Now, of course, I’m tempting the fates for a call like that to come from work RIGHT NOW, but what the hell, the trip was worth it. Now I write many, many words explaining why it was worth it…
Tuesday and Wednesday were long days at work, where I had to do one big extra thing that had to be done (long story, and not the long story y’all want to read) so I toughed it out. Even early Thursday morning was busy, with trip-prep (plus finally getting needed laundry done, which I’d gotten home too late on Tuesday to do and which wasn’t possible Wednesday night (someone had the dryer drying a load for over 90 minutes! Wha’…?)), but ’round 9 a.m. I hit the road.
And stopped two blocks away.
Heh. No, not car trouble, but my first errand. I took time out to stop at the elementary school right north of my house, and then at the next-nearest elementary school about 20 blocks away, and drop off – I’m not kidding – a couple of years’ accumulation of soup labels and box tops, the kind that schools collect to get extra corporate funds. I’d realized that I’m rarely home when the schools are open, so since I would be that day, why not deposit those? So I divided my piles into two roughly even collections, bagged them for ease of transport, and got moving. I got gas, too, in between the two school stops. And after stopping at Wal-Mart, to recharge my phone card with more long distance time, I started actually heading towards the actual coast.
I had lunch on the winding, tree-lined road to the coast. I was disappointed that Eyvette’s, a restaurant 20 miles from Lincoln City that was run by people my dad’s parents knew, was no longer open; I’d liked the place, and the family that ran it. They’d been through tragedy in recent years, and my family did what we could to support them and keep them in our thoughts after that. Good food from good people. Now they’re good people, but without the huge responsibility of running a restaurant. I hope they’re doing OK.
So instead I ate at another good place: the Otis Café, about six miles from Lincoln City. The last time I was there, I bought a souvenir mug. I don’t usually do that, but it’s another good-food-and-good-people joint. (It’s also in a town that’s had the goofy kind of drama, like a monkey attack. I’m not kidding.) The Otis Café has been written up in the New York Times and USA Today. Its signature foods are German potatoes – basically imagine the thickest hash-browns-with-cheese you can imagine, and then imagine more (which is why the restaurant offers an order, half-order, and even quarter-order size) – and homemade bread (you walk past the bread-maker and its wonderful smell on the way to the restroom). It also has enough flair to be a restaurant in a semi-rural area that would be playing Nirvana: Unplugged in New York on its sound system. That happily surprised me the first time I ate there. This time I had the café’s specialty salad and a side pork chop, and I smiled while eating. Good food. You surprised I like good food?
This is almost a ritual for me: drive to the coast, and stop at a wayside to look at the ocean and remind myself that yes, it is there. (That almost sounded like Hemingway.) Sometimes I go to Road’s End, on Lincoln City’s north side, but that would mean driving past the site of the burnt-down Dory Cove Restaurant, another lost-and-lamented eatery, and I decided I didn’t want to see that. So instead I stopped at the D River Wayside, next to one of the shortest genuine rivers in the world. Ocean breeze and sea gulls greeted me. I got a seagull away from a chips bag that the gull seemed to think might be edible, and threw it away (the bag, not the bird!). I watched the waves do their thing, as they do (if they didn’t, something would be going spectacularly wrong), and I started to reset my mind to Vacation Time. Easier to do with water, sky and clouds reaching to one horizon. Edge places, as Douglas Adams wrote in Mostly Harmless, attract us; they can help us contemplate, and change how we think.
I checked into my motel at 2 that afternoon, on an 80-foot cliff on the south end of town. A basic room; exactly what I wanted. And the window overlooked many small-to-large rocks in the tidal area, getting lapped by varying amounts of water but never being entirely submerged, with giant logs tangled up and stacked among them. I watched this from the warm room (warmth courtesy the gas fireplace) and spent time with myself. I also overcame my tendency not to put things away when staying somewhere (I keep worrying I’ll forget something in some drawer; I’m glad to say I forgot nothing; go me!) and put stuff in drawers and on hangers. I also broke out my rarely-worn red robe. I like my red robe. I felt, ah yes, quite comfortable in this get-up.
Spring on the Oregon Coast is not a swimming time. Hell, summer barely is; the water’s cold, even in August. I know from experience. Glorious, goosefleshed experience. Surfing still happens, and so does kite flying, but for me the Oregon Coast is a place for walking.
And, this time, singing.
Hey, I was on a deserted stretch that evening, with evening sunlight growing redder, and the waves making their noise; who’s going to mind? I did strong-throated, faux-opera renditions of Randy Newman’s songs “You’ve Got a Friend In Me” and, more cynically, “The Great Nations of Europe” (“The Grand Canary Islands, first lands to which they came/ They slaughtered all the canaries there which gave the land its name/ There were natives there called Guanches, Guanches by the score/ Bullets, disease, the Portuguese, they weren’t there anymore”). I haven’t had singing training since college, and my voice is not the most consistent, but boy, it felt good to belt out some tunes. And after that, I sat on some of the rocks farthest from the water, so there’d be no chance of getting sneaker-waved, and spent time just making myself laugh. I felt like doing that loudly, too.
Otherwise, I was fairly quiet, especially in my room: reading, eating, watching some films (the cute Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, plus bits of Funny Face, Strange Days, Revenge of the Sith, and The People Versus Larry Flynt), some exercise, and general relaxing. I didn’t feel the need to go darting and jumping.
