Road trip – Oregon Coast Day 1
We have been talking about this road trip to Central California for some time. If you knew me you’d know that I am a planner. I research destinations, select locations, check out routes, book hotels and investigate interesting places to eat. My husband G is just the opposite. He doesn’t like to plan and would much rather wing it (“what’s there to plan, we get in the car and go”). Not that there is anything wrong with it, as Seinfeld would say. So this time I thought I would go along and “wing it”. Well, that is not completely true. I did review the route, had an idea of where I might want to stop and checked out driving times to and between destinations. It’s just my nature. I even went to BCAA and had a booklet printed with maps and detailed directions based on one possible itinerary. Just in case. But I didn’t book hotels, made any decisions about where to stop or anything like that. We’ll just “go”. With a car, a map and ability to pay, not much could go wrong.
To be totally honest, I had some reservations about making a road trip in the first place. Two people. Two weeks. In one car (even if it is a Hummer). You know. Where am I going to go if I am annoyed? I am glad to report that so far so good.
The trip went off to a good start. We left Kelowna around 8:00 am and headed west, intending to cross the border at Sumas. We stopped in West Kelowna and picked up coffee and bagels to go and “hit the road”. The weather was sunny, warm and perfect. We were chattering away and enjoying the ride and the gorgeous scenery of British Columbia. Before we reached the border a couple of “clouds” did cast a small “shadow” on paradise, but nothing we couldn’t handle.
Border crossing was efficient, only about 10 minutes delay and we soon set our trusted GPS to lead us to I-5 going south. Other than one wrong lead that left us at a dead end road in the middle of a farmers’ field, the GPS was pretty accurate and delivered us to I-5 in no time.
I-5 as you know is a major interstate highway with many lanes, lots of traffic and construction work bringing things to a halt in several places. It’s highway driving. The real beauty of Washington state was more evident going through the smaller roads leading to the I-5.
We had no hotel reservations anywhere and no specific destination for the day except that we knew we wanted to cover some distance.
We were approaching the Seattle area around 1:00 pm but felt that it was too soon to stop and we may as well make it all the way to Route 101 which was our general destination, especially the Oregon Coast. By that point I could no longer “wing it” and needed to have a plan. After debating in my head for a few minutes I decided we may as well drive to Astoria on the mouth of the Columbia River just past the Washington- Oregon border. The GPS predicted 4:45 arrival time and we were still in good enough shape to continue driving.
We were looking for a place to stop for lunch but once we passed Seattle there was nothing that was even remotely appealing. None of the restaurants along the highway seemed the least bit interesting and did not inspire us to stop. You know, chain restos, not my idea of good food.
I was also beginning to think about where we were going to stay for the night. I have a “roam like home” plan on my phone so we had internet access just like at home for an added $5 a day. A quick search yielded only one hotel in Astoria that was described as “luxury” that was right on the water (it would be the Columbia river) so I called the hotel, booked a corner suite and now I could relax. I know where we are going.
We stayed on I-5 as the GPS commanded but after another hour as we were approaching Olympia (the capital of Washington state), I noticed that the GPS was keeping us on I-5 the entire way to Astoria. That did not appeal to me. I wanted to get onto Route 101.
Around Olympia we cut over to state route 8 going west and the map showed that it would eventually connect with Route 101 going south. 30 km on route 8 and another 20 or so on other side roads and we were finally on route 101 heading south. Only it seems that we traded a fast moving multi lane highway for a one-lane winding road nowhere near the ocean. Don’t get me wrong, lovely countryside and the occasional glimpse of the water but I was expecting rugged cliffs and endless ocean. Not on this strip of highway in the south portion of Washington.
So, we drove on and arrival time now with the slower route was moved up to 5:45. Fine, we are in no hurry, but keep in mind that we have been in the car without any stops since 8:00 am. Get the picture? In hindsight, we should have probably stopped in Seattle and enjoyed an afternoon at the market and then dinner at one of the fabulous Seattle restaurants.
However, before you know it we were nearing Astoria, about to cross the 4 mile long (yes) Astoria-Megler “bridge to nowhere” as it is known, the longest truss bridge in North America. It is situated right at the mouth of the very wide and wild Columbia River as it meets the Pacific Ocean. What a sight. I love vast bodies of water. There is something about the water, the air, the sound that grabs me and doesn’t let go.
Our destination, the Cannery Pier Hotel is built on the river 600 feet from the shore on pilings that are over a hundred years old. The river is gushing right below. In a previous life it was a union fish cannery and there is a strong sense of history here. It’s a charming, quaint and comfortable hotel, not quite sure about “luxury” but a beautiful place to stay. Trip Advisor rated it the most romantic hotel in the US in 2015. The narrow wrap around balcony in the suite had standing room only (too narrow to fit a chair) but he view is spectacular. The bathroom with a large tub was right over the water so you could soak in a bubble bath and watch the cars on the bridge above and the boats passing below. I hope they couldn’t watch me back. I didn’t think they could. There is a Finnish style spa at the hotel, a nod to the Finnish history of Astoria. The majority of fishermen here in the 18-19 century were from Finland.
We had dinner at the Bridgewater Bistro on an adjacent pier, in an open style warehouse-loft that used to be part of the Union Fish Cannery operation. The resto portion may have been added later but the historical building and setting on the pier are authentic. In good weather sitting on the patio would be lovely but it was too cool this evening and the patio was closed. The food was not memorable, I had artichoke fritters with aioli and a pasta dish, sticking with my vegetarian eating habits. This is seafood country though so I hesitate commenting on what I didn’t taste. After dinner we took a drive through town to get a sense of the place before we retired to our suite at the hotel. Lovely start of a road trip but good food seems to have eluded us today. Perhaps tomorrow. Stay tuned.