West Coast Trip 2022 – Part 6

Making the most of camping at the coast! This week we revisit the beach where we got married, find our old house, and do laundry before heading to Oregon

July 5th was, thankfully, a little quieter at Pacific Beach State Park campground.

The next morning, July 6th, we were not wanting to leave the beach. But we had reservations at Fort Stevens State Park in Warrenton, Oregon and needed to get there by the 4 p.m. check-in time.

We had a full list of things to do before crossing the Columbia River into NW Oregon, so we got an earlier start than normal.

Curving back down the coast towards Ocean Shores, we pulled into the planned beach community of Seabrook, Washington. The coastal residential and commercial development had just started when we lived on the coast.

My, how you have grown!

At the time, JK was working as a sous chef at a fine dining restaurant further up the Washington coast. The wine sommelier at the restaurant was leaving to start a French-style bistro in Seabrook and asked JK if he would become the executive chef and help open this new restaurant.

We hadn’t been back since leaving the coast for Colorado, so it was a huge shock for both of us to see how large the town had become over the years.

Featuring New England-style architecture, Seabrook homes sell now for half-million dollars and up. And the cluster of restaurants, shops, and boutiques in the town center cater to a more affluent Seattle/Portland crowd. The old bistro building is still there, but it’s now Koko’s, a tequila and tapas bar.

Another thing we wanted to do while on the coast was see our old house in Ocean Shores and visit with our next-door neighbor.

But first, laundry!

Photo by Explore Washington State

The community of Ocean Shores had also seen growth. The narrow peninsula is surrounded by water – the Pacific Ocean on one side and Grays Harbor Bay on the other.

The development, featuring an airport and golf course, was originally started in the 1960s by singer and TV personality Pat Boone.

We were saddened to see that many of the homes were looking rundown and some of the shops and a couple of hotels had gone out of business.

The laundromat/tanning studio/candy store wasn’t open yet when we pulled into town, so we had breakfast at a local place across the street to kill some time.

We wanted to freshen the bedding, and had accumulated a small pile of dirty clothes during the first part of our trip out west. We always travel with a lot of quarters. “Prepared, you were,” as Yoda would say. LOTS of quarters! That was a good thing since the price of doing laundry has gone up, too.

As we loaded clothes into several washing machines, a very exuberant young woman with pinkish hair asked if the van parked outside was ours! We cautiously said yes, thinking the worse. Her face lit up as she said that was “so cool” and asked if we were fulltime #vanlifers.

We said no, just part timing it. That didn’t dampen her enthusiasm.

We explained we were on our first major van trip, and that we used to live in Ocean Shores years ago.

While our laundries washed and dried, Betty went on to tell us her story of coming to buy an old bus and converting it into a rolling home on wheels.

Betty gave us some great van life tips and shared her favorite camping spots along the ocean. She works fulltime and uses that money to support her and her family’s #buslife on the Washington and Oregon coast.

You can follow her on Instagram at: www.instagram.com/busmodebetty.

An emotional reunion with home long ago

Once our laundry was dry, folded and packed away in the van, we headed to our old neighborhood to visit with our next-door neighbor, Pat.

Pat had recently lost her husband, but seemed to be adjusting to the change well. We chatted over coffee and laughingly agreed the store-bought pastry sweet treats were a bit disappointing.

The house we had built in the early 2000s still looked good. The trees, bushes, and flowers we planted those many years ago had flourished in the damp coastal weather.

It was a truly bitter-sweet moment for us remembering our time living at the ocean.

There was one more place to visit in Ocean Shores before heading towards the northern Oregon coast – Our wedding beach.

Remembering our wedding day

Surprisingly, we were able to find the side roads that led to a small parking circle. The narrow sandy trail that cut through the dunes to the beach was still there, although the sand path seemed a lot longer and a lot harder to get up and over than we remembered.

It was cold, windy, and raining hard on that early November afternoon as we walked that same path to the beach. A small gathering of friends, family, and a local photographer (renowned for his historic pictures of rock stars) braved the Washington weather to witness our vows.

We both worked for an Aberdeen radio station at the time and the crazy morning show DJ was also a licensed minister, so we had him officiate the ceremony. He did a great job, because after 17 years, we are still married and going strong!

After a long, tearful hug standing on “our spot,” we made our way back to our van and said goodbye to Ocean Shores.

Moving on down the coast

We retraced our route through Aberdeen to connect with Highway 101 south. The highway winds and twists its way through a remote forest area to Raymond, Washington where we stopped for lunch.

The highway then follows the shoreline of picturesque Willapa Bay. Oyster farming is a surviving industry along these inland shoreline areas.

Rain was falling as we took the highway 401 cutoff to connect again with Highway 101 at Point Ellice and the waterfront Lewis and Clark National Historic Park Station Camp.

It’s here at the southern end of the Long Beach peninsula where the highway crosses over to Oregon.

Looking for that world famous bridge

To get to Oregon from this location, motorists must take the historic 4.1-mile-long Astoria-Megler bridge. The iconic green structure is the longest continuous three-span through-truss bridge in the world and at its tallest, stands nearly 200-feet above the mouth of the Columbia River.

Once across, it’s like a spaghetti bowl of roads and exits to get to river level again in downtown Astoria, Oregon. It can be congested with traffic and confusing to navigate for newbies.

We have always enjoyed Astoria, and actually spent the first night of our honeymoon in the Astoria-Warrenton area. (We went to ROSS Dress for Less to spend some our wedding gift money! lol)

Astoria’s maritime history

Astoria is home to a still-thriving fishing industry, with tourism a close contender. Be sure to visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum along the waterfront. The museum highlights the history of fishing, shipping, and military history of the area.

During mild weather, you can stroll the 3.1-mile Columbia Riverwalk on the Astoria Riverfront to do some ocean-going ship spotting and spectacular sunset watching.

Take a steep city street up to the famous hilltop Astoria Column that features murals depicting the area’s rich history. The trek will also give you a bird’s eye panorama of the Columbia River.

The eclectic Astoria downtown area is a bustling coastal-urban blend of art galleries, brewpubs, shops, vintage hotels, Victorian-era buildings, and a few “colorful” residents.

Photo Courtesy Pig ‘N Pancake

If you love breakfast, don’t leave town without eating at the Pig ‘N Pancake.

Heading out of town on the 101, we crossed Youngs Bay into the more suburban-like national chain, big box store-ladened Warrenton.

We made a stop at the Fred Meyer store (love them) to restock with fresh grocery items for the next couple of days as we got ready to camp and explore Fort Stevens State Park and campgrounds.

Next time: “Cooking in the Camper with JK” – Coleman Camping Oven Pizza. We also explore the vintage military outpost grounds at Fort Stevens State Park overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River.

One comment

Leave a Reply