Brian has been so eager to explore the Pacific Northwest, but when I asked him what he wanted to see, he only ever said “the coast”, and when I pressed him for more ideas he expanded to “oysters”. So, that’s what we did. We drove to the coast and ate a ridiculous amount of oysters and other seafood.
Once we were in Oregon, we enjoyed slightly lower gas prices than in California, but we couldn’t pump the gas ourselves, which felt strange. We also found it odd that Oregonians drink hot coffee drinks with a straw. Other than these quirks, we really enjoyed visiting Oregon!
Since we were interested in oysters, we stopped at the bays on the Oregon Coast, where oysters are farmed. Our first stop was Coos Bay, Oregon. It didn’t feel like a very touristy place, mostly logging, fishing, crabbing, and oyster farming.
Before we visited the first oyster farm, I gave Brian a pep talk on how it was only our first stop of many during our Oysterfest. We agreed that we wouldn’t go nuts. We walked past mountains of oyster shells into the small store at Qualman Oyster Farm, and Brian asked for three dozen oysters. We were told that we could get 50 oysters of mixed sizes for only a few dollars more, so for $30, we walked out with a big cooler full of small, medium, and large oysters. And the larges were really big! None of them were what I would call small.
We also went to Clausen Oysters and bought another two dozen extra-small and small oysters. So much for not going nuts.
At the marina we bought some crab at Fisherman’s Wharf to make crab cakes. At Chuck’s Seafood Market we bought smoked oysters and oyster sticks and salmon sticks.
Shucking all those oysters took a long time for Brian to do. I think I shucked one oyster. The big ones were so tough to shuck that Brian grilled them for a bit, then opened them, and finished grilling them with butter.
We stayed at the Oregon Dunes KOA, which has dune access for off-roaders. There were a lot of four-wheelers there, which brought Brian back to his four-wheeling days at Silver Lake Sand Dunes in Michigan. We weren’t sure if it would be the best place for oyster shucking and grilling, but our neighbors that pulled in one night were very complimentary of our picnic and we shared some grilled oysters with them. The next night the whole campground was treated to loud music, including dueling banjos.
The KOA is north of Coos Bay, so we crossed the Conde McCollough Memorial Bridge several times to get back into town. Built in the 1930s, it was the longest bridge in Oregon at the time, over a mile long. It was renamed after Conde McCollough, who was the bridge engineer who designed many of the beautiful bridges on Oregon’s coast.
Mingus Park is in the middle of the town and has a nice pond to walk around.
Shore Acres State Park has a formal garden and a rose garden. It was beautiful in the summer, but we heard it’s really nice when it is decorated at Christmastime.
Heading north from Coos Bay, we visited Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The dunes stretch 40 miles along the Oregon coast. At the advice of a ranger, we hiked just a part of the John Dellenback Dunes Trail, and instead of following it out to the ocean across a couple miles of soft sand, we turned to the left and climbed up the tallest dune in the area and enjoyed the view from the top. It was windy!
When we turned off of Highway 101 to see the Umpqua River Lighthouse, we stopped at Umpqua Triangle Oysters for another dozen. Brian wrapped these in bacon and grilled them.
We passed Haceta Head Lighthouse and an area called the Devil’s Churn, which is a narrow inlet that was once a sea cave before the roof caved in. We did the short hike down to it to see the waves crash in.
The next stop on our tour of the Oregon Coast was Newport, on Yaquina Bay. We stayed at the Thousand Trails Whalers Rest RV Park. Newport is the home of Rogue Brewery, which we visited. Brian had an IPA sampler, and I made my own with all the chocolatey and/or dark beers on the menu. The Double Chocolate Stout was my favorite.
Newport has a historic riverfront area with shops and restaurants, and a surimi (imitation crab) plant. We got chowder at Mo’s and walked around.
Oregon Oyster Farm is on Yaquina Bay, and we stopped in for a few dozen oysters.
The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse at the mouth of the Yaquina Bay was built in 1871.
It was only used for a few years before it was replaced by the Yaquina Head Lighthouse just north of Newport, which was our favorite lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. There were hundreds of Cormorants on the rocks near the lighthouse.
The Yaquina Bay Bridge was built in the 1930s and also designed by Conde McCollough.
Our last campground in Oregon was in Seaside, at the Thousand Trails Seaside RV Park. On the way we stopped at Nevor Shellfish Farm in Tillamook. They had beautifully tumbled oysters that were the most delicious ones to eat raw. We also stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, but they had a temporary visitor center open while they are building a new one.
It rained and rained and rained for 3 days straight. Brian took advantage of the rain to wash the truck and trailer, and was out there for most of a day. We didn’t see a whole lot in Seaside, partly because of the rain, but we did go down to Cannon Beach to see the famous Haystack Rock, which is HUGE, it’s 235 feet tall!
We also used it as a base to visit Portland, Oregon, even though it’s about a two hour drive inland. We spent a lot of time in the car on the two days we visited Portland!
We ate delicious biscuit sandwiches at Pine State Biscuit, and shopped at Powell’s Bookstore, which is the largest independent bookstore. I wandered around for ages before deciding on a couple Alaska guide books.
We went to Voodoo Donuts, and bought a few of the most sugary sweet, over the top treats. I loved the VooDoo doll donut, which was stuffed with frosting, and Brian liked the banana fritter with peanut butter and chocolate toppings.
Jamie, my friend since fifth grade, and her husband Adam and their kids live in Portland, so we visited with them and went out for dinner and beers.
Astoria is at the northern border of Oregon. We drove on steep streets up a 600 foot hill to the highest place. On the top of the hill is the Astoria Column, a 125 foot column built in 1926 and decorated with scenes from Astoria history. We climbed the 164 steps on the spiral staircase to the top. Passing people coming down was a tight squeeze.
The Astoria-Megler bridge, built in the 1960s, connects Oregon and Washington, and is 4 miles long!
We drove up to Oysterville in Washington and bought clams at Oysterville Sea Farms. The whole town is historic from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
We didn’t make any plans ahead of time, but we found a lot to see and do on the Oregon and Washington coast. I tried really hard to be spontaneous, but I’m still pretty bad at it. Driving on Highway 101 was really beautiful, on cliffs up above the ocean. By the end of our Oysterfest, we had eaten 12 dozen oysters!
Once we got into Washington, I flew to Tampa to visit my uncle. Brian stayed on the coast and had some fun without me. He bought a tool for clam digging (called a clam gun) and went south back to Oregon to go digging for Pacific razor clams. He drove right onto the beach and joined the other clam diggers, and found several clams two days in a row.
They are a type of burrowing surf clam with a trunk-like siphon on one end and a digger foot on the other. Some were huge, like the size of his hand. They are so big that unlike a lot of other mollusks that are eaten whole, they are shelled and have their guts cleaned out before cooking and eating. There isn’t a large commercial market for them and they are highly perishable so the best way to eat them is to dig them yourself. They look strange to me, but Brian sautéed them in butter and said they were delicious.
Then he moved up the Washington coast and scoped out tide pools in Olympic National Park. The tide was low for a few days, and he planned the stop around the tides. I was sorry to miss this, when we went to Olympic National Park a few years ago it had the best tide pools we’ve seen!
After a week of coastal fun, Brian moved to Seattle to pick me up from the airport.
Day 628 | Mile 65,878