I can’t remember the last time I set foot in the coastal communities of Newport or Lincoln City. George W. Bush was still in the White House; that much I remember. So, with an extended weekend in the Portland area, I planned a day trip to the towns, which for years were my family’s regular spring break haunts.
Before leaving town, my buddy Lance and I stopped for breakfast at Slappycakes in Portland. The main appeal at Slappycakes is that diners cook pancakes on a griddle built into the table. Diners choose from five batters, 20 ingredients, and (at least) five toppings.
My first attempt at a pancake ended up a spectacular failure. You would think I’d never made a pancake in my life. Just shameful.
The waitress, sensing my befuddlement, reassured me. “It always takes a practice round or two,” she said. “Don’t take it personally.”
I salvaged my meal with a much better second effort.
With that, we set off for Lincoln City.
As soon as we arrived at in town, we headed for the beach, where we walked along the shore for a half-hour. It marked my first beach excursion since late September — an eternity by my Northwest-born standards. I was in heaven.
That was the last time all day we went more than five minutes without rain. It didn’t matter. Even at its cloudiest, windiest, and rainiest, the beach soothes the soul like nothing else.
Lincoln City isn’t anyone’s favorite beach town; its north end is dominated by a casino, and bad traffic makes the stretched-out town feel longer than it already is. But Lincoln City is dotted with nearly a dozen used bookstores. Lance and I, both avid readers, were eager to duck out of the rain and sample the town’s musty bookshops.
Our favorite? Robert’s Bookshop embodied and amplified every used bookstore stereotype. The aisles were crowded, with piles of books lining the floors. We walked through one room, only to discover another room beyond its walls, with another room beyond that room. Randomly-placed theater seats offered relaxation, and the few inches of walls not covered with shelves were adorned with vintage comics, paintings, and other random memorabilia.
We could have spent all day rummaging through the stacks at Robert’s, but lunch called.
We grabbed a bowl of clam chowder at my favorite restaurant on the coast, Mo’s. It warmed us up as waves crashed about in Siletz Bay — the archetypal Northwest coastal experience.
From there, we drove to Newport. Once in town, we stopped at the Yaquina Bay Bridge. I just finished “Love & the Green Lady,” a moving tribute to the beautiful bridge penned by one of my favorite others. Inspired by his love and adoration for the bridge, I wanted to experience it for myself.
Mother Nature wasn’t having it. The rain fell with a bruising intensity, and the wind pushed us off balance as we headed out over the bay. I thoroughly enjoyed the overpowering nature of the coast’s relentless weather, but common sense ruled the day. We made it a third of the way before retreating to the warm refuge of my car. I will have my revenge on the bridge one day … just as long as the weather cooperates, that is.
We dried off by taking the Rogue Brewery tour, which delighted with one cool story after another. Like the one about the brewery’s early days in Newport. Or how converted dairy tanks remain a big part of the brewery’s operation. Or the story behind the phallic red silo that greets visitors. It was an altogether entertaining 45 minutes.
Following the tour, we relaxed with a pint in the brewery’s bar. I imbibed in the double chocolate stout, which tasted like a milkshake — and had a similar consistency, for that matter. Hands down, it was one of the best beers I’ve ever tried.
But I could only enjoy one. Dusk approached, and a three-hour return trip beckoned. We paid our tabs, ate dinner in town, and hit the road. Another long, successful day at the beach was in the books.