Saturday, June 24, 2017

Grants Pass, revisited.

My first text to Patrick when I arrived in Grants Pass for a recent work trip: "Man, I do not miss this area of the world..."

Grants Pass is just up the highway from our short-lived 2016 farm internship, the experience that kind of ruined Southern Oregon for us. We didn't spend much time in Grants Pass last year but we liked what it had to offer - cool food co-ops, decent venues for bands, a small but thriving farmer's market... stores other than Ray's and Dollar General. You know, all the important stuff.

That was still true last week when I visited. Unlike last year, this time I also saw meth addicts, independent-to-the-point-of-obnoxious-obstructionist characters, Trump fanatics... and occasional rays of hope.

the only place I saw one of these

For those reasons, it reminded me a lot of Coos Bay.

But Coos Bay doesn't have bears.

My second text to Patrick that afternoon included the picture below and the message, "I kinda forgot about (blocked out??) the GP bears."

Rockabilly Bear and Margie

He didn't seem to remember them either. It seemed odd that we would've not remembered such a quirky feature of the city.

I had a few hours between appointments Thursday afternoon so I paid a visit to the visitor's center, where a young woman sat behind the desk engrossed in her laptop. "Hi," I said. "I have a question. What's the deal with the bears?" She handed me a "Bear Fest 2017" map showing the locations of all 53 bears around town. "Okay, thanks, but what's the deal? Are they new?" Five cub statues were new, the rest were here last year. "Okay, thanks, but what's up with them? I spent some time here last spring and I don't remember bears." They bring them out on Memorial Day and they're displayed until Labor Day. "Ohhhh, okay thanks, that makes sense, we didn't visit after Memorial Day. But... why are they here?" She gave me a blank stare.

So I did my own research. The story goes that in 2003, either former mayor/senator Brady Adams or Evergreen Federal Bank (depending on whose interview you read) asked a local artist to produce 20 bear sculptures to stimulate tourism. Since then over 180 bear sculptures have been produced, half of which have been auctioned off to raise over $250K for local nonprofits, the rest of which are now part of the sponsor's permanent art collection. They're displayed around town during the summer and they "hibernate" at Evergreen's Bear Hotel for the winter. Visitors can tour the Bear Hotel for free (reservation required).

That afternoon I played tourist, map in hand, taking photos of every bear I encountered during my 30 minute walk. I didn't get to all 53 of them, obviously, but I managed to collect quite a few photos. Some, like "Carmen Bearanda," were a little offensive and others, like "Circus Performer" and "Circus Ringmaster," were in poor taste (in my opinion). Others, like "Root Bearly-A-Float" and "Beary Potter," were just silly.

Here are my five favorites, in no particular order... except for maybe the first and the last:

Captain "Rogue" and "Applegate" the Cub-a-Neer
(aye, matey!)

Makah Wanji - "One Earth"
(lots of bears with Native American symbolism)

Vincent Barbera Merlot
(not silly - **absolutely ridiculous**)

"Beary Serenade" Jazzy
(I didn't say the names weren't silly)

Chinook (I think that was the name of this one -
I just liked that there was an antelope on his butt)

Supporting local artists and supporting local nonprofits in this unique approach to promoting tourism - other coastal towns in Oregon could learn a lot from this approach, instead of just aiming for straight tourist dollars via pricey waterfront hotels, restaurants, and events. (Ahem, Coos Bay.)

Thanks for the fun walk down memory lane, Grants Pass! See you in August for the Decemberists show...

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Cape Blanco, revisited.

Our first camping road trip in 2012 included a stop at Cape Blanco State Park. We loved it so much we ended up staying an extra night. Even with the massive winds famous in that the area, it was beautiful and well worth the time we spent.

So when various factors including the purchase of a new tent, Free Camping Day in Oregon state parks, Cape Blanco being just an hour from our Coos Bay housesit, Patrick's birthday, and a desperate need to get into the woods for a little while all collided a few weeks ago, we headed back for another visit.

Let the record show that Patrick, who often cannot remember conversations we had 30 minutes ago, recognized our campsite from 2012 immediately. He even remembered the campsite on the other side of the road that was our first choice, before we found lucky campsite #44. Seriously, how many dozens of campgrounds have we visited over the last five years? I actually broke character for a few minutes to look up the blog post from our 2012 trip - and then I promptly turned off data like a good camper - but holy crap, he was right. (Seriously?)

Let the record also show that Patrick, who always has to drive around the entire campground at least once (if I'm lucky - usually there are multiple loops) to find just the right campsite, went no farther than campsite #44 before declaring #43 next door this trip's winner. Seriously, I think the only times he hasn't explored every single option have been when the campground only had one vacancy or when we were assigned campsites. Although in those cases, we still had to drive through the campground to see what spot we could have had. (Seriously?)

Finally, let the record show that we are sooooo out of practice with this camping thing. Seriously! One headlamp crapped out on us that night, plus we forgot pillows, utensils, spices, salt and pepper, aluminum foil, the wool blanket we always put over our thermarests for added warmth... Even BP was a very last minute grab on our way out the door. And, horror of horrors, I forgot to take a picture of dinner. (It was tofu and veggies via campfire. Looked a lot like every other picture I've taken of tofu and veggies via campfire. Seriously.)

Anyway - yay, camping!

After a late start out of Coos Bay Saturday morning, we were pretty worried that the campsite would be full when we arrived - free camping, why wouldn't it be? - but there were just a couple dozen sites taken and the park never did fill up that night. Even the camp host was surprised.

BP wants more sunlight
but the tent ignores his pleas

We set up camp and made a quick trip to Port Orford for supplies, then we were off on an afternoon adventure. We only had about 24 hours door-to-door this time so we had to make the most of it.

the not-so-long, not-so-winding road

clouds to the left of us...

... boulders to the right,
here we are, struck by the glorious view

The path was lined with tiny wildflowers and the lilies were out in full force. Such a change from our first visit in the fall!

sail away, kill off the hours
you belong somewhere you feel free


... my one and only...

... I can hardly wait till I see her

when the lilies grow wild they will always survive -
wild lilies don't care where they grow

The path takes you along the western coastline to the northern tip of the park by the lighthouse, which was a windstorm just like last time. The clouds were amazing, though.

hold on to the thread...

... the currents will shift

From the northern tip you can meander through the trees on trails and horse paths. The difference in scenery can be quite stark with just a few turns.

come closer and see, see into the trees
(4:17:03 pm)

come closer and see, see into the dark
(4:18:22 pm)

Like last time, the lighthouse was closed so we didn't get a tour. Also like last time, we skipped the Hughes House. That's our reason to go back again. (It will probably always be our reason to go back again, because neither of us is very interested in seeing it.)

Tent test successful, hearty breakfast complete, we took a quick stroll on the beach Sunday morning before heading out of town.

you don't have to stray the oceans away...

... the sea will rise - please stand by the shore

There was definitely a strange feeling in the air. We were both ready to move on to the next campsite, to see what was next. Alas, real life called. (I don't even usually work on Mondays and I had a serious case of the pre-Mondays that Sunday morning.)

Nothing like a World Famous Hot Dog from World Famous Langlois's market on the way home to cure those back-to-work blues...

are you feeling better now?

Yeah... Didn't really help. Adulting is HARD, people.