I’ve taken some time for myself the last month or so. In that time I’ve made my way back to the coast at Crescent City, CA and all the way down along it to Ventura, just north of Los Angeles. There are large stretches of the California coast which are surprisingly rural. And most of it is spectacularly picture worthy. Not many stories to tell, but some glimpses along the way.
Who knew Walla Walla, Washington was such a wonderful place. Well, my friends Mike & Luci did. So much so that they’ve retired there….and I can see why. As Mike like’s to point out, “It’s a drinking town with a farming problem.” So here’s my shameless free advertising. If you like wine, or beer or really good food, put Walla Walla on your “must visit” lists.
I had not known that Walla Walla may be the best kept secret in the world of wine, but because Mike & Luci had done their research in depth before retiring there I did know it was an up and comer. Now I know it’s much more than that. 110+ wineries, JUST in the Walla Walla Valley. We did some tasting!
Having just been to Paso Robles in the last month or so, it’s a good comparison. The cities are about the same size, with the same kind of vibe downtown. The difference: Walla Walla is not nearly as packed, not nearly as expensive, MUCH friendlier, and NOT in California. It’s a bit of a trip to get there from Spokane or Portland, but not any worse than getting to Paso Robles, and well worth the trip. Abeja, L’Ecole 41 and Long Shadows were all VERY good.
There are also several brew pubs/restaurants with great food and overwhelming selections of beer. I can personally recommend Crossbuck Brewing and Hop Thief Taphouse.
Aside from poisoning my liver, my friends arranged for another special experience. The Honour Project is a local non-profit that gives veterans free airplane rides. But not just any airplane. A 1942 Stearman PT-17 biplane
The owner and pilot, Mark Small, named the plane after the B-24 bomber that his father flew during WWII. Life was so much more fun before Political Correctness. I had no idea there were military operations in Central America, but they operated from Panama and the Galapagos Islands hunting Japanese submarines.
It was about a 30 minute flight around the Walla Walla valley on a perfect Saturday morning. They ask you (or in this case Mike) all about your service particulars, so they already knew I’d flown S-3Bs for the Navy. They also ask you to bring some memorabilia if you have any. I brought my model of the S-3B in the VS-31 paint scheme. The squadron in which I did my Department Head tour and deployed to Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002.
I was amazed at how relatively quiet it was. Really no louder than flying in my S-3B, and when I flew for a living I wore double hearing protection. It wasn’t nearly as windy as I’d expected either, so long as you stay behind that windscreen. I snapped this picture just a few minutes after takeoff and he gave me the controls for nearly the entire rest of the flight, taking them back on downwind for landing.
What a fabulous experience!!! Thanks Mike & Luci, Mark and The Honour Project!
The time finally came for me to fix my mirror. I’ve been carrying around the replacement for weeks now. I had all the parts, I had the time, I’d watched a video, not of the exact mirror, but close enough…… or so I thought. Couldn’t even get past step 1, removing the screws for the old mirror arm! The screws would turn, but not back out of the sidewall. I gave up after an hour.
Next day I enlisted Mike to help out, and quite unlike the 20 minute video, this turned out far more complicated than either the video or instructions that came with the mirror. Turns out the screws were not anchored into the frame, but simply through the sidewall, held in place with bolts. Except how in the hell were we supposed to get behind the side wall to get bolts on the replacements? Sooooooo…….. off came the passenger side kick-panel. Low and behold, way back up there under the dash, just barely reachable behind wires and HVAC hosing were the two nuts and bolts sticking through. And despite promises of all the wiring connections being junction plugs, that was not the case with the blinker wire so we were going to have to splice, for which I did not have the correct connectors. Happily it only took ONE trip to Home Depot and that is only a mile down the road.
Amazingly, mirror, blinker and sideview camera all worked on the first check. So, only four and a half hours later, with a fair bit of sweat and ingenuity (all on MIke’s part), I had my mirror fixed. I hope I never have to do THAT again.
I left Walla Walla this morning after a fabulous week with some terrific friends. I’m happily exhausted! And to think, not a single bike ride or round of golf. I thought Walla Walla was going to be the furthest north in my 2021 wanderings, but it turns out that Astoria, Oregon is actually just a wee bit further north. Regardless I’m now heading south. Back in Oregon, but just passing through quickly. In 3 days I’ll be back on the California coast and migrating DOWN US-101 this time, all the way back to Los Angeles.
Hundreds of beautiful driving miles this month. I’ve reached and left my northern limit for 2021. The Trek south has begun.
Ooops. I forgot to mention I got some history in while near Astoria. Made a quick stop at Fort Clatsop, where Lewis & Clark spent the winter of 1805-1806 before their return journey to the east.
