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Happy Labo(u)r Day Weekend: Day 1

August 30, 2008
At the rest area

The PX waits patiently at the rest area on SR 410 (Orin O’Neill photos)

SEASIDE, Oregon—I had forgotten a very important fact about coastal southwest Washington. It’s windy. People go to the Long Beach Peninsula to fly kites. You start feeling the wind once you leave Raymond.

The PX only weighs 213 lbs, so it is most definitely affected by crosswinds. When it’s affected, I’m affected. I’m just not able to crank the throttle hard when I see trees bent over and flags pulled straight out. Someone was going to buy me a GTS a while back, but that would’ve depended on things like stock prices doing certain things. They didn’t. So I tour with the PX, for now anyway.

While US 101 is a 2-laner headed toward the coast, it’s smooth (well, except for the parts that look like replacements for sections that washed away), it’s wide, and has hard shoulders. But it’s not exactly low-stress when you’ve got a VW Microbus a foot off your license plate and you see signs that say “Severe Crosswinds Ahead.” Oh, and said Microbus passed on the left with about eight inches to spare. So much for peace and love.

US 101 has a T-intersection. Go right to head for Long Beach, go left for SR 4. I looked at a sign on SR 4, about 30 feet from the intersection. “Astoria 21,” it said. That sounded a lot closer than Long Beach. I’ll go there some other time, in the Escape. Unless somebody buys me a GTS, of course.

SR 4 is nice, most likely very recently resurfaced. There’s not much traffic, but not many signs of human life until the junction with SR 401. That’s the road to the Astoria-Megler Bridge. You round a corner, and there it is. Boy, it looks long. I wonder what the wind must be like. I need to stop and contemplate the task I’m about to undertake, and, lo and behold, there’s a rest area!

It’s amazing how much an empty bladder can relieve stress. Okay, we can do this.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge

The Astoria-Megler Bridge is closer than it looks here

The bridge is much closer than it looks (the heat/humidity optical illusion can work both ways), and there’s a traffic signal at the entrance. I seem to recall the speed limit being low, but I look over and see a sign that says “Speed 55.” How ’bout that? Oregon put that sign up. Oregon has a “basic rule” speed law, i.e., you are obligated to drive at a speed that is “reasonable and prudent.” What’s on the sign is a suggestion.

The light changes. I turn left, a Prius coming the opposite way makes a right turn behind me. This could be good. The Prius driver will most likely see my reduced speed as a gesture to save the planet, and not get hacked off. Anybody behind him will, but he’s used to that.

Hmm. There’s no wind on the bridge, at least on the low part. I can’t go 55, but I’m going fast enough to keep the Prius well behind me.

As I approach the ramp, I see the Prius has been replaced by another vehicle. The bridge has dashed yellow lines, so passing is okay if you can do it safely. The wind kicks up, the pavement feels slipperier. Oh geez. You make this big loop from the high side of the bridge to the main drag in Astoria, and it feels like going halfway around the Earth. Chill out, I tell myself, this will pass.

At the end of the ramp, I’m in the left-turn lane and realize I needed to make a right turn. No big, I don’t want to create any more ill will, so I’ll just make the left, and another into a parking lot. There, I can get turned around and headed for the coast.

More faulty memory. Like the bridge to Warrenton, where the wind is blowing at what may as well be hurricane strength. And it’s narrow. And there’s no place to pull off until almost the other side. At this point, I really wish I had the Escape.

I can duck into the Fred Meyer parking lot, and go a considerable distance before reaching a traffic signal. At least US 101 is wide, occasionally two lanes, and has several handy slow-vehicle turnouts. You can use the intersections with the roads leading to the oceanfront cabanas for this purpose as well.

At this point, I decide Seaside would be a good place to bunk for the night. Ordinarily, on trips like this I plan to the tiniest detail. This time, I decide to wing it. If people are staying home instead of hitting the road, it should be possible to find accommodation at a somewhat reasonable price.

I stop at this place right next to the beach. Sorry, we’re full, try the Comfort Inn near the Holiday Inn Express (it’s full, the desk clerk just talked to them). Sure, says the Comfort Inn, we have a room. That’ll be $245. *GULP!* Know of a place a bit, uh, cheaper? Try the place across the street, says the Comfort Inn.

That would be the cheap (for Seaside, anyway) ‘n’ cheerful Royale Motel. Ninety bucks buys a nice, spacious room that’s about four blocks from the beach. And I can mooch wi-fi from the Comfort Inn. Score!

Change out of the microfibre underwear, shed a few layers, I’m ready to hit the beach.

Sand

If you’ve only been to beaches in Washington, you may not be familiar with this stuff. It’s called ‘sand’.

Oregon’s constitution guarantees Oregonians (and tourists) unimpeded access to every single inch of the state’s Pacific Ocean beach. In Seaside, you walk to the ends of the east/west streets, along The Prom (I’m going to guess that’s short for “promenade”) if necessary, and onto a vast expanse of fine, soft sand. Look to the south, and you see this:

Oregon Coast terrain

Mmmm. I’m hungry. I’ll hit the tourist strip for dinner.

Oh, here’s today’s stats:

Beginning mileage: 18035
Ending mileage: 18235
Today’s Mileage: 200
Gas purchased:
1.105 gal for $4.57 in McCleary, Wash. @ 18112 miles

Tomorrow’s destination: McMinnville, Ore. I will need to add gas before I leave Seaside. Favicon

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