On Tuesday morning, I was sitting in possibly the best living room in the world, not minding if we spent the whole day there, when somebody mentioned shopping.
Mike and I told ourselves that we won’t need to do that much shopping. I mean, really, what do we need? Unless I see some cheap jeans. And some nice shoes (being US size 10, I can never find shoes that fit here in Turkey. The last two pairs of sneakers I bought came from the men’s section of New Balance). Maybe a few t-shirts. That was before Michael’s awesome family (thank you Leon, Sen and Sevda) arranged for us to get into Columbia employee store. Did you know the Columbia brand comes from Oregon? So anyway, there we were, surrounded by quality sportswear that is crazy expensive pretty much everywhere in the world but was now being sold at half-price. Upon seeing us approach the cashier with piles of stuff, one of Mike’s aunts Justine asked if we’d bought one of everything. Parting with a sizable chunk of our cash, we reassured ourselves that we hadn’t bought anything unnecessary, will get years of wear out of everything and it’s still cheaper than anywhere else.
Decked out in our new Columbia gear, we looked like we belonged in Oregon and we were ready for a trip to the beach house, another Speroff family tradition. There were about 12 of us, including Leon and Sen, Michael’s parents and cousins.
On the way to the beach house we made a few stops in local places of interest.
First stop – Tillamook Forest Centre, a forestry museum dedicated to the history of Tillamook State Forest and The Tillamook Burn, which was the collective name for a series of wildfires that struck the northern Oregon Coast Range mountains in the 1930s and 1940s. The story of how the first forest fire started in 1933 is quite interesting. The weather conditions put the forest at risk for fires and all forest logging operations were supposed to be halted. However, somebody didn’t listen, or didn’t hear, and as a tree was cut down and dragged with a steel cable, the cable rubbed against the dry bark of a wind-fallen tree, creating a spark which led to the tree bursting into flames. The resulting forest fires burned for more than 2 weeks before being extinguished by seasonal rains, leaving behind a desolated blackened landscape. Three more fires would cause even more devastation to the area, the economy and people’s lives. Today’s Tillamook State Forest is the product of a monumental reforestation effort undertaken in the 1950s and 1960s. More than 72 million seedlings were planted by hand-many of them by school children and volunteers-across the blackened landscape. (more here)
Looking around and seeing the lush green forest, it was hard to believe it once looked like the photo above. We watched an education film, looked around the museum and climbed the watch tower, trying to imagine if we could live there, alone with only forest for miles and miles, forever looking out for fire and smoke. (A resounding no for me. I wouldn’t last a day there. I need constant human contact!)
Mike with his dad and uncle Leon
Next stop – Tillamook Cheese Factory. Why? Because cheese, obviously. And ice-cream.
The place was really really crowded. We had trouble finding a parking spot. Not surprising once you saw what was inside. Cheese tasting! Cheese shopping! Cheese packing that could be seen through large windows. In shorts, all kinds of cheese magic. I know quite a few people who would have been tempted to stay there.
And then there was ice-cream! A long line to get it, but that’s ok, because there’ was a giant menu to peruse, and they were baking waffle cones right there and then and the smell was making me drunk and hungry for that sweet crunchy cone filled with cold creamy deliciousness. I seriously had trouble deciding. Stick to something I knew I liked? Or try something new? But should I try salty caramel or butterscotch or toffee nut or… I can’t continue. There’s one more hour until lunch and even though there’s a freezer with ice-cream in the canteen downstairs, it won’t even come close.
All our dairy needs met, we made one final stop to get some seafood for dinner.
Parcels of scallops and Dangenous crab safely packed in ice, we finally drove to our rented beach house on the Twin Rocks Beach.
We needed to wait a bit before checking in, so we all headed to the beach.
If I ever hoped to swim, my hopes were dashed. The Pacific Ocean in Oregon is cold and cruel, similar to how it is along the shores of Wellington, New Zealand. So, no swimming, but I could still smell the fresh salty air and play on the beach!
Our time at the beach couldn’t have been more perfect!
That same day: seafood dinner followed by watching the sunset on the beach followed by sitting around a fire telling stories.
Oh how sweet that crab tasted…It didn’t even need any cocktail sauce.
Highlights from the next day: having pancakes for breakfast, driving to another beach to explore the tidal pools at low tide and having another seafood dinner in a seaside restaurant.
Everyone has been extremely nice about helping me try new things, like American pancakes at a diner for breakfast. I`ve already had a few encounters with big American portions but I honestly didn’t expect this. I tried to include the things on the table for scale – do you see how much longer than a fork that pancake is? I foolishly ordered two. Now, I can put away a lot of food – those of you who know me personally will attest to that. But I didn’t even try with this breakfast. I did pack away the remains of my pancake, but never ate them. I tried not to think about such foolish concepts as calories and cholesterol as I enjoyed one of the best breakfasts I`d ever had: sweet buttery pancakes, salty crunchy bacon and sweet sweet syrup uniting both of them. (Seriously, this is torture. 10 more minutes until lunch and, according to the cafeteria website, we`ll be having lentil soup and beans. Healthy and tasty BUT I WANT BACON)
Now this part of American breakfast I will never get. I do like biscuits (similar to British scones, but not sweet) but gravy (a white sauce made with meat drippings, milk and flour), especially poured over biscuits… Not for me. But I will help you eat all that bacon, Michael, thank you very much.
In the afternoon, we drove to Oswald Beach to explore the rock pools. To get to the beach, we had to walk through a forest trail. It was a gorgeous forest, cool and green and mossy, full of giant old trees.
This looks cool. What is it – berries? Dried flowers? Mike just had to poke it with a stick. And that’s how we found out what moldy poop looks like.
We met this lady on a bridge over a creek. We commented on her dog’s wet fur and she told us a whole story of how her dog didn’t want to swim but later came to like it, told from the dog’s point of view and in different voices. I quite enjoyed that.
Low tide allowed us to look into tidal pools, and we spent a pleasant hour exclaiming over the colorful starfish and anemones.
Another fabulous dinner, followed by the sunset walk through the beach and more campfire stories.
Rosé wine, my absolute favorite kind of wine. If you are reading this, Jacqueline, stop sniggering – it is THE wine to have on a sunny summer evening by the ocean.
Another highlight from the stay at the beach and another first – a hot tub!
The following morning we left the beach house behind. Together with Michael’s parents we stopped for breakfast, where I learned that you can always eat an even more delicious version of what you like. Like pancakes with bacon? How about BLUEBERRY pancakes with bacon AND eggs? Needless to say, this breakfast filled me up for the rest of the day.
The breakfast wasn’t the only cool place about that morning. The place where we stopped used to be a logging camp and if you couldn’t tell from the size of the portions and the interior of the cafe, an impressive array of old logging equipment told its own story.
Full to bursting, we drove to Portland airport. Michael’s parents would fly back to Nashville while Michael and I would rent a car for a road trip to Idaho – but that’s in the next blog post!