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August 4, 2009

2009 Father-Son Road Trip, Day 10: The Southern Oregon Coast

Filed under: father-son roadtrip — chuck goolsbee @ 5:45 pm

After yesterday’s long slog into the night we were pretty slow to get moving in the morning. I was actually up pretty early but just didn’t have the heart to wake Nick, who was sleeping like the proverbial log. Instead I went outside in the fog, packed more ice around the starter of the 65E and cared for its other needs such as checking and filling oil, looking for loose bolts (don’t want to have a brake caliper come loose like last summer in Idaho!) Meanwhile Nick slept.

Sleeping Nick.
Sleeping Nick.

As I was tending to the Jaguar our neighbor in the next room came over to talk about the car. As I’ve often said one of the best things about road tripping in a unique old car is how it breaks down social barriers and invites everyone into your adventure. Not in an intrusive way, but in a friendly, welcome way. This guy was from Pennsylvania and on a motorcycle trip around the country going to National Parks.He asked about the car, so I told him about the it, its history, and our trip. He asked about Olympic and North Cascades National Parks so I gave him some sights to see and a list of roads to avoid (SR 20 for example between Burlington and Rockport, take SR 530 via Darrington instead, much more scenic and less traffic.) He volunteered to help us push-start the car when we were ready to go as he was getting a late start as well.

Oh yeah… I forgot to mention that the ice did diddly squat to revive the dead starter. It’s dead Jim.

I pack up all my stuff and start preparing the car for departure, then finally, wake Nick up. He gets himself ready in pretty good time for a sleepy teenager.

Nick out of the shower, but still looking groggy.
Nick out of the shower, but still looking groggy.

With the help of the Keystone State Biker we got the car started on two pushes, and set off northward on US 101.


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The town we stayed overnight in was both larger, and a whole lot further down the road than I imagined it to be late last night when we arrived. Had I been more cognizant last night I would have driven another little bit down the road to Eureka. I had no idea we’d driven as far as we did! I have Nick send an SMS text message to my friend Greg in Eureka. Greg is who, along with his wife Susan Chris & I enjoyed lunch with on the southbound journey, and who had made the offer a house that he owns further north for lodging last night… had we left San Francisco earlier! I anted to get a suggestion for a place to eat breakfast in Eureka. I never receive an answer (Greg later told me I used the wrong comms channel, email or twitter works, SMS not!) but Nick and I spot a place that is an obvious breakfast spot: The Chalet House of Omelettes. The parking lot is almost full, has a mild downslope for push-starting the car, and the place is packed with fat white people. 😉

Nick orders scrambled eggs, but as “I’m in Rome” I order up an omelette. I pick a sort of tex-mex thing with seasoned ground beef, and jalapenos. I like spicy food, but OMFG… these jalapenos are REALLY hot. Not Gringo hot. Not even Latino hot. These things are 5-star Thai HOT. I swallow about half of them, and surrender by eating all around them as they slowly dissolve the ceramic plate and start burning their way through the earth’s crust to rejoin their birthplace in the molten core. We pay and head out to the Jaguar. It fails to start on the first roll, and I run out of parking lot. Thankfully the one-way street in front of us has a gap in traffic coming due to a red light upstream, so as it arrives I roll into it and have Nick give it a good shove. It gets enough momentum and fires just as the traffic mob arrives around us. Traffic flows around me and thankfully a light in front of us turns red so Nick can run out and climb in the car.

Chuck, holding his breath lest fire come shooting out.
Chuck, holding his breath lest fire come shooting out.

We motor north on a foggy morning past Arcata, stop for gas in Trinidad and, eventually make our way out of the fog. We pass a sign mentioning a state park with “Redwood” in the title and a ‘scenic drive” mentioned so I ask Nick if he’d like to take an alternate route. He agrees and off we go. The next sign sounds promising “no RVs, trailers, or large vehicles after campground.” Good! Nothing more annoying than being trapped on a twisty road behind a crawling Winnebago. Unfortunately the road seems to be going south rather than north, and pavement also stops not long after the campground. The gravel road looks VERY rough. I tell Nick sorry, we’re going back to the highway. On the way back I note what obviously used to be a narrow bridge over a river. Built sometime in the early part of the 20th century, the bridge itself is now long gone, but the has ornate bears acting as the bridgehead. They are overgrown with vegetation and look ignored. When we regain the highway I note that they have been reproduced on the “new” bridge, though it was likely built much later.

Golden Bears Guard the Bridge
Golden Bears Guard the Bridge

A bit later we stop in the sunshine and admire a nice view… and right in front of us below the bluff Nick sees something in the water. Initially he says it’s a sea lion, but it surfaces again and we both figure out that it is three porpoises swimming in a small pod. I grab my camera’s telephoto lens, but before I can get it mounted and ready they’ve vanished. Oh well. I shoot some other wildlife instead.

