Bandon by the Sea

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My 81-year-old mother and I headed to Bandon on the southern Oregon coast for the weekend to help her brother celebrate his 80th Birthday.  Bandon’s a place I’d been to quite a bit over my life because of the relatives that lived there since I was a child. It’s only recently I discovered how wonderful Bandon truly is.  In fact, it’s so nice that in 2010 Budget Travel named it one of the “Coolest Small Towns in America.” That’s saying something considering the town was wiped off the map by a devastating fire in 1936 where people survived only by seeking refuge on the dock, beach and in the surf.

Today Bandon’s back and booming. And to prove it, here’s a sampling of what I like about it:

First off, it was settled by Irish man George Bennett (my last name’s O’Leary). The weather can be unpredictable and never boring (also like me). And for years they’ve made Bandon Cheese here.

Rock formations along the craggy coast create interesting view points and the scenic beauty will be sure to offer many photo ops. I love to drive the Beach Loop that winds along the cliff where many stops lead to paths or stairways dropping down to the pristine sandy beaches below.

The rocks have names like Face Rock, Garden of the Gods, Table Rock, Cat and Kittens Rock and Elephant Rock.  Local legend says Face Rock’s of an Indian maiden that was frozen into stone by an evil spirit. The Cat and Kittens Rock are her animals that were thrown into the sea and turned to stone by the same nemesis.

Another favorite locale is the Coquille River (named after the local native Indians). The river runs along the South side of Bandon where it empties into the Pacific along a rock jetty. The area is buffeted by crashing waves and has a history of ship wrecks the locals love to retell. Nearby, the Coquille River Lighthouse stands proudly and offers tours.

Old Town offers quaint shops, great restaurants, and a boardwalk with interesting wood animal sculptures and other art. There’s a pier, port, dock, boat ramp and marina – great for fishing and sight seeing.

Cranberries are a popular product of Bandon and there’s a a Cranberry Festival in September to celebrate the harvest.  My uncle’s family has grown cranberries here for years and they owns bogs on a farm just out of town.

Other highlights include: four world premier golf courses including Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, you can explore nearby Bullards Beach State Park, Bandon Marsh and Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuges, Bandon Historical Society Museum, West Coast Game Park Safari, plus the Oregon dunes are just a hop skip and jump away.

Of course there’s all the other charms and activities of a beach town like surfing, crabbing, etc, but one thing’s for sure – if you visitBandon you’ll want to return again and again.

Astoria to Ecola State Park ~ Oregon Coast

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My 28-year-old son had lived in Oregon for three years and never ventured to the Oregon Coast. Well, not since he was a year old. I’m a born and raised Oregonian but when I graduated from high school I left to travel and didn’t return until many years later when my son was a year old. We lived in Portland for four years and then I left for Los Angeles to finish college and didn’t return for more than 20 years. The Oregon I came home to had changed – I loved it even more.

Some of my friends that have stayed here all that time are a little more skeptical about Oregon’s changes, if they’re for the good. But I’m seeing it all with new eyes. Plus, I’ve been a lot of places. Seen a lot of things – good and bad.

I soon discovered my new found love of Oregon was so powerful I had to express it, share it, promote it – thus this blog and a Facebook travel page called Go Oregon Now and a Twitter account where I follow and tweet only about Oregon. I like to say, “I have my fingers on the pulse of Oregon.”

A few weekends ago I convinced my son and my mom to visit the Oregon Coast. We headed to Astoria because there were a couple of waterfalls along the way and my son loves waterfalls. That was the motivation, the carrot I dangled, to get him to go. I don’t think he knew he would love it so much, but he did.

I hope you enjoy the slide show of our journey.  We went from sun in Astoria to fog in Seaside.  But I think you’ll agree each carries it’s own special charm. There’s so much to see and experience along the coast when you travel in Oregon.

Oregon On The Run

Wayside Park along Umpqua River on Hyw 38

Sometimes its good to plan a vacation in advance and have all the details laid out, maybe its less stress free. But other times a little more adventure and spontaneity is called for and you can just get in the car and drive somewhere on the spur of the moment or maybe even take a different road that all of a sudden presents itself.

And so, a few days ago, when I was driving up the Oregon Coast headed back home to Portland, that’s what happened to me. I had planned to go to Florence and take the highway over to Eugene. But then, while in Reedsport, I saw a sign that said, “Drain, Eugene” and before I knew what I was doing I had turned off Highway 101 and was driving east on Highway 38.

That’s when I slowed down to think this out. This wasn’t part of my plan. What was I doing? Then I made the decision to go for it and see where it took me. After all I had my trusty GPS so I couldn’t get lost.

Almost immediately I knew I had made the right decision (or whatever made the decision for me) because I found myself in one of Oregon’s wonderlands. The Umpqua River on one side and deep woods on the other. Plus it was someplace I had never been. That always spells excitement and adventure for me.

On the way to Eugene I explored the roadside parks along the river, perused the small towns – got gas, an ice cream cone, checked out the historic markers and buildings and even caught a yard sale where I bought a lantern plant for my garden. It was a beautiful day and the people I met were friendly.

When you stop to think about it, we never truly know where life will lead us, even with a map or GPS. Surprises, good or bad, can await us around any corner or just over the next hill. I think we all have an inner guide and when I listen to mine I’ve noticed good things are bound to happen.

Wild Oregon

Near Grants Pass

Driving from Portland to the Southern Oregon border I realize again the unbridled beauty contained in this state. Even sticking to the I-5 on a mad dash to get somewhere fast (but going the speed limit) I’m reminded how wild and tangled huge expanses of this great state can be. I mean there are still whole regions remote enough for the Sasquatch to remain hidden in for all this time – I drove through some of that country with signs reminding me I was in Sasquatch Country.

There’s something profoundly thrilling about gazing over untended fields of wildflowers and witnessing nature’s landscaping techniques. There’s still defined borders – field turns into shrubs turns into wooded landscapes turns into hills and mountains turns into sky (which is usually an interesting palette in Oregon). I like seeing nature as it has always been, uninterrupted by the hand of humanity for as far as I can see.

When I recently took a road trip across the U.S. I realized every state had their own pristine wonderlands which could make me burst into the remembered verses of America the Beautiful on occasion – and its not always the parks or preserved sites. No, the areas I point to are unmarred by markers or even visible trails. I can gaze over them and imagine what life was like here thousands of years ago – even while I’m cruising by at 65-miles-an-hour.

Please, may these always remain…

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