Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats & Florence.
Three Days, 130 Miles of Oregon Coast Fourth of July Shindigs
By Andre’ Hagestedt
(Oregon Coast) – From Newport to Seaside, and over three days, the coast again shows off to the world how much it has to offer: for this holiday and to the general tourist. It’s an exploration of the bars, of the local social scene, of firework displays, and of various other kinds of celebrations. It means massive stuff going boom in the air, exceptional scenery, the coast at its best meteorological behavior, catching sight of a rare natural phenomenon that borders on the paranormal to falling down drunk silliness at coastal bars.
I hit Newport late in the day, just in time to meet up with my friend Robert and his gal pal Debbie (who is a diver at the Undersea Gardens). She regales us with wacky tales of the interesting and funky fish that interact with her as she goes about her daily doings in the deep. Like one giant fish that likes to play with her in a certain way, including putting its mouth around her arm, swallowing it up to the elbow. It’s all done affectionately, of course, but it is mind-bendingly weird and amusing.
It’s Tuesday the third, which means we’re hightailing it for Depoe Bay and its fireworks show. But first, we have to get silly drunk, so we begin the evening at one of my fave haunts on the coast: the Tidepool. People are always friendly and fun there – locals and the tourists.
On the way, just before pulling up to the bar, we witness one hell of a grand sunset. But as if the sunset wasn’t going to settle for being outshone by the subsequent fireworks anywhere in this area, we were also witness to the jaw-dropping, legendary green flash at sunset. That’s right, this nearly paranormal event popped up on the third of July, more than appropriately enough.
As the sun was about to fall below the horizon, with just a couple seconds worth of a sliver of bright orange remaining, some sizable hazy, green blob appears for a little less than a second. Thoroughly amazing.
Rob and Deb were pretty awed. “Wow, that was weird,” Robert said. Debbie just darted me a surprised, gleeful look.
Essentially, this is the result of a series of somewhat rare atmospheric conditions that cut out all the color bands but the green one. That’s the most basic of explanations, and not entirely accurate. It is rare enough that many still don’t believe it exists, including some scientists.
At the bar, another kind of light show begins. We play with goofy lights, illuminating our glasses with them, then running around and telling people “I’m from the future.”
At ten, we hit the hidden cliffs of Depoe Bay – just behind Sunset Ave. This provides a great vantage point from which to view the big stuff going off from Boiler Bay, without all the huge masses.
It’s a short but sweet display, so we look to sweeten it a bit more. Rob’s tradition for the holiday includes 3D glasses, which gives the three of us a wacky, 50’s kind of look. This adds much wildness to the fireworks.
We amused ourselves by looking at traffic on 101 with these glasses as well, where the throngs of headlights all lined up in a massive, slow grind out of town turned into a multitude of trippy twinkling things and starbursts.
We only had to cross the street to get back to the Tidepool, where more silliness with flashlights awaited. It was like our own private rave this night, except fueled by booze.
Unfortunately, the evening nose-dived from there, with intense personal drama playing out on the beaches of Newport and in one of its bars later on. This included the horrific discovery of my ex-girlfriend’s antics with a friend a few months ago, while we were still together, in Newport.
The wrong kind of fireworks, to say the least.
The next day – the 4th - was difficult to shake that bad mood, but a long drive from Newport to the Nehalem Bay area helped a bit. It was sunny and glorious, with fairly clear skies creating some wondrous scenery along the way.
Lincoln City’s seas were calm and clear.
Just south of Pacific City, the high viewpoints showed off a deep blue ocean that looked so inviting you felt tempted to get down there and drink it. Tierra Del Mar, just north of Pacific City, was bustling with people and their vehicles on this beach where driving is allowed.
Tillamook was strangely rather empty, considering everybody and their dog were on the coast on this day. The bay was also at a dead calm. Garibaldi had a lot of activity at the hotels, with loads of people checking in.
Rockaway was packed with cars and pedestrians, with a ton of vehicles lining the roads in anticipation of their sizable display.
My first stop was the Nehalem Bay Winery, which was just winding down from its hot dog and hamburger feed for the Fourth of July. This annual shindig means free food and frivolity after Manzanita’s kooky, public participation parade.
