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Between the time we made our reservation and our trip to the coast, COVID numbers began rising in Oregon and the governor once again shut down restaurants for indoor dining. One of the reasons we chose Bandon over Brookings for this trip was to have an opportunity to spend some time in the little shops and restaurants that make Bandon so charming. The weather forecast was for rain most of the week, so we wanted to have other things to do than walk the beach.
We traveled north via I-5 toward Roseburg and turned west toward the coast via Highway 42. However, instead of following the Google Girl directions to stay on Highway 42 all the way to HWY 101 and then back south, we thought the quicker route along 42 S made more sense. In hindsight, Google Girl sometimes gets it right and we don’t. I spent most of the time hanging on while Mo navigated the very narrow, very winding road toward Bandon. It was not fun for me, but I think it might have been for her. She used to drive a TR7 among other sports cars.
It rained a bit along the way, but the afternoon was dry enough that we had time to enjoy a walk along the beach after we settled into our site.
Adjacent to the town of Bandon, the Coquille River empties into the Pacific Ocean. The river extends inland a great distance and was a natural link to the virgin stands of timber in the area, but the bar at the mouth of the river, formed by the interaction of the river and ocean, was a major obstacle for ships entering the river. At times, only a few feet of water would cover the bar, but vessels still attempted to navigate the river in hopes of reaping the rewards that lay upstream. In 1880, Congress passed a bill funding the construction of a jetty on the south side of the river’s entrance that created a deep channel, resulting in a rapid rise in the number of ships entering the river.
A lighthouse at the entrance to Coquille River was the next logical step for improving navigation. Congress appropriated $50,000 for the project on March 3, 1891, but it would be four years before land was purchased, plans were solidified, and the construction crew was assembled.
In 1939, the Coast Guard assumed responsibility for Coquille River Lighthouse and decided it was no longer needed. An automated beacon was placed at the end of the south jetty, the dwelling was disassembled, and the lighthouse was abandoned. The lighthouse stood neglected for twenty-four years, until Bullards Beach State Park was created on the north side of the river. The grounds of the original eleven-acre light station were included in the park, and the park assumed responsibility for the lighthouse.
Over the years there have been several attempts at restoration, since park funding isn’t sufficient to maintain the old lighthouse. In normal years, the lighthouse tower is open for visitation from May through September, however at the moment the old lighthouse looked quite sad.
The air smelled so incredibly fresh, and the surf was loud enough that we could hear it in camp across the dunes at least half a mile from the beach where we were camped.
There were high tide and surf warnings posted for the next couple of days so one evening we drove through town in the dark to the south jetty where we could watch the huge noisy waves breaking over the jetty rocks. Lots of warnings for “sneaker waves” kept me alert and when a big one came roaring in I immediately jumped back into the car.
It rained off and on that first night and the next morning dawned cloudy and wet. We settled into the MoHo for a cozy morning before driving the a mile south to Bandon to explore the small town. The rain came and went all day, usually with a downpour at just the moment we would head for the car after visiting a shop. About half the shops in town were open, with masks and social distancing, and we especially enjoyed the beautiful Second Street Gallery, Winter River Bookstore, and the Coastal Mist Chocolate Boutique, where we had two tiny cups of creamy drinking chocolate, to go of course.
This photo is from last year when there was still inside service
The rain poured down as we ran to the car with our little cups of chocolate. I also purchased my first ever macaron (not a macaroon). I wasn’t impressed, although I do think that maybe the high humidity at the ocean makes it hard to make a light crispy meringue cookie. Who knows. I don’t have to try again.
We then meandered around the famous Cranberry Sweets. The store has been in Bandon for more than 50 years and specializes in all sorts of cranberry confections. I learned that more cranberries are grown around Bandon than anywhere else in the west. Although Bandon is referred to as “The Cranberry Capitol of the World”, more research informed me that most cranberries come from Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Five states grow almost all of the country’s supply of cranberries with Wisconsin producing more than half of all cranberries in the US. Massachusetts harvests another third, and New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington produce most of the rest. So much for “Cranberry Capitol”.
Still, the shop was charming and old fashioned, with lots of candies and confections behind the counters. The hostess told me that they usually had lots of samples around the shop but due to COVID we had to settle for a little bag of free stuff.
I decided it was time to get some fish and chips to go and tried out Tony’s Crab Shack where I was politely told that Tony didn’t fry ANYTHING, and perhaps I might like to try to fish tacos. Made with fresh caught crab and halibut, they were delicious. Everything in town was take-out only, with all the restaurants closed for inside seating. We returned home in the pouring rain and it continued to rain all night long. Funny how wonderful rain on the roof of a motorhome can sound, especially when accompanied by the roar of the ocean. Great for a good night’s sleep!
