Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pacific Northwest Part 3 - Portland and the Oregon Coast

No luck with any campsites between Vacaville, CA and Portland, OR.  We stayed night 3 of our trip in a motel in Willows, CA and ate a nice dinner at the Black Bear Cafe there.   We stopped for gas just across the Oregon border, and if we thought we were safe from colorful characters, we were immediately proved wrong.  A shirtless young man with shoulder-length dreadlocks came running towards our car with a look of ecstasy on his face.  At the last possible moment he veered off and began singing something incomprehensible at the top of his lungs.  The last we saw of him, he was driving away to parts unknown.

Our first excursion in Portland was to the world famous Rose Garden.  My amateur pictures cannot possibly do justice to the acres and variety of roses there.  The seductive fragrance of thousands of blooms surrounded us and could only have been made more perfect by the addition of a pot of herbal (maybe rose petal?) tea and several squares of dark chocolate.

The Pearl District in downtown Portland, is a must for window shopping, unique souvenirs and artisinal treats.   My friend and I enjoyed the many quirky clothing and jewelry boutiques, stopped in at Lush for a hand treatment and to spy on their all-natural soaps and personal care products, collecting information and ideas for my shop - Mrs. D's Homestead.  We spent just as much time at the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe, sampling their gourmet cocoas and sinful desserts.

After a day of rest and recovery, we proceeded to take a tour of the Oregon coast, stopping first at the Tillamook Cheese factory for fortification.  Though guided tours are available, we went through the museum on our own.  The high-tech mass production of cheese was interesting to me, however, being a cheesemaker myself, I was more interested in the ancient artifacts of old-fashioned cheese-making science in the display cases.  Somehow 2,000 gallon vats of temperature controlled milk do not seem, to me, like they will ferment and age into the flavorful rounds I enjoy when my cow is lactating.  Although, when she is not, Tillamook is one of my favorite choices, due to its' simple, natural ingredients list.  Exiting the museum, we sampled several kinds of Tillamook cheeses, my favorite being the simple, white, buttery tasting curds.  Of course, we could not continue our coastal expedition without a generous portion of creamy Tillamook ice cream apiece.

When we finally found a spot where we could enjoy the beach, we stopped and spent an hour strolling, building sandcastles, and soaking up the sun.

Nehalem Bay is the place to go for crabbing, crab boils, and general relaxing and people watching by the water.  The bait shop at Jetty Fishery offers full crabbing packages, with license, bait, nets and boat, or you can catch them off the dock if you prefer.  We weren't dressed for a day out on the water, so we had our crab boiled for us and gorged ourselves at the picnic tables in front of the campfire.  After cracking, slurping and sipping for what seemed like hours, we were all ready to take a nap.  So we did, while our fearless driver slurped coffee and took a brisk walk to renew his energy.

The final destination on our coastal tour was Astoria, Oregon, where Captain Robert Gray discovered the Columbia River in 1792 and near where Lewis and Clark camped near the end of their expedition.  The location is marked with a 600 foot tall, narrow tower that can be climbed for a fantastic view of the bay.  Or so I'm told.  I preferred to stay on the ground, and decided I had a perfectly lovely view from there.

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