Well, we made it home. What a ride, 2,554 miles round trip, only three quarts of oil, and about 22 MPG. Not bad for the old blue Meanie. The only malfunction was the overdrive linkage disconnected, so from about Paso Robles to home, we kept it at about 3200 rpm (about the dreaded double nickel) from there, just to not put any extra work on the engine. THAT was hard, headed for the barn, I get like ol’ Doc Watson, ‘Our Father” at Embree Buses. He usually just pooted along, until it was time to head home. Then it was ‘Where’d Sam go?” He’d be fueling up by the time we got back. Anyway, it was a great trip. Lots of good times with the family (which was the real point of the exercise) and a few extras thrown in to boot. Let’s talk about the trip home.
Tuesday we headed out about 6AM (up there, it’s already light out!) and steered for the 101 and the Coast. This is such a great drive, even though the weather could have been better. We took the I-5 down to Chehalis, then west on WA 6 (a really neat road, dotted with SMALL towns of the kind you don’t think exist except on old TV shows) and hooked up with the 101 near Astoria. One of these small towns was little more than the general store/post office that we used for a quick pee break. Place had an honest to God outhouse, and the lady inside called Marianne “dearie”. Yep, right out of Andy Griffith!
Over the Astoria Bridge (which is REALLY up there!) and into Oregon, we were starting to look for food. We found it in South Bend. Now, I don’t know who names towns in Oregon, but somebody needs to get them a map and a compass. Bend, OR is WAY off the the east, near the center of Oregon. This was right up at the Washington border. That’s north last time I looked. To further confuse things, we came across a “North Bend, OR” and yep, it’s almost to California!
We did of course find a great place. Probably the best breakfast of the whole trip, and that’s really saying something! Place was called “Chen’s” and is a diner and motel in the area of Seaside, OR. Typical roadside diner, but pancakes that fell over the edge of the dinner plate! Bacon that was smokey and tasty, great stuff!
From there, it was off into the fog. Oregon’s coast line is punctuated by a number of rivers that flow into the Pacific. Where they reach the shore, they of course do so at sea level. In between are mountains, so the coast road is a series of ups and downs that go up into the clouds/fog and then down to the clearer (usually) coast. That’s not to say that it wasn’t overcast! At least it wasn’t rain, but it was pretty chilly. The Blue Meanie of course, loved it. She thought she was in home on the coast of Devon or some such other English resort set aside for those in need of a Fog Tan. I’ll tell ya, those giant Super Oscar Cibie fog lamps earned their keep! We both really hate the fog and twisty roads and fog are no fun at all.
About lunch time, we hit Tillamook, Cheese Central for Oregon. It’s of course home to what is probably the biggest cheese maker on the West Coast, Tillamook Cheese. It’s huge, it’s jammed with people and it’s pretty commercialized. We skipped it for the slightly smaller (but still touristy) Blue Heron French Cheese place. We sampled and settled on a very nice smoked brie that we proceeded to eat much of with some salami for lunch. By the way, if you are a Mac & Cheese fan, this place has what looks like the killer M&C ever made! We just weren’t that hungry. The car got the usual oohs and ahhs and double takes when we told them we were headed BACK to LA. “In THAT?” was the usual incredulous comment, along with expressions of doubt about the TR’s reliability and out sanity.
Just out of town, good ol’ St. You Know Who guided us on another adventure. Did you know that at one time, the US NAvy maintained a series of Airship Bases up and down the coast? Yeah, air ships, as in blimps. Blimps that made the Goodyear one look like a carnival balloon. The idea was to patrol for the invading Japanese fleet. Actually, they were useful in WWII for submarine patrol. Well, just south (real south, not Oregon south) is one of these blimp barns. They are HUGE. You may have seen the one’s at El Toro Marine base. Yeah, THAT big. Emblazoned on the side was “Tillamook Air Museum.” Well, why the heck not! This is what a Road Trip is for, isn’t it?
This place is wonderful! Parked outside is a “Mini-Guppy” transport plane that looks like a pregnant DC7. It’s a big plane. The blimp hanger made it look like a toy! Inside was a collection of war birds from a replica Newport XI from WWI to an F-15 Tomcat. Lots of WWII stuff of course, including the obligatory Mustang and Corsair. In addition, a Japanese “Oscar” (think a bit bigger than a Zero) and a Mig 17! A couple of seaplanes and other oddities round out the collection. Did I mention that many of these FLY! That is to me the coolest part. Just like our Auld Crates that we get out and hit the backroads with, these guys take even a bigger risk and fly the damn things!
