Lessons From The Road: Adventures Of Newbie Travel Traileristas, Part VIII

Editorial note, of sort. Because I always like adding an editorial note. It seems so official. Anyway, it’s noted that these posts are so delayed. Months delayed. Even more delayed than the repairs to our trailer after some minor warranty issues and the small collision on Day 1.

The lesson: if you’re going to let someone hit your trailer, don’t do it when a pandemic might be causing metal shortages and shipping delays. We dropped off our trailer for repairs on September 1st, and they’re still expecting the metal ‘any day now.’

Anyway, after that overarching thought, back to the road, and the difficulties of parking a Star Destroyer at the Mos Eisley Cantina (at least that’s what it can feel like).

Wednesday, August 26th

Like a boomerang reaching the zenith of its flight, we marked the northern end of our maiden voyage (a rough loop) with a short migration north to Coos Bay, a city of lumber, rivers, and railroad tracks.

But first, a stop in Bandon, an artsy coastal enclave where M’s brothers grew up, for a socially-distanced lunch at the Bandon Brewing Company.

Bandon’s nestled at the mouth of the Coquille River, hunting for nature-tourism dollars and promoting a small-town feel; “Go casual”, suggests the Bandon Visitor Center. It’s changed a lot since M first visited; she recalls a distinctly blue-collar town. Once dependent on the fishing and timber industries, Bandon has shifted heavily towards tourism, from golf to hiking to fishing.

Do not talk to Bandonites about the virtues of gorse.

Bandon could be poised to be the next big thing, for better or worse. If you type “Is Bandon … ” into Google, the first autofilled result: “Is Bandon a good place to live?” This suggests a possible future invasion as more people telecommute permanently, therefore letting them relocate anywhere with abandon, so to speak. But for now, it was perfectly sized and located for a relaxed lunch before parting ways with M’s brothers.

Assuming we could park.

Along with never again taking for granted the luxury of driving without a trailer, I’ve certainly gained a new appreciation for parking without one. And that’s sticking to passing through small towns rather than big cities; I can’t even imagine trying to park a travel trailer in, say, San Francisco. That would probably be added to the list of the classic blunders, along with getting involved in a land war in Asia or going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line, because the brakes would fail and I would roll backwards down a hill or into a car more suddenly than Vizzini died.

It’s almost like small towns in the 1800s didn’t design their streets with travel trailers in mind. For someone as mechanically disinclined as I am, parking a travel trailer in the middle of town requires more buffering than Netflix with an unstable connection. Did you know that covered wagons from the pioneer days – the ancestor of travel trailers – were often called ‘prairie schooners‘? It makes sense, because I often feel like I’m trying to park a schooner. Before you ask, no, I’m not nautically inclined either.

Most parking spaces in downtown commercial areas are diagonal, which obviously won’t work out with a trailer, at least not if you want to keep your car and trailer unseized by Parking Enforcement. Parallel parking? Forget it. I wouldn’t even want to try backing into a parallel space with a car and trailer, even with proper side-view mirror extenders attached or a rear-view camera wired to the back of the trailer. The only realistic option is to find a long stretch of parallel emptiness to annex head on.

Unlike Mendocino, Bandon proved possible in terms of trailer parking, although we couldn’t find parking immediately. However, a few quick (and frankly arbitrary) turns brought us to a quiet harbor-front street with long blocks, warehouses, and perfect parking for a hauling a travel trailer.

Bandon Brewing Company is everything you could ask for from a brewery in a pandemic (unless, of course, there were another brewery that also already had the vaccine to distribute for free with pub fries). Good beer, obviously, but also friendly staff that adheres to safe social distancing requirements, a wide-open facility (garage-door-style opening into the interior), a sunny patio with large urns holding flowers, umbrellas, and tables spaced appropriately for two households to visit six feet apart, like the Sharks and the Jets without the dancing or rumbling.

Oh, and solid comfort food: wood-fired pizza, a crunchy Chicken Bacon Caesar Wrap, and, most importantly for parents, chicken tenders and fries that don’t emerge from Golden Arches. Exactly the food one would hope to find at an independent brewing company in a small town on the Oregon coast. I’m not saying I would drive 7 hours and 55 minutes just to eat there again, but I would definitely go again if I were passing through.

From Bandon, a short drive north brought us to Coos Bay and our anchor point for the next two nights: the Bay Point Landing RV Park. They call themselves a ‘modern camping destination’, which means not-at-all-wilderness-adjacent-except-for-that-swath-of-beach and a short ‘nature trail’ that runs fifty yards through some overgrowth. Not exactly wilderness (a wilderness doesn’t usually have bocce courts). But it’s lovely anyway, and I would definitely go again.

The shore of Coos Bay

It’s organized around a central clubhouse – a compound of metal, wood, and glass containing the registration office and small store, a gym, a pool, and a kids’ room. From there, the grounds extended north and south in long, narrow loops. We turned south and followed a stony road through the main trailer and RV sites, past a laundry facility and playground to our delightfully wide pull-through space. We weren’t right on the edge of the bay but it was a one-minute walk to the water.

There was a stiff wind coming off the bay, one drawback of the resort’s open layout with no trees to serve as a windbreak. As our neighbor at the next site said, “Welcome to the wind tunnel.” Other than making it a little chilly to sit, read, and watch the afternoon roll by, the only problem with the wind was that we weren’t totally comfortable lighting a fire, even though there was a solid-concrete rectangular pit. Sparks kept flaring, so we let it die down quickly the first night (after one s’more encounter), and ignored it the next night.

But wind or no, there was something restful about sitting and watching other people come and go, and here I’ll return to the schooner metaphor – watching fellow travelers glide in and out of the resort, especially with some of the larger maxi-mega-luxurious RVs, felt a lot like watching cruise ships setting forth into the unknown.

And for those of us who like that sort of thing, a walk on the windy beach was perfect. I had the sand mostly to myself that first day as I followed the shore from the old pilings of a pier at the north end to the mud flats at the south where people sometimes dig for clams. The water rippled in, iron-cold but clear. I saw lots of birds, but no seals or sea lions (but the next day would restore the average there, and then some).

So that was an easy day, and the chance to settle in for two nights at the same site. The next day would bring tide pools and the largest gathering I’ve ever seen of seals, elephant seals, and sea lions in one place. They might have been planning an invasion.

Published by dmhallett101

Husband, father, writer, reader, mostly in that order. Staying sane by pretending to be creative by playing with (WordPress) blocks.

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