The next morning was Thanksgiving, and we woke to beautiful clear skies. I had precooked much of our dinner, and simply had to reheat the turkey, bake the sweet potato, mash the potatoes, cook a pot of Stove-Top stuffing, and open a jar of gravy. It wasn’t gourmet, but was completely and totally delicious for the two of us and our socially distanced Thanksgiving dinner.
On our first day in camp I discovered the tsunami evacuation trail. The path is narrow with signs leading to an area high on a heavily timbered hill behind the campground where people are instructed to assemble if the tsunami warning horns go off. It would do no good to attempt to drive out of the campground in that situation since most of the highway is in the tsunami zone.
It was a lovely little trail, with moist moss, and lots of mushrooms in the duff under the trees.
On this beautiful morning it was a perfect time to share the trail with Mo. Mattie loved the trail and we enjoyed walking in a place where there were no dogs or people around. Mattie gets so excited when she sees other dogs and always wants to “play”. That entails lots of energy and training time, trying to get her to sit and calm down. Walking around the campground can be challenging sometimes when all I want is a nice simple walk. The trail was perfect for that.
It was surprising how full the campground was on this holiday weekend. By the time Thursday rolled around, all sites were full and everyone seemed to be having a great time celebrating. We even saw an outdoor TV broadcasting a football game.
After our early afternoon dinner we went for another great beach walk, and were amazed that the weather was so perfect. There was very little wind and the temps must have been in the 50’s. Beautiful day.
Home again to the MoHo where after many years of hearing about it, I actually figured out how to cast the phone to the TV with the included app on my Samsung phone. We turned on Netflix on the phone, and with our unlimited Verizon plan we were able to watch movies and even live television on the big TV with the right apps. My daughter Deanna told me about this capability a long time ago, but I never managed to figure it out until this trip. On a chilly evening having some TV was great entertainment. The Verizon signal in the park was perfectly adequate to stream a movie.
On Friday morning we took our time with a lazy breakfast, a little bit of news, and some reading time before packing up. Checkout time wasn’t until 1PM, and we only had a little over two hours to travel along the coast south toward Brookings and Harris Beach State Park. I didn’t make a reservation for Harris Beach, thinking that winter on the coast would be open without a problem. We planned to arrive around 2 in plenty of time to snag an open site before evening. Things have changed in the camping world! When we arrived the park was completely full except for one site, the only ADA site in the park, number 37 in the B loop.
I must say I was grateful for once to have my little blue disability card to hang from our windshield. We settled in to enjoy our last evening on the beach and Mo built a nice big campfire. Only problem with the campfire is that the ADA site has a very tall metal fire ring, I suppose so that it is safer. It took a very long time to get that metal warm and I spent campfire time in LOTS of clothes and blankets trying to warm up.
One of our favorite holiday treats are the wonderful lights at Azalea Park in Brookings. We knew that this year the big light show wasn’t happening, but the city of Brookings was attempting to do something at least and made arrangements for businesses that usually displayed their lights at Azalea Park to put lights up on both sides of Highway 101 and down into Harbor. We hopped into the Tracker at dusk to go check out the show. I must say that it was a bit of a bust. There were a few nice lights near Fred Meyer, but the rest of them were scattered along the road with lots of space in between displays. Oh well, at least they tried. We heard the next morning that someone had stolen one of the big displays on the very first night of the show, the 4 piece Dragon. So sad. Maybe that is why so many businesses chose not to display their lights in the unprotected lots along the highway. Eventually the dragon was recovered.
The next day we didn’t have to check out until 1PM and with no rush to get back home we enjoyed every last minute of park time. I took Mattie around the campground, and walked out toward the overlook that has such a beautiful view of Harris Beach. I felt no need to climb down to the water.
There were so many people on the beach I was amazed. More people and dogs running around on Harris Beach than we have ever seen even in summer. I guess as many people have said, RVing is the great COVID escape and everyone and their dog or dogs is on the road and filling up the campgrounds.
We left in brilliant sunshine, driving as far as Cave Junction about 30 miles west of Grants Pass before we encountered the fog. Grants Pass is often foggy in winter, sometimes without any lifting in the afternoon. This was one of those days. I always say, if we must have fog, we might as well have it at the beach. It was nice to get home to our cozy house, the steamy hot tub, and TV without having to figure out the casting thing. It was a great four days of ocean time, and a perfect way to handle a quiet Thanksgiving for just the two of us.