Friday, July 25, 2008

A birthday in two states

We woke up at the rest stop we'd parked at, and saw it in daylight. It was a little gravel road area next to a gorgeous inlet. Mist was rising along the right hand side, and scooting along the surface of the water in little flakes.

We wound our way along the cliffs of the Oregon coastline to Newport, where we stopped to buy two 5Gal gas containers to fix the problem of the dent in the gas tank, and a new headlight. (See the previous day's post for more on this headlight.) It was surprisingly cold.

The Oregon coast is gorgeous. It's a lot like California's coast, i.e. rocky with sandy golden beaches, but with a lot more lakes. The lakes have lillypads! I like this, for some reason. It seems so cliched for lakes to have lillypads, but there we are.

So many of the lakes we passed were small, and totally still in the early morning. They mirrored the trees around them. I wanted to stop and take photos but I was aware that we were already behind schedule and needed to catch up.

We also passed through many little sea towns which were a lot like California beach towns. Every so often there would be a warning sign for tsunamis. It featured a scared man running away from a huge wave.

Newport was the main town along the coast. A few miles north of Newport was the "Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area". An area has to be pretty outstanding for them to name it something like that in all the splendour of the Oregon coast!

The historic lighthouse was the main attraction. We stopped and waited in line for ages to climb the 5 small flights of spiral stairs which wound around the inside of the lighthouse. The stairs had been installed 150 years ago, for the use of no more than two people at a time, and had never broken. Until 5 years ago, when tourists were admitted. Now around 5 stairs break every year!

The lighthouse is still in operation. All the lighthouses along the Oregon coast have a different light pattern, so a traveller could tell their whereabouts on the coast by looking at the lights. It was very cold and windy at the lighthouse, even in the middle of summer. I wouldn't want to be there in winter!

Another attraction at the Yaquina Head area was Cobble Beach. Waves crashing against the shoreline roll basalt (volcanic) rocks around, until they become round and smooth. There's some local legend about how they check the cobbles for roundness daily. Larger rocks were on the surface of the beach, with smaller pebbles underneath. Walking on them made a sound like walking on a crunchy rainstorm as the cobbles moved around your feet.

We finally arrived in Portland around 3:30 pm. We spent most of the time (around two hours!) at FedEx doing paperwork for the UK. Afterwards, we grabbed coffee at the University of Portland. I really liked Portland, I could easily live there. Although it was too hot for Brendan's liking, and like most US cities, probably gets very cold in winter. It had tree-lined streets, with brick buildings and lots of green park space.

We arrived at Cougar, Mt St Helens, just as the sun was setting. We couldn't see anywhere to park for the night, so we decided to check in to an RV park and figure out this whole "hookup" business (i.e. water, sewage and electricity mains access). The RV park owners had the fattest cat I've ever seen. It didn't so much walk as drag itself along. I told it, "You must be the fattest cat in the world!" just as the owner walked out. He looked slightly annoyed.

It was Brendan's birthday. He really wanted steak, so we went to the little pub/ gift shop in the village. It was the only thing open out of a grand total of two eating places. It offered "chicken-fried steak". Brendan ordered that. The waitress went to get it out of the freezer in another building, and slipped over in the kitchen with a thump. She swore loudly. There was lots of muffled talking about how she'd cut herself and was it serious and did she need a doctor and more yelling for the owner to come. Eventually she reappeared with a huge bandage on one shoulder.

A random friend of the chef's walked in and was told off ("Don't be so loud, we have customers!"). We were the only ones in the restaurant, as it was about 10pm. My burger arrived with chippies ("potato crisps") next to it. Brendan's steak arrived, essentially a kind of minced steak in a long flat patty "the size of [Brendan's] face", covered in some kind of batter and deep-fried. It sat on a mountain of mashed potato. Brendan pronounced it odd, but nice.

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