Nick is a poor substitute for a porpoise.
Nick is a poor substitute for a porpoise.
They appeared initially just to the left of this rock.
They appeared initially just to the left of this rock.

Back on the road we drive ever northwards. Nick finishes off his leftover lunch from the day before, and occasionally photographs things as they go by. I like this shot he makes of some redwoods:

It is impossible to capture how large these trees are. We’re awed and we live in an area with big trees already! But these coast redwoods are easily 2x to 3x larger than what we see every day.

While Nick is admiring redwoods I run into an exasperating situation; another slow driver with no lane discipline. A camper-trailer is leading a group of probably 10 cars, and right behind it are three guys on Harleys. I’m the sixth car back in the queue to get around the camper-trailer. Relief beckons n the form of a sign that says “Passing Lane One Mile Ahead” so I relax and wait for a mile to go by. Then something that can only happen in America… happens. The whole parade comes to the passing lane, where the sign says “slower traffic stay right” … the camper-trailer guy pulls right, and EVERYBODY ELSE stays in the left lane BUT DOES NOT PASS. Whisky. Tango. FOXTROT! I follow along for a bit, but eventually become frustrated by this absurdity and pull into the right lane and floor it. Honestly I should have done it earlier as I ran out of passing room about 10 seconds before I could have passed the entire parade. Instead I find myself between the Harleys and the camper-trailer guy. At least now when the chance comes I can leave the whole kit and caboodle to roam the northwest in a pack until the end of their days… but before that can happen one of the Harley guys has to register his anger with me by riding up on the shoulder and shouting at me: “That wasn’t very smart!”

Well no $#*+ sherlock! The whole situation wasn’t very smart. You sure as hell weren’t too smart for sitting in the left lane and NOT passing, causing 10+ cars stacked up behind you no end of frustration. I wasn’t very smart for undertaking the whole group, only because I had the HP:weight ratio to pull it off. Had I not hesitated I’d be a mile ahead by now anyway. But now, instead a passing lane was completely squandered by everyone involved. Only in America can we be so selfishly dumb in such a wonderfully collective fashion! Teutonic Roadway Discipline I can appreciate: The Rules Rule. The complete chaos of Mumbai even has it’s logic: Size wins, speed avoids, the cows are untouchable. But this situation in this location baffles me to no end.

Thankfully we are afforded a chance to pass on a dashed line in our lane and just enough time before oncoming traffic arrives to only let us go. I call for the presto movement from Sir William’s Sixth Symphony and it doesn’t let me down. We rocket past the slow parade once and for all, leaving them far behind. A few miles later we arrive at a construction delay just as that queue pulls away and are the last car through, then US 101 opens up to four lanes allowing us to pass long stretches of traffic. We’re guaranteed to be away from the bothered bikers forever.

Nick however suffers the terminal and universal embarrassment of all teenagers when attention is directed at them due to parental behavior. He fumes about the situation all the way into Oregon… long after I’ve forgotten about it.

So how do we solve the situation? Hit the beach!

Nick is on the beach long before I can even get out of the car.
Nick is on the beach long before I can even get out of the car.
It is very windy, and the sand and flotsam is arrayed in odd shapes and patterns
It is very windy, and the sand and flotsam is arrayed in odd shapes and patterns

Nick impersonates a penguin.
Nick impersonates a penguin.
A dead, or perhaps zombie crab.
A dead, or perhaps zombie crab.
Nick running in sand, into the stiff wind.
Nick running in sand, into the stiff wind.
Nick found a sea lion carcass.
Nick found a sea lion carcass.
Or is it a zombie?
Or is it a zombie?
Looking for clams.
Looking for clams.
In a much better mood now.
In a much better mood now.

Nick’s mood is significantly improved by the outing on the beach. Spirits lifted we climb back up to the car, bump-start it again and point the bonnet northwards. At one point I spot what is likely most unusual car on this trip so far: a bright yellow Ferrari 275 GTB. I spot it off to the left, but my brain is so locked into the must find slope to park on mindset that I dismiss pulling into the (very flat) turn-out that they are parked in. I point out the car to Nick as we pass though, and pull into the next spot that allows a graceful rolling start up the road. The GTB was facing north so I hope they are coming this way. I wait for a while and it does not appear, so I give up and carry on northwards.

The sun is bright and warm and Nick demands a milkshake. In fact he demands a Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Even though it is late I’m still quite full from my hearty (though quite incendiary!) breakfast. I do recall a DQ in the town where Chris & I spent our second night on the southbound journey, so I ask if he can wait until we get there. He agrees and my memory is correct, there is a DQ there. I pull over and wait with the engine running (flat ground!) while Nick goes inside to get his shake.

