Oysters->Corn Dog->Root Beer Float->Oysters

The first thing I encountered after leaving Aberdeen and heading south on 101 early Tuesday morning was a place I'd seen mentioned in some article or other as the epicenter of toilet tissue production for the U.S., a city with the intriguing name of Cosmopolis (Greek for "city of the world").  As I drove past acre after acre of fields barren but for a smattering of toddler-sized tree stumps, it began to sink in how weird and apropos it was that this place was called Cosmopolis.  The unofficial motto of Cosmopolis is "City of the Future!" which when said with fervor sounds deludedly optimistic in a Buck Rogers sort of way.  Especially considering this worldly city of the future is the epitome of rampant suburban sprawl and old growth forest devastation - powerful reminders that our consumption doesn't happen in a vacuum.  [She fashions a jerky mechanical wave of the hand while chirping in a robotic voice: "Happy motoring!"]

It wasn't much later and still pretty early in the morning when I pulled into the tiny seaside town of South Bend, Washington and was greeted by a large sign proclaiming "World Capital of Oysters" - WAHOO! - just in time for breakfast!  Some of the best breakfasts I've ever eaten have been had in just such a fashion - when the rare opportunity presents itself and is observed.  I pulled into the first seafood purveyor that looked appealing to see what local delicacy I might procure and opted (after learning they were completely out of pickled oysters - an item I'd loved to have tasted) for an oyster shooter which I would eat immediately and a quarter pound of freshly smoked oysters to go, perfect for a decadent picnic later.  I took the small plastic cup that was filled to the brim with about half a dozen freshly shucked oysters and sat down at an extremely red table outside the store where I could gaze out over the water from the safety of a plastic sheeting shelter while I savored the complex flavor of the ocean.  The oysters were small and plump, sweet even, full of seaside flavor but exceedingly light and clean tasting all at the same time.  The tang of the horseradish in the cocktail sauce and the salty flaky crisp of the saltine created the perfect framework for showcasing the magic of the oysters.  I closed my eyes to shut out competing stimuli and deeply savored the moment.  The sound of the howling wind and intermittent raindrops hitting the clear plastic cocoon I was nestled in, only added to the pleasure.  Talk about breakfast of champions!

I got back on the road and headed next toward an old resort town called Long Beach where I thought I'd stop to visit an over-the-top souvenir shop I'd read about called Marsh's Free Museum.  Along with the free museum, it turns out, are a wealth of godawful souvenirs for purchase - an age old gimmick that still works like a charm. The original owners started collecting curiosities in the early 1930s, and have managed to tuck a good bit of it in between rows and racks and islands of more modern day marvels like real-scorpion-in-Lucite key chains and racks of mini LCD license plates that flash your name.  The museum houses an impressive collection of old arcade games (most of them working, no less!), a two-headed calf and even a supermarket tabloid celebrity: a grinning black half man/half alligator mummy that goes by the name of Jake.  I thoroughly enjoyed poking around and took the opportunity to purchase a few state magnets I'd be needing for the side of my car - and what better place to buy them, I ask?

The city of Long Beach sits at the gateway of an extremely long drivable beach that runs along the Pacific and as such has long been a tourist destination. Marsh's Free Museum presides over a cluster of busy seaside attractions that offer a cavalcade of top notch tourist entertainment.  For example, all I had to do was walk out the front door of the museum to snag a made-from-scratch-while-I-watched corn dog and then walk across the street to see the world's largest frying pan!  I set the self-timer on the camera so I could pose with the pan, but it took me a few tries to get the logistics right.


Just a little further down the Oregon coastline I discovered the city of Tillamook, home to the familiar cheese maker of the same name.  I was thrilled when I drove past the cheese factory and spotted a sign mentioning factory tours.  The "tour" consisted mainly of access to a swanky glassed in observation deck which overlooks the busy packaging operation that's seething with activity on the floor below.  It was strangely beautiful and compelling to watch those gigantenormous yellow blocks march along the conveyor belts like ants on a mission, especially bathed as they were in the lurid yellow cheese-o-rama lighting lent by the industrial setting. 
The most popular stop on the factory tour, however, was the tasting area.  When I arrived, I found a long line of classically turned out tourists waiting anxiously for their turn at the trough of samples.  While I waited in line, I amused myself by observing the frenzy of feeding activity being generated by all those people pressed together, each working feverishly with a tiny flimsy toothpick, trying to spear pea sized bits of yellow cheddar variants - this was the biggest moment of the tour, after all!

