Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Oregon Coast

Side note: I love blog stats, and I have discovered that three visitors have found my blog in the past by searching for "Creamy corn salsa for fish". I can't imagine the disappointment of finding a regular 'ol blog when I was expecting a tasty snack. Although I have never blogged about that, you are more than welcome here.  If one of you is currently reading this, thank you for pausing your quest for the best fish salsa to read my blog.

Oregonians never say, "Hey human beings! Let's go to the beach!" And rightfully so. Beaches are sunny places with lots of sand located near a large body of water. Oregon has the large body of water but little sand and less sun. "The Coast" is what you say when you want to go look at beautiful combinations of water and rock.

Compounding the issue, the Pacific is probably the most egotistical of all the oceans. The Pacific thinks it's all that and a bowl of candy.

Indian: Wheee! I'm an ocean!

Arctic: The only reason I get noticed is because of the giant melting ice cube I'm babysitting. And the animals that live around me. 

Atlantic: I do say, Arctic old boy. Would you quit stirring about? It's frightfully chilly up there. Mmm, now that's the spot, I'm getting a current from the Gulf of Mexico. Tally ho, what what!

Pacific: I AM THE BIGGEST BESTEST OCEAN IN THE WHOLE WORLD DUDE I'M SOOOOO MASSIVE! WOW I HAVE IT ALL. SHARKS, ISLANDS, BIG WAVES WOOOOOOO

Atlantic: Good show! How are your trade routes these days, Pacific old chap? Mine are doing just splendid when I'm not buggering them up with the occasional hurricane.

Pacific: SCREW TRADE ROUTES, I'VE GOT PIRATES AND POSSIBLY SUNKEN TREASURE! GNARLY TOURISM, MAN! AND HURRICANES? I HAVE THOSE PLUS TSUNAMIS, WHAT NOW?!

Arctic: I don't see why you two distinguish yourselves apart from me. We're essentially the same body of water.

Atlantic: Do calm down up there, Arctic. You're sending a dreadful chill down my coast.

Pacific: HAW HAW WHATEVER I'M TOTALLY A DIFFERENT OCEAN THAT'S WHY MY NAME IS PACIFIC.

After Jamison's wedding, we attended a fantastic church service at Fairview Mennonite, where Jamie was married and also where Randy and Shelley attend. After the service, Shannon's family, Shelley's family, Pastor Floyd's (partial) family, Shelby, and I took off for the coast. Myron and Alissa joined in, but since those two lovebugs had plans to travel into California, they drove separate. Our group (without Myron's) was 17, so we borrowed a 15-passenger van and Shelby's car.

Over the years, I've been to the coast a couple of times with my sisters. Each time we go out, we visit Newport, a charming town located roughly 70 miles from my sister Shelley's home. Newport is a tourist town, packed with delectable shops, restaurants, and deep-sea fishing charter offices. There are a few large factories that clean and package large quantities of fresh seafood, but those places are beneficial to the shops because they provide a giant salty, fishy smell-cloud that sets the tone for the coastal-themed tourism.

What better place to start being tourists than in one of the several salt-water taffy shops?



So much candy.

So much laxative.
Myron and Alissa briefly pause from their great quandary: which free sample to try?!
Definitely the pina colada. 
I'm grateful the candy shops let you have one free sample of salt water taffy because that's the maximum limit of sugar a diabetic should have in one sitting/standing. Sure, there's sugar free options available but they're mixed bags of less-tasty taffy! Initially, I was pretty skeptical of the flavors. How peanut-buttery does the "Peanut Butter" taffy taste? Answer: very.

We stopped at a cafe so Elaine could recharge her coffee-powered batteries. 
After checking out the local shops, we visited a pier in the nearby cove. This is a favorite spot of mine, where dozens of bachelor sea lions fight for position on prime bachelor real-estate. But they were all calm and quiet, which was preposterous! Where's the noisy, barking sea lions and who substituted them with these sacks of lard?!

Shelby tried offering Jocelyn to the sea lions, but they weren't having any of that nonsense.
This dude was catching crabs off the pier. 
Pastor Floyd was impressed. We don't have any piers in Iowa, much less piers 
you can catch crabs from. 
Carita (held by her father/my brother-in-law Konrad) wanted to let 
me know where all the sleeping sea lions were. 
 "What's the big deal?" Thinks Annika. "It's just some dumb 'ol sea lions. 
I wish there were more cows and pigs and cornfields around here..."

It was slightly disappointing to see the sea lions calm and quiet. I was hoping to see them fight and bark like they always do.

My sister Shannon leaned a little too close to the edge with Carita, who promptly kicked off one of her Crocs into the water to show how she felt about the crime of fashion adorning her feet.  Shannon removed her daughter's other Croc but didn't know what to do with it. Pitch it in the water so a sea bum could have a pair? Throw it away? Shop online for one heavily-used neon-green baby Croc?

I told Shannon I'd dive in for the Croc if she tossed one of my nieces or nephews down in there as well. Because I'm a good uncle and everything.

Carita cried for a little bit because she loves her Crocs. She's too young to realize that, as a woman, she's supposed to hate sensible, comfortable footwear and instead crave painful-yet-fashionable toe clothes. But then Carita forgot all about the Croc because, after all, she's not yet two and there were a lot of sleeping sea lions to watch.


