Oregon Redux

It has been just 8 months since we last visited Oregon, and we are back for more. Living on Vancouver Island is idyllic, but once in a while you might want to leave, although departing the Island presents its challenges. When we do decide to travel south, we usually take a ferry to the B.C. Mainland (i.e. Vancouver) and cross into the U.S. at Blaine, WA. On this occasion we decided on the two hour drive down to Victoria, having made a reservation on the Black Ball ferry, MV Coho, that sails between Victoria and Port Angeles, WA. The Coho is a smallish ferry, with room for 110 vehicles, and makes the crossing of 22 miles in 90 minutes. The ferry is 60 years old and it has a friendly, small village feel to it. However, the Coho is also referred to as “The Vomit Comet” as it does not fare well in rough seas.

Motor Vessel Coho above.

Once in Port Angeles we took Highway 101 East/South, following the Hood Canal and eventually hooked up with Interstate 5 at Olympia, WA. Heading south we turned off at Longview and crossed the Columbia River into Oregon using the Lewis and Clark Bridge. Highway 30 then took us to Astoria where we re-joined Highway 101 to Gearhart OR.

An alternative to 101 East/South at Port Angeles is to head onto 101 West/South that follows the Washington coast – a very pretty drive.

But for me that means facing the spectre of crossing the Columbia on the Astoria-Megler Bridge. The bridge is 4 miles long, and at its peak and at high tide, it sits 200 feet above the river. A few years ago we were driving towards Astoria on the bridge when travel was halted for construction. We ended up sitting on the bridge at its peak. I have several frailties, my golf game among them, and then there is my fear of heights. I have not crossed the bridge since. I’d rather swim the four miles. And the Lewis and Clark bridge is just fine, thank you.

Taking a slightly longer way after leaving Port Angeles we arrived in Gearhart, which I have described for you in an October, 2018 “blogue” posting.

Gearhart, Seaside (3 miles to the south of Gearhart) and Cannon Beach (another 7 or 8 miles south) all have stunning beaches and a real emphasis on seafood, especially shellfish. The beaches at Gearhart/Seaside are spectacular, and when the tide is out, they are ripe for clam digging.

I must admit that clams, and certainly digging for clams, have never been on my bucket list. But I am one who tends to get caught up in what the locals do, and apparently the locals dig for clams, especially razor clams. Razor clams appear on any number of restaurant menus along the northern coast of Oregon into the southern coast of Washington. After some research I discovered that, with a license, a clam digger can “catch” 15 clams a day. I use the term “catch” loosely, as the clams don’t move that quickly.

A non-resident of Oregon can get a three day license for 19 bucks. So I got my license, and then bought a “clam gun” for 19 dollars, plus a net (in which to store my catch and at a cost of 6 bucks) and I was off to the beach (above) with the knowledge that razor clams are most susceptible to being “caught” during very low or negative tides (information provided by the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife). In the following photo are razor clams – quite substantial and as it turns out, quite delicious. I caught six my first day and a total of 17, which, over three days, and considering my investment, worked out to less than three bucks a clam. A bargain, and even better when one factors in the value of an hour or two well spent in glorious surroundings.

Oh … the “clam gun.” That requires some explanation. Upon my purchase my first instinct was to join the NRA. By that I mean the “National Razorclamming Association.” But I decided to go independent.

The locals are purists and will dig for clams with shovels. Newbies like me opt for the simpler method, using the “gun,” which is a technological marvel that binds together three pieces of PVC. So when I say, “caught,” the clams are really sucked out of the sand. The “gun” is pictured below. All a clammer needs to do is find a little hole that a razor clam leaves when its neck is withdrawn, then drill down about two feet with the gun and pull up the bounty. Works like a charm. The clams are then headed to the kitchen to be cleaned, then fried or made into chowder.

Often you meet the nicest people on the golf course. I was playing as a single on the Gearhart Golf Links (again described earlier in my October “blogue”), when I was urged to play through by two gentlemen on a golf cart. They were not serious golfers and seemed to be enjoying cocktail hour a little early (it was about two o’clock). As I passed them again two holes along, they asked if I drank beer. I said, “only after the game.” They responded saying that the beer would be warm by then, and proceeded to hand me a “Buoy Beer.” They introduced themselves as Wally and Dan. It turns out that Dan is the co-founder of a local brewery (“Buoy Beer”) and Wally is the operations guy at the brewery.

A few days later we decided to visit the Buoy Beer brewery/brew pub. It overlooks the Columbia River at Astoria. Great food and ambiance.
As an aside, it should be noted that “buoy” is pronounced two ways. Americans tend towards “boo-ee,” while Brits and perhaps Canucks might opt for “boy.” I missed Dan and Wally at the brew pub, hoping to say hello and ask them if they get comments about their catch phrase, “Reach for a Buoy!” Could be a sensitive thing, I guess, depending on how you pronounce “buoy.”