My last stop in Oregon was designed to satisfy the wine lover in me. My peeps know I’m a Pinot Noir guy, though not exclusively. However, when it comes to Pinot Noir, I will ONLY drink ones from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Spare me all the suggestions, I’ve tried enough to know. Now, of those I’ve had from this region, and I’ve sampled many, my ABSOLUTE, HANDS DOWN favorite is Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but that is where I first discovered this delectable delight. So when I knew I was headed to Oregon, there was never any doubt I’d spend time in the region. In fact, there was never any doubt I’d visit the mothership.
I didn’t stay for a tasting. Not sure if it’s COVID or normal, but most places require reservations for tastings and they were all booked up. I decided just to stop by and make a purchase. I didn’t really need the tasting anyway. They happened to be having some exotic car show event. They were more than happy to sell me my wine though.
That was it for Oregon. Well, mostly. I will be passing back through after a quick jaunt to Walla Walla in eastern Washington. But I’ll just be passing through quickly to get me back to the California coast. On my way to Walla Walla, I stumbled upon a Henge. A Stone Henge, even.
This beauty sits upon the bluff overlooking the Columbia River on the Washington side at Maryhill. I skipped off the interstate on the Oregon side to travel up river along WA-14. That’s a fabulous drive.
It’s not quite as awe-inspiring as the better known Stonehenge in Salisbury, but pretty neat all the same. Especially since the this one is still intact. Gives you a much better sense how the whole thing looked and worked. Some pretty great views of the Columbia River from up here too.
Next stop…….. Walla Walla!
I hope you enjoyed my posts about Lassen Volcanic National Park. I really hope you enjoyed the photos. In case you’d like to revisit them:
In, “Fireside Chat” I told you about the Dixie Fire, which at the time was the largest fire burning in the United States and its nearest boundary was about 30 miles south of Lassen National Park.
I learned the other day that the fire is not only still spreading, but has moved north and engulfed not only the National Park, but also the area where I was staying for the week.
The purple star is Childs Meadow, where I was staying. I don’t know if the campground or resort across the road have been damaged or not. They are right along the border as depicted here. The purple oval is the area in which I did all my activities within the National Park. Some parts of the scenic park highway are within the boundary and some are not. I have heard that one of the areas I wanted to hike but just ran out of time to get to has been destroyed. The area known as Bumpass Hell, a geothermal area of mud pots and fumaroles, and one of the most popular day hikes in the park, with large sections of boardwalks, was overrun. While the geothermal formations have certainly survived, there will likely be no access to this area for quite some time after the fire finally burns itself out. Who knows how much else of the fabulously beautiful park has been destroyed or is yet to be. To date, 725,000+ acres have burned.
I’m grateful that I was able to visit Lassen NP before this destructive event. I will certainly return at some point, more because I had not covered near everything that I wanted to do the first time, than to see the results. While the loss of these areas can be seen as sad, I understand the natural and necessary destructive and regenerative processes such as wildfires. Unfortunately this fire is believed to have been started by a tree falling across and shorting out a power line.
Until we meet again Lassen……. ☹️
It only looks like I rode around Italy. In fact, I rode around Astoria and the Youngs River. That’s Astoria, Oregon, not Queens.
I hadn’t been planning on making this a post, but I found enough neat things to warrant it, not to mention perfect weather. First stop was Youngs River Falls, way down there on the tippy toe of “the boot.” Not the easiest 5 minute walk down from the parking area in bike shoes.
The entire area is just gorgeous rolling hills and farms betwixt many creeks and marshes and the occasional big hill popping up here and there. I recommend NOT riding at low tide. As I came back north across the Wallooskee River there was one of the absolute worst stenches I’ve ever encountered. And thanks to the wind it was several minutes of traveling through it. I’d swear there was a dead whale in the river somewhere. I literally gagged and almost puked.
Riding, or walking down the Riverfront Walk all the way through town is a faint reminder of San Francisco, without all the people and traffic and craziness. A representative collection of the same weirdos though. Riding up the bluffs was very San Francisco-ish as well, though thankfully not as long. Those streets are STEEP.
“WHO LET THE SEALS OUT……. bark; bark, bark; bark bark”. (well they could be sea lions. I couldn’t tell)
Guess what time it is??? Time to play Paul’s Traveling Movie Trivia once again. See if you can guess this one.
Nope……..not The Goonies. The Goonies house along with several other building and locations seen in that movie are here, but the owners kinda got fed up with hundreds of people standing in their yard taking photos every day so it’s now “off-limits.” Here’s a hint for this one though………
It’s NOT a tumor!!!
Some good view from up there along those bluffs……
The good thing about riding up through that residential area, aside from the views, is that once you’re up there you’re halfway up to The Astoria Column. It’s really cool the way the history is engraved in a storyline around it. You can also go up to the top, but I did not.
Plenty good enough views from here anyway.