HOLD ON TO YOUR PANTS! Shelby snatched a bucket from the crab fisherman and whisked the Croc out of the water. A decent crowd was present on the pier at that time and they all had seen the drama unfold over the little floating Croc. When Shelby successfully maneuvered the bucket to scoop up the Croc, they let out a cheer so loud, it awoke the sea lions, who immediately started fighting with each other. It was beautiful.
Hey guys, wake up. The humans are here to watch us fight 
over our seaweed-covered dock again.

After visiting the sea lions and safely stashing Carita's Crocs in a purse, we took off for the actual real coast.



The Oregon coast is usually windy and chilly, so instead of bringing suntan lotion and swimming trunks, I took an extra pair of jeans and a t-shirt that I didn't mind getting wet in. Shelby went cruising around in swimming trunks, because he's practically an Oregonian and he's used to the cold.


 

After photobombing my pastor and his beautiful wife, I started running for the ocean. You may have been told that the Pacific is saltwater, but actually it's fresh. As in freshly melted from an iceberg. I don't get to splash in the Pacific very often, so I can't be too picky.


I ran in ankle-deep at first, but Shelby started talking words at me and I couldn't understand him because the shock of the water had numbed my ears. So I ran back and he asked me if I had taken my phone out of my pocket. He's a cool brother like that, but since I'm not entirely stupid, I had already put my sensitive electronics in a safe place. I double-checked my pockets and gave him a napkin for safekeeping. Randy walked by and, noticing the water line had only gotten to an inch above my ankles, tossed the challenge, "Is that all you got, eh?"



Oh, it was on. I went into the ocean WAY past my belly button. Next Spring when I thaw out, I'll totally tell Randy he's got nothing on me. On the brisk retreat to shore, I kicked up a salty spray right into my mouth. It was liberating and awful at the same time.

We checked out some tide pools and poked some sea creatures.

To finish off our visit to the coast, we ate at Mo's. It's been a tradition to eat at one of the several Mo's restaurants along the coast, and as traditions go, it's one of my favorite.

Floyd shared some of his baked oysters with me and they were a 
lot better than my imagination told me they would be.
 
 
 This play-by-play account shows Christopher's reaction to eating 
buttery baked oyster for the first time in his life.
 
I had shrimp, mashed potatoes, and chili. Not the most seafoodish of choices, but that's because Mo has yet to create a gluten-free clam chowder option.
These two photos were taken MOMENTS apart. It's a good indicator of how ravenous I was. The camera couldn't keep up. My hands were like a blurred conveyor belt to my mouth.


After Mo's, we traveled back to Shannon's. Tourism is exhausting!

The following day, I took off for home. Shelby very kindly drove me to the airport because I had too much luggage to fit in with Floyd's carload. Let me just go on a giant tangent about how awesome Southwest airlines is.

They're the best.

I had two check-in bags FOR FREE on the way out, and since one of them was a giant cardboard care package from Grandma Debby, Shelby was able to send some of his luggage home with me. (Because he drove out two years ago and he will be coming home this January.) Southwest is not only totally chill about check-in bags, they let you sit wherever. Prior to boarding, I found a penny on the ground and could hardly contain my enthusiasm. My close friends know how much I love spare change, but this surprised the kind folks waiting to board. The discovery of the penny led to not one BUT TWO more pennies and a nickel! A sweet young lady had seen the other coins forlornly abandoned underneath the lobby bench we were sitting on, so since she pointed them out, I split the spoils with her: 4 cents apiece.

Oh yeah, Southwest lets you sit by whomever you wish, which is awesome. I got to sit by the girl that likes spare change as much as I do. (For my friends that antagonize me about my penny-pinching ways, you should start collecting coins.) We chatted the whole 4-hour flight to Las Vegas and I totally didn't forget to catch her name like I did with Christian Girl. This young lady's name was Erin and we're friends.

Erin declared that she didn't know how airplanes worked, but she didn't want to know. I am fairly knowledgeable about aerodynamics, lift vs. drag, wing shape, and thrust, but I refrained from saying anything about those (allegedly boring) topics and said "It's mostly wizard magic." A young man named David was sitting beside us on the flight. He is an engineer and was bursting at the seams to tell us about how airplanes work. I giggled inside because I met a lot of engineers like him when I was in college, and they're truly charming in their own socially-awkward way.

I got into Omaha around 11pm and drove to my cousin Kyle's. I slowed down as I popped over the hill that Kyle frequently monitors in his squad car. As I got to the bottom of the hill, there was the ominous Crown Vic sitting there, eyeballin' me. Kyle sent me a text: "61, tsk tsk." I told him that I was still on 9pm time and would keep him company if he'd like.

He picked me up and we cruised around looking for bad guys til 1am. But evidently bad guys go to bed early on Monday nights, so we just had some good conversations. I stayed the night at Kyle's, then drove home on Tuesday.

I really enjoyed my trip to Oregon and realized that I don't visit as much as I should. I should visit every other month, probably.

I should also fly Southwest more often. That company is the best.