Let me start by saying that I LOVE the Oregon Coast. For so many years and for so many road-trips, the Coast was our destination. So much so, that when our middle daughter got married, she had her wedding in Cannon Beach. She just had such fond memories of summers spent there. So much so that I wanted to retire there. When we were ready to pack up and go? Cannon Beach was were where I wanted to spend my golden years.
“I don’t know,” people would say when I told them this, “It is pretty rainy, cold and foggy there in the winter.”
“I’m used to the rain,” I always replied, “It can’t be as bad as Ketchikan.”
I decided that I needed to see what the Oregon Coast was like in the winter. We rented a seriously adorable little cottage only half a block from ocean access and walkable to town. Perfect. We set the date and invited the kids.
Our full plans were to spend an entire weekend with Svend and Sarah (we are always soooo rushed with them), then four days with my dad, including Christmas, then a ski day for Scott. followed by a drive down to Cannon Beach for the next 5 days. Cannon Beach to Portland, Portland to home.
The weekend with the Bainbridge B-E’s was wonderful, festive, relaxing. It was a great start to the trip. Scott and Svend worked on creating a Kransekage. They ran into problem after problem. After one failed attempt, there was a lot of analysis about whether you whisk the egg or beat the egg, when to add the sugar… you know… like that.
After awhile I realized my helpful comments were not being appreciated properly, so Sarah and I pinky promised to keep our thoughts regarding Kransekage to ourselves and to instead eat fruitcake and drink yet another glass of wine in front of the toasty fireplace with Axel. The guys continued to work at it in the kitchen. They made another trip to the store to buy an $8.00 bag of powdered sugar. Rolled it differently and created a beautiful Danish Kransekage! God Jul!
December 23rd we left to visit my dad who goes by Pooh, and his wife Linda. I had not spent a Christmas with my dad in over 20 years!! But first, a little background… On December 7 Linda had undergone a major surgery on her hip and was using a walker and expected to take it easy. Because of this, she could not join us when we went to Christmas Eve service at the mega-church they attend. We went to one of the seven (SEVEN!!) services offered that day by the dynamic “Pastor Jesse” to hundreds and hundreds of people per service.
As we got ready to leave for the church, Gracie whispered to me, “I have this feeling that everyone in that church is going to be really put-together.” And she was right. To say I was awed is an understatement. The production, yes, it was a production was so polished. From the “A” grade Hollywood style movie of a man walking through snow, to the soft music that played whenever Pastor Jesse spoke, to how he seemed to look right at me when he talked about sinners, to the snow that fell at the end, from all four corners of the church, floating magically in the dimmed room. It all left me in awe.
It also left me sad. Sad for my little Episcopal Church that struggles to gain membership. My little church that I attended the other day and noticed that of the 15 people attending, 10 of them were mobility impaired… using canes and walkers, some couldn’t even get up. How. How in the world can mainline churches compete?
But I digress. Those days with my dad were spent watching the “old classic” Christmas movies. We watched “Meet Me In St. Louis,” Thanks Judy Garland, “Ding, ding, ding Goes the trolley” will now forever be running through my head. We watched the sweet and sappy “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and I had the pleasure of watching Bing Crosby in Black Face (she said sarcastically and in shock) in “Holiday Inn.”
My dad had wanted to host a big Christmas Dinner, “like when you were little kids.” He preordered a fully cooked smoked turkey from a prestigious butcher – I know, sounds weird, right? But everyone shops there. We drove way the hell out into Maple Valley, and you know what? Everyone really does shop there. In a strip mall is Shawn’s Quality Meats and Smokehouse. There were carolers singing and lines out the door. We left with a turkey. And thick little breakfast sausages. And something called “Million Dollar Bacon.”
Christmas day we pulled out that smoked turkey, made some stuffing and I surprised my dad with those little sweet pickles we used to have, the kind I have never bought or eaten since I was 15. My brother, his wife and their three kids came late. Really late, but with lots of delicious food to add to our feast. It was just wonderful. We FaceTimed with our other brother Randy, and I am proud to say that my dad no longer puts the phone to his ear during FT calls (I cannot tell you how many FT calls I have spent looking at his nose).
The next day we said Goodbye to Gracie who would be meeting us after a couple days work down in Cannon Beach. We headed up to Snoqualmie so Scott could get in some skiing. By the time we got there it was actually considered “night skiing.”
The whole trip started to get a little ominous with hints about the turn it would take when Mei tried once again to call her mom in China. She had been calling for days and no response. After calling many relatives she finally spoke with someone who told her that her mom was in the hospital. She had fallen and broken her hip. Yina and Anna were there as well and they so sweetly comforted their mother, I felt a little like an intruder.
