O! the Joy! / by Brian Beck

We made it as far as Florence, OR Tuesday night and then stopped to do our laundry and get some dinner.  On Wednesday morning we headed north into the heart of the Oregon coast.  Beautiful doesn't begin to capture it.  The land undulates between mountain and beach, between pine and seagrass, between expansive wide beaches and rocky coastline.  US 101 alternately cuts into the mountains and then dumps you back out into breathtaking views of lighthouses perched high upon volcanic rock outcrops.  I insisted that Wednesday would be a "device free" day so that the kids would have the opportunity to see the spectacular views out the back windows.  They rose to the occasion and we stopped several times to view lighthouses and look for starfish, crabs and urchins among the crashing waves and driftwood.  I had remembered this portion of the coast as being special and it delivered.  And then some.  It is reminiscent of the coastline of Maine but it's more accessible and the beaches are some of the most beautiful you'll find anywhere.  And if we needed a bonus, the fog that had shrouded our views the day before lifted almost as soon as we fired the old Pontiac to life.  Luck dealt us some face cards.  Right on time.

By late afternoon, we headed inland to Tillamook, a small town about 75 miles south of the Columbia river.  In case you've been living under a rock, Tillamook is famous for cheese.  And, apparently, ice cream.  Unable to resist a cheesy roadside attraction, we pulled into the visitor center at the Tillamook factory to sample some of the cheesy comestibles.  Pepper Jack?  Check. Sharp cheddar?  Check.  We watched them package big blocks of cheese through the observation windows and then retired to the commissary to have ice cream.  Mint chocolate chip and Oregon hazelnut.  I confess that for the first few days of Man vs Machine IV, we struggled to hit our stride.  I packed too much driving into the first few days but on this day, I remembered what it was all about.  Slow down, turn of the electronic babysitters, play in the ocean and say "cheese."  Not bad.

Just before nightfall we turned the corner at Astoria, OR, the farthest northwesterly point on Man vs Machine IV.  200 years ago, Lewis and Clark, at the behest of President Thomas Jefferson, trekked four thousand miles across the continent and reached what is now Astoria.  When they finally gazed upon the Pacific (well, actually it wasn't the Pacific, it was an estuary of the Columbia but who cares), Lewis wrote in his journal "O! the Joy!"  It's amazing that they made it.  We've only gone half the distance they went in 1804.  Sure, by modern standards we've done it the hard way, but really.  They walked.  And paddled.  And froze.  And then once they reached Astoria they built a fort and then had to turn around and do it all again just to get home.  It defies all conception.

On Thursday we'll begin our journey east to Mt. Hood and then on to Glacier National Park, traversing much of the same route they would have followed--up the Columbia River and then the Snake.  They wouldn't have made it without the help of some friendly indians.  And just like Lewis and Clark, we'll have an old indian is guiding us as well.

 We paused for a photo op under the Astoria Bridge that connects Oregon to Washington over the Columbia River.  Our old indian deserves a medal.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens, ISO 100, f4, 1/800 sec.

We paused for a photo op under the Astoria Bridge that connects Oregon to Washington over the Columbia River.  Our old indian deserves a medal.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens, ISO 100, f4, 1/800 sec.

 Hemet Head Light.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm lens, ISO 100, f8, 1/500 sec.

Hemet Head Light.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm lens, ISO 100, f8, 1/500 sec.

 Samantha and Parker play in the tide pools.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-200mm lens @ 24mm, ISO 160, f11, 1/160 sec.

Samantha and Parker play in the tide pools.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-200mm lens @ 24mm, ISO 160, f11, 1/160 sec.

 Yacquina Lighthouse.  Nikon D800 Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 86mm, f11, ISO 160, 1/400 sec.

Yacquina Lighthouse.  Nikon D800 Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 86mm, f11, ISO 160, 1/400 sec.