I haven't seen it today. It's been all hills and bays or rivers. As I crest the hill looking out, I have to shake my head, because instead of the dark waters I had been seeing, the bay looked like a Carribean ocean postcard, with jade and turquoise hues washing over a white sand bottom many feet below, with large, vegetation covered rocks jutting up, interrupting the ocean flow with blasts of white spray. Huh. I take a few pictures and proceed on. About five miles south of town, with the new, more pleasant ocean easily in view, I round a corner and rejoice - warm air!!! In just a few turns the air temperature has soared upward, until my multiple layers of clothes are now uncomfortable and undesirable. I loosen my scarf and open my visor for the full effect, although I close my visor almost immediately because now I have something flying around inside my helmet with me.

This is what I came to the Pacific Coast for! Long white beaches with azure waters and warm tropical air! Too damn bad that's not where long white beaches with azure waters and warm tropical air are! As quickly as they came, the beaches and warm air depart, and for the next many miles I have a deeper blue (but still blue) ocean with dark sands and large rocks (I mean, multifamily house sized rocks), with the view occasionally dropping away a few hundred feet off to the right ten or so feet away from the road. Not quite as warm, but much more pleasant than what I have been seeing, and yes, I can understand why some people like the Oregon coast. So if you want to have a nice pleasing drive along a beautiful coast, take I-5 north until you can go west to Port Orford, and then go south on Hwy 101 from there (don't go north on Hwy 101, you won't see a thing unless you do the view points). You get a bit more of a reward if take Hwy 101 from the Olympic Peninsula, but it might not be worth the effort.

Because the road was so clear, I am able to make Crescent City fairly early in the day, around 4pm. I stop at a KOA, content to call it a day and do laundry (I'm out of clean tshirts and my long sleeve tshirt that I've worn on top of everything for four days is somewhat itchy). I ask about the lows for the night, as I am quite chilled in spite of the earlier warm air, and the owner offers me a special rate on a cabin, which I quickly accept. That night I manage to catch my first Pacific Coast sunset, and it is pleasant. It feels odd to be in California, although, really, as long as the state is, it takes up about what the East Coast uses four or five states for, so it's not like I'm in San Diego proper or that what it is like here is anything like what it is there, which is good because this doesn't feel any special or different. At the end of the third day, the US still feels foreign, like I don't quite fit right. It's not that anything has changed from the way it has always been, it's just that I look at it differently. Yes, I'm still longing for Victoria, and with the fatigue of three hard days of traveling weighing on me and maybe exaggerating my emotions, I do wonder if I made the right choice.

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