It was time to head down the coast. Will had seen a lot of the area where I live, but I wanted to show him the unique coastlines we have on the Pacific that are unlike Atlantic coastlines.
I also wanted to introduce him to timberland. I grew up here in a U.S. Forest Service family, always close to vast areas of timberland, managed either by the government or private logging companies. So, rather than head west, then drop south along the coast to Tillamook, Will and I cut directly over the top of the Coast Range, and drove southwest to Tillamook. If you ever watched the reality TV show “Ax Men,” one of the crews worked here. (btw, any real logger will tell you the show was short on reality) It was a fun, narrow, windy road through remote hills covered in trees, and we passed many sections of recently harvested timber. In this area the method used is clearcutting, where every tree, sapling, and shrub is leveled and all that’s left on the land are stumps and sawdust. Evidence of what happens next came in the form of whole hillsides covered in young trees all the same age, with signs by the road telling what year they were planted. Trees are a sustainable resource, and every clearcut is followed by planting. But the newly harvested areas are hard to look at, and Will reacted with predictable emotion and distaste.
We reached the coast town of Tillamook and headed first for the Air Museum in a gigantic airship hangar built in 1942. The history of the construction of Hangar B is fascinating, and it’s remarkable to stand inside that vast building with no internal structural supports. The museum includes a theatre that constantly played a short documentary of the building’s history in WWII, and also lots of donated items from wartime, including uniforms, instruction manuals, insignia, weapons, and all the usual things you find in a war museum. There are a few historical fire engines on one end, and the interior contains all kinds of aircraft that you can walk right up to.
There is a collection of flight simulators that we climbed into of course! And Will’s eyes glazed over in delight when we found a whole room filled with one man’s entire model collection representing practically every WWII battle field you can imagine. Will’s reaction was so awesome I wrote it down immediately on my phone so I would remember: “This is a little kid’s dream. I want to play with everything. I could stay here all day!”
After the museum we ate an early supper at Old Oregon Smokehouse. This place had good reviews despite looking sketchy from the outside. We both had fish and chips of cod, halibut, salmon, and rockfish that were good, better than the famous Bowpicker in Astoria. Very generous portions and the chips (fries) are great. The seafood was super fresh and that makes all the difference.
Speaking of a little kid’s dream, our next stop was in search of ice cream! Directly across the street from Old Oregon Smokehouse is the Tillamook Creamery that offers my favourite cheese west of Vermont, and my favourite ice cream of all. Inside you can do a self-guided tour of cheese operations, sample their to-die-for cheddars, and shop at the restaurant or gift shop. We did the tour, ate samples, then got in line for ice cream. I ordered one scoop of Blood Orange Cream, and one scoop of Pendleton Whiskey and Maple. Each one was amazing. Will got Chocolately Chip Cookie Dough.
Since it was March, I had not made any reservations for the night, thinking the season would mean we would have every hotel to ourselves. However, it was a gorgeous, warm, sunny weekend and guess what? Most of the hotels were booked. We took a short drive out of town to the seashore on a chance that Terimore Motel could accommodate us. They could! As we checked in, the owner told us we were just in time for the sunset, and it was going to be a good one. “I’ve seen many sunsets,” he said, “So I know.”
He was right. Will and I dumped our stuff in the room and immediately went down to the beach. Though the view from the room was incredible, I felt a need to be out there in the middle of it.