We planned a special trip this weekend to celebrate my birthday. At the recommendation of my boss, we decided to visit Nehalum Bay State Park and the little Oregon beach town of Manzanita. My boss has been visiting Manzanita for many years and couldn’t say enough nice things about this adorable little town. Lucky for us, we were both able to take Friday off from work so we would have some extra time. We really appreciated the extra day because this was also going to be our last trip in the Alpha 1.
We decided not to take Rudy on this particular trip because we were planning a number of activities that he couldn’t be a part of and we really don’t like to leave him locked up in the RV. When this comes up Rudy stays with a dog sitter. Over the years I have found him some really awesome sitters and I think he might actually have more fun with them than going on our trips. With the sitters, he gets to go on long hikes with other dogs and get filthy swimming in ponds and streams. Basically, doggie heaven.
After I dropped off Rudy, Brandon and I took off for storage in the Jeep. This trip was also going to be our first trip towing the Jeep behind the RV. Brandon had spent the past few weeks getting the Jeep ready to tow. This involved buying a tow bar and some mounting brackets that fit the Jeep. He managed to find everything we needed on Craigslist and installed it himself.
We knew that the drive to the coast was going to be a great test of whether the RV was really capable of towing the Jeep. The two hour drive includes a long stretch of inclines to get over the mountains and through the Tillamook Forest before you finally get to Highway 101 along the coast. The RV is rated as capable of towing 3,700 lbs. The Jeep weighs 3,500 lbs. We thought it might be a bit of a struggle and we were right. Although we eventually made it over the mountains, we spent most of the drive waving cars around us because we were incapable of keeping up with the speed limit.
We finally made it to camp in the early afternoon. We were staying in Nehalem Bay State Park for the weekend. The park has tons of spots for tent campers and RVs and was clearly a popular family spot for a nice weekend in June. There were kids running around everywhere! It was immediately clear why everyone seems to love this place – the beach was just a short walk over the sand dunes and it was perfect. Cars are not allowed on this particular section of the beach so all you see is miles of gorgeous soft sand.
While Brandon got the RV all hooked up with water and electric, I learned how to fix a flat bike tire. This is probably something that I did as a kid, but I definitely didn’t remember how. As a kid I quickly gave up on bicycles in favor of traveling by horseback. But regardless of my lack of experience, I managed to affix a patch that continues to hold.
Once camp was set up we headed into town in the Jeep. The main drag in Manzanita was only about two miles from our campground and we had a recommendation from my boss for an excellent pizza place for dinner. The primary reason we traded in Brandon’s big diesel truck for a Jeep was because we really wanted a tow vehicle. On our trip to the redwoods in California we would have been totally stranded if Cody and Jaz had not been there in her Jeep. The campground was just too far from the store and the hiking trails to walk and it is just too big of a pain to break camp and drive there in the RV. This was a big wake-up call for us. We needed a tow vehicle to really do what we wanted to do. And I had so much fun riding around in Jaz’s Jeep that I became convinced that it would be the perfect tow vehicle – small enough to tow, but rugged enough to handle any road. It turns out that Brandon has always liked Jeeps and was easily sold on the idea too.
When we got to Marzano’s Pizzeria there was a bit of a wait but they suggested that we just walk down to the beach and back. A table would probably be free by the time we got back. It’s too bad that a walk on the beach isn’t always an option when waiting for a table.
Brandon had a local lager. I had a nice pinot noir. We shared a caesar salad and a pepperoni, pepperoncini, and garlic pizza. Lucky for us, we both love garlic. It was all exactly what I wanted in a birthday dinner.
After dinner we went for a drive through some of the neighborhoods up on the ridge overlooking the ocean. Some of the houses were modest. Many were quite elaborate. But all had incredible views of the ocean. We stopped at one house with a long uphill drive way that looked like it would have a perfect view. It was for sale and it didn’t look like anyone was home. No, we didn’t go inside. Obviously, it was locked. But we did spend a few minutes enjoying the view from the driveway before hitting the road for camp.
On the way back to camp we stopped at a little market in Manzanita. We picked up some ice, beer, and canned wine (surprisingly good and perfect for the beach). Then we rushed back to camp because we wanted to watch the sunset from the beach. Between our stop at the market and the walk to the beach, our timing was a bit off. We missed the actual sunset by a few minutes but had a great time walking the beach and hanging out on the dunes none the less.
