A week ago, we hiked on Mt. St. Helens in Washington. Today, we are seeing the sights of Newport, Oregon, along the coast, halfway between the northern and southern borders of the state. We’ve made two intermediate stops, yet it feels to me as though we are moving in slow motion – perhaps because we’ve had so few commitments.
From Mt. St. Helens, we traveled south to visit our friends Marlene and Richard, staying on their beautiful property on an airstrip in the agricultural lands south of the Portland metro area. We first met Marlene and Richard when we responded to their internet posting for garden sitters to water and harvest their big organic garden while they took an extended trip; it was the beginning of a rewarding friendship.
Marlene and Richard are full of curiosity about the world, and always busy with projects. The day we arrived, Richard had their big clay oven stoked so Marlene could bake seeded pita bread to enter in the county fair this week, followed by two round loaves of the same dough – which we enjoyed that night at dinner.
Marlene was busy working on the curriculum for the classes she teaches at the nearby community garden (which she was instrumental in starting). Their son, Steve, his wife Diana, and their three entertaining boys were house sitting just down the street, so we were able to visit with them, too. I finally got to see Richard’s frugally crafted coffee roaster – made from a bread machine bought for $1 a garage sale, a heat gun supported by an old desk lamp, and a vacuum hose. I forgot to get a photo, but you can read about (and see) it here on his blog.
Odel and Richard managed a game of golf; Marlene and I visited Penzey’s Spices (yes, an entire store that sells NOTHING but herbs and spices!) so I could replenish my spice rack, and the farmer’s market in Oregon City. Richard, Marlene, and I hit a nearby estate sale. Besides two delicious meals at home, we had a fantastic Thai dinner at the Jade Teahouse in Portland, followed by a driving tour of some of Portland’s appealing neighborhoods. Gosh, now that I write this all down, it seems as though we were incredibly busy, but it felt like three relaxing days.
When we left on Sunday, our kitchen was bulging with freshly picked produce from Marlene’s garden - blueberries, green beans, cucumbers, mustard greens, green onions, and vine ripened tomatoes - and my Kindle was fat with books recommended by Richard during philosophical conversations over the dinner table (we eat and drink WELL when we visit there). It was a great stay, simultaneously relaxing and stimulating. Thanks!
Next stop: 25 miles south to Silverton, Oregon. I’ve been curious for a few years about the Oregon Garden, an 80 acre botanical garden in Silverton (Richard and Marlene had their fingers in this pie for awhile, too). We were close by, we weren’t in a hurry, and there was a well-reviewed, nearby RV park that participates in Passport America, charging a very reasonable fee to PA members. On Sunday, we meandered south on winding, two lane roads to Silver Spur RV Park (click here to read our review and see photos) in Silverton.
Before we arrived at Oregon Garden, I knew very little about it – like who funded it and why it was created. Now, after our visit, I don’t know much more! We learned that it was created to showcase plants, flowers and trees that grow in Oregon, and I believe the initial funding came from Oregon nurseries and other donors from the horticulture field. The day we attended, though, I was shocked by how few visitors we saw!
The gardens are beautifully designed; it was a pleasure to stroll along paths lined with perfectly maintained flora and enjoy the bright vistas. A tram winds through the acreage – you can climb on and off at six locations along the way. We enjoyed our explorations, ate a mediocre lunch at the restaurant in the adjacent hotel, and went on our way, wondering how the venture is supported if the low attendance we saw was typical during the height of the summer season.
The small town of Silverton was very quiet when we walked the downtown area on Sunday, and looked as though the current economy is a challenge for the small shops and restaurants we passed. On the other hand, the park was bustling with picnicking families and kids enjoying a well-designed swimming hole on Silver Creek.
After two low-key days in Silverton, we were ready for a change of climate – so off to the coast! Though we have traveled the Oregon coastline several times and visited many of the communities along the way, we’ve never stayed in Newport, home to the iconic Yaquina Bay Bridge (top photo). We usually stay at either the Elks campground in Florence (to the south) or the Elks campground in Lincoln City (to the north). Since I learned that the Newport Elks Lodge offers 8 RV parking sites with water and electric hookups (click here to read our review and see photos), I’d been agitating to make Newport our first stop when we hit Hwy 101.
We backed into our site at the lodge yesterday afternoon, then took a stroll down the hill (actually almost a ROLL down the hill – very steep!) to the marina and “historic Old Bayfront District” beyond. The marina at Newport is very active, filled with working fishing vessels coming and going. A wonderful, wide, wooden boardwalk lined with benches is the perfect spot for boat- and people-watching.
Where the boardwalk ends, the historic bayfront district begins. On the water side of the busy two lane street, seafood processing plants are packed in next to fishing charter companies, fresh seafood counters, tour boats offices, and whale watching tours. Heavy trucks, including semi’s, back from the street down narrow ramps to pick up seafood. Shrimp shells roll off a conveyer belt into the back of a dripping dump truck. Every so often, a pier juts out into the bay, lined with tourists snapping shots of the barking sea lions lazing on rocks and wharves.
The other side of the street is dedicated to tourists: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, a wax museum, t-shirts, salt water taffy, caramel corn, sea shells made into lamps and figurines, a “Made in Oregon” shop, ice cream shops and several restaurants specializing in clam chowder. I found it mostly unappealing, but obviously, the crowds of visitors going in and out of the souvenir shops felt differently!
Today, we headed to Nye Beach, a charming Newport neighborhood along the Pacific (rather than Yaquina Bay). Picturesque though is was, the strong, chilly wind sweeping in off the ocean kept the long, appealing beach free of people – including us! Instead, we headed to The Chowder Bowl on Odel’s relentless quest for a great bowl of clam chowder. His verdict: a rather unenthusiastic “good”. Hmmmm… guess that didn’t quite hit the spot!