West Coast Report Four: Thursday

Some things that aren't food actually taste like food anyway. And they still put the scenery too close to high.

Basic Plan for the Day

We'll set off to see the rest of Oregon's coast. We know there are sea lion caves somewhere, but everything else depends on our whims.

More Signs of Confusion

Normally, I'd not have worried about a place called "Elbow Lake," but having seen Bruce's Bones Creek yesterday, I just had to wonder. We American Protestants are noted for trying to appeal to the culture around us (success in that endeavor is a separate question, but it is a repeated goal among most non-Amish groups), but apparently the Catholics are adapting as well: Our Lady of the Dunes parish? Which of the saints was known for sandy beaches? Yachats (a name I have no idea how to pronounce) city hall keeps summer hours: 2 to 6 pm. And its streets are named Nebraska, Montana, Kansas, Colorado, Knoxville, and California. Which transplanted Easterner promoted Knoxville to the status of a state? Oregon is reputed to underplay its advantages in a bid to make Californians skip it and move on up to Washington instead. Sure enough, we passed by the world's smallest harbor and drove over the world's smallest river ("D"). But one of the businesses was a little prouder of its product: Bear Creek Artichokes, the Heart of the Oregon Coast. (See the notes below if you don't know why I put that down.)

In the Midwest, it is possible to "rent a husband" for household carpentry and plumbing chores. We'd always thought that this was a sign of societal double-standards, since "rent a wife" sounds pretty wrong but "rent a husband" is cute. (Societal double standards don't always bother me, unless someone is trying to persuade me to live by his or hers. They are often indicative of deeper truths the society hasn't yet grappled with.) But in Oregon, the concept has caught on: One stretch of roadway is adopted by "Rent a Wife Cleaning Services."

And those tsunami signs and allusions: These folks have determined just what the sea bed and currents will do to water levels. There are some coastal areas just a dozen feet above sea level with no tsunami preparations noted, while others begin their evacuation processes as high as 87 feet up the slopes. We turned back onto Route 101 after a sight-seeing sojourn and saw

Tsunami Evacuation Route
<----->
If a tsunami's coming, just head somewhere! One community at 498 feet actually boasted it was "A Tsunami-ready Community." And in addition to yesterday's Tsunami Sam's campground, we saw a Tsunami art gallery. Unless it really is pictures of washed up debris or places-where-cities-used-to-be, this strikes me as an odd phenomenon. I have never seen "Tornado Motel" in Kansas City, and Florida didn't boast any "Hurricane Bar and Grill" signs last year. Despite all their professed preparation, this is obviously not a real threat to many of them, I would guess. Highs and Lows and Widths

We saw the lighthouse at Umpqua River. If you're going to see a lighthouse, I recommend this one, at least if John is giving the tour. He shared a wealth of information. The first lighthouse was built closer to the river and, as Jesus prophesied, fell down in a couple years. (You can't build on sand.) They then rebuilt it a hundred feet up on the bluff just over the ocean, where it has survived and functioned for over a century. However, this lighthouse only shines about 20 miles into the ocean, rather than the 21 of the more typical lighthouse to the north. This is because the ocean is now a mile away. I was pretty sure we'd have heard about it if the water level had dropped a hundred feet over the past century. If nothing else, they'd have had to move the New York docks a time or two. Instead, the folks trying to navigate the Umpqua River as it joins the ocean decided to build them a jetty (breakwater) or two. The second one was so successful in slowing down the water currents that the sand being carried by the water dropped to the bottom, thus building a new beach that has grown three-quarters of a mile in the eighty years of the jetty's existence. Let's see: 5,280 feet in a mile, factor in three-quarters and eighty years, and thus, by modus ponens and red-headed Indians, we deduce that the beach grows about a foot a week. Seriously!

The lighthouse is part of the Oregon Dunes. As we first passed the enormous dunes earlier, we wondered how much longer they could last. After all, their were now trees taking root up their sides. Surely the trees were a sign that "normal" soil was returning. Admittedly, the tree-covered dunes were about four miles inland, so that meant the dunes would last throughout my lifetime, anyway. But John, the lighthouse guide, mentioned in passing that the trees weren't climbing the dunes after all: The dunes are climbing the trees! That's right, the forest is actually disappearing under the sand that the wind drops. What we saw was the tops of trees that haven't yet given up the struggle.

John invited us to climb the lighthouse steps. Interior though they be, and secure as they had to be since occasional kerosene spills couldn't be allowed to interfere with the ups and downs of the station crew, my height sensors were in full operation by the time we got to the uppermost landing. And then some architect had placed a full-length window at the top of the stairs! My knees were steady (locked, actually) and my feet were solidly on the landing (so solidly that my calves and shins ached for hours, having been used to push my feet even more firmly on the landing platform) and my arms were linked inextricably around a convenient post toward the center of the room. I know others had to be bothered by the height, but for some reason John kept asking me (and only me) if I needed to leave or to sit down or to have some other assistance.

