Buggies in the Sand

This is the area of dunes that we were allowed to drive on, between Highway 101 and the sea. The sand is dark and hard-packed, because it’s winter and the sand is wet.
You can see dune buggy tracks down there. The view of the sand is not impressive from here, but there is a lot more sand than what I’ll be able to show in these photographs.

The Big Event of the birthday road trip was to play on the dunes. Oregon hosts the largest stretch of coastal sand dunes in the United States. These sand mountains inspired the author of Dune, after Frank Herbert worked here.

Monday morning as we drove to the rental place for ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), it was pouring rain and snow mixed at about 34 degrees (1 C). Trying out a new outdoor sport seemed like a bad idea in weather like that. We stopped in at the rental place, asked a bunch of questions, and decided we would try the next day when it was supposed to be colder, but sunny. (The two photos of the ocean at the top were taken the next day) We left to find a diner and have breakfast.

At the breakfast place, I was surprised to get the most hostile glare of the trip, by the woman behind the counter. I quickly figured it out: Pedro and I happily burst through the front doors with the bottom 2/3 of our faces securely masked. We had not seen a mask on anyone in the town that day. No one at the rental place had one, and certainly no one in the bustling diner had one. The woman stared pointedly at me with a look of mixed irritation, judgement, and amusement. In rural southern Oregon, by wearing masks we were broadcasting “outsider” and “enemy” to these people. For the next two days on the southern Oregon coast, I removed my mask in certain establishments due to peer pressure. I rationalized that with both of us vaxxed and boosted and younger than the high-risk age group, we were probably ok. But still. I am surprised at how well social pressure worked on me.

By the time breakfast was over, the wintry mix had stopped falling. The sun shone brightly, and the skies opened up wide blue patches. We changed our minds and went back to the rental place. We were shown the prices first of all, probably because they are high. We got a side-by-side (a two-seater) because I did not want to drive. Our vehicle rental was a few hundred dollars for two hours, and more importantly, there was a $1,000.00 deposit to even get keys in the first place. That’s because too many renters take reckless chances and wreck these vehicles, worth $20k to $50k, depending on the model.

We read and signed safety agreements, listened to a safety lecture, watched a safety movie, and tried on safety gear from the racks in the back of the shop, till we found some that fit us. The shop was right next to the beach, and the salesperson told us to follow him in our Jeep across the highway and out along a beach road till we came to a parking area. He had Pedro hop in and gave him some instructions, and told us to have fun!

Pedro in the parking lot.

We puttered out of the parking lot, into the wide sandy expanse, and the heavens opened up and it POURED rain. The side-by-side has a roof, but it did nothing to protect us. In ten minutes we were completely soaked through and freezing cold. Then, the skies cleared out once more and we never had another shower like that. But at that point the damage was done.

Pedro and me all strapped in and ready to give it a try.

We bravely stayed out there, because we still had almost two full hours before the salesperson would come back to pick up the vehicle. Our fingers were cold and stiff, and the visors and goggles were covered in water so we couldn’t see out. We were confused about where we were allowed to go and not allowed (there had been SO many rules!). We were scared to tip the vehicle and have to pay for damages. We were scared of the dunes since we didn’t know where they led to (was there a drop-off on the other side that we couldn’t see?). We tried to work as a team, communicating about it, but with the helmets and the blaring engine noise, we couldn’t hear each other. Still, bit by bit, we kept going back and forth, expanding the area we felt comfortable in, going on slightly higher hills instead of staying on the flat part, going around things, learning the landscape, driving faster.

The hill to the left is called Banshee Hill. We were strictly forbidden to climb it. We had no desire to.
In one section, we were on a dune high enough to see the sea.

Finally we couldn’t take it anymore. We were so cold and driving in an open vehicle meant we were in a constant wind. A couple raindrops started to fall and we decided to head back to the parking lot and get into the Jeep and turn the heater on and wait out the shower. The shower never came, but the Jeep was a great idea. We stayed inside with our sopping wet gloves on the heater vents, till we were warm and our gloves were dry.

In the meantime, a family showed up with a trailer, pulling their own personal sand machines. (I don’t know what to call these things. The little ones are “quads,” I think. The one we had is a side-by-side. I know we never actually saw a “dune buggy,” but I can’t tell you what makes a dune buggy. This whole world is outside my realm of knowledge.) The family was clearly of a mind with the woman at the diner.

The youngest kid had the quad with the Let’s Go Brandon flag.
From inside the Jeep, I tried to get a shot of that stupid flag as the kid zoomed around, waiting for the adults, but my camera wanted to focus on the water droplets instead. It’s for the best.

The family knew what they were doing on the sand, though. After we were all warmed up we got back into the machine and started out again with a much better attitude. The family on their ATVs were fun to watch.

The three vehicles sped off ahead of us and zoomed directly up that dune on the right. We were too scared to try it.

The second hour was much better. Cold but sunny, and Pedro had more confidence after spending an hour getting to know the vehicle. He talked me into trying it out.

I took the beast up and down the two-mile stretch of sand a few times, then was satisfied and handed control back over to Pedro.
He had more fun once he could feel his fingers again.
And off we went, zooming across the sand.

3 thoughts on “Buggies in the Sand

  1. Looks like a blast … rain be damned. The mask thing is so unfortunate, although judgement from those who could care less about others has no sway with me. I can roll my eyes right back at them. I see that ahead here in WA as the mandates lift. I hope some restaurants will continue with their own restrictions if cases spike again. I have just spent the worst two weeks of my life with a parent in ER and ICU with a no visitation policy because of Covid. The Covid patients these days are unvaccinated anti-maskers and they had better keep their crappy attitudes away from me. I have zero patience for anyone wanting sympathy for their “inconvenience”. Glad you got to have a new experience. Living vicariously through you!

    1. Really? You could not get in to see your mom for two weeks? That had to be agonizing. Yeah, the mask thing. I mean, I live in the country, so there’s a measure of hostility around me all the time. (At one store in Longview the mask sign on the door is signed ‘Comrade Inslee’) But I find the same level of hostile overreaction in Portland, by people who despise me for the opposite reason (because I don’t wear masks when going for walks outside). People just need to chill out with the hate, but yes, do the right thing and avoid giving each other diseases. It is the weirdest, weirdest thing that spreading/not spreading disease has become an identity issue. Just makes no sense to me.

      I’m glad you are riding the dunes vicariously through us! Rain is a whole different situation when it’s a couple degrees above freezing. Snow would have been much better. Or rain at 40 degrees. But as it was, we were so wet and cold it was hard to have fun. It was a hundred times better after we warmed up and dried out in the Jeep.

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