Category Travel

Another Salty Adventure: Float Hunting in Lincoln City, OR

In the tourist off season, Lincoln City has figured out a way to lure some of them back: by hiding treasure on their beaches. Namely, the glass floats that are ubiquitous in the shops along the waterfront. Sure, you could buy one in the summer or you could find them for free in the winter. And the city hypes the shit out of this event. I can’t even tell you how many times I saw their “float fairies” promoted in my Facebook feed, talking about the thousands of artisan-made glass floats they’re leaving on the beach for people to find. Both Rachel and I were intrigued enough to want to book a girls’ weekend in the area that included some beachcombing. I didn’t want to get my hopes up that I’d find one, but it was hard not to get a little excited. Especially when upon check-in, our hotel* gave each of us a float as a gift for staying with them. It just stoked my float finding fires higher. Would I find another? Would I find several? Would I need an extra bag in which to carry them home? What would I do with this float-y bonanza?!

But first, I had to find ’em.

First things first: upon arriving to the beach, I took this photo just to prove that I have what it takes to become an influencing Instagram superstar…I just don’t want to.  Yeah, that’s it.

Then I opened my beady little eyes to inspect the beach for what was to be the second piece in my float hoard. I found:

A stump!

A perfectly good sea whip** abandoned by the ocean!

Several dead birds! (Not pictured here)

A large amount of foam!

More sea whips!

A tumblefoam race!

A foamy stump!

A tortilla chip!

SNACK MOUNTAIN, CHARLIE!

And then, just when I was beginning to lose hope, off in the distance, I saw a glint. I sprintedhuffed over as fast as I could at a pace that could reasonably be called a “rapid shamble” and beheld this beauty waiting on the beach for me to take it home. A float of my own. I mean, in addition to that other free float, but even more special because I found it.

I’ll treasure it forever.

 

 

*We stayed at the Hallmark Resort Newport and I can’t say enough good things about them. In addition to the aforementioned free float, all the rooms have ocean views with a balcony, there’s an in-room fireplace, free movie rentals, free saltwater taffy, a 24 hour coffee/tea/cider/cocoa bar, and all of the employees were awesome. I would totally stay there again in a heartbeat.

**If you thought you were reading the kind of blog written by someone who would pass up the opportunity to whip a perfectly good sea whip no matter how covered with ocean slime it may be, you’re wrong.

ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS WHIP IT GOOD NOT WHIP ME GOOD.

Save

Spotted on the Roadside: The 16th President Multi-Tasking

 

In 1849, Abraham Lincoln was offered the governership of the Oregon territory, which he declined. At that point in his life, he was disenchanted with politics and elected to temporarily return to his law practice, riding from village to village. He was a notorious bookworm, even from a young age, and thus it only made sense that he whiled away the long hours on horseback reading.

 

In 1965, five Oregon towns in Lincoln County consolidated to form what is now known as Lincoln City. The schoolchildren of the towns were given the honor of choosing the new city’s name, and in the fashion of children, they chose the zappy name “Surfland”, not knowing they could choose the even zappier “City McCityface”. Ultimately, the people in charge said “Screw you, children, we’re naming it Lincoln City” and Lincoln City it remains*.  In honor of the new city, the above statue was gifted to them by the sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington. No word on what the gift might have been for Surfland.

 

*At least for now. A placard at the base of the statue indicates that the statue may be removed by the governor if Lincoln City changes its name…so maybe Surfland still has a chance.

Spotted on NE 22nd St in Lincoln City, OR

Save

Save

Let that be a lesson to the rest of you…nuts.

I’ve been to Leavenworth several times but had never made it to the Nutcracker Museum, as it was either closed at the time or there were group protests about it being “too creepy” even though the quaint shoppes there are already packed to the gills with creepy. Too creepy, you say? Too creepy?!? What on Earth could possibly be creepy about thousands of dead eyes staring at you from every directio–I retract the question. Come with me on a creepy journey, friends!

