Oregon 2014
14 beautiful nights

Oregon-Glacier 2014

I am calling this trip Fourteen Beautiful Nights because it was. I had reservations for seven nights on the Oregon and Washington Coast but nothing on the way there and back unless you include my Cousin Roseanne’s driveway. Although I always go to the West Coast in the summer, this trip had a new feature – a loop back home by way of Glacier National Park - a place I have never before been and was on my Bucket List.


Olivia was set to go with me again this year, but because of summer classes she needed in order to complete a double major, an internship, and a thesis and still graduate in May, she needed to stay in Colorado. She’s over in Boulder for classes for the next six weeks. Hillary is home with us studying for the bar exam. It is taking Martelle and I back to the days of our bar study days more than thirty years ago.


So anyway, solo, I venture forth into the vast unknown of the American Northwest, an enormous wild and open space which I adore. I’d love to have gone along with Lewis and Clark but I was born about 162 years too late. The trip is a lot easier in my truck but my carbon footprint is not so good.


First night out was as my usual. I had dinner at JC’s Diner in Elwood, Utah. I go there because of the excellent homemade, skin-on French fries. [Editor’s note: I am using this text in my Trip Advisor’s reports so you might get hungry reading this travelogue.] So anyway, JC’s County Diner in Elwood is just two minutes off the highway and is worth the trip back into the time when vast cattle ranches ruled the West. Now we find hard working ranchers who get around on ATVs instead of horses getting some good food from JC. I was the only tourist in the crowd which is not unusual for the place. Full breakfast menu, and lunch, and dinner. Nothing fancy. There’s an 8-seat counter and booths in one room and a larger dining room. The food is substantial and has a home cooked quality. Knotty pine ceilings fill out the country ambiance. Usually you see JC wandering around, keeping his eye in the waitresses. I just had the grilled chicken sandwich but it was done just right with a real chicken breast – lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, sauce on the side and a good selection of condiments. So what’s not to like. Sure beats the fast food chains. Clean rest rooms.


I went to a place I discovered more than a decade ago. It’s in the hills above Kimberly, Idaho. It’s dark and quiet and has a great view and always a fine sunset. Just watch out for rattlesnakes. Another great sunset and a beautiful night with the only sound the beep beep and swoosh of night hawks. In the valley below giant sprinkler systems send streamers of what was the Snake River over the crops. Aerobatic crop dusters start early.

Since Olivia wasn’t with me I was allowed to go the Starlite Café in Vale, Oregon. This is another of the great places from the old days — places that can still hang on where it’s too small to attract the usual boring competition. The Starlite is a good one. Homemade pie six days a week. Need I say more? Okay – full menu – breakfast, lunch, dinner. Down home. Clean rest rooms with cowboy humor. Homemade soups. Lunch and dinner specials. Good prices. I just had eggs and toast – and PIE, of course.  

Madras, Oregon, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful mountainous drive along the way. Ranches and rivers. Mountain sides stripped of timber. Beautiful flowers. Right wing thinkers. The highway rises and falls through levels of many different evergreen trees. Hardwoods in the valleys. After pinyon and juniper you encounter ponderosa pines on the way up with their distinctively patterned red and brown bark.

I come to Madras almost every year for the Pow Wow and I have tried several places to eat. The Ding Ho Chinese Restaurant seems to be the best. I see the same rock show customers come back every year. Good authentic Chinese. Excellent Hot and Sour soup. Kung Pao Chicken with lots of well-trimmed dark meat and a huge portion served hot and with a nice amount of spice to wake you up. Heavy on garlic, fresh vegetables, and crunchy peanuts.


The rock show was fun. I always enjoy seeing old friends and picking up some great petrified wood. I was lucky enough to get some old collection material. I didn’t carry my camera – should have.


I slept this night in another of my old places in the Ochocho National Forest. A beautiful spot amid towering ponderosa pines and nary another person around. Peace. I always take a walk here through the pine-needle-cushion forest floor. Beautiful flowers and a lot of deer on the way out through pristine farm country. Back to the show in the morning where I spend hours working a deal for wood. Then off to see Cousin Roseanne in Salem. But I got hungry and stopped in Redmond and tried a Mexican Restaurant called Mazatlán Family Restaurant, attracted possibly because of two Spring Breaks I spent in Mazatlán in the old days. Lunch specials were $5. I had Chile Rellenos which were the eggy style and very good. Muy sabroso. I cleaned my plate. Four stars. 

