When my kids were growing up, they only had a few computer games. One of them was “The Oregon Trail”. After the kids went to bed at night, I would spend hours playing that game. I had lots of images in my head about Oregon, but I was about to be surprised.
For my fellow Easterners, the correct pronunciation is Or-ah-gun. Not Or-eh-gone. The locals will either wince or nicely correct you (or both) if you pronounce it incorrectly. We were corrected a number of times.
The heat that had chased across much of the country was relentless. We checked the weather maps and found that both the high and low temperatures on the Oregon coast were nice and cool. In fact they bordered on chilly. We couldn’t wait to wear pants and sleeves again.
We made 5 day reservation at an RV park near Haceta Beach. We stopped at a diner in Eugene, Oregon for a quick lunch on the way. It was hot and getting hotter. We were only 60 miles or so away from Haceta Beach and the temperature was in the 90’s at noon. Our plan to beat the heat wasn’t looking good.
The road from Eugene to the beach became curvy and mountainous as we approached the coast. . We finally arrived at Haceta Beach and were shocked at the change in temperature when we opened the door to the RV. It was delightfully cool, in the low 60’s. After weeks of baking in the sun and running the RV air conditioning 24/7, it was refreshing.
Our campsite was nice and level, and surrounded by a hedge of bushes that gave us shade and privacy. All of the bars on our phones were gone. There would be no cell service here. (It seems that there is an inverse relationship between how pretty a place is and the number of bars on our phones.) Thankfully the wifi was good enough to support text messages, so we wouldn’t be completely out of touch with family and friends. Also, this campground provided cable TV. We would survive without our phones.
We could hear the ocean from our campsite, so it wasn’t hard to find it. With Bella on the leash, we walked to the beach. As we walked onto the beach , we weren’t prepared for the power of the Pacific Ocean. It was fat least 10 degrees cooler than at the campground. The fog was so thick it condensed into water on our glasses. There was a brisk 30 mph wind blowing a river of sand down the beach.
There weren’t any people or dogs nearby, so we were able to let Bella off her leash. Normally we would let her go into the water, but it was too rough. She found a piece of driftwood and was happy to play a good game of “stick”. It was late in the day and the drive to Haceta along with the wildness of the beach had worn us out.
We quickly settled into a routine of heading to the beach in the morning before the winds kicked up. We took long walks, explored the driftwood and played stick with Bella. Everyone on the beach wore coats and flip-flops. We did too.
One afternoon we took a cab to the nearby town of Florence We walked around the Old Town port, enjoying the understated vibe. You could tell it was a vacation town, but it wasn’t wall-to-wall people buying T-shirts and fudge. People actually iived here!
There was a marina with an RV park right in the charming Old Town section of Florence. We stopped in the office and made a one-week reservation, starting on Sunday. We would enjoy our final 2 days at Haceta Beach, but looked forward to having access to shops and restaurants in Florence.
Florence is a port town on the Siuslaw River. It’s just a few miles inland from the ocean, but it’s another world. The wild Pacific winds were just a gentle breeze in Florence. The fog rolled up the river in the later afternoon, and rolled back out again in the morning. We enjoyed warm,sunny days and cool nights. The campground was a typical urban campground parking lot. There wasn’t a whole lot of room between our spot and the next, But the Wi-Fil was strong and we had cell service!
Many of the campers were fisherman and crabbers, here for the season. We walked along the docks and saw folks hauling in crab and salmon. The “Fish Fuzz” were on-site to ensure that people had licenses, didn’t take more than permitted and only caught fish in season.
In the evening as the fog rolled up the river, the harbor seals would haul themselves up on the docks to spend the night. The locals weren’t crazy about these mammals, since they eat a lot of fish and can be aggressive. But we loved seeing them.
There was a good spot along the river to walk Bella and let her have some off-leash fun. And plenty of places to eat, drink and shop within biking and walking distance. It was nice to know that we wouldn’t have to hit the road again for another whole week.
We found a local fish market where Nick bought oysters and fresh seafood for us to eat. The Safeway grocery store was an easy bike ride, too.
We didn’t eat out much in Florence, since Nick was able to purchase and prepare wonderful food for us at home. But one afternoon we went to the Maple Street Grill. I had read their reviews online and they were wonderful. It’s owned and run by a Romanian couple and they specialize in Hungarian food. I ordered the Hungarian Goulash and Nick had Hungarian Meatballs on Mashed Potatoes. It was delicious. We felt as if we enjoyed dinner at somebody’s home, with Grandma doing old-world style cooking. If you’re ever in Florence, don’t miss it.
One night, we were enjoying cocktails at our picnic table. Our martini glasses caught the attention of a few neighbors, and before we knew it, we were hosting a small party. Our neighbors, Paul and Vicki had arrived that afternoon and were planning to stay for a week. We also met Benny, who had been at the campground for awhile and was planning to stay until the end of August. Benny’s constant companion was Romeo, a 15 year old Shitzzu who had gone deaf in his old age.
The next afternoon, Benny and Paul went crabbing and came back with 7 large Dungeness crab. They had seen Nick’s one burner propane cooker, perfect for steaming crabs. Before we knew it, we were hosting another party. But the crabs were delicious, and FREE!
The next day, Benny invited Nick and I to go crabbing. Of course we said YES! We went down to the end of the dock and unloaded two traps from Benny’s truck. He baited the traps with chicken thighs and tossed them into the water.
Since Nick and I didn’t have licenses, and the “fish fuzz” were nearby, we couldn’t actively throw or retrieve the traps. While we waited for the crabs to take the bait, we enjoyed watching herons and egrets fly by, a harbor seal bobbing its head up and down, and our conversation with Benny.
When he hauled in the first trap, he showed us how to measure the crabs with a guage to determine if they were keepers. He put the two legal crabs in a bucket and tossed the trap back into the water. We crabbed for about an hour and got 6 nice crabs for dinner. It was more fun than I would have imagined.
Cleaning the crabs is not so much fun. At the nearby fish cleaning station, Benny showed us how to smash them and peel the top of the shell off. Then you scoop the black stuff out and give them a rinse. Benny gave us the crabs, and asked that we share them with Paul and Vicki.
On our last night in Florence we felt like a night out. We knew that a band was playing at The Traveler’s Cove. We got there pretty early and were surprised to find the band was already playing. We scored a premium table, and ordered a couple of Bourbon Old Fashioneds. The band was comprised of 4 guys who were about our age, or older. The audience was also a mostly local, senior crowd..
The band was excellent, playing a great mix of music that appealed to the crowd. The dance floor quickly filled. We stayed until the band played their last song. On our walk home, we passed by the docks and said our good-byes to the harbor seals. Florence may have been the first place that we were truly sad to leave.
Next stop, the redwoods!
Lynne, Nick and Bella