Saturday, November 06, 2010

Seaside Washington to Salem Oregon

Had two weeks of holidays to use up before the end of the year so we decided to do a couple of driving trips broken up by the Halloween weekend. The first week we crossed the 49th parallel and went south though Olympia Washington, then cut west heading for the Pacific Ocean with no clear destination in mind. That was what this whole week was planned to be, "no plans"; just drive taking side trips and stopping when we came across interesting things.

We continued west with the intent of going to Aberdeen, well, just because we hadn't been there before....
We arrived at Aberdeen late in the afternoon, had a look around the town and surrounding areas, then began to think of where we wanted to end up for the night. Annette used her I-Touch to jump on a local wi-fi hotspot and found out about some resorts in the seaside town of Ocean Shores about 30 miles away.

"Want to go there I ask"? "Annette says "sure, why not"! So off we go with no idea of what we will find.
Well, what we did find was a ocean front resort based on sand dunes with hotels right on the beach. It was quiet and not very busy this late in the year, one could see how this would be crazy with tourists in the summer. We picked one of the best looking hotels and enquired about a room. We ended up getting a suite on the 5th floor overlooking the ocean for a very low price - it was a great bargain!

One of the best things about travelling after season are the hotel rates; for a room that was probably around $200.00 a night, we got it for half price. The other good thing - no people! We pretty well had the beach to ourselves and hotel to ourselves; I would guess the hotel was barely a quarter full. This was great as we were sure there was no one near us on our floor and everything was quiet at night. Only the ocean sounding like a freight train whipped by the winds disturbed our space, and that's only if we opened the door and stepped out onto the balcony.

The beach reminded me of California beaches; rolling surf a ways out, long runs of sand out to the water line, and the beach itself went for several miles in either direction. And, as it was after season, you were allowed to drive on the beach! What a cool feeling! Driving out onto the hard packed sand, with only another car or two in sight made for a feeling that we were privileged.

If you have issues viewing the videos due to the blog page format, go to my Youtube channel to view them.

ABOVE Video: Views of Ocean Shores down to Astoria Oregon 

We stayed the night in Ocean Shores, then in the morning after having explored the surrounding area, we continued south along the coast highway. This was one of our goals - to take the Coast Highway from Washington to Oregon as long as time would allow. The highway offered spectacular views of long sandy beaches and broad expanses of the Pacific Ocean. As we were south of Vancouver Island, the shoreline was exposed to the raw strength of the ocean, and the beaches all showed signs of how high the storm surges would get on the shore.

After cruising down the coast we came to the Columbia River and one of the long bridges that crossed the river. This one had a span on either side, with a long floating section in the middle. It took a good few minutes to cross the bridge, such was it's length. Now in Astoria Oregon, we again had a look around town and stopped for pictures where things looked interesting. They have a Maritime Museum that highlights the maritime heritage of Astoria, as well as showing the fury of the Columbia River as it empties into the Pacific Ocean.

Pictures taken and interest fulfilled, we continued south heading for our next night stop, which we decided would be Seaside. I have never been there, and have vaguely heard of it, but I can see why people love it.
The town has history - it was the end of the trail for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. Here is where the met the Pacific Ocean on their westward journey; there is a statue and plaque in the roundabout right outside our hotel where they stood as they realized their journey was over.

The town of Seaside had it's origins in fishing and forestry - two natural resources exploited in all settler towns on the coast. We did some exploiting of our, again getting a hotel room on the 4th floor overlooking the beach at a bargain basement price. We carted our bags up to the room, then just stood on the balcony for a while enjoying the sounds and view of the ocean. We walked around town for a while, then decided on one of the better restaurants for dinner. We walked off dinner as we again toured the compact town, again thinking this place must be a mad house in summer time. Today fellow tourists were few, and most of them were the older set. Matter of fact, in many places on our trip, we were the youngest tourists in the crowd!

In the morning we walked along the beach for a ways hand in hand, snapping pictures and taking video to help preserve the memories. Didn't need them really, the good feelings we had will last a lifetime with out any help. Back in town we walked the main drag and sauntered into a candy shop, one of the main ones in town. This place had all kinds of candy you've never heard of, as well as candy you thought they didn't make any more. The walls were adorned with old boxes of chocolates that you or your parents will recognize; it was like looking at a candy museum pinned to the wall.