Fred and Roseanne are an interesting couple. Fred served on a submarine in World War 2. They spent decades as expatriates all over the world. Fred is an engineer. They live in a stunning three story home with huge windows in a stand of old growth Douglas fir. It’s as if they have their own park. They feed the birds, deer, raccoons and whoever else wants some. Another beautiful place to spend the night. Over to the store in the morning with Roseanne and Fred. Fred always accuses us of having the same conversation and he is right, of course. Roseanne always tells me we came from royalty. I ask on which side and she answers, “I was just always told that.” Anyway, after a nice visit, I was On The Road again. I love this truck – it’s a 2001 Toyota Tundra 4WD eight cylinder and even with this 1200 pound camper it runs like a watch. The camper is my home on the road. A great place to spend 14 beautiful nights. With the camper being a pop-up, I can pop it down in two minutes and be off to town.

ON TO THE COAST. Now provisioned by Trader Joe’s and hopped up on their free coffee, I am off to a gas station and RiteAid for ice because Trader Joe’s doesn’t have ice which is crazy since most of what they sell is liquor and beer and wine. It’s a weird store – booze and organic food – may as well help out the liver. Over the serpentine highway to the coast I travel through a verdant mossy green hardwood tunnel - green walls everywhere - flowers on the roadsides as far as you can see. And berries. I drove straight to the Luna Sea restaurant. I love it. The owner was there. He was all jigged up because he’d just returned from fishing and catching a lot of big salmon. I have eaten here every year since they opened. Other than last year’s insane inept waitress, it’s always great. This was no exception. After a beautiful night on the beach at Yachats and morning beach walk and yoga, I went back to the Luna Sea for lunch. Again – five stars – Manhattan style clam chowder with fresh clams. Steamers from right across the Astoria Bridge. Large serving. Excellent service this year. This was my first seafood stop after a 1400 mile drive. Nirvana for an old seafaring man. I was a professional clam digger 45 years ago. Anyway, the Luna Sea tries to make it right – organic eggs, all entrees made from scratch, no farmed fish! Great place. Only comment is that your cup of soup is too small for $5.50 especially when compared to the much larger bowl at $7.50 with garlic bread.

Then up the coast to a new campground for me at Cape Lookout. It was rainy all the way. I reserved the space closest to the ocean way back in September but received a call from the parks people in late May letting me know that campsite was lost due to erosion and I had to change. I am a victim to global climate change. It’s a very nice campground albeit exposed to the elements as the people with tents soon discovered, some under water. I loved it – right on the beach and the sandy spit goes on for miles. I walked to the end one night and it took me three and a half hours round trip, so maybe three or more miles to the end. It was a beautiful walk. The sunsets were nice. The beach is beautiful. I’d love to live in this area, at least in the summer. I took pictures from the end of the spit to where the town in Netarts sits. I love the location of Netarts – ocean views with access to a safe harbor that produces clams. The weather got nice for my last day at Cape Lookout. I took a walk at Cape Meares where I visited the largest living Sitka spruce in Oregon which I found depressing because about 20 years ago I visited what was then the largest living Sitka spruce and the last one was twice the size of this one. So sad to lose all those giants. They grow for a thousand years so we can use the wood as a deck for forty. I liked the mushrooms dining on the fallen tree. Great beach path. Lush rain forest. This is an area rich in life and the energy of the ocean. The beach pictures show how the weather changed over the nights. The first night was when the cape was covered in a fast flowing river of fog that ran up the ridge and jumped off as rain clouds. The sand often had a ground squall of flowing windblown sand.


Late night beach walking. Pancakes in the camper, amazing song birds and surf sounds.

I like the close crop of this picture:
Fog on Cape Lookout. The cape is 400 feet at its high point.
 global climate change

One day for lunch I tried The Schooner on Netarts Bay.  Pleasantly surprised. I was one a few early birds for lunch at 12:30. The salad was work of art meets healthy eating with edible bok choy flowers ad salad leaves that looked as if they were picked out back in the garden a minute ago. They prepare many styles of oysters that come from the bay out the window. The view is over the bay to Cape Lookout – very lovely. Indoor and outdoor seating. Nice hip menu. Nice grilled oysters/ great dessert menus for the munchies driven. Okay FIVE Stars, why not. Even if pales in comparison with tomorrow’s lunch up the coast fifteen minutes.