We had big plans for the next morning. We were going horseback riding on the beach! Brandon planned this as a special birthday treat. I spent a lot of time riding horses when I was a kid. Brandon has ridden a handful of times. For both of us it had been a number of years since we’ve been on a horse. Thankfully, we were on some very sweet and well trained horses. They basically just play follow the leader. I was on Kara Marie, a Norwegian Fjord. Brandon was on Buttercup, a Belgian. Both of our horses were pleasantly plump and it became obvious why during our ride. It was nearly impossible to keep them from eating everything they walked past!
The outfit that rented the horses and led the beach rides was located right in the state park. We just walked on over, were introduced to our horses, and hopped on for our hour long ride down the beach. Our trail ride included us, a family with two kids (one riding an adorably tiny pony), and two guides. One of my favorite parts of the ride was going up and down the sand dunes. We had to lean with the horses to keep our balance as they trekked through the sand. Out on the beach itself the wind made it very cold. We were actually glad we had only signed up for an hour because we were freezing after about twenty minutes. Next time we’ll wear heavier jackets.
After our ride down the beach we went back to camp for lunch. We planned to spend the afternoon driving up scenic Highway 101 to Cannon Beach. We had no particular agenda, just a scenic drive on the coast. Highway 101 runs along the coast throughout Oregon and is absolutely stunning. We’ve driven various portions of it since we moved here, but the weather has not always cooperated. On one trip with my parents the fog was so heavy that we couldn’t even see the ocean just a few hundred yards away. On this trip, the weather was perfect.
In Cannon Beach we stopped at a hardware store/bar. That’s right. This was both a working hardware store and working bar. You could buy a pint and a phillips head in one stop. We had heard that this was where the locals hung out. We weren’t sure this was true. It looked more like it was built as a trap for tourists – the hardware was suspiciously dusty – and Cannon Beach is a very touristy town. But while sitting at the bar we noticed that most of the people around us were locals complaining about tourists driving too slow on the scenic highway. So maybe the locals buy beer here, but I think that’s about it.
After we returned to camp from our drive up Highway 101 we decided to go for a bike ride into Manzanita. We felt like we needed an excuse to bike into town but we didn’t need anything from the store so we chose the ice cream parlor next to the pizza place as our goal. The ride into town is about two miles down a relatively flat road. There is even a bike lane for most of the way and very little traffic. It was a great ride for beginners like ourselves. Plus, there was ice cream waiting at the end. While leaving the campground we passed a deer on the side of the road. It hardly even noticed us. It just continued to nibble at the grass as we scrambled for our cameras, standing just a few feet away. I’ve been other places where the local wildlife is as used to people as this deer was but it still amazes me.
After returning from our four mile bike ride we decided we were too tired to cook dinner ourselves and got back in the Jeep to head back into town for dinner. We also had a hankering for some local seafood. We went to a place called the Big Wave Cafe that was supposed to specialize in cooking up the local catch. Brandon had the fish and chips made with locally caught halibut and I had the dungeness crab special, caught just down the road in Garibaldi that morning. It was all delicious. Because my meal included a whole crab and sides it took me significantly longer to eat than Brandon. He ended up just sitting there watching me continue to crack open crab, but neither of us minded. I was eating fresh crab (heaven) and he gets a kick out of watching me eat shell fish. He says I get particularly carnivorous and it’s apparently very funny. What can I say, I love shell fish.
We spent our last night on the coast sitting around a campfire and entertaining the kids camping nearby with the LED light strip attached underneath our awning. Brandon installed the LED lights a while back. It consists of a strip of LED lights stuck to the side of the RV underneath the awning and a remote control. The lights change color with the remote control. The kids were all riding their bikes around the campground and had glow sticks tied all over their bikes and helmets. They probably thought it was tons of fun, but I bet their parents did it so that they would be visible in the dark. Whenever they would ride by I would change the color of the lights or put it on strobe so that it would blink. They got a kick out of it.
It was another successful weekend and a perfect birthday, but we couldn’t help but feel a little sad that we would have to drive home in the morning and then go back to work the next morning. We both love our jobs but these little weekends away always make us think of what it would be like if we didn’t have to go back. What if this was just what we did? What if we could just keep driving on down the road? Who knows what kinds of adventures we might find.