For dinner, I settle down to an exquisite spaghetti and meatballs at Terra Cotta Café in Manzanita – my new addiction as of late. This stunning creation has layer upon layer of interesting taste, and not your normal, run-of-the-mill pasta. Owner Harvey tells me there’s a variety of herbs and spices in there, along with ground Italian sausage and some pepper flakes, which give it that extra tingle.
I snag a flourless chocolate cake for dessert, and mix every mouthful with an Oregon pinot – Airlie to be exact. Now, this is heaven.
In this weather, you’ll want to take advantage of their outdoor seating.
After dark, it’s time to head to Seaside, where one of the biggest displays I’ve ever seen takes place. It’s actually hard to impress me with fireworks, but these had me slackjawed. Not to mention, there are thousands – perhaps 30,000 people that are visible – lined up along the promenade, in the streets and on the beach, to watch the wowing show.
Perhaps more than a couple hundred people out of the thousands on the beach were firing off their missiles into the air, in one amazing and glorious – albeit illegal – show. Seaside storefronts were thick with posters declaring how fireworks from Washington wouldn’t be allowed, how authorities would quickly nab anyone shooting off anything on the beach, and how firepits wouldn’t were verboten.
The beach was nothing but firepits, fireworks and the naughty stuff from Washington.
Even approaching the prom, the air was so thick with smoke from all of it that it was difficult to breath – especially with my tendency towards asthma. Still, it was awe-inspiring, and the show put on by the hundreds of civilians was almost as good as the real thing.
Then the real thing started. Seaside’s fireworks are done to music, blasted from an enormous pair of stacks probably stolen from some AC/DC show somewhere. There’s an interesting light show flittering various reds around the area where the mortars get set off, announcing the beginning of the big stuff.
About 20 minutes into the craziness, some gargantuan finale hits the skies and explodes all over. It’s insane. It’s so big my wide angle doesn’t catch it all. Then, after a pause, the show continues! It’s as if they realized, “Oops, we’ve got a bunch more left. Let’s shoot this off until it runs out.” The show went on for another 20 minutes, I would guess. Truly impressive.
Then came the mad dash to get out. It’s unpleasant to say the least to deal with a chunk of 30,000 people trying to head to their cars. The traffic jam was horrendous, and went on for at least an hour and a half, as most of that crowd made their way north or south on Highway 101, with most probably heading back to Portland for the following work day.
I waited the traffic jam out in a bar, then zipped down to Manzanita (some 25 miles) to immerse myself in the wacky electronica activities at the Watering Hole. There, DJ Ali Cat was spinning the tunes. Actually, she’s the very lovely bartender Allie, moonlighting as a DJ, from her night gig as a bartender – if that bit of odd irony makes any sense.
A small crowd from Portland dances the night away. The Watering Hole has become quite the progressive little nugget on the coast. They are something to watch closely. A few days later, Portland electronica wonder Dahlia played there, with rousing, exceptional results. But I’m jumping ahead in time.
The Watering Hole is bringing a new and extremely welcome, urban sophistication to coastal nightlife that is unprecedented, but long overdue.
It’s now the fifth of July, and another glorious, cloudless day on Oregon’s north coast. Cannon Beach, Manzanita and Seaside are still somewhat insane with the leftovers of those who didn’t have to work that day, enjoying the extremely warm waters and sometimes slightly brutal sun. After all, it’s in the 90’s in Portland.
After a breakfast of deli items from the little grocery in Manzanita, I spend the remainder of the day aimlessly ambling about the beaches of the north coast. I ogle that odd basalt column that juts upward from out of the ocean, barely visible from the highway, just north of Manzanita. The waters just to the north of that, by Short Sand Beach, look so warm and delicious I again think they look drinkable. Arch Cape and those beaches just south of Cannon Beach glitter brightly in the sun.
It’s all entrancing.
This is home to me, and I never tire of it. Some
people look to the coast to renew and refresh their spirit. But living
in this area, even only half the week – well, let’s just say
it’s what I live for. I don’t need the big firework displays
to be wowed. They simply add a new, although temporary dimension.
More pictures from the Fourth of July
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