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Be a Ditz and Oregon's Coast Will Smack You: the Lessons Are Funny But Also Glimpses of History

Published 06/11/23 at 5:41 p.m.
y Andre' GW Hagestedt

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(Oregon Coast) – I can't stop bragging about it: I get paid to go to the Oregon coast. Life's a beach, right?

Sometimes, however, nature teaches you lessons out here. If you're lucky, like me, they're not deadly. They can sting, however. For me, this has created some idiot travel stories. Like, daaaamn I can be stupid at times. But this can be actually quite funny – especially when some unexpected circumstances pop up to drive home the point.

Even so, with all the humorous adventures involved here, these are some interesting glimpses into how the coast was a couple, three decades ago. Not only are the lesson tales amusing, they present some history for the area that will surprise some.

Lesson One: Don't Drop Your Keys on the Beach. Ever. This may sound obvious, because it is. So just doublecheck your pockets have no holes or anything unexpected like that. Or at least carry a backup pair of keys.

McPhillips Beach years later. Losing your keys in conditions like this? Yes, that was super fun
McPhillips Beach years later. Losing your keys in conditions like this? Yes, that was super fun. Argh

One beautiful autumn day on the north Oregon coast, I had just parked my car on the beach at McPhillips Beach at Cape Kiwanda, in what would've been my first time reaching the tip of the cape. This was the '90s, however, so it wasn't quite as dramatic as it is now. Wandering this beach, I should have been a little more on the obsessive-compulsive side like I usually am about checking for my keys. For some reason, I felt abnormally chill about stuff. Somewhere along this sunset walk, my rather old, torn shorts let my keys loose into the surf of the Oregon coast.

And the sun was going down fast.

An hour after calling a locksmith, he arrived, and it turned out he had vision problems and couldn't create a replacement key. After two hours of shivering in the cold, aching from hunger and too much coffee earlier, I was left with a steering column that was ripped open so I could at least start the car. This cost me what's probably a couple hundred bucks now.

Interesting historical sidenote: this was before the big boom of Pacific City, and where the brewpub is now was this lone, two-story house-like structure that was essentially a dive bar up top. With that the only place open at 11 p.m., I grabbed a cold sandwich there and took in a rather surreal, coastie bar atmosphere. Looking back, however, that part was pretty cool. It was essentially a grimy little roadhouse with goofy cover band live music. And talk about low tech. The place had barely made it into the '80s in that sense.

Back then, Pacific City was still a tourism backwater along the Oregon coast, a kooky little secret, really. That whole stretch of road was nothing but ocean view. No major mass of homes like now. Besides the wacky, comical mistake I made here – this now stands out in my mind.

Lesson Two: Buy Enough Gas to Head Out to the Coast. Again in the '90s, way back before Lincoln City had an all-night anything, my friend Ruth and I had closed out the bars in Salem and decided, hell, let's go to the beach in the middle of the night. About halfway there I noticed we were low on gas. I assured her there was an all-night gas station there (well, I had some reason to believe that). After all, I'd agreed to drive back, so she could sleep, because she had college classes in the morning.

It turned out, no, there was no gas to be had. At this time, stations in Lincoln City weren't open all night during the dead season (of course now there is no dead season). We were a bit panicked, but luckily I remembered a little secret from some coastie friends: call a cab and they would haul a giant can of gas to you.

Now, legally they weren't supposed to do that back then. But they did. Of course, this was long before cellphones, so we called from a payphone. No biggie. The dispatcher at the other end was a bit suspicious about my call. I think he wanted to make sure I was for real and not some authority wanting to bust them for secretly lugging gas. Even when the cabbie showed up, I remember a little tenseness about that.

Keep in mind, gas was soooo much cheaper then. Unfathomably so: like about a dollar per gallon or such. So when the dude on the phone said it was going to be $30 – I was kind'a floored. It was like five or ten gallons or something, and they were gouging for emergencies. F*** yeah, I would pay this, however.


However, like a total ass, I wind up passing out in the passenger seat, forcing Ruth to drive back.

Lesson Three: Watch out for Karma. About 1997, my girlfriend at the time and I went out on a Discovery whale watch tour in Newport. We overheard one lady tell the crew she was a journalist doing a story on the tour. Within 15 minutes, she, of all the 20 people onboard, was the only one to get really seasick.

I was also a journalist by this time, so I should've been a bit more sympathetic. Instead, Kathy and I snickered about this, and relished in the fact we felt fine, practically boasting to ourselves. I even stood at the front of the ship and made derpy impressions of that scene in "Titanic" with my arms outstretched. (Hey, it was 1997 and that gag wasn't overdone as yet).

Somewhere in the last hour of the trip, Kathy and I felt increasingly queasy and awful. It felt like punishment for making fun of the sick journalist.

Lesson Four: Follow Your Bad Vibes Intuition. Some ten years after the steering wheel incident, I decide to take my little rig onto that same beach at Cape Kiwanda where I lost my keys years earlier. Yet something nagged me inside about this being a bad idea, partially because I nearly got stuck in the sand last time, a few months before this. Sure enough, I get totally stuck. If it wasn't for a family from Coos Bay who were used to pulling others out of the sand at home, I would've spent the night on this beach. How dopey I felt admitting to them my job was editor of this publication.

For a time, I did learn my lesson about the keys. I usually carried a spare in some way. However, I apparently stopped for awhile. Around 2010, when I resided part time on the north Oregon coast, in Manzanita, I locked my keys in my car after grabbing coffee. Luckily, the local auto shop nearby dealt with this and got me out of this jam.

Yes, I could'a smacked myself in the head. But I had to wait for about a half hour with some tasty iced brew from Manzanita News & Espresso in my hand, hanging out in the north coast sunshine on a summer day. Tough life. (Yes, I took a pic of their iced coffee once - above)

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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Keywords: #OregonCoast, #OregonHistory, #OregonCoastHistory, #OregonCoastBeachConnection, Old Pacific City, history of Lincoln City