Birthday in Astoria

There's my little home town of Rainier in the foreground, on the Oregon side, and Longview across the river on the Washington side. In the center is the Lewis & Clark Bridge across the Columbia River, that helps me get to work (and more importantly: home) each day.
There’s my little home town of Rainier in the foreground, on the Oregon side, and Longview across the river on the Washington side. In the center is the Lewis & Clark Bridge across the Columbia River, that helps me get to work (and more importantly: home) each day.

Saturday I turned 46 and went down the road apiece to Astoria, Oregon. I stopped right away at a viewpoint and looked down on our rural valley, about an hour drive north of Portland, Oregon. From there I could see the industrial mechanisms of the local economy, in the form of lumber and pulp mills, and the Port of Longview.

The next thing that caught my attention was a sign that pointed the way to a toll ferry. I did not need to go wherever the ferry would take me, except that I have been randomly discovering quite a few small ferry crossings on the many Oregon rivers, and it’s become a new interest of mine. Sadly, I did not ride a ferry that day.

Ferry was closed for repairs, but now that I know it's there, I'll go back and try again.
Ferry was closed for repairs, but now that I know it’s there, I’ll go back and try again.
The water beside the ferry launch was picturesque.
The water beside the ferry launch was picturesque.

In no time I was in Astoria, the city built at the mouth of the Columbia as it pours into the Pacific Ocean. I took a few photos near the mouth of the river, which is filled with sea faring ships, of course, since it’s a safe harbour when the ships are not en route. Then I stopped for lunch at the Rogue Brewery on Pier 39. I drove on the pier to get there!

Ships appear to be moving along a track in this photo. But they are in the distance, and a man is walking his dog along the path.
Ships appear to be moving along an earthen track in this photo. But they are in the distance, and a man is walking his dog along the path that follows the narrow piece of land.
The “road” to the brewery. One will also find a coffe shop, a dive store, a museum, and a law office.
Bumble Bee Seafood Company started right here. Can you sing the tune with me? “Bum Bum Bumble Bee, Bumble Bee Tuna.”

At the Rogue Brewery I veered away from the “Dead Guy Ale,” and the “Yellow Snow IPA,” and tried the “8 Hop IPA” and some homemade clam chowder (fresh clams, obviously). I somewhat recklessly agreed to become a citizen of the Rogue Nation and raised my right hand and took the pledge. I got a card that entitles me to a free pitcher of beer on my next birthday, but not this one. I talked with another woman traveling solo who is from Idaho like me, and has been roaming the West Coast since November, she said, trying to decide whether or not to retire. When she left, I talked with the couple on the other side of me, who were having a great day because the grandparents had the baby and they were free for awhile. They were both Air Force veterans like me and I quickly gave my VA-is-the-best-thing-ever spiel, and answered some questions and gave them my contact information.

Next I went to check in at the Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa. This place looked great online, and is *so* much better in reality. The service was personal and genuine. They learned my name in the first greeting, and from then on never asked again what room I was in. I told them it was my birthday and they wished me a happy birthday every time I passed the front desk (and even checked in with me the next day at breakfast, to see if I had enjoyed my birthday. I had.) I took a dozen photos, and I’ll share them with you in my next post.

The Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa at the end of a pier into the Columbia River.
The Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa at the end of a pier into the Columbia River.

There were about two hours of daylight left, so I left the place and went to find the sea.

First I got distracted by this garage covered in scavenged buoys. The woman who owned the home there said the garage was built at the same time as her grandmother’s home, which had been where we were standing before she tore it down to build her new home. “But Grandma loved her garage and it reminds me of her, and I just can’t bring myself to take it down yet,” she said. “We had a pile of these buoys that we had found, and one day we hung them up. Now people drop them off and we keep hanging them up.”