On the advice of a ranger, I drove through Tillamook to Bay City up the coast to have lunch on the oyster dock. The Fish Peddler. Wow. Seafood at its best. I was there about noon and a bit miffed that I stood by the Please Wait to be Seated sign for fifteen minutes without human contact. Finally I sat myself when a busy but inefficient waitress wiped down a table with a too wet rag and said “whoever’s next”, which was clearly me even though this was a four-top, sorry. Little did I know I was sitting down to one of the best meals of my life, once I wiped off the excess dirty water with napkins. How can you get fresher oysters than here at the dock where they come in after harvest and are shucked by a crew of 25 fast working Native American (First Nation) oyster shuckers? From the back of the restaurant you can watch them through large plate glass windows. I counted one guy shucking eleven a minute. They are paid by the pound. My waitress told me, “Don’t worry about them. They make good money.” I wonder. All the food was fresh as can be and nicely prepared the good old fashioned way where the fish is actually cooked unlike these fancy schmancy big city eateries where you order salmon rare and medium rare. That is just wrong. I wrote these notes while eating: If you don’t eat here you are insane. You cannot get fresher seafood unless you are a heron. The oyster stew that came as part of my meal (soup or salad?) was the best I have eaten. It had EIGHT whole oysters the size of baby elephants. Amazing. And I had the halibut – perfect and flaky. This was so good I came back for lunch the next day on my way to Washington. Even better. I had the razor clams dinner. Divine. Perfectly cooked. A zillion stars for a seafood lover. How many ways do you want your fabulously fresh oysters? -on the half shell, as shooters, fried, stewed, baked, and many more. Salmon and halibut filets. Get there early to avoid summer lines.


Up the coast. All beautiful and the traffic not so bad. Flowers all over. Restocked my kitchen at the Fred Meyers in Warrenton– very nice health food selection and a Starbucks. Got turkey and bread for sandwiches. Over the wide Columbia River to the State of Washington, which, even though so close to Oregon, is a very different place. Cool bridge. The campground is in Cape Disappointment and is right on the beach. And it’s a beautiful stretch of well more than a mile of pristine beach. It’s at the mouth of the Columbia River and is full of life – the sea birds constantly attacked the sea surface - thousands of birds. Pelicans, gulls, terns, cormorants, and all sorts. I like the town of Ilwaco which is a sport and commercial fisherman’s base and I also like the peninsula to the north which has easy access to great clamming. The mosquitoes are a downside. Sadly there seems to be no standout place to eat seafood in a place which should have the best. I was tricked by Trip Advisors to a place that I really wanted to like but, alas, just couldn’t. Captain Bob’s Chowder. I figured, well don’t let he whole-in-the-wall nature of the place stand in your way; Trip Advisor rates it high. The cold slaw had Craisins and mandarin oranges - nice try, but the chowder – I had crab -  was milky and short on crab. My Dad would have said “the crab walked through on stilts.” And then I had the only fish option which was fish and chips made with cod. The cod was rubbery and the batter came out greasy and with a bad taste that lasted for hours. All together just greasy and fattening in the final analysis. Sorry Bob and Mrs Bob. I wanted to like it.

The next two are close crops of this picture.

I noticed a couple of seafood places by the docks in Ilwaco so I thought I’d give it a try. By the time I got there one was closed which left Pelicano restaurant. Nice menu. Pricy but not outrageous. Great at selection of cocktails and local beers. The garden salad was nice. On the docks with a great view of the ships and across the Columbia River to Oregon. Fresh beaked hot bread. Beautiful salmon served on a bed of fried potatoes, corn, and tasty sauce. Very nice meal. 4 stars

Looking across the bay to Ilwaco.

I am saving the best part of the Washington beach trip for last. This trip was also a reunion. Since my old buddy, Jake, from college lives near Seattle, I told him about the reservations I had on Cape Disappointment and invited him to come down for a mini-reunion. We talked about having another old DU buddy named Larry come down too. I had room for another car and a tent in my camp spot. So the party was on! So after I am already on the Oregon Coast, I get a text message from Jake – “No can go. Can’t find anyone to cover for me at work”. This was two days before the reunion. I guess it was my fault for not giving them enough notice – I TOLD JAKE THE DATES IN SEPTEMBER! Nice party, Jake. You missed some fine sunsets and fun hikes. One night as I walked to the North Jetty at sunset there were a million birds in a food frenzy just off the beach, diving into the waves. So much energy. I took pictures on my walk to the light house. Beautiful place at the mouth of the country’s most dangerous port of entry by sea. The Columbia is massive. Note the picture with the chart of the wrecks. Sorry about the yoga selfies. I couldn’t resist “tree pose” and “warrior two” seemed appropriate for the bunker. The best yoga is on the beach when it’s hot. Cape Disappointment was a journey worth taking.


I found a new and better coffee place in Ilwaco. Antiques and coffee. But they serve a full breakfast and lunch. Great vibe in the place. Good coffee and WiFi. But alas, all great things must come to an end as it did with the reunion trip on the Washington Coast – at Cape Disappointment.




tree pose