My first stop was at the museum website to ascertain that it would actually be open during my visit, which was a more important step than one would assume: they’re only open four hours per day, seven months of the year. If you’re reading this now and want to drop everything and head over immediately, hold your horses, because they won’t be open again until May. Sorry about energizing you with Nutcracker Fever™. But rest assured, you’re not the only one with Nutcracker Fever™, as the museum website also boldly claims that “all children love nutcrackers“. Not many. Not most. ALL. I certainly vividly remember the days of my youth colored by Nutcracker Fever™. Like all children everywhere, I loved nutcrackers. I had nutcracker sheets, nutcracker pajamas, and I begged Santa for the limited edition Bob Mackie nutcracker I saw in the Sears catalog. At school, my fellow children and I learned woodworking in the hopes of training our nimble fingers in nutcracker craftsmanship so we’d be accepted at Nutcracker College. On the bus, we swapped nutcracker trading cards (my most treasured possession remains a foil Rat King). In the evening, I used my nutcracker collection to shell nuts to dot my lightbulb-warmed treats in my nutcracker emblazoned EZ Bake Oven*.

Admittance to the museum is a paltry five bucks, which is a pittance given the number of nights since I’ve bolted awake, sweating, clutching the sheets while in the grip of Nutcracker Fever™. Upon arrival, I was directed to several rows of folding chairs set up in front of a tiny TV playing a grainy video about the history of nutcrackers. This is directly next to the person taking admissions, so unfortunately any smartass joke I would have wanted to make had to be stifled for the greater good of not being kicked out of the museum.

This is Karl, named after his maker, Karl.

I knew before going in that the Nutcracker Museum contained one of the largest collections of nutcrackers in the world, but I don’t think I really knew just how many nutcrackers that entailed. After the video finished playing, I walked around a corner of nutcrackers for sale and found myself in a room filled with glass display cases with narrow walkways between them, all packed with nutcrackers. Outside this room is a small section filled with antique nutcrackers that no one is allowed to photograph for whatever reason, followed by a long hallway lined with more cases which leads to yet another room lined with still more cases. Don’t let my description fool you into believing it’s a labyrinth of nutcrackers: it’s not possible to get lost in this museum, but it is possible to become intensely claustrophobic.

“Nuts all float down here, Georgie.”

“Check out this Emperor Palpatine nutcracker,” I joked…

…before finding a grouping of Star Wars nutcrackers.

There was also a section on betel nut cutters, which is a nut that I have some familiarity with from my year in Taiwan. Often the sidewalks were splattered with red stains, which could have been blood, but was most likely betel nut juice. Chewing betel nut is supposed to have a similar effect to nicotine. A few slices of the nut are wrapped in a betel leaf, and chewing it releases a blood red juice which is expectorated wherever is most convenient (i.e. the street). At the time, these packets were sold by “betel nut beauties”: scantily clad women in small transparent booths along the street, which I believe is a practice exclusive to Taiwan although betel nut consumption is popular throughout southeast Asia. It’s not dissimilar to the bikini baristas found all over the PNW, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a similar amount of angry local Facebook group posts looking for a “family friendly” alternative. Regardless, the Rotary warned us away from betel nuts, blah blah blah addictive, blah blah blah cancer…but you only live once, right? Might as well learn what it’s like to spit out a mouthful of “blood”, especially if you’re not like to be punched in the face or participate in community horror theatre.

This’ll be the photo my detractors will use when I run for office. “SHE DRINKS THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT, DO YOU TRUST HER WITH YOUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE?”

I don’t know why I find the name “nutting stone” to be so filthily funny, I just do.

Hey, wait, this ISN’T a nutcracker!

Why not both? All kids love nutcrackers!

Buttcrackers and smutcrackers.

To the left of the nut guillotines are some shoes called “nutcracking shoes”. I’m pretty sure you could use them to crack whatever the hell you’d please, Gene Simmons.

