It came as a surprise to me that the most western point of the United States is actually a contentious issue. The debate is between a point in Oregon and one in Washington, and apparently between land shifts, measurement anomalies, and whether or not you measure at high tide you can switch between the two as to which should hold the honor.
But I’m not in Washington right now, so I’m picking Cape Blanco in Oregon. It was so windy I had to lean against a pylon just to keep from falling over.
Bandon, Oregon is the windiest town I’ve ever been to.
I went to Bandon because it had shown up on one of those “Best Beaches in the World” lists. I had talked to a few Ashland locals about what else I should see and do in Bandon, and they suggested going to the old town area, which due to prominent signage is pretty hard to miss.
Old Town is pretty touristy and pretty kitschy, but it has it’s charm. I stolled through candy shops and pet paraphernalia stores. I saw a man playing a harmonica. Not for tips.
However the most distinguishing feature of Bandon is the wind. I had to hold onto my hat when walking along the docks just to keep hold of it. At one point in order to find some refuge from the gale I ducked under the awning of the fish cleaning station, which managed to keep it’s particular scent despite the constant opportunity to be aired out.
I stopped for lunch at Tony’s Crab Shack, and had a sandwich made with “Bandon’s Famous Crab.” I’ve started a policy of always ordering whatever item on the menu includes the word ‘famous,’ and it’s served me well thus far.
I stopped by the visitor information booth, where I received some assistance from fellow travelers in keeping the front door from slamming into my face. A nice old woman behind the counter gave me instructions on how to get to the beach, and asked me three times if I had a windbreaker. I asked her if it was worth it to wear my hat and she shook her head. “That’s Bandon. We can’t keep a hat on and we don’t carry umbrellas,” she said.
I parked on the beach and put on my hurricane jacket. I tightened the hood around my face and started to walk along the rocks. The beach I was on sits right across from the old lighthouse, and is home to what I assume is the new hornhouse, based on the noise it made every 24 seconds. I read the Tsunami warning and was suddenly filled with absolute dread and certainty that a deep ocean earthquake was happening at that exact moment, and I would never be able to make it to the evacuation route in time. What a way to go. Oregon’s nice but it would be a real shame to have only made it this far.
The wind was so strong I could barely keep my balance, let alone hold the camera steady. There is a kind of beauty to it though. A kind of very specific, dangerous beauty. The waves and the wind are so high and strong, they crash up against the rocks like scenes from a movie about a storm. The mist blurs all the edges, from the rocks to the horizon. The Oregon Coast is not the kind of place you idle, it’s the kind of place you haunt.
For the last three years, Evernote has been my friend. Knowing my trip was on the horizon, I made note of every interesting thing I heard about. I’d see a weird tourist attraction on Reddit, and I’d write it down. I’d hear about a historical battleground, and I’d write it down. I’d see a facebook post saying that a particular city was interesting, and I’d write it down.
I made a note for each state. It was nice being able to gather every idea without needing to check if it was anywhere near my planned route. I was in a constant state of brainstorm. I would figure it all out later.
Now is later.
I opened up my notes on Oregon, thinking that would be a good and easy place to start. There wasn’t much worth seeing in Oregon except the coast as far as I was concerned; it was just the quickest route to California. But about a month ago I came across National Geographic’s Ultimate Road Trips, and had saved links to the two Oregon trips. I opened the article in one tab and a google map in the other and started checking out their proposed routes. The National Geographic trips started to sound pretty interesting, and I began adding other attractions from the rest of my notes. There’s a theater festival in Ashland, one of the world’s best beaches in Bandon according to who or whatever told me that at some point in the last three years.
And that’s how a six hour snooze-fest down I-5 became a 14 hour zig-zag through two national forests.
At first, this was a point of stress. If I could find 14 hours worth of driving in Oregon alone, I was never going to make it across the United States. There was just so much to see, and more importantly so much to miss. Four months wouldn’t be enough time to see the country. I needed years.
I’d read from several others who have gone on similar trips that I shouldn’t over-plan, but going out on such a grand adventure without a plan terrifies me. I like to know where I’m headed, and I hate to waste opportunities. What if I miss something really great because I didn’t plan ahead? But Oregon showed me that I was thinking about it all wrong. The truth is that any opportunities I miss will be because I was already off seeing some other wonderful place.
So thank you Oregon. You proved that there are too many fantastic things to see out there. I can’t possibly miss them all.