A Drive through Small Towns and Fading Memories (Day 5)

KK had a memory, as we drove past these Oregon beaches, of daughter Lee and herself flying down the dunes at a hundred miles an hour on one of those crazy rides they would take together. We could not remember where Kelson was. I would have been elsewhere, on a slow-moving trolley contraption of some sort, as I don’t like scary rides. When was that?

Lee on Lincoln City beach, photo by kajmeister

The happy problem of too many memories.

Was Kelson with us? Was he with his friend in Cleveland that one summer? Down at camp?–no, Lee would have been at camp at the same time. How old were they? I think seven and nine because that’s when they were the best traveling companions, after they learned to mind us and ask interesting questions but before they lapsed into teenage silent nods and shrugs.

Lincoln City

Continuing north, we passed Lincoln City, which is world famous for its kites. Sure enough, they had a kite festival in play, but we had cleverly flown ours on a more deserted beach, the day before. Meanwhile, I found the picture of the original One that Got Away with proof that Kelson was with us. Your Honor, if it please the court, this was 2004, and I was exactly right with the ages.

Me, Kelson, and offending kite in 2004. The kids painted the hat. Photo by kajmeister.


We took the kids through Tillamook, which has since rebuilt its Cheese Factory into a gleaming modern facility. Since we had eaten so much yesterday, we only sampled a little cheese, but it was as good as advertised, especially the smoked black pepper cheddar. Much of the plant has been modernized to have machines more intelligently sanitize, reduce froth, and seal packages. The humans “working the line” seemed to be doing it for those of us watching on the Self-Guided Tour.

I was, however, fascinated at the introduction of technology into the milking process. Stations are now set up so that the cows can come in when they are ready. They are guided to stand in the right place and a robot arm moves out. Lasers are used to pinpoint the right spot on the udder, and the robotic squeezing is timed to mimic the patterns of a calf drinking from its mother. Cool! We bought some cheese curds for the friends who are hosting tonight, especially for the one from Wisconsin.


We camped with the kids on a beautiful dunes beach in Nehalem. The campsites were pristine, shielded by large cypresses, and we played on the beach. But overnight it started raining, and the drizzle wouldn’t let up as we broke camp in the morning. We put the kids in one of the two tents, while we took down the other (probably the one that was more of a pain). Then, kids into the car while we collapsed the second tent. Children and rain make you resourceful and efficient.


Liberty Theatre in Astoria, OR. Photo by kajmeister.

Our friend suggested a walkabout in Astoria, a picturesque village if ever there was one, located where the mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific. Not only was it a perfect place to stretch our legs midway through this long day drive, but it was full of curious shops and vintage storefronts. They even had a Suomi souvenir store, and we counted half a dozen rainbow flags in shop windows.

Card catalog still in use, Astoria OR. Photo by kajmeister.

Public restrooms were a little scarce, but don’t forget that you can avail yourself of the local library if it’s open. Plus, they were still using a true antique–a card catalog. Haven’t seen one of those since we brought the kids to Oregon!

Astoria also had this incredible sculpture/garden/monument. The explanation noted that this was wasted space that the owner didn’t want to use due to environmental issues. A public grant brought funds for the cleanup and turned it into an artwork designed to honor the Chinese Immigrants who came into town.

Garden of Surging Waves, Astoria, OR. Photo by kajmeister.
Closeup of inset of Chinese Gate in Astoria, OR. Photo by kajmeister.

Not Quite Right

As it turns out, I was not quite right about the original traveling dates. We came through Oregon before with kids through Lincoln City, the Rogue River, and the Enchanted Forest twice.

We came in 2004 but also in 2008, when the kids were 11 and 13. We did not camp. We did fly kites and hang on the beach, but there are fewer pictures.

KK and Lee in 2008 not 2004. Photo by kajmeister.

The 11-year-old girl on the dune buggy ride is grinning like a madwoman under the goggles. The 13-year-old boy would have been with me by then, sitting patiently or impatiently, who would have known? There is a second photo of him at the wheel of a GoKart, happy to be driving alone, edging out his sister and mom, his hair starting to grow long, hanging in his face.

Highway 101 up the coast was gorgeous, but after too many campers and environmentally-conscious slow drivers, we had had enough. We drove east over to I-5 and bombed up the highway the rest of the way to our other friends’ house. There were no more dunes or kites or cheese curds to be seen; this part of the drive I’ve made at least eight times before, but I don’t remember any of it.

Finally, we made it to Lakebay in Washington, with a mountain conveniently located outside our friends’ front porch.

Lakebay, WA. Photo by kajmeister.

3 Replies to “A Drive through Small Towns and Fading Memories (Day 5)”

  1. Peggy and I need to do this road trip. And also, it seems like just yesterday that the littles were that size. Geesh.

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