I had thought to go to Portland, Oregon. It had been named one of the top destinations to visit in the US for a number of years, but when I looked at its must see attractions, I hesitated. There were the highly rated Japanese Gardens, but I had just seen Japanese gardens at the Devonian Gardens in Edmonton. Portland also boasted Chinese Gardens, but, well, I had been to China. It had great hiking trails, but I had hiked in Jasper and Lake Louise a few days prior. Good food proclaimed Trip Advisor, but I was coming from Vancouver. My son said it was all about Hipsters, which held little appeal and even less so when I suffered through the first episode of Portlandia. When Rose, a new found friend, said the shopping was great in Portland, that sealed it. I was not going near there.
But I still wanted to drive down the Pacific Coast, so I headed to Seaside, Oregon down the Pacific Coast Highway, US101. It was a fabulous drive, except for the occasional logging truck bullying its way onto the highway, confident that all the cars would slow down to avoid hitting them. US101 is a gentle winding road, covered in canopies of massive trees, hills rich in forests and, on the right side (going south), the Pacific Ocean. Mile long bridges cross the Columbia River and quaint towns with white clapboard shacks announcing sales of freshly caught Chinook salmon dot the highway.
After entering Oregon near Astoria and making the now welcome stop at a Walmart for a rotisserie chicken and wine, I meandered 15 miles south to the town of Seaside. Its primary claim to fame is that it was the last stop on the 4,000 mile trek across the US in 1805 by Lewis & Clark. A statue proudly standing at the edge of the town commemorates this achievement.
Today, Seaside is a pretty beach town, acting as a magnet for families spending a few days on the coast. The expansive beach is sandy with tall grass marking its boundaries. Kids make sand castles and fly kites and seniors walk barefoot in the surf, dipping their toes in the waves. Swimmers were scarce today; the water was cold and the weather cool.
The town itself, all 8 blocks of it, is a throwback to those idealized 1950’s resorts with Art Deco buildings housing an arcade called Funland and a bumper car track. Stores sell salt water taffy (150 varieties) and homemade fudge and ice cream cones. Restaurants are named the Crabby Oyster and Finn’s Fish House and Sam’s Seaside Café.
Along the mile and ½ promenade, toddlers ride their training bikes, little boys skateboard, moms push strollers. No one wears suits or talks into their cell phones or totters in high heels. People said “hi” just because and smile a lot. Everyone is relaxing by the beach in a perfect little beach town. With apologies to Portland, I am glad I came here instead.