I am looking down a beautiful stretch of golden sand beach and there must be something wrong with my vision, because I don’t see another soul north of Cape Meares. On the dunes, great twisted knots of driftwood are blanching white in the sun, and the high blue and green ocean bluffs break big waves into mottled foam against the sharp black rocks at their bases.
The homes here are for out-of-towners, and they don’t want any locals sullying their pristine sand, so they provide very little parking, and what they DO have has very confusing, yet somehow numerous, signs, all of which prominently feature the word “NO”. But the homes themselves are inoffensive enough, so the tidy cottages with white clapboard and shingle siding bely the boorish behavior of the owners.
The beach is beautiful, the sun is bright and warm, and it’s good to see the dogs chasing after the branches their owners throw in the water. Cape Meares is isolated for a reason, at the end of a north facing sand spit projecting out to form a bay, and it has no store, restaurant, or any business of any kind from what I can tell. Just houses, empty most of the year, and I guess the residents like it that way.
We woke up this morning and went into town for some badly needed car maintenance. Our little ‘Stang has been whipped pretty hard since we bought her new 3 weeks ago, and already needs its 7500 mile oil change. Jonathan gets this done but also finds out that even after washing his car properly there are some small scratches visible on the paint surface from where some idiot decided it was better to use a harsh plastic brush to remove excess insects on the front than to just let them be until we could wash it properly with soft cloth. I won’t mention his name, but his initials are Jon Haley, and now he’s feeling a little, hmmm…what’s the word? Yes, STUPID, for possibly harming the paint, but in reality it’ll probably buff out so no real worries.
So we head from town to Cape Meares Beach, then on to the iconic lighthouse, which is a small fireplug design, white with black shutters, and stands as it should right out on the very edge of a high promontory. In a sign of the times, the giant lens made in the 19th century was shot out for no apparent reason other than some hoodlum’s idea of fun. I hope he feels like a real man having been able to hit a priceless stationary target at close range.
But other than that, the lighthouse and location are picture perfect, and we take plenty of them. Jonathan is a little disappointed in the size of the light tower, and I try to convince him just like all of the past women in my life that size doesn’t matter, but he doesn’t appear to be any more convinced than they were.
There are nice level trails that issue like spokes from the lighthouse itself, and one of them leads past some breathtaking ocean vistas with panoramic views of Three Arch Rocks and the deep blue ocean northward to infinity all the way down to the white froth breaking on the cliffside directly below us which we view through breaks in the trees and ferns that seem to be everywhere.
We have now officially been from sea-to-shining-sea, and have turned the corner back toward home in a way. Jonathan and I both have decided that, as much as we love travel,we’re going to cut the trip short and skip a couple of things out west. I think he’s tired of living out of a suitcase, and, truth be told, wants more access to electronic entertainment. Of course, it didn’t help any that he brought along his old dysfunctional computer on the trip and so he’s almost completely cut off from email and the Internet, but I think we’re both just tired and need a rest. No worries! We’ve still got a lot of country left to see and a lot of excitement ahead of us.
It does strike me what a wonderfully diverse country we have. Whether you like purple mountains majesty, spacious skies, or fruited plains, America’s got it in spades, and it’s an easy country to explore for the most part, with good infrastructure and friendly people who are good at heart, and it occurs to me what a lucky man I am to have this wonderful opportunity to travel so freely and extensively with my son, who’s turned out to be a really nice young man in spite of the bad example I’ve generally set for him. So I’m thankful I am getting to do this!
Anyway, back to Cape Meares. We drive top down to Oceanside, which is another jewel of an oceanfront village, and boasting a few small restaurants and stores, including my favorite coffee shop, Brewin’ in the Wind. Here, homes are built right on the cliffs and steep slopes surrounding the beach like they do so frequently in Europe, and the effect is almost as charming, even though I note with some alarm that these bluffs are made of sand, not stone. I’m not sure how smart that is.
We saunter down the beach enjoying an unparalleled view of Three Arch Rocks, each of which has a hole at the waterline that you can see through. At the north end of the beach, you can walk around the bluff at low tide, but it’s more fun to go through a man-madetunnel that connects to another beach by burrowing through the bluff. When we get there, it’s high tide, so we don’t have much time, but we’re able to explore to the far end to the next bluff and enjoy the surf crashing against the rocks. Here, the sand is narrow and the bluffs tower over my back like menacing giants, and I know that the stories I’ve heard about how the ocean can turn on you are true…this is no place to linger with the tide coming in. We retreat to the mouth of a cave with some tourists from Portland before heading back to Teresa’s to clean up for dinner.
One of my good friends, Chuck, is having us over for dinner, but not before cocktails at Schooner’s (again). As in most small towns, everyone knows everyone, and I pretty much say hello to the entire city without leaving my chair during our brief Happy Hour. It’s good to see them all. Like I said before, these are hard working, hard loving, blue collar types who’ll give you the shirt off their backs. Joshua, for example, the son of my friend Erin, gave us several packs of Werner’s beef jerky yesterday, which is made locally and where he works. A small thing, maybe, but a nice thing nonetheless. But what’s more interesting is the level of intellect is way over the head of most college graduates I know, and it’s encouraging that they also foster a healthy degree of skepticism about Washington and all things political. I like these guys. They’re outsiders and misfits, but they fit in here. So do I.
Chuck is a sixty something guy, as wiry as a gibbon and tanned as a leather saddle, with a quick wit and a great sense of humor, who runs a lawn service when he’s not winning Keno at another local watering hole, Mitchko’s. I’m not kidding about the latter. he’s won three times for over $200,000 this year, and says he has a system. I used to laugh at him when he told me that.
He lives in a modular home off the main highway and has a nice bonfire going when we get there. We spend the rest of the night enjoying good BBQ ribs and grilled corn on the cob with homemade mashed potatoes, mediocre wine, and great conversation, and there’s nothing I like better than the dance of firelight across the faces of my good friends under a bright silver moon.
We stay too late and go home having satisfied our appetite for great food and even better companionship. Tomorrow we go on bluff hike with a view of the wide Pacific. Stay tuned.