After leaving Olympia and Monika, I felt a little bit more like my usual adventurous self. It seemed like a good idea to try driving down the Oregon coastline for at least part of the way. It’s not a fast drive, so I didn’t want to take 101 for too many miles, but some exposure to the Pacific Ocean seemed restorative.
I left Olympia, went south for an hour or two, and then turned west for the coast. I drove through a lot of logging country and for a long time I followed a big slough that (I think) forms the base of the North Bay and Grays Harbor. I crossed the Astoria-Megler Bridge into Oregon and started highway 101. Down south in California, highway 101 is a big multi-laned affair, but up here, it’s a one lane highway that is a lot more like a county road. It’s beautiful, but it’s windy and slow, going directly through each town along the way. It was so pretty I kept getting out to photograph. Did I mention that it rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest? I knew this. It’s not like I didn’t know. But I forgot what that meant until I’d been driving in it for a couple of days. And every time I got out, I kept getting wet. It got to the point where my shoes were so wet I had to take them off, put the heat on high, and drive in my (wet) socks with the windows partly rolled down. I stopped at several rest stops and vista points along the seashore, a few shoulders, and a beautiful state forest with some of the mossiest trees I have ever seen! I was very happy to see the ocean again. I’d been away for some time and something about the Pacific’s vast and powerful presence is a comfort. It feels like home to me. I enjoyed the cliffs, the waves, the strength of it, and was willing to be wet to do so.
As the day went on, my shoes soaked and dried a few times. I eventually stopped at the Tillamook cheese factory for a little snack and some looking around, and then drove on to the interior of Oregon to catch highway five. I drove down to Salem for some dinner, stopping at Andalus restaurant. If you are ever in downtown Salem, I recommend Andalus heartily – delicious food and beverages. From there, it was on to my hotel in Eugene. It was wet when I got there too. The car’s oil light went on when I was very close to the hotel, but this time I knew what it meant. A performance car goes through oil and, to quote Foghorn Leghorn, I had packed an extra quart for just such an emergency. I checked the level and then added a quart. Next day the car was perfectly content and we went on with our journey. Soon I would be home, if all went according to plan. Hard to believe after so much time driving, but I was headed for familiar ground.
The road to California takes you through a pretty set of mountains, which makes for some fun driving and some nice scenery. The road was beautifully banked and it felt rather majestic driving through so many passes. On the way down, just across the border of California, there are several big liquor stores and I am not sure entirely why. It must have to do with Oregon taxes or liquor laws, but these shops are advertised as far as 75 miles away. I drove on, happy to see my California poppies along the side of the road once again and trying to avoid getting another ticket. Of course, that didn’t work, but I did give it a shot. That’s as much as I am going to say on that topic.
After a long time with the cruise control on, I made it to Corning, California, and the much-advertised “Olive Pit” shopping depot before dark. I was so relieved to be only a few hours from home that I stopped for a real dinner and then kept on driving. Finally, near midnight, I rolled into my own driveway and turned off the engine. What a relief. I was so happy to wash my clothes and empty out the car that I stayed up late just to unpack and get clean. Sometimes the best part about going away is coming back, if only because you know what you missed. There’s no place like home, not really.