I stayed for the whole tour. He really was very interesting. But I couldn't make myself go up the last few steps to peek into the beautiful prism of the beacon itself (now powered electrically rather than by kerosene). Not only was it up a steep staircase, but the beacon itself was turning 360 degrees every two-and-a-half minutes. Vertigo is bad enough when everything is holding still and my gaze is level. To deliberately stand on a ladder and then look up would be tempting fate; to have everything visible spinning at the same time would have been disastrous. But Kathy got a beautiful picture of the beacon's interior.

We then went to the sea lion cave. Apparently some extreme sports enthusiast a century ago decided to wreck his boat along the Oregon boulders and happened to discover a cave (or tunnel) instead. Sea lions use it for resting and breeding (not while we were there, however; they were only resting, and most were outside in the sun). But since the number of tourists willing to risk being dashed against boulders is presumably not likely to generate much income, they built sloping ramps and a 208-foot elevator to move us from the top of the cliff to the cave. Back up top, vertigo was still a little problem. Surprisingly (for those of you who have been asking how I could stand the ups and downs anyway), when I look out and see the water, my body relaxes. The fact that there are bone-crushing boulders strewn along the cliffside is not a problem, so long as I know there is water at the bottom.

Some Non-food is Edible

The last site to mention is the world-famous Mo's Restaurant. A friend in Kansas City mentioned it to us, so we stopped at the Lincoln City location. Since we'd been told to have the clam chowder (a perfectly hideous way to prepare potato soup, I believe), I was actually relieved to see that one stretch of highway was sponsored by Mo's located in a town we'd already driven through. But as we hit Lincoln City, the sign was unmistakable, so we went in. The atmosphere was full of fun, the heater was on (we hadn't realized how chilly the day was outside the climate controlled car; the Buick, for those who've been wondering and didn't recognize it in the picture), and the food offerings included such real items as chicken strips. Most memorable was the gentleman who came up and kissed me on the lips. (And if your browser doesn't support pictures, be absolutely certain to check out that notes section!)

Besides the chicken strips, I ordered a salad. Since they're typical salad includes "shrimp garnish," I decided to go native and to let them keep the shrimp on. What harm could a couple shrimp do? Well, to them a "garnish" means "blob of little itty bitty shrimps (hence the name?) touching every piece of lettuce on the plate." And I ate it all. Myself! No starving children in China (nowadays mothers probably list some other country) would be jealous of me that night.

But there was still the matter of the clam chowder. Kathy, whose major food aversion is licorice, had ordered a bowl of the midwest- (if not world-) famous concoction. I put in my spoon and got a good-sized portion and then, wonder of wonders, put it in my mouth. Even more miraculous to those who've seen what normally happens to non-food that gets that far, I swallowed it gracefully. In absolute honesty, it tasted as good as Kathy's home-made potato soup. Rather than little pieces of bacon, it had some other meat, I suppose. But it won't do to think of that. My stomach isn't the real problem, you see; my food problems really are all in my head: my brain tells me even now that if I had potato soup yesterday, we're okay; if anything else slipped in, maybe it's time to empty the alimentary canal vertically.

Graciously, Kathy offered to let me have more of the very generous serving. But since I'd eaten directly off the spoon, I knew re-inserting it would be unsanitary, so I graciously declined.

Rest for the Weary

We decided to spend the night in the Astoria area so that we could enjoy traveling over the "graveyard of the Pacific" (lighthouse John's description of the Columbia River mouth) first thing in the morning. The only room available was a full suite, complete with stove, and we couldn't see our way clear to spending that much for extras we didn't want. (No use suggesting camping to us; we couldn't hear you anyway, and we refuse to read any sentence that includes "no bed" or "camp cooking.") While trying to get to another location faintly seen through the twilight, we inadvertently ended up across the Columbia. That's one huge, huge bridge, by the way.

Since we were already in Washington, we decided to find a motel room on that side. Being a little picky, we turned down the one in South Bend that didn't have a lock on the door. So we've arrived in Aberdeen and ended up with a full suite, complete with stove! (But the price is far more reasonable. I told one friend that the next time we visit Oregon's coast, we're spending the night in Aberdeen.)

Notes

Note One: I know none of us normally eat any part of the artichoke, but you do know that the most edible part is supposed to be the heart, right?

Note Two: The lips he kissed were those he'd just created for me out of balloons. But honestly, that means his lips were only about an inch-an-a-half from my native-born mouth. Ah, well, I'll take a deep breath and forget it!

Next day