I decided I was already pretty familiar with what inexpensive yellow cheddar cheese tasted like, no matter what shade of marigold you selected, and so instead chose to head over to the Tilamook ice cream parlour where for a mere $2.00 I procured the best root beer float I've had in a very long time.  Generous amounts of good hard vanilla ice cream bobbing in homemade root beer - yum.  What a culinary triumph the day had been!  Freshly shucked oysters for breakfast, a hand dipped corn dog for lunch and now the perfect ice cream float at tea time!  Yahooo!

After my brief dalliance with all things dairy, I hit the road again.  The weather had been wild and woolly all day: strong gusty winds, persistent intermittent rain and bitter cold (around 40, but bitter when you consider it was May, anyway).  I myself relished the weather, however, and it merely intensified my enjoyment as I drove along.

It was getting to be late in the afternoon and I hadn't had my walk yet, so I decided to play the Next Impressive Place game.  The point of the game is to stop at the very next place I encounter that piques my curiosity, for whatever reason.  Then the focus shifts to spending at least an hour walking about, finding out what's wonderful about the spot I chose, because there's always something - always.

So, driving south along 101, somewhere in the beautiful Siuslaw National Forest, the next thing I encountered was a sign for the blah-blah waterfall trail blah-blah which gave me immediate cause to turn off.  Hell, what's not to love about a waterfall?  The road to the trailhead wove gently through stands of ancient moss draped trees and a carpet of huge tree ferns.  After about 10 minutes of slow blind-faith driving along a washboard road that was pocked with rain filled potholes, I came upon the promised parking lot which was literally carved from the lush forest surrounding it.  Happily, if automobiles were any indication, I was the lone person in the vicinity.  As I prepared for my hike, I donned every single layer of jacket I had brought with me and soon set out snugly, warmly and happily to see what I could see of the blah-blah falls. (It's rare I don't remember the name of a place I visited and am not able to figure it out!)

I felt a bit like a dinosaur, weaving through the primeval forest alongside a fast running rivulet of pristine water, bathed in verdant solitude.  It wasn't long before I came to an official looking barricade which blocked further progress and bore a cautionary sign warning of 60 point red font DANGER of the direst sort - I'd turn back if I were you!  Well, I'd walked all that way and could just barely see the falls in the distance, and the terrain ahead certainly didn't look all that dangerous...add that to the fact that the warning sign was posted just above an obvious pathway that had been worn by scofflaws such as myself who simply walked around the ineffective boundary, and the choice was clear: take my safety into my own hands and ignore the damn sign. 

It didn't take long to see why they were reluctant to let you frolic in the area - fallen tree trunks borne by various episodes of excessive water flow littered the area and formed a network of obstacles that grandpa might have a bit of trouble circumnavigating.  For me and my new knees, though, it was a snap!  I scrabbled toward the falls until I decided I'd had my fill, plenty close enough now to get a nice view of the plunging river.  I took a delightful moment to just stand still and absorb the intense beauty and solitude of the scene before returning down the path I'd come in on.  Not long after I'd resumed my journey, just as I was moving to straddle a huge tree trunk, I was flabbergasted to see a young lad outfitted in motorcycle garb emerge from the undergrowth in front of me, obviously equally unimpressed by the cautionary barricade.
"It's awful pretty up there, and well worth a visit" I offered to signal my willing collusion.  "Oh I know," he returned eagerly, "my friends and I climb up there to the top all the time!"  He seemed eager to please in a boyish way and told me all about how he had just stopped by the falls on his way home from school that afternoon, but didn't have much time to spend because he had to get home and "take care of some business" with his dad.  He dashed off toward the falls intent on whatever goal he had set for himself and I continued  on my path back toward the car.  I mused along the way about how idyllic it sounded to have this gorgeous place as your distraction on the way home after school and it made me happy to think that there are still kids innocent enough to want to go off and explore waterfalls with their spare time.  He lapped me well before I reached the trail head and I could hear the buzz saw whine of his motor bike as he roared off into the distance.  Happy trails, little fella, happy trails!

After my lovely walk, I got back in the car and meandered on down 101 to Newport, a coastal town of largish size for that region.  As I pulled into town, I stopped at a store and procured a box of Ritz crackers and some Fanta Orange.  I knew just what I was going to have for dinner.  Surely a day begun with oysters is best finished with them if you're lucky enough to have the world so provide.  And I was way more than lucky, because those were by far the best smoked oysters, hell the best oysters I've ever eaten.  I put away the whole quarter pound without so much as a single pause, licking my fingers daintily afterward like a cat.  I was beginning to really like this Oregon place.  Like it very much.

1 comment:

affinity said...

You write beautifully. Thank you.