My foam pad / mattress was “probably” going to be ready today sometime, according to Mario the foam guy, so I figured this would be take-off day. I said a wistful goodbye to Champoeg State Park in the morning as I pulled out of my campsite. Champoeg had been my home for most of the last six weeks as I got ready for my trip, and I’d miss it. It’s a great state park and I can’t think of a better place to use as a staging area. It was an inexpensive place to stay – cabins run $40/night and campsites are about $20 – and it was only about 20 minutes from Portland, my house and my storage unit. Also, it was clean, a safe place to leave my stuff during the day and is stunningly beautiful. Plus it’s an important historic site, being the place where, back in 1843, the hundred-or-so fur trappers in this area narrowly decided that Oregon should be part of the United States and not Canada.
Above: The road trip begins. I left Champoeg in the morning, picked up my foam pad in downtown Portland in the early afternoon, and drove to Beverly Beach State Park, pulling in around 7 p.m.
After leaving Champoeg, I made one final stop at my new storage unit to drop off a few things, then it was on to Tualatin. I was working in the Tualatin Library around 11 a.m. and had just posted a note of the home page of my main website, DelsJourney.com, directing readers to my ExtremeGeographer.com website, when I got a text from In-Ex, the foam rubber place, saying that my foam pad was ready. I decided it was finally time to leave Portland, because I had no idea how long my shipment from Qatar would take to arrive in Portland. It might show up tomorrow or a week from now or a month from now, and I couldn’t afford to wait any longer. I had visits set up with several friends in California the following weekend, a visit planned with friends in Austin, Texas the weekend after that, and the NCAA softball tournament would start in Oklahoma City a few days after that, so I had to get going.
I packed up my stuff, walked out of the library, and got in my truck and, ironically, got a call from the shippers just then saying that my shipment would be here on Monday. I could wait in Portland until Monday and oversee its delivery but I decided to take off and let my neighbor, Dave, handle it. I was antsy to get on the road and had scheduled visits with several friends in Southern California the next week, so I decided to leave that afternoon. Besides, it was too late to cancel my foam pad order from In-Ex since they’d just cut it. If the shippers had contacted me a few hours earlier, I could’ve saved myself the $300 cost of the foam pad, but such is life.
I drove down to In-Ex, in the industrial area of Portland, and picked up my foam bed, then about 3 p.m., I got on the highway and left Portland on a beautiful afternoon. After getting gas, my first stop was the Evergreen Aviation Museum near McMinnville to see the Spruce Goose. This was going to be a trip of geographic extremes, but I also like to see other superlative locations including the Spruce Goose, the largest airplane in the world. It was built in the 1940’s by billionaire Howard Hughes and flew only one time, in southern California in 1947. Several years ago the Evergreen Aviation company bought it and shipped it up to Oregon, tightly wrapped in white plastic, and for the past 23 years it’s made its home here in McMinnville. I still remember seeing it sitting by the highway in its shrink-wrap plastic back in 1993. Unfortunately, the Evergreen company went bankrupt recently but the museum is still open. I didn’t buy a ticket to see the Spruce Goose, since I was in a hurry to get to the coast and find a campsite, but the museum has huge windows, and so I took a few pictures of it from the outside looking in.
I got back in my truck and continued on to the coast. During the summer months, if it’s hot and sunny in Portland and the nearby Willamette Valley, it’s usually chilly and foggy over on the coast and today was no exception. I reached Lincoln City on the coast a little after 6 p.m. and was dismayed to see that my favorite seafood shack, Barnacle Bill’s, was closed for the day. When I was a little kid, my family often drove the Oregon Coast in the summer and we’d always stop at Barnacle Bill’s to get smoked salmon, salted herring and shrimp cocktails. Last summer when I came back from Qatar, I headed down the coast and my first stop was Barnacle Bill’s where I bought 6 large pieces of smoked salmon – over 4 pounds worth -- because I’d been thinking about the taste of the delicious salmon for the previous years. Yeah, it was a lot of money (over $100) but I didn’t care since I had only a short time in the U.S. before going back to Qatar and I was going to savor every minute and experience.
But alas, Barnacle Bill’s was closed on this day so I continued down the road, driving past the house where I used to live. Back in the 1980’s when I was a vagabond college student, I didn’t have a permanent address so I stored my stuff at my sister’s house here in Lincoln City, so Lincoln City became my de facto home for several years.
Above: I left Portland on my road trip on a sunny Friday afternoon. A few hours later I reached the drizzly coast. One of my first stops was Depoe Bay, where I watched the fishing boats enter the narrow harbor. (0:44)
Another half-mile down Highway 101, I passed the D River, the so-called “shortest river in the world.” The “D” in D River stands for Devil’s River, which connects the expansive Devil’s Lake with the Pacific Ocean (which is also known here as the “P Ocean” -- just kidding). The sign saying “World’s Shortest River” has been posted here for as long as I can remember and at only 100 yards or so in length, the river is certainly diminutive. However, the whole “shortest river in the world” thing has always been a tongue-in-cheek issue so please don’t write in claiming that you know a shorter river. But if you have a picture of a sign that says some other river is shorter, please do send it in and I'll post it.
I passed another tongue-in-cheek geographic extreme just 20 miles down the road in the small coastal town of Depoe Bay (coastal Oregonians are very tongue-in-cheek). Depoe Bay is known for two things: fantastic whale watching and the “world’s smallest harbor.” Again, the sign here stating “World’s Smallest Harbor” has been posted for as long as I can remember – at least 40 years. But again, whether this is indeed the world’s smallest harbor is speculative. What is certain, though, is that it is one of most unusual harbors in America and has one of the most spectacular entrances of any harbor I’ve ever seen. The entrance is extremely narrow and is bordered by steep, rocky cliffs on both sides and the Highway 101 bridge runs on top of it. If you’re ever driving through Depoe Bay and see a boat – typically a chartered fishing boat – in the ocean approach the harbor entrance, be sure to stop and get out to watch the captain navigate the narrow, rocky entrance.
I got back in the truck, content in knowing that I’d seen two geographic extremes within a half-hour, and continued heading south down Highway 101. It was early evening so I decided to pull over and camp for the night at Beverly Beach Campground north of Newport, where I was greeted at the entrance station by the same cheerful-and-bearded ranger who checked me in a month earlier during my previous stay. I told him that I’d just left on an 8-month road trip around America and he was excited and wished me congratulations.
The Beverly Beach campground has a couple loops for tenters that are first-come, first-served and thus not reservable. I figured these loops, this being a Friday afternoon in early May, were pretty empty and I was right, and I selected a nice campsite under the mossy fir trees next to a small creek. It was only a couple sites away from where I’d camped a month earlier and it was great. Same weather as before: cool and cloudy, but it was a nice evening nonetheless.
The light was waning as I pulled in, but my first task before I made dinner was to get the foam bed set up. I pulled it out of the truck and made cut-outs for where it covered the wheel wells, shaping it to fit the back of my truck. It took me a half-hour with my scissors but it worked – pretty well, at least. With that task over, I took out my propane campstove, cooked up some brats, and enjoyed a pleasant evening on the Oregon coast.
The Road Trip Begins!