Tuesday, August 25th
A day of no travel.
Well, technically we traveled a bit. We relocated our trailer about 200 yards inland for our second night at Turtle Rock. And then we drove around and met dinosaurs. As one does. But otherwise, we had a restful Tuesday on the Oregon coast.
I woke up before M and P. Earlier than most people, actually. I took my coffee, opened a camping chair, and sat for this:
And then P came out to join me. She sat on my lap and saw the fish, and that made her happy.
That was when I noticed the two dark shapes cruising downstream, from the mountains towards the sea. I thought at first they were ducks.
They were not ducks.
The North American river otter, on patrol in the early morning. And somehow that made the whole world better. Otterly better. Sleek fur catching the sun when they dive, leisurely gliding through the water looking for prey, knowing they can immobilize humans into paroxysms of “AAWWWWWWW” with a single twitch of a whisker. This moment was to prove a highlight of the trip on par with the whale moments. And it was, in and of itself, a complete justification for the entire travel trailer project; having a chance to move around, to be wilderness-adjacent enough to see otters? That’s pretty special, and I count myself fortunate we had this opportunity; not everyone does.
And hey, if you’re looking for a cause to support for National Gratitude Month, wildlife conservation is a good one. If Rome is going to burn while politicians fiddle, we can at least do what we can to help wildlife survive our species’ death-thrashings.
After the otters cruised away, P and I followed the path to the beach. She headed for the gigantic rock formation and began scrabbling.
She’s fearless. Not like me when I was young – although in my defense, I probably had a little fear knocked in to me when I slipped on a sandy boulder at Fort Ross Beach and hit my forehead.
She’s a mighty girl and is a major reason why M was so motivated to get us camping.
Around 10:45, we moved to the new site, which was delightfully accessible, reasonably angled and situated at a wide spot in the gravel loop road. It was sunny and open, with a wide paved parking site funneling down to a wooden deck. It was like someone built a house, a deck, a driveway, airlifted the house away, and then shoved the driveway and deck together. It was on the river, with lots of trees, though a little more crowded than the first site in terms of neighbors. But it came with a easy-to-use grill where we made hot dogs and chicken sausages for a light lunch.
Plus, you know, the hot tub. This was P’s first time in a hot tub. Her reaction? “Ahhh, this is the life.”
Now, I know it’s even less wilderness-adjacent to have a hot tub (unless you’re talking about Esalen). So maybe this night was more ‘wilderness visible from my house’. But that’s okay. Because hot tub.
But we didn’t have long to lounge. We had a date with dinosaurs.
Prehistoric Gardens, located on the coast north of Gold Beach, isn’t what I would call a Tourist Trap, because it’s not famous enough. Their website claims they are a Roadside Attraction, but I wouldn’t call it that either because it’s a little too expensive and educational and not cheesy enough for that designation.
So we’ll call it a Tourist Money Magnet. It was worth the money.
The first thing you see as you pull up is the giant T-Rex sculpture, because what else would be at the main gate of such a park? But it’s not called Dinosaur Gardens, and for a reason. You’ll learn as much about the prehistoric flora as you will the fauna, all focused on what you would have found in this corner of Oregon if you had been alive millions of years ago.
Prehistoric Gardens seems to have been well-suited to adjust to 2020. Built as a loop pathway through the natural ferns and redwoods, it easily converted to a one-way route.
It’s a mild and pleasant experience, both in terms of the weather and the physical and intellectual rigor it demands of guests. Pricy, but worth it for an educational, leisurely walk in the woods, at least on days with the sun filtering through the branches.
Later, I dropped M at a state liquor store so she could stock up to make Jordi a Happy Birthday cocktail that night, while I drove to get gas, P in tow.
Both of these chores are remarkably interesting, or at least remarkably remarkable, in the state of Oregon.
Oregon and liquor – they take liquor control seriously, or so it would seem. Consider these points:
- Forgive me if I’m wrong, Oregonians, but basically the state owns all your ‘spirits’ and the agents operating a retail liquor store are ‘independent contractors’ working for the state. So, basically, if the state owns all the liquor, all the liquor stores are state liquor stores.
- There are two types of liquor stores in Oregon, exclusive and non-exclusive, which apparently has nothing to do with either marketing/price thresholds or “VIP Clubs”; exclusive stores sell only liquor or liquor-related goods like glassware, and are in more major metropolitan areas; non-exclusive stores, usually in smaller communities, operate in conjunction with other businesses like drug stores.
- This last point explains my lasting memory of Oregon from my road trip as I moved from Missoula to San Francisco in 2007, when I noted a store in Arlington, Oregon, that hawked both liquor and hardware. This seemed an odd combination to me, but apparently it is not some sort of libertarian stocking-up surplus store, but actually how the state government wants it done.
Oregon and gas – In Oregon, there are no self-service gas stations (with some exceptions). This has been the case since 1951. There was some loosening of the restrictions in response to COVID, but these relaxations have mostly gone away.
From what I can tell, reasons for the ban include:
- Oregon’s unique adverse weather conditions (people might slip in the rain while pumping gas).
- The possible health hazards of inhaling gas fumes (which would be worse, no doubt, if you slipped in the rain and knocked yourself unconscious and kept pumping out those fumes for hours with no attendants around to save you).
- The risk of drivers setting themselves ablaze with poor pump skills, which, as we all know, is a daily occurrence in California.
- It keeps useful jobs available and perhaps lowers insurance costs.
In any case, here in Gold Beach, it looked like it was Full Service-only except after 6 pm.
Now, I’m not necessarily against this. It’s nice to be able to sit in the car and not worry about sanitizing your hands after touching the gas pump. Also, gas pumps with attendants are presumably less prone to credit card skimming. And the attendants are generally nice enough – but if health was really a reason for no pumping of your own gas, why aren’t the attendants universally required to wear masks? (If you’ve ever towed a travel trailer, you won’t be surprised to hear that we bought a lot of gas in Oregon, and the mask-wearing was, shall we say, inconsistent).
The boys came over at dusk to enjoy the hot tub and some of M’s carefully crafted cocktails (because of course we brought her travel cocktail kit with us; we’re not heathens). If there were ever three brothers who deserved to enjoy a hot tub by the river with cocktails, these brothers were those brothers. Not only did they navigate a rough conjunction of multiple probate processes recently, but they also dealt with a narcissistic squatter on their property in the town of Bandon; nevertheless, they roll on.
It was a wonderful chance to visit them on the coast, in the open air, despite the pandemic. We traveled with our own bubble. It let us see them when otherwise we would have had to decide if it was worth the risk of a hotel or a rental home. For that freedom alone, the possibility of visiting those close to us and seeing nature at the same time, that made the entire expedition from California to Oregon worth every penny.
But the next day, we would be pushing north. Ever north (until, you know, we turned south again).