My RV Park is over there across the water. After finishing my ride and cleaning myself up, it took me three attempts to find a place for dinner and that only worked because I was by myself and willing, as I always am, to sit at the bar. My first choice was booked till 8:30 pm, three nights running. My second had no availability till 7:00 pm thanks in large part to reduced capacity, no bar seating and short staffing, thanks once again to The Plague. Today Oregon mandated masks indoors. Oh yay! I finally got dinner at Silver Salmon Grille. It was good. Not GREAT, but good.
It’s been chilly and really windy in the Waldport, Oregon area so my bike has remained in the carrier. That’s a bit unfortunate because the coast road in this area is pretty spectacular. I explored via vehicle instead. North about 20 miles is the city of Newport. Quite a bit larger than Waldport, it has actual grocery stores of which I was in need. It also has the Oregon Coast Aquarium which was the perfect size for a couple of hours checking out some local denizens up close.
It’s not a very big place so literally you can make your way through it in about 2 hours. A nice mix of indoor and outdoor exhibits all of which display their residents nicely.
For such a small aquarium I was surprised to find they have a large, multi-section exhibit where you walk through plexiglass tunnels and the fish are all around you. Great way to see Mr Leopard Shark and Mr Sturgeon.
In the opposite direction, south of Waldport is the more dramatic sections of coastline and some fairly well know “attractions.” Sea Lion Caves is the largest natural coastal cave in America. It’s also the only known sea mammal rookery on the American mainland. Amazingly, you’d never know it was there just by traveling on the road. Well, you wouldn’t except it’s on the map and now there’s a building and parking lots and such there, but you get my drift.
It’s a 50 second, 200 ft descent by elevator to reach the cave where 50-100 Stellar Sea Lions are, uh, just hangin’ out and making a lot of noise. Hard to tell in the video because of the ocean waves, but in person those lions are roaring pretty loudly. Bring sturdy shoes and a warm sweatshirt or jacket because it’s a bit chilly down there…….. and REALLY stinky. Fair warning.
This is the end of breeding season and soon the huge bulls will head off to Alaska for the winter while the females remain local, though not necessarily in the cave. I think if I were a bull I’d turn left towards Mexico for the winter. Out side the cave there’s a handy little rock ledge for sunbathing.
Further north, past Haceta Head and the lighthouse, just south of the town of Yachats are probably the best known points of interest, including Cape Perpetua, Thor’s Well, and Cook’s Chasm. If you were to decide to visit, I would stay in Yachats. It seems to be the hippest, best situated place, with plenty of lodging and eating options. Plan early because I haven’t seen anyplace with vacancy within 100 miles of here.
There is a nice paved walking path down from the parking area and Visitor Center, but those stop at the overlook areas. Another place you want to have on some sturdy footwear, if you plan to head out on the rocks. It’s all volcanic; very rough and sharp, but the best way to get some good pics and really the only way to see Thor’s Well.
Thor’s Well empty………..
Thor’s Well full……
Repeat every few seconds as the waves come in and recede. If it’s a nice sized wave, of which there were many this windy day, you get a nice geyser-ish, splashy effect. I had a video but it was too big to upload. Limits of WordPress.
The town is Bandon-By-The-Sea, Oregon. The golf resort is Bandon Dunes, which has not just been on my bucket list since it opened in t 1999, it’s been one of my dream golf destinations. So, of course (no pun intended) the first thing I did was play golf. A few things about the resort. Bandon itself is a tiny town and there is not much else around, if you don’t count the SPECTACULAR Oregon coast, so the golf IS the destination. Bandon Dunes currently has five championship courses, Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails, Old MacDonald and Sheep Ranch. They also have plans for a sixth course on a separate property which is still in the approval process. The par-3 course is The Preserve and the putting course is called the Punch Bowl. With the exception of Bandon Trails, all the others sit on the bluffs right along the coast. The entire resort is walking only, meaning no riding golf carts. Golf as it was meant to be. They do have caddies for hire and I splurged for a caddie on both my rounds, though they are not required.
My first round was on Bandon Trails. I had appealed to a certain descendant of a weather witch, whom I know, not for perfect weather, but hopefully not having to contend with howling winds and sideways rain. She did a fine job. Teeing off in mid-morning the marine layer was overhead, keeping the wind subdued and the temperature about 60 degrees.
I set off with my 15 year old caddie, Sean, and the three men they had paired me up with for a challenging and fun round. After a few holes the marine layer cleared, the sun came out and winds picked up, growing stronger as the day progressed. In fairness, the course itself, without wind, is not particularly difficult, but it was designed perfectly with the winds in mind and let me tell you, when they get blowing even a little it becomes a bear!
The wind really killed me, but I had a fantastic day and could not have cared less. My score was terrible but I loved it.
