Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Oregon Coast Road Trip

Over the weekend at work, some friends and I got to talking about road trips.  Specifically, we were talking about the drive to Yellowstone and how to incorporate Glacier National Park into the mix.  I had mentioned to my friends a road trip Jason and I took back in 2009 down the Oregon Coast.  And the whole way home I could not stop thinking about that trip, how much fun we had and how much it made me want to plan another one.

Today I want to reminisce a little about that trip!  (Grab some popcorn, folks-- it's a long one today!)

Jason and I took about 8 days to drive from Astoria to Brookings (see map below).  That's about 363 total miles... and in the grand scheme of driving should really only take a little over 7 miles to complete.  But because the coast has so many towns along the way, and some great experiences to offer we decided to take it a bit slower.  Eight days slower.

As we started the planning process, we decided it would probably be best to dedicate about half a day to each town we wanted to see.   We consulted travel books, Travel Oregon and the state's yearly free travel guide it puts out on the best routes to take and how to time out our activities.  We wrote down everything we wanted to do, then paired that back, until we finally came up with this itinerary:

Courtesy: Oregon Coast Travel

Day One:
     Drive from Portland to Astoria
     Climb the Astoria Column
     Drive Across the Astoria-Melger Bridge (it's pretty cool)
     Tour the Flavel House
     Explore Fort Stevens State Park
     See the Peter Iredale (part of FSSP, link above)

Day Two:
     Explore Fort Clatsop
     Drive to Seaside for a "Day of Fun"...
          Arcades, Aquarium, Bicycle Surrey, Swings on the
          Beach, Promenade

Day Three:
     Early Morning Tide Pools at Haystack Rock
     Explore Ecola State Park
     Tillamook Cheese Factory!  (Tour and Tasting)
     Drive the Three-Capes Scenic Route
     Visit Cape Meares Light House

Day Four:
     Visit the crazy viking in Lincoln City
     Whale Watching in Depoe Bay
     Visit Yaquina Bay and Yaquina Head Light Houses

Day Five:
     Sea Lion Caves
     Heceta Head Light House
     Dune-buggyin' in Florence

Day Six:
     Umpqua River Light House
     Shore Acres State Park
     Coquille River Light House
     Explore the Bandon beach, and Face Rock

Day Seven:
     Cape Blanco Light House
     Prehistoric Gardens in Port Orford
     Rouge River Jet Boat Tour

Day Eight-Ten:
     Drive to/Explore Crater Lake

After our trip down the coast, we decided to tack on Crater Lake...

OH!  We also decided it would be a good idea to camp down the coast.  In theory, it was.  In hind sight, I would have booked a few nights in a hotel room.  (More on that later)

Now the "Itinerary" I posted above is missing several things from each day.  What you just saw is what we actually had time for... but what we had planned for took up much more space.  And we cut things along the way, as we began to realize that we had pretty much overbooked ourselves.

Day one  was perfect.  We took in all the sights we wanted to, pitched the tent, made dinner and took in the sunset.  Perfect day.

Day two was much of the same.  It was fun for me to show Jason the parts of the coast I grew up going to.  We had gorgeous sunny weather to work with, which to be honest, I wasn't expecting.  But I took it and ran with it! If you've ever been to the Oregon Cost, you know what I'm talking about.

Day thee was the day we over did it.  We covered a lot of ground that day, saw a lot of things-- and by the time we got to our camp site in Lincoln City, we were too exhausted to pull anything but the tent, our sleeping bags and a few hot dogs out of the car.  We built a quick fire, wolfed down our food, and passed out shortly after.

I feel like now is about the time I should mention that Jason had been diagnosed with severe Sleep Apnea shortly before this trip.  The doctor had given him a sleep machine that needed electricity to work.  Now, I had booked our campsites months before this happened.  And only a few of them had plug ins... hindsight, right?  This meant we were going on day 3 of barely any sleep.

We woke up to our first rainstorm on Day four.  Thankfully, the tent was pretty new and hand no holes in it yet.  But after a night of no sleep, neither one of us were in the mood to pack our shit in the car.  But we did it anyway, and drove to our next destination:  Whale Watching in Depoe Bay.  When we got there, it was dicey whether or not we would be heading out on the boat.  the waves were choppy because of the rain storm-- but it eventually cleared up enough for us to get on the boat.  Bad idea!  The waves tossed us around until everyone on board got seasick.  Silver Lining:  A huge gray whale flipped it's tale at us, right along side the boat.  Awesome!

Day five... oh day five.  We toured yet another light house... let me tell you, by the end of our trip we were light house aficionados!  We also toured the Sea Lion Caves-- which were empty because it was summer and the Sea Lions were out in the water playing and having babies.  Pro: the cave doesn't stink because there are no Sea Lions.  Con:  it was a waste of $8.

But I have to say, my favorite part of the day was our Dune Buggy tour of the sand dunes near Florence.  It's such and amazing sight, and the only reason to travel to Florence (in my humble opinion).  Did you know that the dunes used to be bigger, until state workers started to plant beach grass in the sand to keep it from blowing over Highway 101?  Now the grass is taking over the dunes.  Our guide told us that in 50 years, the dunes would be completely gone.  Tragic.

(Oh!  We also stayed in one of my favorite campsites, Honeyman State Park.  I keep meaning to plan another trip down there to stay)

Day 6 was the day the fun died.  We were tired, we were cranky, and we were uninterested in the morning's activities.  We spent the day driving to Bandon.  If there's a part of the coast I could cut out it would be the drive from Florence to Bandon.  BORING!  Once we got to Bandon, you could tell we were tired-- because we set up our tent, and layed down for a nap.  But we didn't wake up until 9 that night!  I guess 6 days of travel and sleep deprivation will do that to you!

The upside?  Bandon was where I was introduced to the Fried Pickle... Delicious!  And, we wound up planning a separate trip here, because we loved the feel of the town.

Day 7 was our final day on the coast.  We had big morning plans to take a Jet Boat tour of the Rogue River-- then have a leisurely day exploring the rest of the coast.

Let's just say, that didn't happen.  Jason lost his camera during our packing process-- so we drove all over town looking for it.  That meant we missed our morning slot for the Jet Boat tour.  We wound up finding the camera in a random bag-- and were able to reschedule for a later boating time slot.

So, our day was flip-flopped.  We toured the final, and to me, coolest light house.  Too bad it was cloudy and gross outside, because we couldn't see the ocean from the top.  And we stopped at a kitschy Dinosaur Park in Port Orford...  The guy used to be an accountant, and quit his job to move to a teeny-tiny beach town to build life-sized dinosaurs.  Kind of cool...

We did our river tour-- highly recommend by the way-- and then barely made it to our campsite before sundown.  We were so burnt out by that point, we just blew up the air mattress and slept outside.  Thankfully, it didn't rain.

After that we left for Crater Lake.  Honestly, I think we should have made this a separate trip.  By that time, we were sun burnt, I had a canker sore on my lip and we hadn't gotten that much sleep.  Plus, I was really tired of setting up and taking down that damn tent!

But despite the ups and downs, I've got to say it was a pretty EPIC trip.  I would love to do it again-- with some minor modifications of course.  And it got me thinking about other great road trips to take around Oregon.  I've already got one planned for Eastern Oregon-- if I can just find the time, right car and some money :)

Maybe one day!

How do you feel about road trips?  Do you like them, or would you rather fly?  Have you been on a "epic" road trip?  Where did you go and what did you do?  Would you plan another trip, or no?  Comments welcome below!  Join the conversation :)

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