I also solved a personal mystery among the shelves. See that moon? I bought one exactly like it two years ago at an antique shop. When I bought it, I just thought the moon looked cool, and the man at the register exclaimed that it was a nutcracker. Over the ensuing two years, I still haven’t found a nut that it can crack–it just half-assedly spits them out of its moon mouth like some kind of low powered useless nut gun. It seemed probable that the antique store clerk had just lied to me to test the limits of my gullibility. Not so–it is indeed a nutcracker, just a terrible one. I suppose this is the Nutcracker Museum, not the Museum of Effective Nutcrackers.

Despite my Nutcracker Fever™, my eyes glazed over surprisingly quickly. “Well hey, that’s a nutcracker” turned to “Yup, still a nutcracker” turned to a vaguely amorphous nutcrackery blob. Perhaps if I’d played the nutcracker finding game, my attention would have been held for longer. What is the nutcracker finding game, you ask? The museum has different lists of nutcrackers to find, depending on one’s age and enthusiasm. For instance, one may be tasked with finding a Mickey Mouse nutcracker, an astronaut nutcracker, and a three legged man nutcracker. No word on whether they ask people to search for the Hitler nutcracker**, but he’s there if you have the fortitude to look for him.

 

*I’m sorry, all of this is a hideous lie. However, a nutcracker was present when I learned the horrifying nickname my grandparents had for brazil nuts.

**Hitler IS there, along with some really racist caricature nutcrackers and a whole shelf of Confederate crackers. Because, you know, it’s not like they have enough other nutcrackers to fill the gaps if they were to take out the ones that implied some of their guests were sub-human. That would just be too much work, too tough of a nut to crack.

Save

They say love goes on, long after the grilled cheese sandwich is gone

tillamook-1-of-8

You can smell Tillamook country long before you arrive at the cheese factory, owing to all of the cows (or Tillamoos) necessary to keep the pacific northwest rich in loaves of cheese, mounds of butter, lakes of yogurt, and tub after tub of sweet, sweet ice cream. The cow-based earthiness of the air around the factory just lets you know you’re almost there. Which was a helpful sign, because I was “kill a man” levels of hungry, and when Jason looked at his GPS and said we were still over an hour out, I briefly considered pulling over and doing a rogue milking for a warm, gross snack. Thankfully, he quickly realized he’d had it set on walking, not driving, and thus no trespassing laws were broken.

The lines inside were honestly insane. Yes, it was a Saturday which should have tipped me off, but it’s also not all that near anything (it’s an hour and a half drive from Portland) and it’s the off season for the coast so the sheer volume of people inside took me by surprise. There were no fewer than a hundred people in line waiting for ice cream, in a winding queue that resembled a line for a Disneyland ride  more than anything. Combine the crowds with the limited time we had before everything closed for the day, and I could choose to take the tour or eat but not both. In a move that will surprise absolutely no one, I chose food.

We each got a grilled cheese sandwich with tots and split an order of cheese curds with chipotle ranch in an array of fried beige that would horrify any nutritionist. But I would just like to note the presence of a fruit on our table, the humble tomato. Sure, it’s been sugared up and stripped of all its fiber, but it’s still a fruit. Sort of. Looking at this photo definitely makes me want to eat a vegetable or six. But at the time, this was fried cheesy heaven for very hungry people.

tillamook-2-of-8

tillamook-3-of-8

tillamook-4-of-8

After laying waste to this cheesy bounty, we took cheesy photos in the cheesewagon, I pressed my obligatory penny, we breezed through the various gift shops (they know where their bread is Tillamook buttered), and then committed to standing in line for ice cream. Because when life hands you an opportunity to try ice cream flavors not stocked in the grocery stores near you, you grab that opportunity with both hands and a spoon. The line is stupid long but Tillmook has handled it smartly, in that there are menus of their flavor selection dotting the line, so you have time to peruse and make your decision before being confronted by the case in all its splendor so that people aren’t spending forever hemming and hawing while holding the rest of the line up. Thus, the line moves at a decent clip. Jason went for a two scoop cup, and I thought I’d be clever and go for their three flavor ‘flight’ so I could try three things but keep the overall volume of ice cream low. Because that’s what a flight is, right? A tasting?  Nope. It turns out that at the Tillamook factory, a flight of three ice creams is three full size scoops, so I definitely felt like a hog while collecting my cup. Not that said feeling kept me from eating it, shamefully, in the car on the way home.

tillamook-5-of-8

tillamook-6-of-8

tillamook-7-of-8Someone waited in line twenty minutes for this. Whomp whomp.