Back on the road again, it was back to the now familiar routine of hill climbing/ descending and tiny seaport towns. This dive is indeed a throw back. As you get closer to the California border, the towns get bigger, mostly because the seaports for both the lumber trade and the fishing become more important. Tillamook and the fog had slowed us down (not to mention the ubiquitous slow poke in a Pious, determined to make me save the planet by not allowing me to drive at the TR’s optimum pace) and we pulled into Bandon, OR to our motel, the La Kris Inn, just out of the old seaport town. This was a TINY little room, but very comfortable for the night. Since we haul ALL of our stuff indoors, it was kinda cramped, but hey, the price was reasonable and it was comfy. At the gas station (the TR was running on fumes into town, a small miscalculation by me) we splashed in some gas and asked about a good place to eat. The attendant told us “The Wheelhouse” without any hesitation. She was right. This place has thick clam chowder and nice crispy fish and chips (halibut no less!) at a reasonable price.
The next morning we were of course off early and in about two hours we were looking for food in Brookings. Found it! “Matties Pancake House!” Another stellar breakfast with a whole crowd of locals who all wanted to hear about the car. Good waffles with FRESH Oregon blueberries. UM GOOD! From there it was another stop at the Tress of Mystery and guess what? Marianne found some turquoise! ToM has a typical gift shop with the typical touristy crappola AND, because the family that has owned the Mysterious Forest is part Native American. a very good museum of artifacts from a variety of local and not so local tribes. This alone is worth the stop. Naturally, there are also crafts for sale. Marianne found a pair of earrings that match a neckless that she found on another Road Trip in San Juan Bautisa! Naturally! Oh, and that neat reversable fleece/waterproof jacket I bought on the way up? The pocket had torn. The didn’t have a replacement, but one of the women at the counter, after searching high and low for a new jacket, got out her SEWING KIT and made the repairs herself! Can’t ask for better service than that!
We stopped for lunch in Legget at the Drive Through Tree, and by now, the weather was warming up. FINALLY! I’m telling you, it was actually good to be away from the coast. I was feeling like Von Schlieffen’s northernmost soldier invading Belgium in the Great War. OK, that’s an obscure history reference that most of you will not get. My students will (they’d better!) but you can look it up if you’re so inclined. We did a slow roll through the Avenue of the Giants (in a open car or on a motorcycle or waking or on a bicycle is the ONLY was to really appreciate these monsters) and were all kinds of awed.
By the way, DANGER! ALERT! Write the morons in Sacramento! There is a push to carve through the narrow sections of 101 in what’s called Richardson Grove because the truckers have a hard time of it. Yeah, I get their point, but we CANNOT allow this to happen. This area is too magnificent to ruin. As much as many of us hate to admit it, THIS is why the Sierra Club has a job to do. I’m serious about this. Do Not Let This Happen!
OK, back to your regular program. The Redwood Highway into Willits is one of the truly great drives. At the bottom, in Ukiah, We gassed up and girded our loins for Frisco Rush hour. If you thought the TR was unhappy in Portland, it was furious in Frisco. I’ll tell ya, the 405 in Sepulveda Pass ain’t got nothing on the Bay Area. Tired and hungry, we let the GPS find us a place for dinner. It was in Newark, near Fremont and was OK, but not great enough to recommend or tell you to avoid. As for lodging, the places we found looked either sketchy in and of themselves, or it looked like too much opportunity from the neighborhood. We hit the freeway. Gilroy was only a half hour down the road, it was dark (my biggest regret of the trip was that we had to go through San Jose with our LA KINGS: Stanley Cup Champions flag flying in the dark. Maybe that was a good thing. NoCal fans are not the most tolerant bunch!)
Just off the freeway in Gilroy is the America’s Best Value President’s Inn. OK, it’s harder to say than Motel 6, but was only $60 and had probably the most comfortable bed of the trip. That and FREE do it yourself waffles in the morning. This is a good place to stop!
From there, it was just down the 101, a stop in Santa Maria to see my cousin, Pam (who we hadn’t seen since out wedding! WAY too long!0 and a great lunch at an Irish Pub in Orcutt. Orcutt is a neat little town! Old Timey Western look to it, and the “Piggy Burger” at Rooney’s Irish Pub was terrific! Imagine, a ground PORK and Chorizo patty topped with cheese and BACON! OOOOH BABY!
After that, it was gas up and get home. Thankfully, the Santa Barbara Crawl was minimal, but of course rush hour through Pasadena was it’s usual wonderful self. Then Home at Last! Thank God Almighty, we were Home At Last!
So, let’s sum it up. 2500+ miles in a TR3. It was fun, it beat us up. Frankly, we pushed it too hard. Not so much the car, but us. Four days would have been a much more reasonable pace. The buffeting and the cold do take a toll on you. We slept all day Friday. Would we do it again? Sure. At an easier pace? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Need you ask?