ABOVE VIDEO: Seaside Oregon
From Seaside we headed south again with Tillamook our next firm destination. The Tillamook Valley is famous for it's cheese and dairy products which are shipped all over the NorthWest. The valley reminds me of the Cloverdale Valley, gentle hills ring the valley with it's rich soil supporting a legion of dairy farms.

We just had to stop and tour the Tillamook cheese plant - it's such a touristy thing to do we couldn't pass it up!  :)
They have done a great job of turning a common dairy plant into a main tourist stop complete with large gift shop where they sell all kinds of Tillamook cheese and Tillamook ice cream - yum!
The plant has made an upper floor viewing area that over looks the vats on one side where the milk is turned into cheese, and on the other side overlooks the large assembly line where they cut the large blocks of cheese and then package the smaller sizes for shipment to stores.

We spent a pleasant hour or so looking around the plant and gift store..well it did take a while to finish my ice cream! I even picked up a coffee mug with dairy setting as background on the cup, as well as a personalized "Ed" on the cup so my co-workers will know to leave my prize mug alone....  :)

ABOVE VIDEO: Canon Beach to Tillamook
After Tillamook we thought it was time to head for Portland, which was our most southerly point on this trip. Annette punches Portland into the car GPS, then for kicks punches in Salem as well. Turns out Salem is only an 20 minutes in arrival time from Portland - "well then, let's go to Salem"!

So off we go heading for a yet another city we had never been to but always wanted to. We left the coast on a windy two lane highway that ran along side a small river; you could have taken this scene directly from any place in BC, such is the common looks of Cascadia as it crosses the arbitrary man-made border into Canada.

I think my love for twisting highways was getting the best of me, as several times Annette suggested I might want to slow down so I could enjoy the view and she could live through the drive.  <:)
The highway took us inland and dropped us into the Williamete Valley; again I was reminded of how much this area reminded me of sections of BC. The closest to home would be the Cloverdale Prairie as it runs along the tops of the ridges over looking the farm fields below.

As it was getting late in the afternoon, we started running into traffic heading out of Salem for their suburban homes. Still, this didn't present any problems for us as we were going in the opposite direction.
We arrived in Salem at dinner time and after searching for a local wi-fi spot, we found out where our hotel of choice was located and cruised over to grab a room. Again a good deal was had, the cheapest so far for another suite. A late dinner capped of our night and we returned to our hotel to peruse our tourist books.

Annette wanted to hit some of the local craft and bead stores, which we did. We then headed into the downtown area looking for the old section of town and any historic sites. We drove around the area a while but to be honest, besides the Capitol buildings, the town looked just like any other town you would see.
We left town and headed north to the outskirts where one of the biggest malls in the North West lay waiting for us. As there is no sales tax in Oregon, Annette broke out the credit card and did her best to stock up on "stuff" she needed. Meanwhile, I sat on the closest bench I could find to each store and guarded her purchases........

Trunk full of souvenirs we headed north to Portland which is only 30 minutes or so away. We arrived late in the afternoon, just as people were getting off work. As it was the last work day before Halloween, we seen a few downtown workers dressed up in costumes, so of which gave us a good chuckle. We did a good driving tour of Portland and suburbs but again was tempted to say "nice town but nothing special to see", but if I did I'm sure I would be labelled as "boring".

As none of the town highlights grabbed our fancy, we headed out of town along with the rush hour crowd and soon crossed the river over into Vancouver Washington. We continue on with the flow of traffic and were soon on our way to Seattle. We ate up the miles on the freeway and in a couple of hours were in Seattle. We talked about stopping for the night in Tukwila, right across the street from South Center mall, but Annette said she had done her shopping, and in another 90 minutes we could be at the border.

We decide to push on towards home, crossed over the border in five minutes, (a nice change indeed) and we were home at midnight. For a couple more hours of driving we saved the price of a hotel room that we would put towards our next week's trip to Vancouver Island.