CHAPTER SEVEN: SEEING THE LIGHT ON THE OREGON COAST

Post-Vaccination Vacation: Mai Tai Tom’s Oregon Trail TaleCHAPTER SEVEN: SEEING THE LIGHT ON THE OREGON COAST

Day Eight: A Devil Of A Stop, Perpetua Problem, Thor She Doesn’t Blow, Picturesque Perambulation, Haunted, Light At The End Of The Trail, Restaurant Shut Out, A&W, Bah Humbug, Dennis Weaver Time, You’re A Wreck, Sticky Situation Without The Toffee, Gone With The Wind, Spinners & Meeting Our Waterloo

On our final day and night in Oregon, the morning started with a knock on the door. It was room service delivering us quiche, potatoes, blueberry bread, oatmeal, yogurt and fruit. Did I tell you how much I loved this hotel? Of course, at this moment, I had no idea that less than eight hours from now I’d be in a “life or death” Duel with a truck (mini-foreshadowing).  To walk off some of those delicious calories, we decided to take a morning stroll along the 804 trail outside the hotel. We made sure to be careful.

                                                          

To say it was brisk would be a massive understatement, but it was so beautiful that the cold weather became just an afterthought.

The intermittent flower power of this area stood out, as well.

                                                       

After taking a seat overlooking this sensational seascape …

… it was time to depart the equally spectacular Overleaf Lodge and Spa.

As we finished the walk, I wondered if there was a witch who lived beyond this gate.Kim and Mary were not far behind, and we had made arrangements to meet at the nearby Devil’s Churn, which is not a butter factory. Devil’s Churn, we had read, is where “you can watch the crashing waves and the dramatic churning action of the ocean inside the wave carved inlet that is called Devil’s Churn.” Unfortunately, as you see on the right, when the tide is out, there’s really no churning going on to witness.

                                 

Next stop was going to be a scenic lookout from Cape Perpetua. Kim and Mary had gone ahead, while I missed the turnout, and instead arrived at Cook’s Chasm. Luckily, Kim took a couple of photos so we could see what we missed due to our directionally challenged driver.

                   

Known as the “drainpipe of the Pacific,” Thor’s Well (“Gate To Hell”) is at its best during high tide, too. Water can shoot as high as 20 feet in the air, and if you’re not careful, you could be swept away by the huge waves.  We started the short walk down to the viewpoint.

                            

It is from down below the viewpoint one must be careful not to get to close to the giant waves.

          

As you can see, we were in no such danger, as the tide was out.  The same with Spouting Horn, which is an “ocean geyser” where “incoming waves funnel sea water and air into the cave, building pressure until the water explodes in a geyser-like fountain.”  Oh well, next time we’ll check the tide charts beforehand.

At least the views from the walk back up to the highway were nice.

     

The Cook’s Chasm Bridge is the replacement for the original that was constructed in the early 1930s. The new bridge was built in 2003.

Heading down the coast, we stopped for a couple of photos at Brays Point, where we got a birds-eye view.

   

This photo shows the clouds hanging over Heceta Head where we would be heading next.

Well, at least after one more scenic ocean rock.

Our car pulled into the parking area at the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint at about the same time as Kim and Mary. Supposedly this is one of the best places in Oregon to spot whales. No whales today.

We looked up and saw  a large houseThe hike up to the lighthouse is an easy 1/2 mile trek through salal (“an evergreen plant with glossy, waxy foliage”) meadows and spruce groves.

We looked out to Devil’s Elbow, which got its name due to its “devilish currents that confounded early mariners.”

There are a number of places to stop and take pictures, which we did.

Frequently.

Haceta Head is named after Don Bruno de Heceta. In 1775 he undertook a “secret voyage for the Queen of Spain to sail up the west coast.” Scurvy scuttled at the entire journey, but during the voyage Heceta took note of this area that now bears his name.  About a 1/2 mile up from the parking lot, we realized that the “large house” was the Heceta Head B&B, the former Assistant Lightkeepers House (Heceta Light). Constructed in 1894 it is now a historical landmark. Oh, and a ghost lives there, too.

             

According to Haunted Rooms America, “The ghost believed to be living in the keeper’s house is that of a woman named Rue. She is described as having silver hair and she is always seen wearing a long, dark dress. According to legends, she is the wife of a past lightkeeper, or the mother of a girl who fell on the cliffs and died.

“It is said that Rue does not like her home being disturbed by others. When volunteers were painting the house, fire alarms kept going off. One of the workers even had to get up to make sure that there was no fire. Once he made sure that there was no fire, he went back to bed, but the alarm went off again. This time he removed the battery, but oddly enough the alarm kept going off.”

The Register Guard adds this tidbit of ghost lore. “Probably the most startling encounter with Rue was reported by the Siuslaw News in 1975. Workman Jim Anderson was cleaning a window in the house’s attic and noticed an odd reflection in the glass. He swung around and saw an apparition of an elderly woman wearing a late-Victorian-style gown, according to the report. Anderson fled the house and didn’t return for several days. When he returned to work on the house’s exterior — he refused to go in the attic — he accidentally broke an attic widow. He repaired it from the outside and left the broken glass on the attic floor.

