Monday, September 12, 2011

Real Tourists in Newport, OR

Day 15: Sept 10, 2011

Today we acted like real tourists, and it was a wonderful day! We woke up in our parking lot of an RV “park” at the Newport Marina. We couldn’t fault the location, only the ambience. But I did have a nice view of the Yaquina Bay Bridge from my bedroom window, and that got me up and out, because I wanted to take a photo with the fog still hiding part of the bridge. Luckily, it was all clearing off, and the day was bright, sunny, and warm but not too hot. The cold and foggy weather of yesterday afternoon had lifted, thank goodness!

When we left the Marina, we went over the bridge again, back to the center of Newport, to go to a kite store we’d passed the night before. Joe loves kites, and I love the bright whirligigs that look so nice in gardens. We spent about 20 or so minutes there, picking out a few things, and Joe bought a simple triangle-shaped box kite which came all ready to fly. Right away, we drove down to the historic Nye Beach section of Newport. There is a small city park there, and a Vietnam Memorial to peace, but what drew us was the wide, mostly deserted, beach. Almost the only things to see besides us was the Yaquina Lighthouse a little way up the beach, which was invisible in the fog last night, and some guys on the beach nearby, setting up what looked like a chuppah made from long natural branches. When we saw them make an aisle lined with rocks from the beach, and set up a few plastic chairs, we were sure it was going to be a wedding.

But we didn’t spend much time watching them, because Joe went right to work putting the kite together. Then we had a great time on the beach, flying the kite and just feeling that great beachy breeze. On our way out, passing the aisle of rocks, I said to one of the men there, “It looks like you are having wedding!” and he said I was right. So I added, “That looks like a chuppah”, and he said, “That’s exactly what it is.” Then he added that they were having “a combination of a lot of different cultures” represented in their wedding ceremony; so I don’t even know if anyone involved is actually Jewish--a wedding in the middle of the day on Saturday already means it wasn’t exactly kosher . But it looked like it would be lovely, given the location.

After the beach, we drove Mo to the other side of Newport, to the historic bayfront area. We were dismayed at first because it was very crowded and parked up, and there were absolutely no places to park an RV--in fact we didn’t even see any parking lots per se, just a lot of street parking. But Joe said, “Let’s go around again”, so we repeated our loop, and we got SOOOO lucky--there was an empty space, and the car behind it was just getting out of HIS space, leaving a double curbside space. I jumped out and guided Joe to parallel park Mo’s 27 feet into the space just perfectly. Most amazing of all: there was a line of cars waiting behind us, and NO ONE HONKED! I don’t think I’ve heard a car honk in the entire time we’ve been in Oregon, come to think of it. People are a LOT more mellow here. I don’t think we’re in New Jersey anymore, Toto!

It was about 12:30 pm when we parked, and we moseyed along the wharf looking at everything. We were at the farthest end, next to the real fishing boats. We saw a lot of stacks of fishing traps and stuff like that. But it also turned out that the area was being used for a special “Wild Seafood Weekend”, with a tasting competition and tents set up selling various kinds of seafood. We did not pay $25 to partake in the tasting, but it was interesting. From there we kept moving along and got to the more touristy parts. First the boardwalk connecting the commercial area to the shops, which was lined with vendors--we got some thai basil almonds, and some pickled garlic cloves, and admired various other food and craft items.

Joe was hungry, so we stopped in the first seafood restaurant we came to. I had chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and Joe had a cup of chowder and an oyster po’ boy sandwich. The food was really yummy, and most entertaining was the view right outside our window--the wharf with all the sea lions basking in the sun, barking at each other, and otherwise putting on a good show for the tourists. We were so happy to see them, especially since last night, we were SURE we heard sea lions, and walked way to the edge of the marina trying to find the source of the sound. We didn’t realize the barking was coming from across the bay. It turns out that besides the wharf, there is a rock just off the shore which is simply COVERED with sea lions. Anyway, we thought they were adorable and really enjoyed them.
After lunch, we continued our stroll like “real tourists”. I had my camera and sunglasses slung around my neck, and I am sure I looked the part. We found some little things to buy (mostly gifts), and treated ourselves to something in the candy store before finally heading back to Mo. It was so relaxing and distracting for me, I didn’t spend one second worrying about our timetable, or where we’d be sleeping tonight. It was really just what I needed. Lots of interesting little shops, and lots of peoplewatching.

We finally got back to Mo and started driving south at around 4pm. Joe almost immediately got too tired to drive--it seems that browsing in shops tires him out faster than almost anything else! So I took the wheel for the 40 or so miles we drove along Highway 101. That included a number of pullouts to stop and admire the view and take photos--after all, that’s why we came here! It’s too bad that my photos are not great--that is because it was late afternoon, and the glare from the sun in the west made it hard to get any fantastic shots. At our last stop, Joe looked down and pointed out two seals (or sea lions, maybe) swimming along near the beach. We saw lighthouses and gorgeous rocks and it was all like I expected it to be. Beautiful, and not really like east coast beaches at all. On the other hand, you don’t have to be insane to actually swim in east coast water--the water here is freezing.
Since Joe was so exhausted, and since we had no camping reservations, we decided to start looking for a campground. It being Saturday night, we were probably taking a risk, but it turned out fine. The first state park we came to was full, but we had a list of several US Forest Service campgrounds before we would quite reach Florence, which was my goal for the night. So we are now camped in Alden Campground, run by the USFS. It is woodsy and the sites are set up very well, so no one is next to us. A huge difference from the campground last night, for sure! (And half the price, too.) There aren’t any services like the state parks, but we don’t need much--we have our own electricity and bathroom. It’s not even 9:30 as I finish this, and Joe’s already sound asleep. I guess a guy can only take so much shopping!

It’s hard to believe, but today was the midway point of our vacation. It seems like we’ve been gone a very long time, and we still have two whole weeks to go! On the other hand, it is never as much fun driving east as it is driving west. At some point tomorrow, we will have to take a left turn and head home. But we’ll go south a little farther first, and stretch it out as long as we can.

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