A Day Away from it All

Dear Liza,

We have been very caught up in the excitement about Mr. Trump’s leaving the White House and President-Elect Biden’s inauguration. Grandpa Nelson and I have been following the news for who was getting pardoned, who was being appointed, and what was going to happen next. Maybe we were a little too focused.

So Grandpa Nelson decided we needed a day away from the computer, ipads and television. Auntie Bridgett was enlisted and we all went to the beach.

The bright day glowed as we drove west across the Tualatin Valley and into the Coastal range. The forest was a combination of blinding sun and deep shade, acting like a strobe as we zipped past. Since it was the day after the MLK holiday, traffic was light.

Since Covid has made us wary of any restaurants with only indoor seating, we went right past Camp 18, a delightful log cabin that serves enormous cinnamon rolls. In Gearhart, we found Grizzly Tuna, a tiny drive-through serving tuna and chips, fish tacos, and other (mostly) fried goodies. We grabbed some for Auntie Bridgett and me, then drove to Dairy Queen for Grandpa Nelson, and ate right in the car.

We continued up to Fort Stevens State Beach and the wreck of the Peter Iredale. This is one of my favorite places on the coast so far. The wide, flat beach is great for walking, and the long views and whipping wind are good for over-stuffed, urbanized brains. It was sparkling, chilly, and wonderful.

We did notice something we weren’t as crazy about, though. Cars on the beach. This is an historic thing on the Oregon Coast, actually. Years ago, when the roads between small towns weren’t very good, the wide, flat beach was the best route. Now that the roads are smooth and reliable, most folks use them. But driving on the beach is still allowed, and a few trucks made zipping passes as we walked along.

We walked, as my Dad would say, “until we were half tired”, and found a nice long to sit on. We didn’t talk much, just stared at the waves and the tiny sandpipers, watched Auntie Bridgett sketch, and thought non-political thoughts.

When it was time to go, Auntie Bridgett found a surprisingly heavy stick, which she immediately adopted and began dragging along. We named it Sticky and traded off walking it down the beach, pulling it along like a reluctant pet. We walked and dragged, all the way back up to the wreck of the Peter Iredale, and left Sticky there, resting against the iron ship’s remaining ribs.

We tucked into the car and followed the Columbia River home, gawking at tiny towns and enjoying glittering views of the river through bare winter trees. The sun was just going down as we pulled into Portland, got stuck in traffic on the Fremont Bridge, made a wrong turn and ended up in the wrong side of the river, and eventually got home.

What a fabulous, squinty-bright day!


Grandma Judy

The Coast with Grownups

Re-employed Country Bear running a shooting gallery

Dear Liza,

It has been so hot here in Portland, people are either staying inside air conditioned buildings or getting out of town to stay cool. On Sunday, Auntie Bridgett, Grandpa Nelson and I headed for the coast. It was 100 degrees in Portland, and 70 in Seaside…so, good call.

We drove to Seaside, which is a pretty little touristy town on the beach. There are dozens of shops selling salt water taffy, tee shirts, and souvenirs, as well as bumper cars and a tilt-a-whirl. There is bad traffic and limited parking.

But there is also a beach, with long lovely dunes and beach grass, which is what you get to keep when you don’t plant your dunes with ice plant. The weather was sunny on the dunes, but just over the waves and coming onto the sand was this weird blowing fog…it made everything delightfully spooky. The tide was way out, so there was LOTS of beach. Not many sand castles, though.

Creeping beach fog

Lovely dune grass









The fog and sand were wonderful, but we here getting hungry, and headed into town for some lunch at Sam’s Seaside Cafe, a pleasant enough diner (though later I began to question their refrigeration). There is a little river that flows through town and rental boat that go along it. Rowboats and swan boats were for rent….both looked like too much work!

Swan Boat Fail and Rescue

We drove on up to Astoria, and it was a very different visit than I had with Katie and the cousins. We didn’t visit the wreck of the Peter Iredale, the Tower, or the Battery.

Wandering in the old downtown area, we looked at the cool 1924 architecture and contemporary art. The Riversea Gallery had really beautiful work, including some by Portland artists and friends Dawn Panttaja and Jesse Reno.

The John Jacob Astor Building

Walking along, we saw some young men and women wearing colorful clothes with bells on their legs… Morris Dancers! The Morris dance is a traditional Irish way of celebrating spring, with dancers, drinking and fun. In old Ireland, troops would travel around the country. July seemed late for celebrating spring, but this fellow said in America, they go a bit longer.

Morris Dancer









It seemed time to head back towards home, since we had an almost two hour drive. Auntie Bridgett’s stomach was feeling queasy (was it the Cole Slaw? We may never know) and Grandpa Nelson’s feet were tired. We drove along the Columbia, our California eyes amazed at all that water just running free.

The Columbia, just rollin’ on….

At Kalama Bay, where there used to be a ferry to take railroad cars across the river, the McMenamin Brothers have build a NEW resort…not a re-purposed old building, as they usually do. We enjoyed the bright fourth floor bar, but from the inside looking out…coming inland this far, the temperature was back up into the 90s.

Auntie Bridgett had a fizzy tonic to try and settle her stomach. Snacks and drinks and we were on our way home, to watch baseball and fall asleep early.

Always fun art at McMenamin’s

I hope the weather breaks soon! I am longing for my nice cool Portland.


Grandma Judy