While he is inside I reflect on how well the car is running. Yes, the starter is completely dead, but otherwise it has been flawless. I can sit and idle in a hot parking lot without fear of overheating. The brakes work fine. The car goes like stink when I want or need it to. Nothing has fallen off it for almost a year! I’ve put a lot of work into the car over the past year, attending to steering rack and column issues, V-belts, brakes, cooling fan and thermo-switch repair, etc… I packed enough tools and spares to break the handle off my vintage suitcase due to weight, yet I haven’t had to really use any of them. I know that on arrival back home I’ll have to get on the job of replacing this dead starter motor as soon as the car cools off, but here on the road it has been mechanical smooth sailing.

Nick arrives after what seems like way too long for a shake order, and we roll north out of Bandon, Oregon. Through Coos Bay, and the Oregon Dunes areas. Afternoon is upon us and the sun begins to take a position for its dive into the sea. A little ways past Florence we come upon the Sea Lion Caves and agree to stop and have a look. There are a few parking spaces available in front of the entrance, but we choose to pull into the lot across the highway as it has a nice slope to help start the car.

Buttoning up the tonneau cover before we cross the highway to the Sea Lion Caves.
Buttoning up the tonneau cover before we cross the highway to the Sea Lion Caves.

We amble across the road just in time to see them flip the sign to “closed”… damn. So we miss the Sea Lions as they are all going home after work. The spot is nice though, with an excellent view and overlook. To the north is a lighthouse, and to the south you can see a long beach and the start of the Oregon Dunes area.

Looking south from the Sea Lion Caves.
Looking south from the Sea Lion Caves.
Looking north from the Sea Lion Caves.
Looking north from the Sea Lion Caves.
Looking east from the Sea Lion Caves at our lonely parked car.
Looking east from the Sea Lion Caves at our lonely parked car.

Nick and I stand there for a while enjoying the view, and chatting. The human workers exit the Sea Lion caves and drive away, leaving the two of us the only ones around. I suggest to Nick that we find a beach and reprise our sunset watching from yesterday. He agrees and we walk back to the car, roll it to a start, and take off to find a suitable location for a sunset. It doesn’t take long…

Nick on the beach with weird wind-sculpted waterway.
Nick on the beach with weird wind-sculpted waterway.

It is windy and a bit cold, but there is lots to see while we wait for sundown. Tidal pools. Bizarre wind-created waterways in the sand. Rocks. Windblown sand sculptures. We found sea anemones, some tiny fish, starfish, and plenty of barnacles and mussels. We walked quite a ways south from our start, then looped back into the wind and headed towards a driftwood lean-to somebody had built further north.

Nick checking out some quicksand.
Nick checking out some quicksand.
Patrick the Starfish!
Patrick the Starfish!
Looking for Spongebob among the Patricks
Looking for Spongebob among the Patricks
A close shot of the sand blown against rocks, making odd formations.
A close shot of the sand blown against rocks, making odd formations.
Checking out a lean-to at the base of the cliff.
Checking out a lean-to at the base of the cliff.
Nick found this red mussel shell.
Nick found this red mussel shell.
Leaving the beach.
Leaving the beach.

Unfortunately the offshore fog rushed in as the sun was going down so we missed actually SEEING the sun set. Nick decided he was too cold so we climbed back up to the car and hit the road. Both of us are tired and spot a motel in the next town (Yachats) that advertises an indoor pool. As a bonus it has a short but steep incline in the parking area, so I pull over, back the Jag into an empty spot pointing downhill, and inquire about a room. The nice lady says they “have a room with two twin beds arranged in sort of a bunk, will that be OK?” I ask how much? “$48” I reply: SOLD! The room is called “the lighthouse” as it is a decorative part of this bit of roadside Americana. Nick and I unload the Jag into it, and hit the pool. It feels great! We swim a while then return to our lighthouse when they close it down at 10 pm. I swing by the gift shop attached to the hotel office and grab some snacks and beverages, including a bottle of sparkling apple cider for the two of us to share. Nick climbs into his bunk and watches Cartoon Network while I try to get online to update the website… with no luck. The hotel’s wireless router’s DHCP server is borked. I crash and tell Nick to shut off the TV before he goes to sleep.

Nick's bunk in the Lighthouse.
Nick's bunk in the Lighthouse.

3 Comments

  1. Dunno if you know this trick, and since you’ve now a new starter, you may not need it, BUT…a better way to roll start a car is by using 2nd gear, not 1st. Pardon me telling you this, if you already know it!

    Comment by vrooomie — August 4, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

  2. We always started in 2nd gear.

    I learned that in my wandering climber days and a ’80 VW Rabbit Diesel that sometimes would not start.

    Comment by chuck goolsbee — August 4, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

  3. The Harley guy drove on the shoulder to admonish you about an…..unsafe act?

    Would that be irony or coincidence?

    Any chance Mr. “700 Pounds But Only 60 HP” recognized how a person’s frustration can lead to such an event? I mean, unless there’re other facts to consider, the Harley guys either deliberately held everyone up or those underpowered hawgs once again proved that at speed they can’t get out of their own way.

    Comment by Mark Webber — August 5, 2009 @ 11:53 am

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