That night, the house caretakers were awakened by scraping sounds in the attic. They said it sounded like someone sweeping broken glass, although they hadn’t learned yet about the broken window. The next morning they found the glass swept into a neat pile, according to the report. Anderson said one guest recalled that she and her husband were relaxing in the parlor one afternoon when she saw a gray figure float across the hallway near the base of the stairs to the second-floor bedrooms.”

I’m sure Anderson would forever Rue the day he broke that window. Hey wait, how did this photo get in here?! We scurried up the trail toward the lighthouse.

  

In 1892, two years before the Keepers House was built, just like a Motel Six, Heceta Lighthouse kept the light on to help ships navigate the area around Heceta Head.

                 

Due to Covid protocol, we were not allowed to climb the 56-foot lighthouse at the end of the bluff.

Unlike all the other lighthouses in Oregon (and ones I’ve seen in California) that use lenses made in France, Heceta Head’s lens comes from England. It’s rated as the “strongest light on the Oregon coast.” This view is from a trail that rises near the lighthouse.

                   

The historic bridge that spans Highway 101 here is called the Cape Creek Bridge. For a minute, looking at this bridge made me think of the Pont du Gard on our 2016 France trip.

That’s because it was designed and built in 1932 to resemble a Roman aqueduct. It’s also on the Register of Historic Places.

  

At different vantage points from Devil’s Elbow Beach (lots of devils in this part of Oregon) on up to the lighthouse, we also caught glimpses of and Parrot Rock and Conical Rock adjacent to Heceta Head.

There are also a few spots along the trail to stop and take in the the views.

  

However, it was time to get back on the road and leave this beautiful place.I had thought a stop at Sea Lion Caves, which we found out is “America’s Largest Sea Cave,” would be a unique experience. Sadly on this day, it also included America’s Longest Line To See a A Sea Lion Cave, so we roared away.As we headed into Florence I thought some pasta might do the trick, but then I remembered this was the “other” Florence. The four of us were all hungry, but it seemed every other person on the Oregon coast was also hungry on a gorgeous afternoon.  Restaurants were packed.  So what do you do in this situation? Go to a famous chain that I had not dined at in more than 40 years … A&W, baby! When I was a DJ in the Antelope Valley the late 70s, I couldn’t wait to get off my morning drive shift and head to A&W for a Mama or Papa Burger, and the incredible root beer floats.

                   

There was no Mama Burger, but the Original Bacon Cheeseburger was tremendous, and that float … just like I remembered.

Meanwhile, Kim and Mary picked up lunch at Safeway. I think they should have stuck around for the A&W food.

Heading down the coast we ran into some sand dunes (once again, not literally), and other random sights.

  

We reached North Bend, where we stopped at the David Dewitt Veterans Memorial, a tribute to veterans from this area.In the distance stood a bridge. The cantilever Charles B. McCullough Memorial Bridge is named after a man who designed 11 major bridges along the Oregon Coast. It’s also a place where we tried to escape from a killing machine, a huge tanker truck that was as evil as the truck in Steven Spielberg’s debut Made-For-TV thriller, Duel.

      

After returning to Highway 101, as we approached a stop light, this 18-wheeler monster (well, it had a lot of wheels no matter how many there were) came speeding up behind us. Fortunately he stopped barely in time to avoid clipping us. As we sat at the light, the driver (at least I think there was a driver) laid on the horn like there was no tomorrow. I was convinced the the truck was possessed. I thought, “What would Dennis Weaver do?”As we crossed the bridge, we believed we were safe.

When the light turned green, we barely got through, while the menacing truck had to wait again. Our plan was to get off and visit the Cape Arago Lighthouse in Coos Bay.  but in a few blocks our GPS started working again and said it would be 20 minutes, and we needed to get to Gold Beach to check in.

Approaching the 101 onramp, Tracy suddenly had a bad thought. “With our luck that rig has caught up to us again.” As fast as you could say “Peterbilt Tanker,” our nemesis whizzed by looking for Subaru blood.

Back on the road, I had to make a dangerous choice; pass him or stay safely back. Well, there’s no way a Subaru will back down, no matter what the odds, so I put my foot the pedal to the metal, closed my eyes, and soon that evil truck was metaphorically in our rear view mirror. By the time we hit Coos Bay, he had disappeared.

There was still more coastline vistas near Port Orford to settle our nerves on the drive to Gold Beach.

  

We even hit a sliver of Humbug Mountain State Park. This is either named after the spot where Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol or where a disgruntled sheep once lived. Boy, those history classes at San Diego State were sure informative.

  

Our last sight for the day resided in the water at Gold Beach. We crossed over the Patterson Bridge, which became famous because of a new construction technique invented by French engineer Ernest Freyssinet. It was the first bridge in the U.S. to utilize this French method.In May 1932, more than 5,000 people were here for the official dedication. Herbert Hoover’s vice-president Charles Curtis was at the White House (I guess Hoover was in a Depression) and pressed a gold telegraph key. That signaled the beginning of the festivities.

Charles Curtis Fun Fact:  Curtis was the first person with any Native American ancestry and with acknowledged non-European ancestry to reach either of the highest offices in the federal executive branch.

But we were not here for executive branch trivia, we were here to see a slowly (very slowly) sinking ship. The Mary D. Hume was constructed in 1891 and spent nearly ten years hauling goods between Oregon and San Francisco. The following ten years she served as an Arctic whaling vessel.

After ten years of retirement in Alaska, she saw duty first in the halibut industry (should have been renamed Just For The Halibut when undertaking that job), and then the next six decades as a tugboat. Under her own power, she came back to near where she was constructed in 1978, sinking ever so slowly in the mud for the past 43 years. In 1979 the Wreck of the Mary D.Hume was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.Nearby was our lodging for the evening, the Pacific Reef Hotel. Kim and Mary arrived shortly afterward. First the good. The location is stellar and it’s a short walk to the beach. It also has a nice view out to the beach as you will see later..

Now the bad. The room was filthy. After taking our shoes off, our feet literally stuck to the floor on every step we took. There were also no towels or wash cloths, which made us wonder if this room had actually been cleaned. Of course, that made us wonder about the sheets, as well. Thankfully, we brought our own Lysol, and the front desk did bring us one towel apiece.  Kim and Mary’s room was no better, although they did have towels. For the first time in two decades of traveling with one another, one of us sent an email to our complaining about the very unsatisfactory conditions. Thanks Mary.

We did take a walk down to the beach, where the wind was blowing at near gale force. I was glad I had eaten a lot on this trip. (there might be a little over-acting going on here)After a couple of interesting sights at the beach, we decided we had better head back to the hotel before we flew off over the ocean like a kite. I would love to hit a golf ball in this wind. Of course, I’d probably top it.   I swear the picture on the right looks like a girl holding a dog.

  

The hotel was a short 5-minute walk to our dinner spot for the evening Spinner’s, which I found out was not named after one of my favorite musical groups.

     

This was the first restaurant we had visited since the mask mandate had been lifted where some of the staff didn’t wear masks. It felt a little weird at first, but it didn’t take long to feel normal again.

It was here we learned of a “new” cocktail (just what I need). A “Bourbontini is made with Bourbon, Grand Marnier and Fresh Lemon Juice.” It was a winner.

As for dinner, it was top notch, too. Tracy started with a Spinach & Mushroom salad with smoked almonds, cauliflower and broccoli, and finished with a spectacular looking and tasting Crab Cake, Chesapeake Bay Style; Dungeness Oregon Crab Meat spiced, sautéed golden brown, served over wilted spinach, lemon beurre blanc.

 

The rest of us began with the Clam Chowder. I had a delicious Filet Mignon; char broiled with a side of BernaiseKim went for the Scallop & Shrimp Brochette; Served over Jasmine Rice with Snow Peas, Tomatoes, Scallions and Drawn Butter.

  

Finally, Mary opted for Pasta Maricela ; Jumbo Prawns, oyster mushrooms, sea scallops, pea pods in a creamy Asiago cheese sauce, tossed with Pasta. Perfetto.

Afterward we met the owner, Dewey. He’s a great guy, who also has an extensive wine collection. I don’t think you can go wrong with eating at Spinners. Every dish was tasty.

As we strolled back to the Pacific Reef Hotel, Tracy reminded us that at 9 p.m. there would be a “Light Show” in the back of the hotel. We had no idea what that would encompass.  As I stated, this property has the potential to be a very cool good to stay. The “show” started as we stood on our patio on a very chilly evening as the sun set over the ocean. Trees are backlit in a number of colors and a giant screen is located on the lawn.The first 15 minutes of the film is a tour of the southern Oregon coast with scenes of natural beauty (waves crashing, giant ocean rocks and wildlife). The sunset provided a perfect backdrop.

 

 

At this point, we certainly did not expect a transition to a musical, but there it was. On the screen for the final 15 minutes are scenes from the movie Mamma Mia. Before we could send out an S.O.S., we found ourselves swaying to the music and singing along. I like ABBA … I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, so for the next 15 minutes Kim and I, along with our Dancing Queens, enjoyed the music.The sky was beautiful.Then it was back to our sticky room. Since our stay I have heard that some of the rooms had been renovated, so if you decide to stay, be sure to ask for one of those.

Tomorrow, we would leave Oregon and head to our next to last destination. A major construction project made for some timing issues for both cars, some good and some bad. We’d also stop and take a tour of numerous mysterious trees and meet a giant lumberjack and his blue ox companion.

Afterward, we’d head down a lonely gravel road to visit an eerie place where Steven Spielberg (first time I’ve used him twice in a trip report) filmed part of one of his blockbuster movies.

Meanwhile, Kim and Mary would not be as fortunate, as trouble awaited them soon after crossing into California. Stay tuned.

CHAPTER EIGHT: CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME (WITH SOME PROBLEMS)

Day Nine: A Lucky Break, Missed It By That Much, I Got You Babe, Roadside Americana, “Don’t Fall off The SkyTrail”, Dead Zone, Where Is Everybody?, Oh They’re Here, Land Of Dinosaurs, Trinidad Without Tobago, Eureka We Found It … Again & Back To Our “House.”

 

 

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