Living out Boyhood Dreams on the Oregon Coast
October became Oct-Sober for Erin and I. This past summer was packed with good times and empty calories. I recall feeling particularly horrible one mid-September Saturday morning and thinking October could not come fast enough. The first couple of weeks of October included clean eating, working out and, feeling great.
I was able to take a trip down the Pacific Northwest coast with my father in search of things that excited me as a child. Growing up I was intrigued by air planes and in particular, World War II aircraft. I was fascinated by them. The P-38 lightning was my favorite and at the age of 13 I was able to see one of only 9 or so still flying at the Reno Air Races. That trip with my father was very memorable as we flew down in a Cessna with a family friend. Shortly after moving to Vancouver I found out that one of the still flying lightnings was housed in an air museum 6-7 hours south on the Oregon coast. I have been eagerly wanting to head down and check it out ever since. My father was an easy sell. Being Jammy McJamerson I packed a ton into our short trip.
We headed out early one morning and headed south to our first stop, the Boeing factory in Everet Washington. We toured the worlds largest building where the 747, 767, 777, and 787 jumbo jets are born. The building itself is worth the visit alone. It is so large that clouds used to form inside prior to an air circulation system being installed. Of course the factory floor was neat to see. It was amazing to watch these giant planes being assembled in various stages down the lines.
We then headed south and had lunch at Pike Place market in Seattle. Full up on clam chowder we made our way out of town. Pulling out of the parking lot I was kindly let into traffic only to be almost side swiped by speeding car. The old fellow driving the car was quick to flip us the bird which I did not see. At the next stop light we were joking about the guy giving us the finger and my father, while explaining the situation, inadvertently gave the finger to the large black fellow in the car next to us. Luckily he just nodded and turned his head forward. We had a good laugh as the situation was something out of a National Lampoons movie. Who knew I was related to Clark Griswald.
Next up was the Museum of Flight in South Seattle. This museum is located around the original Boeing factory building and next to the plant that builds the best selling airliner in the world, the 737. This museum had many interesting aircraft including a P-38. The real highlights here were the collection of aircraft outisde that you can enter including a Concord and JFK’s Air Force One, which included a doggie door to his office.
This stop was also an eye opener as I learned two things about my father. 1) He likes to fly straight and 2) he carries a purse. The museum had a crude flight simulator game that we thought we would give a go. The very unenthusiastic teen working there ran us through “training” which was the actual game outside of the physical simulator. I grew up on flight simulator games and played them with my father so didn’t think much of it. We were instructed to empty or pockets before entering the simulator which I also didn’t think much of as I thought the simulator could only turn so far. I was wrong. Strapped in and canopy closed the game started and put us in the middle of a dogfight over the south pacific. Instincts must have kicked in because I banked hard and pulled back on the stick. In my mind I kept thinking that it could only bank so far so I kept turning harder to get better position. When it didn’t seem to stop turning I thought “I should probably level out a bit” but just couldn’t.
That is until I heard a soft plea of “Can you fly straight please?” With that I came to, leveled out the almost inverted plane, and gave over the controls to slow and steady in the left seat. We then flew straight and level towards the coast all while Japanese Zero’s bullets whizzed past us from our 6 o’clock. The game came to a disappointing end and we disembarking laughing about “flying straight” and how we would not survive long in war. Then I noticed the giant pink lined “wallet” my father recovered from the tray. “It has a place for me store coins!” was the strongest argument he could muster. Replacing this became a priority on the trip.
Satisfied with aviation history for one day we made our way west towards the coast. I warned my father that the accommodation I booked was through a Groupon type site and all I could tell was that it was a very minimalistic place. We prepared ourselves for the worst but turned out to be an amazing place. It had + sides of a great hostel with great rooms and great restaurant. Free coffee, movies, bikes and included diner? We cheered our good fortunes over beer and free oysters. What a country.
The good luck spilled over to the next day as the weather cleared to an unseasonably dry and sunny day. We enjoyed a stroll along the Long Beach boardwalk and then took a drive on the beach itself. Nature.
While taking pictures on the beach we were alarmed by a loud speaker that, at first, I thought was directed at us. I couldn’t quite make out what it was saying until the sirens started going off. Time to go. In between the sirens I did catch that it was a Tsunami evacuation test. Test or no test we suddenly had enough of driving on the beach and made our way for higher ground.
We headed south across the Columbia River and into Astoria, Oregon. Home of the Goonies. Since moving to the west coast I had been looking for an excuse to visit this town and see where Chunk, Data, and Mickey hung out. My father was more interested in lunch as we hadn’t eaten yet. Fried Oysters and a bottle of wine at 11:00 am is a pretty sweet way to start the day. Retirement here I come.
We toured the surprisingly busy little town for a bit before making our way to the Goonies house. You could see why it was chosen as it is perched high above the town with panoramic views of the Columbia and the giant bridge that crosses it.
Nostalgia filled we continued south through the tourist town of Seaside and on to Cannon Beach. We stopped here to stretch our legs and take a look at Haystack Rock, a famous rock formation and also seen in the Goonies. The rocks are very impressive an MUCH larger than I had expected.
We could have stayed at the beach for a couple hours as it was gorgeous out. It felt like we were in Mexico or somewhere tropical and not the wet and cold pacific northwest. Alas we had to keep moving south as the real prize of the trip was still to come for me. We made it to our accommodations in the logging/fishing town of Garibaldi just in time to catch the last of the crab fishermen pulling up traps off the pier. No fancy resturaunt with craft beer and Oysters in this town. I had $1 tacos and $2.00 Coors at the local pub and watched football. America.
The next day the rain returned just in time for us to try some fly fishing. I had a hard time getting any info out of the local bait stores as fly fishing wasn’t very popular in the area. The teenager with missing front teeth at the store was little help. We managed to find an accessible river and did see a few salmon including a beautifully colored Sockeye but they had little interest in we had to offer.
We packed up and continued south to Tillamook to see the P-38 that caused this trip. The museum is in a massive WWII blimp hanger which is a site itself. You can see the building for miles due to its size.
We walked in and there it was, front and center.
There were other aircraft in the museum. The collection was very impressive and well maintained and kept. I did however keep returning to the Lighting. As we were leaving we found out that for $25 you could get into an aircraft for pictures. Sold. I was giddy as I climbed up and into the famous bird. This was amazing for me and I was elated. Sitting in the cockpit and gripping the wheel felt oddly right. It felt like home.
Giddy like a school girl we left satisfied. Worth the drive even if you are not oddly obsessed with old aircraft. With the grey wet weather we opted to head inland to Portland for a night of microbrew and good food. I made my father walk in the rain to Rouge brewery and found out it was the first time in his 66 years using an umbrella. Wha?? A drunken tour through Whole Foods blew his mind. I guess when you live in a place that may or may not have milk that week a place like Whole Foods would be a shock to the senses.
Great trip and great way to be a kid again which I rarely get to do…now back to Xbox.