After four days in Eugene, living it up track town style, a lot of people would probably be content to call it a vacation and head home. Instead, we headed for the coast.
It’s about a 4.5 hour drive from Oregon to Brookings, our eventual destination. Before we could end up there, however, we had a couple of stops to make. Leaving town on I-5, we eventually made our way to 38-W, a mostly two-lane state highway that follows the path of the Umpqua River with painstaking exactness. I’m not sure if the state of Oregon just doesn’t like to build bridges, or if they prefer to have roads on the north bank of a river. Whatever the reason, our drive included some wonderfully scenic areas, as well as the very hairpinnest of hairpin turns.
LilRunr would like me to inform all of you that we also went through a TUNNEL, and it was awesome. (The little guy is a Thomas the Train fan, so tunnels are just about the BEST THING EVER! In Kansas, he has to pretend that bridge overpasses are tunnels. Poor child.)
Eventually, Hwy 38 led to the Oregon Coast Highway, and we followed that south. I was assuming that, with a name like “Oregon Coast Highway,” I would soon get a glimpse of the ocean (something anyone from a landlocked state keenly anticipates). I was incorrect. A state park of many trees formed a buffer between me and the “big blue,” as they call it in LilRunr’s third favorite movie. (“Finding Nemo” is third at the moment. “Cars” and “Ice Age” make up the first two spots.)
Our first stop was to see some sand dunes. Did you know there are sand dunes in Oregon? I was clueless, but my relentlessly investigative husband had discovered this piece of trivia at some point in the vacation planning process. At an access point that was off limit to 4-wheelers, we all got out of the car and stretched our legs via a half-mile hike through the woods.
We let LilRunr walk, which sorely tested my patience. Little legs move so slow, and the half mile seemed to stretch on forever. About the time I decided that the sand dunes were a myth, we came to a clearing and…there they were. Mountains of sand stretching as far as I could see, pushing up against some of the tallest pine trees I’ve ever come across as though they intended to swallow the forest. It was an amazing sight.
The only problem was that it was an incredibly windy day. LilRunr and I stayed close to the trees to make the most of the windbreak (and avoid having our faces scoured by flying sand.) Scott, in a spirt of adventure, decided to run to the top of the nearest dune. “It’s farther than you think,” I warned him. He took this as a challenge, and off he went to “prove me wrong.” He was champion of the dunes in no time (and it was very amusing to watch him race back down at breakneck speed).
Farther south, our next stop was an obvious one — Coos Bay, hometown of Steve Prefontaine. Before we ate lunch, we wanted to stop and see the Pre statue that was supposedly near downtown. After driving around aimlessly for 10 minutes, bickering in that time-honored “on vacation and stressed out” manner I hope happens to everyone, and with an increasingly hungry LilRunr in the backseat, we finally admitted defeat and stopped at the Visitor’s Center.
Inside, Scott found out that the “statue” wasn’t what we imagined, and instead was an abstract concrete monument with a memorial plaque embedded inside of it…and that said monument was on the other side of the Visitor’s Center, which we had driven past at least three times. Oops…and LOL.
Leaving the memorial, we decided to eat lunch at a restaurant called “Coney Station” primarily because it had a train inside and we thought that would amuse LilRunr. Heading over, we learned a difference between Kansas and Oregon eating establishments. In Oregon, they are EXTREMELY serious about keeping minors away from places that serve alcohol. The restaurant was broken up into two areas — a “banquet hall” portion that had been designated as family-friendly, and a “lounge” that apparently was not. It was confusing to me, because the “lounge” was more than just a bar. It had tables as well, and was non-smoking. Anyway, the banquet hall was booked for the American Legion (or some other similar group…I can never keep those secret clubs straight), and the waitress turned us away because they couldn’t let anyone under 21 into the lounge.
We ended up at McDonald’s, which suited LilRunr just as well. Then, we cruised through Coos Bay to see Pre’s childhood home (probably?) and schools.
Lastly, we both spent a solemn moment or two at Pre’s gravesite. Standing there, thinking about what could have been if that car crash hadn’t happened, thinking — now at 31 myself — about how young 24 really is (something you can’t feel while watching a movie at 17), I felt sadder than I thought I would.
After paying our respects, we were on the road once more. LilRunr was cuddled up with a blanket in the backseat, fast asleep. I was amusing myself by wondering out loud just how much farther we’d need to travel on this “coastal highway” before we had a glimpse of the ocean. We even went through one town where streets exiting the highway had “OCEAN VIEW” painted on them with gigantic block letters, a helpful arrow pointing to where this ocean and that view supposedly were. I was trying to keep my giggles quiet when Scott rounded a corner…and my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean took my breath away. Wow. Just…wow to infinity. The brilliant blue of the water against the crisp brown of the rocks, the drama of the scattered, giant rocks themselves, and the waves crashing off of them.
I wasn’t prepared for it then, and I never tired of taking in the view from the windows of the ocean front condo we rented. But that’s a story for another day.