Grandma's garage covered in buoys
Grandma’s garage covered in buoys

Then I was distracted again by a sign giving directions to the Army Cemetery. The road passed through what had clearly been an Army outpost years ago. Though it is entirely civilian now, one can’t ever erase the stamp of the federal government. It had the feel of a military base still. At the end of the road I found the humble Fort Stevens Post Cemetery, founded in 1868, according to an informational sign, when the first burial was Private August Stahlberger, who fell in the river and drowned while under the influence. It was also closed for repair.

The road to the cemetery.
The road to the cemetery.
Past the guardhouse
Past the guardhouse
U.S. Army Cemetery, Fort Stevens
U.S. Army Cemetery, Fort Stevens
Doing repairs carefully
Doing repairs carefully

Finally I found the beach. I honestly tried to pick out just the good photos, but… I fell in love with them all. It was an exquisite view in the January afternoon, as the sun shed her last rays on us ocean-loving humans.DSC_0191DSC_0189DSC_0198DSC_0195DSC_0194

On the way back to the hotel for their 5 pm wine, cheese, salmon and crackers, I had to stop again for photos. These reflections were still discernible in the very last vestiges of light at about 4:40 pm.

Branches stretch across a swampy bay.
Branches stretch across a swampy bay.
My camera makes it look rather light still, but it was pretty dark at this point. Still, the reflections were worth stopping for.
My camera makes it look rather light still, but it was pretty dark at this point. Still, the reflections were worth stopping for.

I went up to my room and changed into my new Christmas dress that I had only worn once so far. I enjoyed the treats downstairs, then came back to my room to try out a new whiskey that I received as a birthday gift. Have I mentioned that I’m a whiskey drinker? A co-worker has been lauding this scotch for some time, and since I was reluctant to spend the money to get it, he bought me a bottle for my birthday. I highly recommend this one. Then, since I wanted to get a photo of my dress for Tara, I took about 75 photos in the bathroom mirror and failed them all. By the time this one was taken, I was totally cracking up at my own ineptness. But at least I got a fuzzy picture of my dress. It’s a sweater dress, so fuzzy is appropriate.


29 thoughts on “Birthday in Astoria

  1. Belated Happy Birthday Crystal and what a great way to spend it! You look great in your birthday dress – I nearly wrote ‘birthday suit’ 🙂 [does ‘birthday suit’ mean the same in the US I wonder?] Beautiful photos of the ocean – I love her so much too!!

    1. That is too funny! YES we have the same meaning for birthday suit. I have to say I never expected that I’d be posing in my birthday suit on my blog…but hey, we all do our own thing online right?!

      Thanks for the compliment on the ocean photos. It was so pretty that evening.

  2. 🙂 This post made me happy. What a great birthday, with lovely images and cracking up. And – we were born in the same year, one that ages gracefully. 😉 Here’s to the generation, cin cin! Have a great year and don’t forget to return for your next birthday.

  3. Belated Happy Birthday wishes from me too and thanks for that great post!!! And the Whiskey sounds great too!!!

  4. Happy Birthday, Crystal, be it ever so late. (grin) I would have wandered through your little town on my trip along the coast two falls ago. I cut across from Longview on my way to Astoria, right before Longview had its tornado. I’ve been meaning to do a blog on Astoria ever since. My uncle taught high school band there for years and my grandmother passed away in the town. Fun photos, including you in your Christmas dress. Cute on the Japanese scotch. No wonder you had a time of it getting the photo you wanted. 🙂 –Curt

    1. Damn, you found me out. No wonder, indeed.

      After spending my time in Astoria this weekend, I came to the conclusion that I need to spend a lot more time there if I want to see all the cool stuff. Luckily, I live about 45 minutes away, so it’ll be easy to come back often.

      1. It is so nice. As I drove, I was thinking that I wish my commute to work was that direction. All these lovely country farms and horses in meadows, and tree-covered mountains and water everywhere (with volcanoes in the distance). Oregon is where it’s at.