I will be back, Tillamook, for your tour and your ice cream adventure. I’m definitely going to eat a vegetable first, though.

Save

Save

Save

An Oregon Coast Afternoon

oregon-coast-afternoon-1-of-28

It took some real effort on my part to not try to cram this wooden scarecrow from Something Awesome in Bandon into the car, which I think is precisely the reason I bought a compact hatchback rather than a truck, to curb these sorts of impulses, lest my yard turn into an unintentional roadside attraction. However, the very real possibility of all of my weird hobbies and collections turning into an unintentional roadside attraction is precisely why I bought a home in a neighborhood without a homeowner’s association, because intentional or not, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let my neighbors dictate to me what size my yard alien can be.

oregon-coast-afternoon-4-of-28

oregon-coast-afternoon-5-of-28

oregon-coast-afternoon-8-of-28

oregon-coast-afternoon-10-of-28Tahkenitch lake

oregon-coast-afternoon-11-of-28

I had to pull over for the Sea Lion Caves. America’s largest sea cave? Yes, please! I parked in their large lot on the east side of 101 and dashed across the road only to be told inside that their elevator was broken and they weren’t allowing anyone into the sea cave, not on the walkways, not to their viewpoint, nowhere, because someone might look over/fall into the elevator shaft. “It’s a liability issue,” they said. “The lawyers won’t let us.” Evidently the lawyers have no problem with them encouraging people to run across a highway, though. So I took the liberty of fixing their sign.

liabilitycavesI also considered adding “The lawyers encourage visiting our gift shop instead” at the bottom but I don’t actually know the lawyers’ stance on that.

oregon-coast-afternoon-12-of-28

oregon-coast-afternoon-15-of-28

oregon-coast-afternoon-16-of-28

My next stop was Devil’s Churn, a narrow inlet where the waves crash into a milky froth to make Beelzebub Butter. Or so I assume. When the tide is in, the waves can crash up to hundreds of feet into the air, and there are signs everywhere warning visitors never to turn their back on the ocean. The rocks down near the water were very slick with satanic ooze, and my boots skidded right off which is how I ended up in ankle deep demon muck with my boot covered in rock snot*.

oregon-coast-afternoon-17-of-28Baal’s Half & Half

oregon-coast-afternoon-18-of-28

oregon-coast-afternoon-20-of-28

oregon-coast-afternoon-22-of-28Father of Lies foam

oregon-coast-afternoon-23-of-28

oregon-coast-afternoon-26-of-28

oregon-coast-afternoon-27-of-28

Then it was off to learn about a very different kind of churn: the ice cream churns at Tillamook. Monday, a cheesy exposé!

 

*technical terms, every one

Save

Save

Save

Prehistoric Gardens in Oregon’s Rainforest

prehistoric-gardens-1-of-52

If there is a dinosaur-based attraction anywhere near where I’m traveling, I will find it, like a divining rod for giant lizards. Though, to be fair, I don’t know how anyone driving on 101 could miss these particular dinosaurs, given the way they loom over the road. They WANT to be found. And what better place for life size dinosaurs than a section of Oregon temperate rainforest, dripping with moss and ferns? That’s what Ernie Nelson thought in 1953, when he began sculpting size-accurate dinosaurs. Two years later, Prehistoric Gardens opened to the public.

prehistoric-gardens-2-of-52

prehistoric-gardens-3-of-52

prehistoric-gardens-4-of-52

Prehistoric Gardens acts as part dinosaur attraction, part nature preserve, with the sculptures carefully nestled among the trees, and the vegetation allowed to encroach as it pleases–the handrails are really there more for the moss and fungi than human hands.  When I got in close to look at the teeny-tiny mushrooms that had sprouted on the rails, I saw even teeny-tinier spiderwebs attached to them. And looming behind that, of course, a steel and concrete dinosaur.