We got a few more hints of things to come when we drove down from Renton to Cannon Beach. There was literally blinding rain, deep puddles in the tire ruts that led to slow and careful driving. We detoured a bit into Long Beach Washington so we could meet Laura and David for lunch. We had a lovely time with them in the charming little sea side town, taking a long walk along the boardwalk. With a hug and a promise to see them the next day, we set off once again for Cannon Beach.
Due to crazy rain we arrived later than I wanted. Sarah was right behind us, coming from Tacoma and Gracie too, finishing her shift and on her way. We found the address easily and I was happy to see that the house was super cute! Just like the pictures. It was a little white washed coastal cottage looking house with big overstuffed chairs and a big dining table to play games. As I got out of the car I could actually hear and smell the ocean!
There was some discussion between Scott and I about which bedroom to take, but we decided to let Sarah pick the one that would work best for Weston. We walked down the hall to take a look, switched on a light and BOOM. Little black mice scurried for cover. One came straight at us and I shrieked. Scott made a horrible strangling sound, pivoted and ran. It. Was. Horrifying.
To make matters worse, after the long car trip I had to use the bathroom. “Check it for me Scott, are there mice in there too?” Scott cracks open the door, turns on the light and shouts, “Oh God!! It is behind the toilet!” It was at this moment that I realized we would not be staying here. I call the owner.
“What? No! We don’t have mice,” she says, “We have never had mice.”
“Well, you do now,” I say.
“No, my daughter was JUST there, and she would have told me. Our house is clean!”
“Yes. Your house is clean. You DO have mice, maybe they are coming in out of the rain.”
She tells me she has to talk to her husband. She doesn’t believe me though. I can tell. While I am sitting, waiting for her to call back, the house gets quiet and see a mouse creeping along the wall. I get out my phone, get a clear video of the mouse as it runs along the wall and then into the chair. I put the video in a message to the lady and hit ‘send.’
Of course a short while later she called. Her tone was totally different. I am sure she had visions of that video going on yelp and VRBO reviews. She said something about the fact that the exterminator could not get there until Monday, I was going to get 100% of my money back (Yay!). She had even found some vacancy for us at a motel with two bedrooms (Sorry Gracie would now be sleeping on a couch) and a kitchen.
By this time Sarah had arrived, leaving Katie at home because she was too sick to travel (this should have been a BIG hint of things to come), and she and Weston were walking around with a broom and Weston was holding his little bottom saying he had to go potty, but wanted his mommy to come because he was “fraid of the moush.”
We were exhausted. We ordered pizza and went to bed early. Laura and David drove down for the day and we spent the morning on the beach where Weston ran with abandon. At one point Gracie went with Weston to the waters edge to collect some water for their castle. The waves had been coming in gently, gently. They leaned down, and like slow motion the BIGGEST wave hit them. It knocked Weston to the ground and tore him out of Gracie’s hands. He tumbled in the surf and Gracies grabbed him, Sarah was already there. He was so sad and wet in his soggy little down jacket and boots filled with water. Gracie was pretty wet too, the water had gone up and over her boots. They all trudged back to change. Scott and I stayed and strolled with Laura and David. It was then that I noticed that all the people on the beach were like us. Like Scott and I. Retired looking. Our age. Walking dogs and holding coffees.
After the beach we walked to town and popped into little shops, but the big stop was the bakery!! Yummy! About an hour into the the shopping experience, Sarah really started to fade. She felt like crap and went home for a nap. By the time the rest of us got home, she was pretty sick. We made dinner, played a game then Laura and David made the long drive home.
The next morning Scott, Gracie, and I decided to take Weston to the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Sarah was sooooo sick by this point. She drove to Astoria and went to an urgent care. Strep Throat. Turns out she had strep throat. On the drive to Tillamook, Gracie tentatively says her throat hurts too. We drive her to the urgent care in Tillamook. Yep she had strep throat too. Scott has been feeling crappy too, so we dropped Weston and Gracie off with Sarah in the muggy little motel room and I took him to an Urgent care in Manzanita. He did not have strep, but he did have a fever. They swabbed him for flu and sent him out with a handful of facemasks.
You read that right. Three towns. Three urgent cares. Three sick people.
Fajitas. We had fajitas for dinner that night.
Weston started getting these weird spots all over his face and became increasingly grumpy.
The motel roomed seemed to get increasingly smaller every day.
The next morning Scott and I took Weston to the beach where Scott had zero energy to chase him, but after the rouge wave yesterday we had to stay right on top of him, so we did. I am, admittedly, not fast enough, so Scott forced himself to do it.
While Sarah and Gracie slept away the strep, Scott and I decided to take Weston to Seaside. To ride the carousel. To eat lunch somewhere. To go to the Aquarium. The carousel would have been fun, but he did NOT want to get off, we had to pry his little fingers from the horse he was riding. Lunch would have been fun, but the food took too long and there was a mysterious ladder that pulled him like a magnet. Come on? What kid wouldn’t want to climb the worlds tallest ladder?