        Pretty cool that you came through two years ago. I think I’m living in a pretty sweet spot right now, at the end of that bridge. I’m 10 minutes from I-5, two hours from Seattle, an hour from Portland, 45 minutes from Astoria, and the sea, and surrounded by so much beauty. Hard to believe I deserve to live such an amazing life.

      2. It is the same way Peggy and I feel about where we live, Crystal. We wake up every morning with a smile on our faces. Any chances of a job in Astoria? Our son Tony wanted his next Coast Guard assignment to be there but it looks like it will be back east. –Curt

      3. You know, I would seriously consider a job there. First I need to finish up my 30 with the feds. Then I’ll be free to go work someplace that’s not so stressful. Being assigned there with the Coast Guard would be awesome.

  5. Belated happy birthday, Crystal. Sorry I missed it. Just never seem to catch up. You are 2 years younger than TS and 3 older than his sister. Good grief, that makes me old enough to be your mother! I loved the way you celebrated your birthday. Sorry you had to do it by yourself though. If I could drive that far, I’d celebrate the same way. Always wanted to do another run at Sylvia Beach house in Newport but your room looks more luxurious and a private chauffeur to boot. 🙂 That scotch could make taking a selfie kind of tricky. At least you had fun with it. I took a trip to Astoria with the Senior center and it was sadly lacking in views. Always wanted to go back and actually see the town. We saw 3 breweries. How much can an old lady drink at lunch time for goodness sake. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. Wondered how you did with the ice storm and getting Tara back to school? Your photos insure the fact that I want another run at Astoria. Great job.

    1. Oh Marlene, I didn’t know you were pining for a visit to Astoria. We can certainly make that happen one of these days, if you are ok with staying the night at my place. That will break up the travel time, since it’s only 45 minutes to Astoria from my house. I hear the museums there are really good and I didn’t make the time to see them. Three breweries in a day? That’s probably not the best plan for out of town visitors, in a place so interesting as Astoria. One can visit breweries any time. Traveling alone has its advantages, as you have probably discovered, so I’ll take the good with the bad. The chauffeured antique car was certainly a treat, and also came in handy, since I had a wee too much to drink out with the ladies at Inferno that night. They are from St. Helens and we made plans to meet up again at some future date.

      1. I was with the senior group and we had a driver but most of us don’t drink a lot at once and not quickly. Then we need lots of bathroom stops. The kid said he’d take me and ended up there with the ex to get her out of here. Small doses is all I can handle. I’ll make it there sometime and now have a better reason to go. Maybe one day I’ll be able to drive again. A trip like that was nothing 6 years ago. I like traveling alone too. Hate having to ask someone to drive me anywhere because we all have different rhythms and interests.. You understand. I wanted to look around downtown and at shops and the quilt store there. I just love looking. I can’t even drive to your house alone yet. Darn it all. That’s cleaned up for public viewing. 🙂 I’m glad you had a good birthday and didn’t run into a problem with the snow and ice.

  6. YAY! A travel / birthday post combination! Don’t you just love to explore new places? It’s the unexpected finds that are treasured … Grandma’s garage covered in buoys, the cemetery, and that wonderful hotel!
    Your photos are wonderful, especially the one of you laughing.
    Happy, happy belated birthday!

    1. You are right, Laurie, the unexpected finds are the treasures of every trip I think. It also helps that people like you and me can talk to anyone, so we get the background story, like Grandma’s garage. The lady was very interested in me, my weekend plans, where I came from. She took a long time thinking up great eateries I had to try out. Yeah, I liked the one of me laughing, too. It’s hard to get a candid selfie, but it was to the point of ridiculousness by then, and I was beyond trying to pose for the photo. I wish I had a video of those 15 minutes. 🙂 And honestly, it wasn’t the whiskey, just that it’s really hard to hold the Nikon still, and at the right angle, and get it to focus, etc. I kept getting photos with towels or the spigot in perfect focus, and me all blurry. I was talking to the camera, “No! Not the towels!” After the fact I realized I should have focused it, changed the setting to manual, and then tried. Ah well.

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