prehistoric-gardens-7-of-52What’s up with the ellipsis at the end of the sign? “State law prohibits smoking in forested areas…but we won’t tell if you won’t”? “…so don’t test us!” “…and we have plenty of places to hide the bodies of those who do”?

prehistoric-gardens-9-of-52

prehistoric-gardens-33-of-52

prehistoric-gardens-38-of-52

Ernie strove with all of his creations to make them as scientifically accurate as possible (to the standards of the time, of course–you’ll see no feathered dinosaurs here). It took him nearly thirty years to complete the twenty-three sculptures on the property, and they’ve held up remarkably well for their sixty years, with some weathering but otherwise intact. It also features some dinosaurs beyond the well-known favorites, and each exhibit comes complete with a sign containing the name, the meaning of the name, and some factoids about them.

prehistoric-gardens-10-of-52Triceratops’ goofy smile? SCIENTIFICALLY CORRECT.

prehistoric-gardens-11-of-52Dimetrodon’s halloween coloring? SCIENTIFICALLY CORRECT.

prehistoric-gardens-26-of-52The melancholy of the ankylosaur? SCIENTIFICALLY CORRECT.

prehistoric-gardens-12-of-52

prehistoric-gardens-14-of-52

prehistoric-gardens-16-of-52Birds were angry long before 2009.

prehistoric-gardens-17-of-52

prehistoric-gardens-21-of-52Lystrosaurus, the swamp lizard.

prehistoric-gardens-23-of-52

prehistoric-gardens-22-of-52When I looked up to the canopy, I saw that the tree branches were not only covered in moss, but had ferns growing out of them as well.

prehistoric-gardens-25-of-52Psittacosaurus, the parrot lizard.

prehistoric-gardens-28-of-52Struthiomimus, the ostrich mimic. Known for the way it struts around like it owns the place*.

prehistoric-gardens-29-of-52

prehistoric-gardens-39-of-52Trachodon, the rough-tooth.

prehistoric-gardens-41-of-52This ichthyosaur doesn’t appear to be doing so well.

prehistoric-gardens-49-of-52Seymouria, purportedly named for the town where it was discovered, but was actually** named after Jane Seymour, who glared in just such a fashion on the set of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, when her coffee was served with an incorrect ratio of beans to additives.

And now the thing you all came here to see, an impending T-Rex attack on a car:

prehistoric-gardens-51-of-52

 

*Well, NOW it’s known for that.

**Not actually. It’s the town thing.

Save

Save

Save

A Northern California/Southern Oregon Coast Morning

oregon-coast-morning-1-of-14

oregon-coast-morning-2-of-14

The Ship Ashore Resort–their website says the museum and gift shop are “temporarily closed” but it’s been closed since 2013 so don’t hold your breath.

oregon-coast-morning-3-of-14

oregon-coast-morning-4-of-14

oregon-coast-morning-6-of-14

oregon-coast-morning-8-of-14

oregon-coast-morning-12-of-14

 

After a solid continental breakfast, I continued to follow 101 up Oregon’s coastline. It was a gorgeous morning, overcast, the cloudiness and slight fog perfectly complementing the waves smashing into the rocky shore. As it was yet early, I was able to pull over and watch a whole family of elk grazing on the side of the road–thankfully, these ones were not as well versed in the art of setting traps as their other Oregon brethren. I don’t know if it was the time of day or the time of year, but the winding roads were almost deserted, which made for perfect driving conditions, one of those drives where I can just set the cruise control, pump up the jams, and make time, pulling over every once in a while to take in the view. It was just what I needed after the total shitshow that was the previous afternoon/evening.  It was only a scant two hour drive to the day’s first destination: Prehistoric Gardens. That’s right, strap in, because on Wednesday, we’re going to see even more dinosaurs.

