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Stop Two, Oregon Beach at Florence

August 23-26, 2015
Written August 24+

Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

d150823_02_path.jpgWe left our Ashland cottage early and headed north for breakfast in Jacksonville, a Rogue River Valley wine town as cute as any California wine town, just smaller.  This valley is home to the Harry and David gourmet fruit operation.  Harry and David Rosenberg started growing and shipping pears in 1934, expanding to the up-scale market after WWII.  The company is still at it.
Our drive has been shaded by fire smoke since we hit Northern California and this Sunday was as bad as any other day. We definitely were looking forward to the coastal air, where haze is simply fog and low clouds.

Our first coastal stop was at the Coos Bay Historical Museum.  Over the years, we have been to hundreds of small, local museums, and some are better than others.  Coos Bay's was in the upper tier, small enough to be manageable, and organized and clear enough to add a bit to our understanding of the locale.  In this case, we learned about the difficulty of life around the Coos County settlements, whether it was logging, farming, or simply creating roads and infrastructure linking them to the rest of America.  Nothing was easier.

Particularly unsettling were a simple baseball bat and ball, reported as flotsam arriving from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.  Throughout Coos Bay and, later, Florence we saw signs showing tsunami evacuation routes.  It was easy to imagine floods coming into these Oregon villages just as they did in Japan.
Old Dock outside the museum.  Sign of more prosperous times.
d150823_22_lunch.jpgDriving back into downtown Coos Bay, we ran across the Blue Heron restaurant proclaiming "German Food".  We had to test the authenticity.  The menu offerings were authentic, schnitzel, tafelspitz, kassler, and bratwrust and our two selections were almost like our old country meals.  Almost, but not so special.  Next coastal stop we will stick with fish.

d150823_24_fair.jpgWe walked off our meal with some kiosks shopping in the annual Coos Bay Blackberry festival.  The food and crafts offered seemed quite local and of good quality.  And the atmosphere was small-town fun and excitement.  Nicely done.

d150823_26_hotel.jpgAn hour north, we reached our goal:  Florence and The Landmark Inn.  We were pleasantly surprised with our full-kitchen suite.  We were also happy that the Inn sits on top of the highest hill around -- safe from tsunamis!

For the rest of the afternoon and evening, we wandered around Old Town, until the sun went down and that reminded us we were tired.  Bed time.

I Started Monday morning with an early walk through town, hoping for a nice sunrise, but settling for scenes of a still-sleeping community.  Good exercise in any event.
Sleeping Town
Sleeping Harbor
Waking fishermen

Later?  Who knew?  Marianne was reading the local tourist magazine and ran across an add from Sandland Tours, offering rides over the Oregon Sand Dunes.  Looked fun.  The company had an opening in 30 minutes, so we grabbed the camera and headed out, without enough time to think about what we were doing.  Here's the illustrated story:
Two vehicle types are available: a bus-like "buggy" (wimps) and smaller, faster, "rails" (us, of course.)
The warning sign in the rail station and the complexity of the seat harness were intimidating enough.
We headed out a sand trail, with more warning signs, up to small hills and more trails.
Pictures actually showing the ride were almost impossible.  Just imagine  a Mad Mouse roller coaster, without tracks ahead to warn of upcoming turns.
The scenery was interesting too, but we seldom stopped long enough to see much.
Our driver Kyle took our pictures, and then it was over.
Where we went.  (The zigs and zags were recorded every 15 seconds -- not very frequently considering our real route!)
A great adventure and something we will definitely remember.

After we got back to the hotel, we decided to try out the local gym for our now-regular workouts.  This is our first on-the-road workout, and we were encouraged that we could manage, even in a strange facility.  Now (Tuesday morning) we are both a bit sore, but we feel self-righteous.  From the gym, it was back to the hotel for showers and washing all the sand from our hair (more of a problem for M than for me - more hair!), nose, ears, etc.

For late-lunch/early-dinner we went to The Bridgewater Fish House, a Florence landmark apparently.  My scallops were wonderful, as good as I have ever had.  Marianne's tuna was less remarkable, but still a decent start for our search for great Northwest fish. 

On Tuesday morning we headed to the Sea Lion Caves, an almost-mandatory, privately-run tourist stop, just north of Florence.  I remember going there as a teenager and liking it even then.  This time, however, Steller sea lions were mostly on vacation up in Alaska.  A few California seals were hanging on the rocks (hoping for surf?), but the sea lions apparently take up residence only in the fall, winter, and early spring.  Nonetheless, it was a fun stop, and we earned a "rain check" for when the sea lions come back later this year.  Not something we are likely to use.
The cave itself is the second-largest sea cave in the world, 12-stories high.  For sea lions, we were at least shown a short film.
Outside, there were a few California seals on the rocks and plenty of cormorants and sea gulls soaring on the cliff-front winds.
Just north of the Sea Lion Caves is the Heceta Head lighthouse, picture-perfect. (Reported to be the most photographed lighthouse in America.)
On the way back to Florence, we stopped at Heceta Beach, a long and wide expanse that, to me, is typical of Oregon beaches.


The rest of the day included another session at the gym, a pizza lunch/dinner, and an attempt at sunset pictures.  The color in the first day's sunset was better, but it's all practice.
Dunes, right next to central Florence
I used the bridge as a platform and a subject.
No red in the sunset, but nice light for an evening walk.
All of Old Town in a single, long, panorama

Tomorrow, we head to Cannon Beach, a three-hours and forty-five minutes drive, at least according to Mr. Google.   Unless we stop along the way.  Which we will.

Overall impression of Florence:  Dune ride was highlight, but the rest of the stay ranks pretty good too.  No complaints.

Stay tuned.

John and Marianne


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