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Lincoln City's Whistling Winds - Wacky Oregon Coast History of a Quaint Motel

Published 12/03/2019 at 5:35 AM PDT
By Andre' Hagestedt

Lincoln City's Whistling Winds - Wacky Oregon Coast History Meets Kooky Travelogue

(Lincoln City, Oregon) - On this particular February, the Oregon coast lives up to its rather odd reputation of being – paradoxically - unseasonably warm. For brief periods dotted throughout most Februarys, it does that: it feels like spring and not like winter. I’m in Lincoln City to do a talk on coastal history, and the sun and surf are mind-bendingly cajoling for two of the three days I’m cavorting around here.

However, I first arrive at night, checking into one of my fave haunts, Whistling Winds Motel, up at the north end. Somehow, I seem to have a fan base, and three of my pals drift into town to watch me: Becky, her husband Abe and Keely. They too are staying at the Whistling Winds, grabbing a large room at the far end that interestingly enough used to be a coffee shop at one point long ago. But then the adorable WW is full of kooky little tidbits like that, along with its own high bar of lovely aspects and amenities.

So begins a weekend that’s a blast, augmented by this fun and funky lil’ motel that's awash in surprises.

Because of a massive traffic jam along the way from Portland, I get into Lincoln City – or L City as I like to call it – rather late, past 8 p.m. Still, the four of us have a few good chuckles before they have to call it a night.

Like all of Whistling Winds, my room is a gloriously all Earth tones, covered in that fine polished wood that makes it feel like a fancy hotel. The place has a reputation for sublime cleanliness, and online reviews constantly tout that and the fact it feels rather upscale in spite of its insanely low prices and rather humble, down-homey vibe. It’s simple but extremely pleasing.

The inn was actually a set of cottages for many decades, starting out in the 1920s. Before that, there was a lake here, and the motel’s history gets a bit wacky. For a time, there was a boat rental in the lake and a dairy farm next to it. At one point, the two owners of each biz got in a heated dispute and the farmer drained the lake on the boat rental guy. Fun times right off the bat.

It turns out the name comes from the small tower-like structure at its top, which was once not covered up as it is now. Wind used to create a massive whistling noise up there, and when current owners Gene and Karen Scrutton took over almost 20 years ago it already had that name.

Interestingly enough, I stayed here almost 30 years ago and it was quaint but tattered, verging on the fleabag. Little did I know. Gene told me the motel became a haven for criminals, junkies and even pedophiles around that time. The owner back then was a cantankerous old lady from whom he bought the place, well known for things like sitting on the porch scowling at people. But then she was forced to raise seven kids on her own while running the motel.

She’d also become bitter about trying to sell the place, which went on for years. She did unload it once but had to take it back from the new owners after they screwed things up. In the late ‘90s, Gene approached her with buying the motel and she mocked him for quite awhile in her characteristically nasty way. Finally, in the early 2000s, after 9/11 punched a hole in tourism, she agreed to sell. Gene said she actually jumped and clicked her heels in joy over the sale.

Gene is a master at all sorts of construction and design stuff, and his refurbishing job on the place is simply stellar. Now, it truly does give a sense of old Oregon coast time-traveling, along with the presence of wi-fi and sleek interiors. A highlight is the river rock fireplaces that he specializes in, which appear in various larger rooms – eye-popping additions that help give Whistling Winds that layer of the upscale. It’s also rarely seen in other Oregon coast hotels. However, the Scruttons also own A1 Beach Rentals in town, and numerous homes feature these fireplaces as well.

Back to this February weekend: it’s Saturday morning and the outside world looks like this. Before my talking gig, I head out to the Grace Hammond access just a block or two down the street to document things. It’s unbelievably beautiful.

After my talk – which went well, except for a couple of older dudes I noticed had fallen asleep – my trio of friends have to jet back to Portland. Later that night, I gobble down exceptional German food at Autobahn 101 in Lincoln City, an interesting place that’s part pub but all family-friendly.

A bit after that, I wind up at the casino and surprise an old, old pal of mine: chanteuse Beth Willis. I hadn’t seen her in about ten years and she did quite the doubletake on stage. Nothing like messing with performers during their act, right? In the wee hours of the night, she and I and her bandmate Todd Chatalas head out to the beach and take some surreal nighttime shots.

The following day gets rather crummy, but filming video at Depoe Bay provides some fascinating moments of coastal exploration.

All the while, I’m using my stylish little room as home base back at Whistling Winds. It’s always amusing how I find ways to alter the layout of a room while on the road to turn it into a home office. It was actually rather hard to leave and head back to Ptown – the place and the beach are that good. But duty calls. 866-384-9346 3264 NW Jetty Ave, Lincoln City, Oregon.

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