Save

I left my hopes in San Francisco

san-francisco-1-of-3

san-francisco-2-of-3

san-francisco-3-of-3

The primary reason I wanted to take highway 101 home rather than I-5 was that I wanted to see the giant redwoods of northern California. Those ancient conifers, those towering monoliths that you can sometimes drive your car through for an additional fee. It’s the reason we busted ass out of the hotel that morning, the reason lunch was a sandwich crammed down our faces in the car. All my planning and ass-busting, however, couldn’t compensate for the soul crushing traffic leading into and through and out of San Francisco. I watched the sun slip by overhead as we sat and sat and sat and knew that with it, our chances of seeing the redwoods were similarly slipping away. Sure enough, the last of the sunlight disappeared before we got into redwood country. Crap in a basket. We spent the rest of the drive pointing at shadows saying “Is that a redwood? I think that might be a redwood. Or an elk.” as a thick fog swirled around the car, making it difficult to see the road even three feet ahead. Between road construction, traffic, and fog, we didn’t check into our hotel until around 11pm. The next morning, the sunrise revealed a giant billboard pointing back the way we came, enticing us to check out the “trees of mystery”. Damn it. Damn it all.

Save

The Cambria Scarecrow Festival

 

 

cambria-22-of-23

cambria-23-of-23

cambria-3-of-23

cambria-4-of-23

cambria-5-of-23

cambria-2-of-23

cambria-6-of-23

cambria-7-of-23

cambria-9-of-23

cambria-10-of-23

cambria-13-of-23

cambria-14-of-23

cambria-15-of-23

cambria-16-of-23

cambria-17-of-23

cambria-18-of-23

cambria-19-of-23

 

For the past eight years, the town of Cambria, California has been filling their streets with scarecrows for the month of October. They claim to have hundreds, a number to which I cannot personally attest as I didn’t get to check out every nook and cranny of Cambria and the neighboring San Simeon, which also participates. After gassing up, I stretched my legs walking Cambria’s downtown checking out their scarecrow offerings. I also checked out the French Corner Bakery to buy more coffee. Considering the pastry revelation that was Bob’s earlier that morning, I wasn’t ready to try any other pastries, but on a whim, I ordered a torta, figuring that good bread was fully half the battle when it comes to getting a good sandwich. And daaaaaaaaamn, was that sandwich ever good! Fresh bread stuffed with juicy pork, thick slices of avocado, and pickled onions and jalapenos. YASSS. At least, that’s how I felt about the two bites I got while Jason wolfed the rest down. I’ve never seen a sandwich disappear that fast. We were still talking about how good the sandwich was as we passed by a place named “Hidden Valley Ranch”–was this, in fact, the birthplace of ranch dressing, AKA “America Sauce”? I don’t know, I was too busy talking about that sandwich to investigate.  Even now, fully a month later, we fondly reference that sandwich in conversation. Even now, when I should be talking about scarecrows, I’m talking about the sandwich.

Mmmm, sandwich.

Morro Bay

morro-1-of-9

Somehow I managed to tear myself away from the suite at the Victorian Mansion, casting it longing glances all the way down the street to Bob’s Well Bread Bakery for some morning fuel. It pains me to say it, but Bob’s pastries blow my favorite local bakery out of the water. His ham and cheese croissant was warm, flaky perfection. His kougin amann were crisp and caramelized with just the right amount of chewy, yeasty bread inside. And, as a total hog, I also got a house-made english muffin spread with butter and plum strawberry jam with rosemary and lavender. Hngggg. I’ve never had a fresh english muffin before, and it may have completely ruined me for the bagged bread aisle kind forever. I’m not mad, Bob. I just wish you were closer.

morro-2-of-9

morro-3-of-9

We took our bags of treats and coffee and headed up the coast a bit toward Morro Bay, home of Morro rock, the volcanic plug from which the town gets its name. It was still early enough in the morning that we had the beach to ourselves, so we hung out, ate our pastries, and watched the birds. The most exciting part for me by far was seeing monarch butterflies flitting around everywhere. I didn’t think we’d see any as it was a bit too early in the season for them to reach their overwintering spots, so to see a good number of them doing their thing was definitely an unexpected treat.

morro-4-of-9

morro-5-of-9

morro-6-of-9

morro-8-of-9

morro-9-of-9

How could it get any better than this, right? The day was just beginning.

Save