Day 2 I brought out my bike to explore the area. Don’t think for a second that riding around here is flat. There are some flatter sections of road, and US-101 does its best to avoid the worst of climbing, but the coast constantly rises and falls from sea level to bluffs which could reach up to 700 ft. Add a generally 20 mph northerly wind and it makes parts of riding speedy and easy and parts a slog.
This day ended up opposite of my first day of golf. Sunny when I started and the fog rolling in later in the afternoon.
Apparently, aside from golf, Bandon is also know for a cheese factory and cranberries. I didn’t get to the cheese factory, which if you know me is probably surprising, but on this ride I passed many a cranberry bog. In fact that and the topography reminded me a great deal of Massachusetts. I rode my way back up and through the golf resort and then back down along the coast, detouring in to Bullards Beach State Park, through Old Town Bandon and along Beach Loop Drive. By the time I got to Bullards Lighthouse, the fog was getting thick and the wind was pretty vicious. Luckily I was mostly riding with it.
It’s a cute little downtown area with all the expected shops and restaurants and such. It only seems more clear here because the fog is rolling in on the wind from the north. It will be here shortly.
That evening, after my ride I went back to Old Town to have dinner at Edgwaters. I sat at the bar enjoying my Dark & Stormy, to match the fog which was continuing to roll in thicker and thicker, followed by a fabulous meal of Pacific Steamers (clams) and fresh local Halibut. If you ever visit Bandon, definitely eat here.
The next day I returned to the golf resort to play the eponymous Bandon Dunes. I was all set to get some great pictures of the course and ocean, except that the fog just never cleared. At times the visibility was down to less than 100 yds, which makes golfing quite a bit more difficult. Good thing we had caddies, again. Sometimes we literally could not see the hole or even where we were supposed to hit. It was a lot of hit and hope! I will say it made for a unique kind of fun for me. And with the wind virtually non-existent I played really well. Just an added bonus.
I will be back to Bandon Dunes some day and I can’t wait. What a fantastic place and golfing experience.
With a town name like Cave Junction you’d think there are caves. Well there are, 20 miles up the road. Oregon Caves National Monument. Never heard of it; didn’t know it was here, but hey, it’s another cancellation stamp in my NPS Passport. WooHoo!!! I was not able to tour the caves, though if you’ve seen one cave………. (The exception to that is Carlsbad Caverns, but that’s another post). Because of the resurgent plague the park is limiting cave tours to 60 people per day. They’ve suspended online advance ticketing so you have to get tickets at the Visitor Center the day of, on first come first served basis. The VC opens at 8:00 am. People are forming up a line at 6:00 am. Not THAT important to me
to see the caves. So I just took the drive up to poke around a bit. I’d have ridden my bike but it’s back up to Africa hot and with upcoming plans I have, I didn’t feel like killing myself in the heat.
Standing in front the entrance you can feel the cold air rushing out. Temperature in the cave is about 44 degrees. Refreshing since the outside temp was about 87 degrees. There’s a short trail that takes you past the cave entrance and exit as well as up and over along some of the cliffs. Along the way is a great view point of the Siskiyou Mountains.
Across the road from Laughing Alpaca Campground, where I’m staying, is another unexpected find. Great Cats World Park. You may recall I recently visited Cat Haven in Squaw Valley, CA. This is a very similar conservation center for cats large and small. There were a few critters here I’d never seen before such as the African Wild Cat, which was undistinguishable from your typical house cat. I just never realized that there were actual wild cats from which all of our domesticated and feral cats sprung.
Different from Cat Haven, here the tour guides do have some interaction with the cats, using food to bring them out to meet the crowd. Actually, most of the denizens were visible in their enclosures, though usually back and relaxing out of the sun, so while this wasn’t necessary to enjoy viewing these magnificent animals, it made for a more up close and personal experience.
If you find yourself in southwestern Oregon, it’s worth the stop. Not to mention the overall beauty of this area. From here I’m going coastal.
Well, another month gone by, or just about gone by. Here’s where I was in July. Lot’s of interesting places.
And because I’ve finally made it out of California and in to Oregon, I got to add a new sticker to the map. It’s been a while since I’ve ticked off a state in which I’d not been with the motorhome. Unfortunately it’s the only new state I’ll get this year.
Now for the bad news. I’m pretty good at getting myself in and out of my RV sites. Yes, I’ve had a few minor bumps and scrapes but today I actually broke something. Something kind of important.
As I backed in to my, constantly checking my surroundings out my window, on the rear video camera and out the passenger side window at the mirror, I was a fraction of a second too slow. The tree didn’t appear in the passenger mirror because of the angle. I saw it as it came in front of my window but just couldn’t get my foot to the brake quite fast enough.
Not sure how or when or where I’m gonna get this fixed. Maybe up near Portland in a couple of weeks. That’s the next time I’ll be near anything resembling a real city.