Watts (chipotle) wrote,

The long way home

About quarter to nine Friday, I headed out from the Holiday Inn and drove west along U.S. 26, then Oregon State Road 6 toward the coast.

SR 6 and U.S. 101 meet in the town of Tillamook, which you've probably heard of if you've ever shopped for cheese. I didn't get any cheese at the factory there, although I did get some blackberry ice cream, then headed south.

While I think of northern California as the start of the Pacific Northwest, this reinforced that it's only northern California. Californians tend to divide the state into north and south with San Francisco and Los Angeles being the capital cities, respectively. "SoCal" in particular thinks of itself as a separate area, with a palpable sense of rivalry, although "NoCal" folks seem to be stereotypically laid back on the subject. Geographically speaking, though, San Francisco Bay is about in the center of the California coast, and northern California really starts around Mendocino County. The Oregon coast has much in common with California's "Lost Coast" area, but not as much with Big Sur.

The towns, though, aren't Californian--they remind me more of what little I've seen of coastal New England. There's a west coast tilt, certainly, that feeling that sixties-era radicals who were actually serious about getting back to nature settled here in scattered pockets among the loggers and hunters--or, here, fishermen. I ended up for lunch in the town of Newport ("historic bayfront," several signs promised)

A stroll around first took me to a restaurant called Mo's, apparently a regional chain, whose earlier-spotted billboard promised the best clam chowder on the coast. Of course, every restaurant promised that. I'm sure that if it wasn't called "New England clam chowder," half of them would have claimed it was invented right there in their kitchen. As I was standing by Mo's wondering if the existence of the billboard was merely a sign of success or a sign of being a tourist trap, a family walked past; as the son started to look at the menu, the father said, "That's Mo's. We don't want to eat there." Hmm.

So a stroll for another block took me to the Whale's Tale, which had a few promising-looking reviews, including an amusing one from a travel writer describing the All Clam Chowders Are Best problem and concluding that this place had, at the least, the best clam chowder out of the ones he'd tried on the coast. And it was pretty damn good: well-seasoned and delicate enough to let the flavor of the clams through, with fresh clams good enough that you actually wanted that.

I kept driving along U.S. 101, but eventually admitted I'd have to make a choice between cutting back to I-5 before I left Oregon or committing myself to a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, which would easily add another day to the trip--I hadn't dawdled too much along the way, and it was already well into afternoon. So, back to I-5.

I stopped for dinner in Grant's Pass, the town tugrik's parents live. It was a bustling little town surprisingly devoid of restaurants. I ended up at one called the Train Depot, which had friendly but confused service and a chicken-fried steak which was sadly unmemorable. I have a perverse desire to try to do a chicken-fried steak myself sometime now.

At some point after I'd crossed into California, I pulled off the interstate, drove a few miles into the Klamath National Forest, and stopped to look up at the sky. I'm not an astronomy buff at all, but sitting for a while with dark skies so clear I can make out the Milky Way and far enough away from the highway that all I can hear is wind, water and the occasional wild animal in the distance--that's as close to a religious experience as I get.

The drive after that was uneventful and straightforward. I snoozed for about an hour at a rest stop, and well past midnight got some soda and corn chips somewhere north of Sacramento to keep me powered for the rest of the drive. I got back in here at about 4:30 a.m.

So. Now I'm back. I've roasted a batch of coffee, which I haven't done in a while. I need to clean my room, particularly dusting it, which I also haven't done in a while. I reset the remaining timers on the ailing PVR, to make sure that they were actually recording the correct show (some of which could no longer be found, as they've either been cancelled or aren't being shown currently) and that the timers didn't overlap, since one of the tuners is broken and terrible things happen if it tries to use both at once.

I have the stuff from Claw & Quill waiting for me for the remaining days of the weekend. I also have a lot of unquiet thoughts to sort out. As I've put it to a few friends, my "what do I want to be when I grow up" bug is back full-force. I'm sure I'll be journaling on that later.

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