Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Bandon-by-the-Sea

The bluffs over Coquille Point were a great spot to check
out the scenery.
A trip to Bandon, Oregon was always on the list but an overnight stay quickly, and wisely, turned into a three-night stay when the winds started gusting to over 50 mph howling with a vengeance and sideways rain kept us hobbled and the motorhome off the road.  Lucky for us because we got to spend more time in this cute southern Oregon town; albeit, the raincoats never got put away and wet hair was the new style we were sporting. 

We decided to stay at an RV park in-town so we could make the most of our stay without driving long distances and with high winds we were glad not to be parked under 100-foot pine trees.

Within walking distance (or a short swim during the height of the deluge) was lively Old Town - a wonderful surprise with boutiques, restaurants, a working harbor, farmers market, and galleries.  A few hours of walking around town and soaking in the sites in the cold, rainy weather had us really yearning for a bowl of clam chowder.  The downtown attracts tourists that are perusing the Oregon coast and ranks as one of our favorite Oregon towns which is easy to see between the downtown and post-card perfect coastline.


Bandon is known for its scenery.  There are plenty of public access points (thanks to the Oregon State Park System) that provide an idyllic coastal setting and wonderful beach for walking and photographing.  It was great to watch the storms roll in but the dousing rain and blowing sand was a reminder not to linger too long or stray too far from the car.



Just across the Coquille River from Bandon is Bullards Beach State Park and the Coquille River Lighthouse built by the U. S. Coast Guard in 1896 and operated until 1939.  The restored lighthouse still stands proudly where the river meets the sea and makes for a perfect addition to this picturesque town.


We definitely did our share of eating in Bandon from sampling sweets at Cranberry Sweets, indulging in fish and chips at Bandon Fish Market, to warming up with chowder and fish tacos at Tony’s Port O’ Call and Crab Shack, indulging in delectables at the chocolate boutique Coastal Mist . . . but (being the cheesehead I am), my favorite was the creamy goodness at Face Rock Creamery – a place we visited twice in three days.  The pumpkin a' la mode ice cream was super satisfying and the cheese kept me coming back.
Amazing truffles at Coastal Mist.  Betsy was convinced this was her favorite place to visit in Bandon.
















As our friends over at Tin Teepee/Log Cabin rightly predicted . . . we did love Bandon's vibrant downtown, the lighthouse, fish and chips, the farmers market, and Spirit loved running on the beach.

This face brought to you by blowing sand.

We were in seafood heaven.
The downtown boardwalk displays some of the local youth art projects.
The art was creative and fun to ponder.
The driving rain, monsoonal downpours, and hurricane force winds could not keep us from enjoying Bandon.  Only sorry we could not stay longer . . . but, as we frequently say, "next time."





Sunday, September 29, 2013

Down the coast to Florence, Oregon

Rumor had it that Florence was one of the cutest towns along the Oregon coast.  That rumor turned out to be true.  The drive from Tillamook to Florence down HWY 101 was pretty breath taking and I was glad that Betsy was driving and I got to take in the full scope of this dynamic coastline.  Ha, ha for Betsy! 

Before we ventured downtown, we met some blog readers and fellow bloggers themselves, Peter and Larry. We love it when blog readers contact us and want to meet.  The guys were great to talk with and we were glad they came over that night for a glass of wine.  It is so nice to listen to other people’s travels and their advice on places to visit.  Thanks guys, hope we see you next summer in the Canadian Maritimes.  So for anyone who reads RV-A-GOGO we would love to meet you if you are ever near us.  

Florence has a lively old town that is a great place to watch boats come and go, stroll along the harbor side boardwalk and take in the charm of local shops, galleries and restaurants.  We found a great little outdoor market to buy fresh produce (including gorgeous chanterelle mushrooms) and a market patio overlooking the harbor where we enjoyed the activity.  The weather was sunny and perfect so we were loving being outside and exploring a new town.




Florence was just a one night stop for us, but, a really great one.  Sorry we could not spend more time there but we are migrating a little farther south to Bandon, Oregon.



Saturday, September 28, 2013

Eating Our Way through Tillamook, Oregon

You don’t have to hang out very long in Oregon before you realize that there are plenty of Oregonian goods that have foodies smiling.  Oregon is famous for their microbrews and the wine country is highly popular with picky pinot drinkers who indulge in the delicious pinot noirs and gris.  But if you come to the coast and land in Tillamook you will recognize the unmistakable scent of cows but relish in the creamy delectable products that these bovines subtly produce. 

Awesome combination a VW "doobie van" and cheese.
Not thirty minutes after parking the RV, we were headed to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  I am a lover of cheese and consider it to be its own food group on the very bottom of the pyramid – that way I get to eat more of it than other food groups.  After all, how could we pass up the state’s number one tourist attraction and the free samples, to boot?  I admit I jabbed four samples on one toothpick, hit every flavor, and went back for seconds. 
 
