Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Other Crescent City

It took me about an hour to get from Eugene to the junction with U.S. 101 at Florence. I was listening to talk radio dissect the Supreme Court’s medical marijuana ruling, which is a big deal in both Oregon and California. I don’t think pot should be illegal even for people just doing it for fun (let alone for medical reasons), but federalism isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world once you’ve witnessed the Southern heritage set’s version of “state’s rahts.”

Judging from the paucity of it, you might think sparkling water was also illegal in certain parts of rural Oregon. I walked into two grocery stores in Reedsport and neither had a bottle between them. When I asked the checkout girl for Perrier, she looked at me like I was speaking Terrorist.

The biggest town on the Southern Oregon coast is Coos Bay. I believe it’s pronounced “cous” as opposed to “cooze.” I tried to eat at the local tribal casino buffet, but they’d already closed for lunch. After strolling around the center of town for a bit, I headed down to Bandon, a picturesque fishing village that bills itself as “Bandon-By-the-Sea” in deference to Carmel.

Despite the tourist trappings, Bandon was my favorite coastal town. I had a plate of fish and chips at the dock. The fries were lousy, but the fish was fresh Pacific cod. As I dined, I eavesdropped on a local contractor who was telling another diner that Bandon was blowing up like Carmel and would likely be just as exclusive in another decade or so. That’s what happens when Gregory “Gonzo Gates” Harrison has a place down the road in Gold Beach.

More importantly, the contractor revealed an alleged cure for seasickness he learned from a retired sailor. What you’re supposed to do is swish some seawater around in your mouth, then spit it out into the wind so the spray hits you in the face. The idea is that the smell is what makes you sick, and once you make the sea “part of you,” it can’t make you sick anymore. Has anyone ever heard of and/or tried this?

After eating, I walked out to the beach next to the Coquille River jetties. The ocean was both serene and menacing. There’s nothing quite like an empty beach on the Pacific to make you feel small and insignificant. It’s a long way to Japan.

The rest of 101 in Oregon featured a mind-blowing series of hills and curves overlooking the water. Bandon to Brookings is easily one of the most beautiful stretches of road on the planet. Everyone should see it.

Expecting to have my fruit confiscated at the California border (no, that’s not a euphemism), I gobbled down an apple and banana. Unlike every other time I’ve entered the Golden State by car, the inspection stations were shuttered. If some mutant fruit fly destroys California’s agriculture this summer, you’ll know who to blame.

Crescent City is about 20 miles into California and I decided to stop there for the night. The city is only 29 feet above sea level and prone to flooding from post-earthquake tsunamis. In fact, a series of tsunami waves triggered by the 1964 Alaska earthquake killed 11 people here. Otherwise, it’s a nice seaside town that makes a good staging point for jaunts into the redwood forests.

I stayed at a place called the Penny Saver Inn. The room smelled funky until I aired it out, but the king size bed was better than Motel 6 in Albany. I paid $45 because they had an indoor pool and hot tub, but by the time I got done watching the season premiere of Six Feet Under on HBO, it was too late to go swimming.

I plan to drive through some redwoods today and maybe do a quick detour on the Pacific Coast Highway through Mendocino. I have to see what Doug Sahm was talking about for myself. I might make the Bay Area (350 miles away) or I might not.

A quick technical note: cell phone reception is spotty on the ocean side of the Coast Range, so if you’ve had trouble getting in touch with me, that is why. I'm not ducking you. Honest.

1 comment:

Captain Apathy said...

RE. the sea-sickness cure, my first thought is that this is just a trick to get silly tourists to spit seawater into their own faces.

As Jim Croce warned us years ago:

You don't tug on Superman's cape,
You don't spit in the wind,
You don't knock
the mask
off the ol' Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim.