More Bizarre Oregon Coast Adventures
By Andre' Hagestedt
(Cannon Beach, Oregon) - It's the kind of expedition to the Oregon coast that's like a wild spy novel: filled with so many twists and turns in the plot, and so many exotic locales and situations, it leaves your mind reeling by the end. Like the coastline itself – where the landscape can change abruptly from hour to hour - it’s four days of nothing you’d expect from minute to minute. Bizarre weather, frightening storms, bad and excellent food, scary road conditions, clam digging, a mind-bending discussion of cutting edge physics and some crazed, drunken locals all typified this particular sojourn to the north part of Oregon’s coast.
It's late November, a few weeks before the abominable snow monster attacked the Portland area and trapped me in my neighborhood on the border of Beaverton and Portland, cutting me off from the coast as well. But that’s a different story.
At this point in time, some floodwaters are hitting the north coast, and there were erroneous reports running rampant on the radio that the north coast was cut off from traffic coming from Highway 26. Naughty media folk: yes, Seaside was cut off for a bit, but not the entire north coast.
However, zipping over late at night to the beaches proved bizarre. An unexpected snow flurry in the coast range summits elongated my journey with blizzard-like conditions at times, and then a bundle of flood waters were haunting the end of Highway 26, just before the 101 junction. You could get through, but my poor little Toyota Camry objected strenuously. The waves my car created reached up to my window. Yikes.
Later this evening, I had an unbelievably bad dinner at a north coast restaurant. It’s one of those fancy ones with an outstanding reputation, but apparently living on desperate fumes of a word of mouth that could by no means exist any longer. My dining pal actually got sick on his meal, and I can’t say I blame him. The meal was so atrocious I can’t even bring myself to write the eatery’s name here, out of a sense of feeling so badly for them. I couldn’t dash someone’s business so publicly.
Over the next few days, the weather pitched and yawed in freaky ways. The next day was exceptionally sunny, even warm. I followed Seaside Aquarium manager Keith Chandler down to the ocean in a huff, as he rushed to grab some clams from the sand in the last remaining rays of sunlight.
Apparently, these were at an extraordinary high, I was to later find out. The ODFW estimated some nine million clams were lying just below the sand and just this side of the surfline, enabling folks on the north Oregon coast to simply go nuts for the year. They are only sitting from Seaside up to Warrenton, however.
That night I chowed down to heavenly grub at Pizza Garden in Nehalem: my distinct favorite of a pizza made with meatballs (they make their own – watch out), artichoke hearts and several other toppings I always forget unless I have the menu in front of me. The artichokes add an interesting bite to this otherwise silky blend of meats, veggies and cheeses.
This night ended with a tour of north coast bars, from Seaside down to Cannon Beach, and encountering all sorts of boozed up madness. Especially in Cannon Beach, where one particularly crusty, surly local has it in for me, and hurls insults left and right at me when he’s all liquored up. Eventually, he apologizes, but in the same breath inevitably slams me again in some surreal manner.
It’s actually quite amusing to watch. My friends have followed me to this bar in hopes of catching him in action, and I frankly get quite a kick at the nasty side of this poor, mean little man. It’s so hilarious he’s become a bit of a twisted attraction himself.
The night also ended with a long battle against alien forces on whatever video game obsessed me this night, keeping me up until the wee hours of the morning.
I awoke in my Manzanita pad to gray skies looming and a growing wind. The weather folk were predicting a storm. The sea looked quite churned up at times, which I immersed myself in by having breakfast in my car, overlooking the beach. Manzanita’s Bread and Ocean provided the grub for this feast for the tongue and the eye. I can’t rave about their antipasti sandwich enough, which is like a small avalanche of Italian taste layers in your mouth.
The day is spent on a mix of business and beachy laziness, trying to see if any ghost forests or other unusual structures have poked their heads out of the sand. Nothing. But the sea is captivating. You can tell a storm is coming in.
Dinner is found at the Riverside Barbecue in Seaside – a place which still kicks the ass of any barbecue spot I’ve found in Portland.
By nightfall, the winds have kicked in and they are howling. It’s captivating beyond belief, especially as I type away on my laptop while torrents of rain slam against the window and you can hear things getting knocked around by the wind.
Later on this Friday night, at Warren House Pub in Cannon Beach, it’s but anything you’d expect for a weekend night: dead and bereft of all but a few souls drinking and playing pool. But it’s here where the greatest surprise of the entire trip lays.
After discussing the crazed meanderings and ravings of some of the kookier locals with bartender Kyle (sort of a Dr. Phil-like encapsulation of local gossip), I bump into a young gentleman named Mitch, an OSU student around 21 years old. For some reason, and I haven’t the foggiest notion how, the conversation turned to physics and string theory, and the resultant discussion from here turned into one of the more memorable conversations I think I’ve ever had.
Mitch bitched aplenty about the grading curves in some of his classes, quoting math equations and stuff my enumerate brain could not really grasp. But most of this discourse revolved around his ideas about putting down real numbers and calculations for the sliding of tectonic plates, essentially his theories about being able to predict some of this action.
Strangely, even though I was getting increasingly drunk on whiskey, I understood much of what he was saying. Although I did not retain much of it. But essentially Mitch said you could put these predictions of geologic events into terms of equations in the physics world. He had some elaborate formula that included time, maximum pressure, incremental increases of pressure and other elements, all of which should eventually lead one to be able to predict major seismic events – but only if you studied small chunks of land along a fault line and pumped the date from these areas into the equation.
Then, he gleefully understood what I was talking about when it came to my vague and inexact understanding of string theory: the massive theory that quite possibly unites the squirrelly world of quantum physics with the grand scheme of the astrophysical world. Heretofore, the two have been quite incompatible when it comes to physics. On the quantum level, things are strange, fuzzy, and elements seem to occupy the same space at the same time or seem to be at different places at the same time. Meanwhile, the laws of anything larger than an atom dictate that these things behave quite differently, like gravity, planets or galaxies. It’s been this frustrating paradox since around the time of Einstein, and it was his life’s work after his famed theory of relativity.
In order to unite the laws of physics between the extreme micro and the macro in the universe, there needs to be a whole bunch of different dimensions, interacting with each other in some cosmic way, and everything below the atomic level is comprised of vibrating strings of energy.
Mitch understood what I was talking about: so far, almost no one I’ve ever met has even heard of string theory. He (sort of) helped clarify a few things for me about the theory, like the whole idea of “membranes,” to which these energy strings are supposedly attached. I stress the word “helped,” because I’m still not there.
A delightful surprise if there ever was one: someone not only knew what the hell I was talking about but could help me understand it all a bit more. That doesn’t happen every day.
What does this long, self-indulgent discourse on physics have to do with the coast? Quite simply, this is the kind of delightful surprises the Oregon coast throws at you. It’s again proof this region can somehow just drop something you’ve craved or even needed in your lap in some sort of strange, serendipitous way.
All the while, the storm is raging outside, and my way home to Manzanita is met with flying branches and my car getting tossed around a bit on the higher portions of the highway.
The next day, a Saturday, things are quite calm again. Yet the sea is still frothing and tossing around, creating this wonderfully dichotomous atmosphere of wild yet serene.
It’s time to head to my Portland office and get back to work again. Frankly, I don’t get much done when I’m out here. Ironically, the very thing I cover as a writer/editor – the Oregon coast – is such a distraction I have to ration my time here.
But who can blame me? Thank God I’m self-employed,
or I’d have been fired long ago.
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