I eased into Friday with more beach time. I wound up needing to cross water (due to heavy outflow from a pipe), and spent some time jumping from sandy outcropping to sandy outcropping to keep out of the water until, I realized, I could go no farther without getting wet. So off came the shoes and socks, and walking barefoot on sand. Then rocks. That was a production, because the road back up to the hotel ends with a mix of rocks that take some scrambling to get across. I was lucky that a guy had gotten down to the end of that road when I started gingerly making my way up those rocks; he gave me a hand. I put down the shoes and socks as high up on the grass as I could reach, took his hand, got up to the actual asphalt, and then had to reach back a fair distance to pick up my footwear. And boy, are my feet dainty and unused to rocks, even pebbles; I walked very gingerly up the hill, with thoughts of Tom Hanks’ foot wound in Cast Away and Bruce Willis pulling glass from his feet in Die Hard. (The careful walking was to prevent anything like those wounds!)
Soon after cleaning off my feet (no wounds! Yay!), it was time for lunch. And I had another food destination, the I’m-glad-to-say-it’s-still-there Kyllo’s on the north bank of the D River. It’s seafood, and it’s pricey, and it’s worth it. It’s also in a funky, flowing-lines building, certainly not a standard-issue restaurant, and up on pilings above the little river. I ate my first mussels and scallops there back in 1994, and instantly became fond of the place. My lunch – which tided me over through dinner, even after all the walking and exertion I did later, so we’re talkin’ “generous” – was a starter dish of fried calamari rings and a halibut-and-shrimp-with-melted-parmesan plate. And I was smiling again while eating.
I also met the resident seagull. Yes, there’s a pet gull at Kyllo’s. His name’s Fred, and he hangs out near the entrance. I got a couple of pictures of him, figuring he was Standard Issue Beach Rat who just happened to be hanging out there briefly, and only then learned that he’s reasonably friendly to people (i.e. he doesn’t nip at or squawk at people, and he even accepts food by hand). Fred’s distinctive, too; he holds up one foot, which looks slightly deformed, and stands like a little white flamingo. He’s well practiced at keeping his balance like that, it looks like. The restaurant greeter who told me about Fred said that he apparently was born with his foot that way.
The closest thing to a problem this trip happened a little later. I’d gone driving farther north in town, and walked around a particular shopping district (including the Bank of America and the computer store Desperate Hard Drives). Getting back to my car, I noticed a tire was low, not flat, but low. OK, that needs addressing before tire-go-boom, so I tried to remember the closest gas station to where I was. (Lincoln City has relatively few gas stations, by my standards.) I did figure out and find the nearest one, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the air pump was free, not coin-operated. I inflated that low tire, and added air to the other tires, and felt more secure. Then, seeing that the station had a car wash, too, I decided “Why not?” and ordered a wash, too.
Gee, had I spent 25 or 50 cents or whatever for air, spending six bucks on a car wash as well probably wouldn’t have occurred to me. But I kind of felt I should pay for something there, and with not having to pay for that why not pay for this?
Fast forward to a little later that afternoon, location: the motel lobby:
Me: “How dark is the walk down to the beach after dark?”
Lobby desk woman: “Dark enough you’ll want a flashlight.” *whips out a flashlight*
Thank you for the whipping-out, ma’am (heh). Once it was dark, I went on another walk to the beach. It becomes a more intimate place at night – people gather around fires, details of the land become less distinct (the cliff seems more like a backdrop than an actual cliff), and much less of the ocean is visible, especially on a moonless night. But then there are the stars, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out there so that you have a rough idea of what infinity looks like (hey, my second Douglas Adams/Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference in this entry), occasionally obscured by indistinct clouds but mostly visible, and of course the noise of all that water is still always there. This is the sort of Edge Place that inspired Rhode Island’s H.P. Lovecraft; you can more easily imagine unspeakable creatures existing out beyond in that overarching darkness. It’s almost mythic. And it’s neat. It also certainly was conducive to me thinking about personal issues, relationship-with-others stuff, and relationship-with-myself stuff. That was a needed walk.
By the way, after all that post-lunch walking and even that past-sunset hike, the only other thing I ate that day after my Kyllo’s lunch was a banana. Yeah, I’d been nicely filled by food.
Actual thing I said Saturday at 11:30 a.m.: “Is it too early for dessert?”
You see, after checking out of my hotel room my final morning on the coast this trip, I returned to Kyllo’s. I’d remembered the place’s dessert menu. It had an item called Mocha Mud: a pie-shaped piece of coffee bean ice cream with various chocolate components stuck inside and on top. I wanted that. I’d considered having it after walking around Friday, but, again, banana, so Saturday I made a special stop for dessert. Before I’d had lunch. My Aunt Nancy Walsh will smile at this. I changed my mind slightly and ordered a cup of the good shrimp bisque soup plus an iced tea; the server was good enough to ask me if I wanted the soup first and the dessert later, and I realized I did, so he waited to deliver my Mocha Mud until I’d finished the soup. (My approving words: “They may be two great tastes, but they don’t necessarily taste great together.”)
I made one more food-related stop on my way out of town: I went to a seafood stand my family likes called Barnacle Bill’s, and ordered a big honkin’ piece of fresh salmon for my folks and a few pieces of smoked salmon for myself. The people working there were nice enough to tell me the different qualities of the different salmon cuts, and were willing to wait while I slowly pondered the offerings. I’m a slow orderer. I’ll let you know that now. But with lots of salmon iced and/or bagged, I hit the road and headed home.
And now I’m home.