Getting it Together on the Road: Oregon Coast
When I travel, I either have a down-to-the-minute (slight exaggeration) plan or no plan at all. Lately, it’s been “no plan at all”, which is ironic, because I’m a serious planner (in my head at least I think I am… I like to know what dates are on the calendar, etc.). When I was in Portland last, I decided that Jake and I could use a little out-of-Portland adventure, so I rented a car with my only plan being “drive until you see the Pacific Ocean”.
The car rental guy asked me where I was headed off to. I usually hate answering these types of questions because I like to be mysterious but I thought maybe I could use some advice. “Um, the coast? Any towns you would recommend”. He said Cannon Beach and I had already thought of Cannon Beach because I heard rumors of puffins (bird, not the cereal) on Haystack Rock. I had totally meant to grab a pair of binoculars from my dad because allegedly they up really high so they just look like normal birds. When I got back and surprised Jake with the keys I told him Cannon Beach and he seemed cool with it so that’s where we headed off to.
I didn’t tell Jake that I didn’t have a serious plan because I didn’t want to stress him out. I had spent a little time researching where we should go (aka Googling “Best Oregon Beaches”) and looking through a Pacific Northwest Road Trip Lonely Planet guidebook. He asked if we should fill the car up with gas before we left Portland and I said no, it’s fine, we have a half tank (foreshadowing) and we hit the road for the Pacific Coast Highway. (Or is it Oregon Coast Highway – fact checker, where are you?)
I imagined every Oregon Coast town to be completely deserted and idyllically isolated, much like the photos I had seen. I often have gross misconceptions (or no conceptions at all) of what places are going to be like. Cannon Beach was a NUTHOUSE. We drove around the town that is really 3 or 4 streets that circle around each other for at least thirty minutes until deciding to try our luck leaving the car in the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant, El Mariachi Loco.
On the drive to Cannon Beach, Jake and I had been lamenting on the lack of good Mexican food in both Pittsburgh and Portland… and by good Mexican food we mean the greasy Tex Mex of our childhood. “We can eat seafood for dinner, right… and we had a lot of seafood last night at Roe” we asked/told ourselves and promptly decided to have lunch at the famed El Mariachi Loco.
After we had fueled up (aka put food to our Roe hangovers) we hit the beach. Strange fact: the beaches in Oregon are cold and no one wears swimsuits. I’ve toyed around with the idea of surfing in Oregon because it is supposed to decent surfing (as if I’m an expert… ha) but we were both too hesitant to test the water temperature, which makes me think I would just be miserable surfing in it, even in a wet suit. We checked out Haystack Rock, the third largest sea stack in the world (can someone tell me where one and two are?) looked at some things that could have been puffins, and watched a lot of people all flying the same kite.
We walked back down the beach with fingers crossed the car was still there (it was) and only got lost once in the process (see: having no plan). We decided we should just keep driving south since Cannon Beach is Northwest of Portland along the Pacific/Oregon Coast Highway to Manzanita, the next stop on the “Essential Coast Roadtrip” or whatever chapter in the book.
This is where things get sticky. It’s always interesting traveling with people because you see a side of them you never normally do. With me, that’s a not-so-wound-up-with-anxiety side. We had a quarter tank of gas (completely acceptable to me) and Jake began to get nervous (author’s note: I’ll give him this – gas stations were few and far between). “I have AAA, it’s fine they’ll just bring us gas.” “How long will it take? Also we have no cell service. Will you look up gas stations?” (PS Jake you’re extra cute when you’re anxious about running out of gas.)
Manzanita had little to look at, but did have the highlight of the trip for Jake, a Shell Station that was every bit as scary as you would imagine a gas station in the middle of nowhere Oregon to be.
Since Manzanita was a bit of a bust, Jake remembered Oceanside was nearby and had a lighthouse at Netarts Bay as well as an “Octopus Tree” from his trip to the coast earlier this year. We drove through Tillamook (of Tillamook Cheddar fame) and the drive from Manzanita to Oceanside was the most beautiful of the trip (and honestly one of the more stunning drives I have done – it reminded me a lot of Hawaii).
We went to Netarts Bay and checked out the Cape Meares lighthouse (which was like maybe taller than me but possibly not) but the views were worth the trip. There were also more puffins at Cape Meares (as the excited older women next to us exclaimed) and our lack of binoculars or a quarter for the binocular machine thing made us feel like particularly bad birdwatchers.
Now to the part you’re all waiting for – what is an octopus tree, you ask? Well, the Octopus Tree is a tree that has a bunch (maybe 8?) of huge trunks (I had to look up “part of a tree” to find that word) and no stump. It is also a Historic Oregon Tree incase you were concerned. Despite my wish to climb the tree for a good Instagram photo, I decided to obey the State of Oregon’s request to “stay off the tree”. Two young gentlemen who were walking towards the tree on our way back probably did not obey those wishes.
We decided a drink/snack was in order and headed into Oceanside for a bite. It was dinner time so we ended up stopping at Roseanna’s, which was basically everything you could hope for in a small, sleepy beachside town. Roseanna’s had a hand written menu, a heavy pour of Sokol Blosser Pinot Gris for $7 and a lot of butter-laden dishes. We sat by the window, polished off a lot of clams, bacon wrapped scallops and more wine (and beer for Jake).
Jake indulged me by walking back out to the ocean one more time before we headed back to Portland. The sun was setting and it was the end of a perfectly unplanned day with all of my favorite things – sun, sand, ocean, a solid wine buzz and handsome boys.
Chat with me:
What’s your travel style – plan, no plan? How are you on road trips? Do you get anxious when Fiji Water/coconut water aren’t readily available?