I want to reclaim who I am.
A Wandering Widow Post
When Dan first died, my hospice chaplain gave me some advice that took awhile for me to understand. He told me that avoiding the places that were important to WE, made Dan disappear. Jay gently suggested that it would be important for ME to reclaim them as my own. Being me, I did the exact opposite. I sold our dream home, moved to a part of town Dan hated, quit watching our favorite football team (Sorry Boise State Broncos), and avoided our favorite restaurants and activities. It was as if anything familiar made the oppressive weight of his loss that much more painful.
Fast forward two years, and I finally get what Chaplain Jay was talking about. By avoiding anything that was WE, I was also shutting down anything that was ME. Hey, I’m a slow learner sometimes, but I do pay attention.
So there I sat, with a cup of coffee, watching whales crest outside my balcony in Depoe Bay, reclaiming one of my favorite places: the Oregon Coast. I was lucky enough to be with two of my favorite people, who made the trip with us every time, even after WE became ME.
The only times I’d ever been on the Oregon Coast were with Dan, and they were after the word CANCER had entered our lives. We were on a time crunch to make as many memories as we could. Since he spent summers there as a kid it was important to him that he share it with me. Last year was the last time we came together. Only that time what was left of him was stashed in a Maker’s Mark bottle and we scattered him at a waterfall.
This time it was different. Just like reclaiming Boise for my own, this week on the coast was about rediscovering the beauty and happiness of this national treasure. No more Dan shaped voids, just the occasional pangs of memories and lots of laughs channeling his funny sayings and sometimes surly behavior.
Cheers to all my W Sisters taking the often painful steps of reclaiming the joys in life.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
Click here for my Oregon Coast Road Trip photos.
THE WAY THERE
It’s an almost nine-hour drive to Depoe Bay from Boise. When we visited before, we broke that up into multiple days since Dan was too ill to be in the car that long. I’d forgotten how much I hate long car drives, but we did manage to stop at every scenic view lookout along the way (my sister-in-law is a saint). And since you have to pass through Hood River (Dan’s childhood summer haunt), we made sure to stop at Mike’s Ice Cream for their famous huckleberry shakes. This is one of our family favorites, and when we stay in Hood River it’s a daily stop. (Cash only for those of you who like to plan ahead).
We chose to make Depoe Bay our home base for the week of Independence Day. This is the whale watching capital of Oregon and a quiet coastal town. We stayed at an Airbnb condo with an ocean view, and a short five-minute walk to food, shops, and whale watching off the cliffs. Our first night we were treated to one of the most amazing sunsets I’ve ever witnessed and the sight of whales breaking the surface of the ocean. I could have stayed on that cliffside forever.
Dinner at Horn Public House got us out of the wind, without sacrificing our sunset and whale watching views. We ate here several times and were impressed with the service and the food, although the last hour of the evening they go to a very limited menu. Definitely try their house brewed beers before you leave. My favorite was the Little Whale Cream Ale, but I recommend trying them all.
There isn’t a lot of great beach access in Depoe Bay, although Fogarty Creek Park is pretty enough and has some decent agate hunting (even in the summer). I’d continue to Lincoln or Newport if you really want to play in the sand. I love the ocean in all it’s many varieties, so liked Fogarty Creek, although the rest of the family wasn’t too impressed. Instead of a wide stretch of white sand, it was pebbly and the ridge of trees went straight out to the water, a beautiful blending of forest and ocean.
There are no fireworks in Depoe Bay due to the sensitivity of the seabirds that nest here, but both Lincoln and Newport are a short drive away so you don’t have to worry about missing out.
Depoe Bay is the self-proclaimed whale watching capital of Oregon, and with about 10 species of whales that hang out off the coast, I’d agree. I could see them from my balcony, or just off the street.
In addition to the hours we spent on a bench or rock wall just watching these majestic creatures do their thing, we took a whale watching boat tour with Dockside Charters. The crew was knowledgeable and friendly, although we saw more whales from the bridge than we did out at sea. I love boats and being on the water, so I didn’t care. (Pretty sure I was the only one hollering “woohoo” when we hit big waves and got soaked since I was sitting as far front as possible.)
