By DAVE GJESTSON
Extensive travel in my earlier years got me to every state in the United States except Oregon. Since my wife Laura has already been to them all, she encouraged me to chalk up my 50th state this year. It took some Travelocity calendar shuffling to finally book my air flight for August 22-26.
Here's a tip: explore prices and flight schedules on one computer but actually book the flight you want using a second computer on a different network and save significant dollars. The reason? When you inquire and show interest in booking a flight, you'll often notice the prices go up significantly if you shop over a few days because the airlines knows you are hooked, especially if time is short! Further, Tuesday and Wednesday departures tend to be appreciably more economic!
My travel rationale got a boost when I discovered I could meet a cousin, Suzanne Hendrickson (75), in Vancouver, Washington that I had never met. I had connected with her by email fourteen years ago while researching family history. She was one of three girls born to my mother's brother that left Wisconsin in about 1948. I had met the other two sisters (Allyn Schultz and Dana Ast) a few years earlier when they visited us in Arizona. As a bonus, Allyn would be at Suzanne's during my visit.
But wait! My travel rationale gets better! My long-time DNR co-worker and Facebook friend, Sue Solin, was building a new house near the Oregon coast with her husband, former Wisconsin Conservation Warden Tom Solin (who I had worked with in the 1990s). They were located in South Beach adjoining Newport, Oregon, about half way down the Oregon coast, the perfect starting point for my adventure.
Flying from Madison took me to Chicago and then to Portland where I rented a car. My first destination was Vancouver located conveniently south across the Columbia River from the airport. I was at my cousin's house in 20 minutes! I would spend the night there before heading south 144 miles to South Beach.
Cousins Suzanne and Allyn
My route south in the morning was on Interstate 5 and was bumper to bumper, stop and go, three lanes wide for the first hour! Once free of traffic, I got down to my western turn to follow State Highway 20 into Northport and South Beach. Getting through the coastal range was beautiful but challenging roaring down winding mountain roads at 60 mph!
I met Tom and Sue Solin at their beautiful new house (completed just three months earlier) and enjoyed a quick tour before settling in for hours of fun talk about DNR days, life challenges and the exasperation of home building. The day culminated with fish dinner overlooking the ocean bay.
After another ocean view over breakfast the next day, my coastal adventure began.
There's nothing like meeting old friends after a long absence!
Tom and Sue had just moved to their new, beautiful house 3 months earlier.
I had expected continuous ocean views along highway 101 but found I had to seek them out driving off of the highway to beaches or parks.
Virtually every small town along the way featured a park or public beach
Checking into a motel my third night was adjoining a huge beach covered with vegetation
A nice paved walkway adjoined the beach and serviced almost a mile of hotels facing the ocean.
An ocean beach walk always quiets the mind!
After two days of fish, a chicken fetuchini dish hit the spot!
On the fourth day, going up on the bridge that would take me across the Columbia River into Washington was thrilling. It launched me onto a 4.1-mile continuous truss bridge that is the longest of it's type in the world!
While the highest portion of the bridge took me 200 feet above the river, most of the 4-mile bridge was just above the waves.
The Cape Disappointment State Park contained a Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and represents the culmination of my tour. The park received the unusual title from an English Captain in 1788 because he could not find the river's entrance. The treacherous currents and shifting sand bars at the mouth of the Columbia River sent hundreds of ships and their crews to their graves.
The interpretive center setting gives the ocean view that Lewis and Clark had in mid-November 1805 after an arduous journey of 4,134 miles.
If you have not read or need a refresher about the Lewis and Clark two year, four-month adventure from Illinois that actually covered more than 8,000 land and water miles, you should do it! Incredibly, of the 44 hardy souls that took part in the exploration, not one person died!
The bay near the interpretive center was packed with well-weathered tree logs and debris that extended for well over a football field in length.
A fitting end to my trip was standing on the very spot that the expedition camped 217 years ago!
The trip back east to Portland brought me back to realty in three lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-5!