And the aquarium? Well, in his mind we were going to the ch’seum (Children’s Museum a wild and crazy place that Weston LOVES).
He was greatly disappointed when we said “Here is the Aquarium!” We paid our thousand dollars and stepped right to the seal tanks. There are no words for how terrible the seal tanks are. Seven seals live in a tank the size of the principal’s office at my school. Small. They had definitely developed neurotic begging behaviors. One barked. One kept hitting itself with its flippers. One bobbed in the water. One sat like you might think W.C. Fields would sit, just suuuper chill, leaning against the back.
And one splashed.
It splashed Weston and I GOOD. And if that is not shocking and insulting enough. EVERYONE LAUGHED. He buried his little face in my side while I spit foul water out of my mouth. I took off my scarf and wiped him down the best I could, wrapped him in it and we hightailed it out of there. Now he is a big boy, and we were parked a long ways away, and he never… NEVER asks to be carried, but when he put his little hands up and wanted me to carry him, I did. It was a struggle, and the whole way I vowed to work on my arm strength. His little head on my shoulder. His little arms around my neck. his little eyes getting sleepy. We got to the car, got him in his seat and he was asleep before the key was in the ignition.
The next morning was hellish. Sarah felt a bit better. Gracie felt much better, she had caught and treated hers early. It was New Years Eve and she had to work that night so she packed up to go. But first we were going to have a big Brandt-Erichsen breakfast. Weston was just frantic about everything. The spots on his face were increasing and causing us alarm. By 10 am he had had two mega melt-downs. This kid who had spent a week with us at Thanksgiving and did not have ONE. High energy? Yes! Melt-downs? No.
This is when I realized the advantage of a coastal cottage over a motel was. Neighbors. The neighbors next to us and below us were all hearing the melt-downs and running feet and the slamming of doors and the remote control car and the jumping off the couch. I just looked at Sarah and asked, “Are you having fun? Has this been fun?”
“Not really. It has been awful.”
“Then you should go. Get him into a doctor. Get him into his own environment.”
“But I feel bad, you planned this whole week!” Sarah looked conflicted.
“No. I think you should go. In fact, I am the one who feels bad sending you away.”
“Don’t feel bad… you are actually giving me your blessing. I can go without feeling guilty.” She packed up and followed Gracie out the door. She got him into a dr. appointment that same day and turns out he had impetigo. A form of strep. He was sick too.
At this point Scott gave up. He had been trying to hold it together, but now he crawled into bed and was out. He slept for two whole days. Me? I felt glorious. I wandered downstairs and chatted with the lovely young couple whose family owned the motel. Their aunt had been to Ketchikan on a cruise ship. They were birders. They had a podcast. They gave me their card. They told me there was going to be fantastic tides – the precursors to the big “Kings Tides” that came a few days later. Tides like that and a big storm to boot, they assured me that it would a fun way to spend the afternoon. Storm watching.
So I did. I went where they assured me it would be safe and I looked down on that very same beach we had played on the day before. Not a single soul on it and huge waves crashing and rolling. It was quite exciting. I then walked my wet self to the bakery where I bought Scott and I New Years morning cinnamon rolls and into a toy store and bought myself a puzzle. I loved walking around that little wet town. The lights in the pub windows just glowed so warmly. The bakery smelled delicious and was muggy and the windows steamed up. The book store was cozy and I browsed for an hour there.
It was ridiculous how great I felt. I figured I should go check on Scott, I headed back to the motel and found him just like I had left him. I ate the rest of the fajita, worked on the puzzle and finished off a bottle of wine. The next morning we were scheduled to leave. When I turned in the key, I told the couple that I tried, but they were probably going to have to clorox the hell out of that room. We had the plague.
We got to the airport, and with a warning to Scott, “Let me do the talking. Keep your hat pulled low. Don’t look at them.” You see, he was so sick and he looked it. There we were, adrift in the Portland airport, scared they would not let him on the plane. And of course our flight was canceled. We were alerted by another Ketchikan couple we saw in the airport. We ran to the counter and got on a different flight. “Can we have seats together?” I asked the 12 year old who was getting us new tickets.
“No.” He snapped. “Why would that matter?” So Scott sat with a woman who grew increasingly alarmed as she realized how sick he was. It was close but we made our flight. Our luggage did not, but we did, so there is that.
I do love Cannon Beach. I really, really love it, but I think that little fantasy I had about spending my golden years there flew out the window when I saw the mice. When I saw how frightening the ocean is. The things that didn’t bother me were the rain, the cold and the fog. But my visit to The Oregon Coast in the winter was a good idea. It put Ketchikan in perspective for me. Our Narrows are protected. The water is generally calm. There are not huge, ugly rogue waves, or at least not like those ones buffeting Cannon Beach the day I was there. We have browsable bookstores where I can get a puzzle to while away an evening. There are pubs with warm lights on a wet day. Heck, we even have a bakery!