PRO TIP: If you’re used to boats on fresh water, the wide open sea is rougher than it looks. Dramamine up if you’re not sure how you’ll do, or stay in the rear of the boat.
The Clam Chowder Taste-Off of 2018
Okay, nobody, and I mean nobody, will ever come close to beating my Grandma’s homemade clam chowder. But, that doesn’t stop me from trying to find someone who comes close. On this trip I sampled clam chowder up and down the coast (thanks to everyone who sent me recommendations). I sampled more than 12, but narrowed it down to my Top 3, which I’m sharing with you. All three were perfectly seasoned and very different. (If I have to add salt or pepper it doesn’t make the list since it violates my “always trust the chef” rule.)
#3. The Horn Public House, Depoe Bay, Oregon
Overall good flavor, creative use of herbs, and enhanced by the incredible views.
#2. Gracie’s Sea Hag, Depoe Bay, Oregon
Their clam chowder was meaty (nothing worse than chowder that is potato heavy) and had good flavor. It had the added benefit of being walking distance from our condo.
#1. Clearwater Restaurant, Newport, Oregon
Their clam chowder was my favorite, and not just because I enjoyed it deckside on a sunny day. They add baby pink shrimp to their chowder, which makes it extra amazing. Purists can order it without the shrimp. This may be the closest to my Grandma’s I’ve ever found.
Lunch at Kyllos is a must. The seaside views are amazing, and the seafood is delicious. If you have an under-21 in your group you won’t be able to dine on the patio, but the views from inside are just fine. And there are plenty of non-seafood options for those that don’t eat it.
After lunch stroll down to the beach to walk off whatever deliciousness you just ate (crab-stuffed halibut in my case). The day we were there we collected sea glass and cool rocks, went treasure hunting in tidepools to see the anemone, and dodged the jellyfish and squid eggs that lined the beach (cool unless you step on them in your bare feet. Gag.)
Between October and May local glass artists hide their glass floats near the tide line for visitors to find.
And while I abhor shopping, the Lincoln Outlet Mall has a Northface outlet, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get some new gear for my fall trips.
This harbor town is full of shops and restaurants, and normally where our family has stayed when we’ve come to the coast. While I can live without the cheesy Bigfoot at Ripleys and the wax museum, I’m happy as a mermaid just hanging out, so while my SIL and nephew went touristing, I parked myself on the deck at Clearwater Restaurant for some pier side people watching.
PRO TIP: Dress for success! Much like my beloved Ireland and Scotland, the weather here changes from minute to minute. If you’re heading out for a whole day of fun, plan on walking shoes and beach shoes, layers to accommodate both the chilly morning and evening temperatures and the toasty afternoons. Don’t worry about your hair, it’s windy and salty and misty. (Beach hair, don’t care!) And don’t forget the sunscreen. Even on a cool cloudy day, you can get burned if you’re out long enough.
The Independence Day fireworks display lived up to the hype. In addition to the display, people take their boats out and shoot off their flare guns. I know, my European friends are shaking their heads and saying, “Americans and their guns,” right now. I’m just laughing and trying to make new friends with boats.
Newport does it right.
The Creamery rebuilt their visitor’s center a while back, so if you have kiddos you may want to stop here for the self-tour and some fresh ice cream. Just be advised, on the weekend it’s more crowded than a WalMart with a Back-to-School sale.
Oceanside was my favorite part of the trip to Tillamook. Oceanside beach offers a long stretch of white sand, tidepools to explore, agate hunting, and just playing in the water. A few miles away you’ll find the Cape Meares Lighthouse. While you’re there, go check out the Octopus Tree. Oh, just don’t try to hug it. Hugging the Octopus Tree will get you on the naughty list. Whomp whomp.
The Lonesome Boatman (instrumental) The Fureys
I love this tune. My friends, Mark and Gary of For Folk Sake, play my favorite version. They introduced me to it one Friday night at McHugh’s Bar in Belfast. Favorite tune by my favorite musicians in my favorite pub in my favorite city? Yes, please! (The countdown is on for my return to Ireland, and I can’t wait.)