 

Most cinnamon buns are probably a little bigger than the size of a coffee cup. Not so at Camp 18. Camp 18 is a restaurant in Elsie, Oregon, about 20 minutes from Seaside. Is it worth the trip? Maybe. The building is a sight to see, especially from the inside. The food? On a scale of ten, it was OK. I am a breakfast guy and I thought Camp 18 came up short. We did take the cinnamon bun home and had it for breakfast the following morning. It was enough for 4 people. And it was good.

That’s Camp 18 in the photo following. Very woody.

 

Pig ’N Pancake is a local chain. Five locations along the northern coast of Oregon. Not the first place I would try for breakfast (the name, maybe? Or the logo?). More out of curiosity (and to see where the locals eat) we hit the PNP in Seaside. It was a good move. First of all, they have booths. I love a booth. And on a scale of 10, the PNP breakfast was a 10. Perfect Denver omelette with crispy hash browns. No need for lunch.

Herb Tarlek

A favourite TV show was “WKRP in Cincinnati;” a comedy that ran from 1978 to 1982 about a radio station. Great characters – Howard Hesseman as Dr. Johnny Fever, Loni Anderson as Jennifer Marlowe, Richard Sanders as Less Nessman, and Frank Bonner as Herb Tarlek. Herb as sales manager for WKRP was known for bringing in advertising business from dubious sources, including “Red Wrigglers,” (“The Cadillac of Worms”); and especially known for his wardrobe – white shoes, white belt and plaid.
Gearhart Golf Links each year holds the “Herb Tarlek Day” golf event (“bad pants, tacky shirts … the ugliest affair on the coast …).

I was going to sign-up for “The Tarlek” but lacked the proper garb. What ever happened to those bellbottoms anyway? The gentlemen in the photo were in the moment and only too pleased to pose for me prior to teeing off.
“The Tarlek” is something we might want to consider back home.

McMenamin’s

As noted in October, McMenamin’s Gearhart Hotel overlooks the golf links. In the little town of Gearhart there are two social centers – the bowling alley and McMenamin’s. Have not tried the bowling alley, but we tend to wear out the hotel. It has a very lively bar that is perfect for a golf “de-brief” and a great place for lunch or light dinner. Our American friends do bars well. At happy hour, a pair of cheeseburger sliders with a side of tater tots and two glasses of wine set us back just 25 bucks.

Other Travel Suggestions

We had a bit of a wait prior to leaving Victoria on the Coho, so headed to “Floyd’s,” a breakfast and lunch place in James Bay. A great spot with a funky menu that is the home of “The Mahoney.” “The Mahoney” is 17 bucks and the restaurant will flip you for it. You win the toss and “The Mahoney” is yours – gratis. You lose, you pay double. You can’t really lose, as “The Mahoney” is big enough to feed an army. The only other catch: “The Mahoney” is whatever the chef chooses to serve (I have seen it, and it will not disappoint). In the accompanying photo, just outside the James Bay location, I’m not sure, but that just might be Floyd on the left.

Nonni’s

I wrote about “Nonni’s” in October and it lived up to our earlier experience. Rated the best restaurant in Seaside, OR, by Trip Advisor. No reservations, get there early, and you will not be disappointed. Great food, great value.

The Sleepy Monk

It is a fact of West Coast living that there are more coffee places than happy marriages. You can look it up. We discovered “The Sleepy Monk” in Cannon Beach. Line-ups are common, and the coffee and pastries are worth the wait. At the back of the “Sleepy Monk” is “The Irish Table,” the top-rated restaurant in Cannon Beach.

One More Thing

And it is worth your time. At McMenamin’s Hotel at lunch, we chose the West African Chicken Peanut Soup as a starter. It was the best. I asked our server if she could obtain the recipe from the chef. Absolutely sir! Not sure about the “sir” thing – but the recipe was very generously given. No need to seek out a West African Chicken as any chicken will do. Here is the McMenamin’s recipe, slightly modified. And it is good.

  • 2 T sesame oil
  • Medium onion diced
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1/2 T curry powder
  • 1 t crushed chili pepper
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 3 cups or more chicken breasts (the chicken was baked in a 350 degree oven prior to being cut into one inch pieces)
  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken broth (more, depending on consistency)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter

Heat the oil in a stock pot, then add onions, garlic and spices
Add diced tomatoes and blend with a wand
Transfer to a slow cooker, adding chicken and chicken broth
Whisk in peanut butter and tomato paste and cook on low for 4-5 hours

Do Oregon, if you have the opportunity. With that, I leave you.