Here was my buffet.  Our favorite was the squeaky cheese curds.
Those big orange blocks are cheese getting cut, proportioned, and packaged so they can be sent to a store near you.
Tillamook is also known for their ice cream.  Yum!
Tillamook’s early pioneers had a burning desire to cross the challenging mountains to reach the fertile lands that rest on Tillamook Bay.  The pioneers began farming the rich lands but soon realized they had no means to import much needed goods or export their products.  In 1854, early settlers built the Morning Star and loaded it full of butter, potatoes, salmon and other goods, launched it in Tillamook Bay and returned it full of much needed goods and mail.  An industry was born. 

Our appetite for cheese was only wetted by the visit to Tillamook Cheese Factory.  Next up was the Blue Heron French Cheese Company for some of their tasty brie.  In addition to cheese, there is wine tasting, gourmet food items and gifts.  Venture around the property and you can feed the goats, donkeys, and foul. 

...an ass
Two goats and ....


















Last stop on our food quest was to the Tillamook Country Smoker for their salty good sausages.  Just a dollar will get you two feet of sausage which was just enough for Spirit and I to satisfy our taste buds.  Betsy doesn't like smoked sausage so we get it all!


One thing about the Oregon Coast is when the sun shines you better get out and enjoy it.  We took a drive to the coastal town of Oceanside for a walk on the beach to get sand between the toes, gaze at a lighthouse, and a savor a bowl of clam chowder…how perfectly coastal!   The sun popped in and out which left us warm and wet but it turned out to be a great day on the Oregon Coast!

Spirit posing in front of Three Arch Rocks - a nesting haven for seabirds.  
Over 220,000 murres nest on the rocks producing the largest nesting colony south of Alaska.  The rocks also support a colony of  2,000-3,000 puffins.
The Octopus Tree is a 250-300 year old Sitka
spruce with a disputed past not sure if the
shape of the tree was caused by natural
forces or Native Americans.
The Cape Meares Light proudly displays a hand-ground
Fresnel lens that is one of only two eight-sided lights in the U.S.
It's other claim-to-fame is that it is Oregons' shortest lighthouse.

And this is why we wanted a bowl of hot clam chowder for lunch.
After lunch it was back to the beach before the next storm cleansed us.
Look what Spirit found for lunch.




Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fun, Friends, and Forts in Astoria, Oregon

Six days in Astoria, Oregon flew by.  Our list of "things-to-do" was long but first and foremost was hooking up with some friends we had not seen in a while.  First up, was to visit with some New Orleanians who now call Bend, Oregon their home.  Judy and Lili, swung over to the coast for a night and we were lucky enough to spend an evening with them and then extend our visit to the next day for a walk on the beach (with their adorable pup Gracie) and lunch the next day. 

 













Pretty soon the campground filled with laughter when four of my high school pals from the International School of Brussels (and their families) filled the campsites around us.  I have not seen these girls for 26 years and it was like old times.  We reminisced, laughed, joked, and best of all made plans to reconnect sooner than another 26 years. 


But in between all the “friend-time” we took in some of the Astoria sites - the best one being the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  Wow, is that a cool maritime museum.  Usually, I get a subtle roll of the eyes from Betsy when I bring up visiting yet another maritime museum.  And rightly so, I'm the first to admit that I go a little overboard with maritime museums and NEVER pass one up.  That amounts to visiting roughly 30 of these sea faring, ship-laden places during the two and a half years the RV has been rolling.  What convinced us this one was different was the modern mix of exhibit and artifacts interpreted with modern technology – especially the life-size rolling U.S. Coast Guard ship that plays out a dangerous rescue on the treacherous Columbia River Bar. 

The Columbia River Bar has earned the nickname "Graveyard of the Pacific" as more than 2,000 ships have sunk and over 700 people lost their lives on what is known as one of the most dangerous bar crossings in the world.
The U.S. Coast Guard lifeboat 44300 was the first of a long line of specialized surf rescue boats designed to perform duties on the Columbia River Bar.
The museum has six galleries displaying over 30,000 objects including this trawler.

A self-guided tour of the lightship Columbia is included in the price of admission. The ship was in service from 1950 - 1971 and stationed five miles from the mouth of the bar.  The seventeen crew members manned the boat to light the way for mariners.
The campground we choose was Fort Stevens State Park which had great beach access, plenty of hiking trails, and tons of history – including a ship wreck. 

Protruding the wide beach is the wreck of the Peter Iredale - a four-masted barque steel sailing vessel that ran aground in 1906.
But just down the road is Fort Clatsop – the winter home of the Corps of Discovery Expedition led by Lewis and Clark.  The explorers were exhausted and running low on supplies by the time they reached the Pacific Ocean.  The explorers spent 106 days at the fort, of which, it rained every day but 12.  During their stay they traded with the Chinook and Clatsop Indians and spent the winter describing the plants and animals in the area as well as making detailed notes about the tribes’ culture, appearance, and living conditions. 

It was only fitting that we visited on a day that it was raining.

Astoria provides lots to do for visitors of all ages.  For us, the best activity was seeing old friends in a new place.