Insane Lessons the Oregon Coast Teaches You
By Andre Hagestedt
(Oregon Coast) - Sometimes, exploring the beach is a little more adventure than you bargain for. I've learned much from my years of bouncing around the beach, often the hard way. Apparently, I'm still learning.
In the old days, in the 90’s and 80’s, the Oregon coast seemed a totally wild and untamed place. In retrospect, it certainly seems much more so now. It was a bit like the wild, wild west, in some sort of coastal way, where not all the rules of civilization yet applied – at least not all the time. Some of the big landmarks we now gauge our travels by didn’t exist. Mullets and missing teeth were de rigueur among many of the locals. And it was raw and vibrant in a way that can’t be described now.
It was a place of learning too. You screwed up, dumped yourself in a stream or big ocean wave, without a change of clothes: you were doomed to freeze for a while, or sit in the car on the return ride to the valley in some sort of shameful state. You said the wrong thing at a bar, you were in trouble. You went to the wrong beach at the wrong time, and you got washed away by a wave or slipped on something green and gooey on the rocks and disappeared from the world. You swam out to save your friends from the undertow: you disappeared as well.
This was a raw and rugged time, before the political correctness of tsunami warning signs and plentiful eyes of the authorties on the beaches. You were on your own, kiddo.
The following are the lessons I learned about the Oregon coast – the hard way, and the thoroughly amusing way.
Lesson Number One: Don't leave your keys on the beach. One autumn day, in 1993 at Cape Kiwanda State Park, I should have been a little more on the obsessive-compulsive side than I usually am about checking for my keys. Somewhere along this sunset walk, my rather old, torn shorts let my keys loose.
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 75 bucks.
I distinctly remember driving down the road, to a weird little two-story roadhouse café where the Pelican Pub now stands, and so grateful to grab a crummy sandwich at 11:30 p.m. It was some dark, dank little hole-in-the-wall, where some tired out piano player tinkled away in the upstairs lounge.
This was Pacific City before it got noticed. I don’t think even the Inn at Cape Kiwanda was built then. You could tell, however, something was brewing in this town. It was ready to bust out and become part of the upper echelon of tourism hotspots.
Lesson Number Two: Buy enough gas to head out to the coast. One night in November 1994, my friend Ruth and I abruptly decided we should drive from our hometown of Salem to Lincoln City. It was 1 a.m., and about halfway there I noticed we were low on gas. I assured her there was an all-night gas station there. After all, I'd agreed to drive back, so she could sleep, because she had college classes in the morning.
When we got there, 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 - although they are now. We were a bit panicked, but luckily I remembered a little secret about some businesses that may have gas stored for such a situation. Whew.
I won’t give away our savior for the evening, but suffice it to say it took a pretty penny to solve our gas problem. But it was solved – in a ten-gallon can.
However, like a total ass, I wind up passing out in the passenger seat, forcing Ruth to drive back home anyway. She did forgive me after a while.
Lesson Number Three: Watch out for karma. About 1997, my girlfriend at the time and I went out on one of those Discovery whale watch tours 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.
Kathy and I snickered about this a bit, and relished in the fact we felt fine. I even stood at the front of the ship and made goofy impressions of that scene in "Titanic" with my arms outstretched.
By the last half hour of the trip, Kathy and I felt increasingly queasy and awful. It felt like punishment for making fun of the sick journalist.
Sure enough, I get totally stuck. If it weren’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 that my job was editor of this publication.
Other times, I'm just a plain maniac, and I’ve brought my own disasters on myself in interesting ways. Like the times I hung out on the coast in the mid-90's with the young nutcases in a band called The Stanleys. They would play gigs at an all-ages club in Newport, then we'd all hit the bars later and get ripped. The next day, hangovers be damned, we'd go bonkers on the beaches. There was one game in particular, on the rocky slabs next to the Devil's Churn near Yachats, where we'd take turns tossing large rocks into pools of water near another, trying to drench each other.
Another time, we were starting to run amok on the beaches of Driftwood State Park, just south of Waldport. One of The Stanleys fell into the creek and got himself completely soaked. He had no change of pants, so I distinctly remember thinking how miserable he must’ve been sitting in soaking wet clothing the entire drive back home to Salem. Ever since then, I’ve taken at least two pairs of beach pants on any trip to the coast, even day trips.
One unforgettably kooky, surreal incident happened in Seaside in the summer of '99, where the girl I was dating and I were wandering the beaches after the bars had closed. We noticed this goofy trio of guys at a nearby bonfire, taking turns smacking their heads into wooden boards, trying to break them. They ran into them like rams trying to test their adulthood on inanimate objects, rather than other members of their own species. It was fascinating to watch, in this Jerry Springer-kind-of-way.
Out of curiosity, we joined them. We discovered one was a transient, another was a teen from Montana and the other a local - all of them drunk. Like a scene from a David Lynch flick, the transient kept accidentally setting his foot on fire by lying down and putting his feet to close to the flames. It was hilarious and puzzling altogether, to say the least.
The evening ended rather badly, with me getting the cops sniffing around them, after I shot off a series of Washington-based fireworks. That got them out to our area of the beach, and brought them to the oddball trio.
The two minors were cited for possession. The girl and I happily strolled along the shore with our bottle of wine.
I still feel rather bad about getting them busted, to this day.
Then there are those crazed moments at local bars - oh, but those are another set of stories. Suffice it to say the adventures and lessons continue.