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September 21, 2010

Newport Oregon gets my vote for favorite Coastal Town

Did I mention it rained a lot on our trip to Oregon which by the way is pronounced Oregin but absolutely not OreGone. I had a bit of a problem with getting that right it seemed.
In a way, the brash weather was exactly what was required to provide us with the full-on, authentic Oregon Coast experience. Think of it as a little bit of the same little bit of hell that so many of the early explorers, lighthouse keepers undoubtedly turned closet boozers must have endured 365 days a year shrouded in the natural prison of the quiet, foghorned wet, gray flannel horizon. The first lighthouse we tried to see - Tillamook - was invisible through whiteness. The endless wind and rain began full force in what might just get my vote for favorite little town along the coast: Newport, Oregon.

We packed in the camping at that point and found ourselves a really sweet deal at the American Inn and Suites which was exceptionally clean and cheap at $55 per night. I liked Newport because it seemed real. Newport looked like what you'd expect from a small town along the Oregon Coast. It had the Coors signs in the windows. It had the crab traps on the streets. Small forklifts were working the dock.

The barking of the sea lions huddled together for warmth along the dock permeated the mist. Crusty bearded fishermen were downing a pint in the local Tavern.

I peeked into a store window and noticed two bumperstickers, "Time to Cancel the Obama Drama" whatever that means and "Uncle Sam Wants YOU to speak English!" Just the kind of local colour I'd expect from a small town in Amurica.

The downpour painted the streets like a lucky accident in a watercolour painting and turned our umbrellas inside out. We poked around a  few shops. Gwen patiently held the umbrella over my head while I tried to take these photos in the downpour. We wandered around before deciding to go to Mo's for some New England clam chowder and to get out of the rain. We had the onion rings and the soup which was extra flavourful with bacon.

The Newport restaurant is the original location of Mos and the story goes that "early one morning a woman returned to her car parked outside the restaurant, put it in drive instead of reverse, and crashed through the front of the café. Far from being disgruntled, owner Mo Niemi put her arms comfortingly around the woman and said, 'Well, just put in a garage door so you can drive in anytime you want.' To this day, the garage door on the front of the restaurant is raised on nice days and turns Mo’s into an instant sidewalk café. On the inside, there's a painted characterizaion of a surprised looking woman, seated in her car, just after the crash. The desserts looked fabulous too but we were too full to try them.
After dinner, we moved the car to a spot in front of The Rogue Ale Public House famous for its 31 brews on tap. Enriquez, originally from Mexico, was the bartender that night.We pretty much just had to think we might like to taste test one of them and he'd be filling a shot glass taster; a bartender with E.S.P. and a steel trap memory for names it seemed.
Then Kent Harrison showed up. He was celebrating his return to Newport after taking a job in California for a year.  He was ecstatic to be back in the rain of Oregon and he was celebrating with a drink and dinner (homous) after his first shift as the chef at Embarcadero Resort Hotel.  Kent's favorite beer? The Shakespeare Stout. Enrique preferred IPA Brutal. Kent was gracious, knowledgeable and a seasoned conversationalist. Nice guy. One barstool down sat Bonnie Breach. A regular. A true blue Oregonian with long grey hippy hair to prove it. By the look of the pint glasses in front of her, Bonnie seemed to prefer dark ales  but geneaology was her true passion. She wanted to know my last name. She had me spell it twice. The v is very unusual she said. I'll have to do some research.

We slept well that night out of the rain and headed the next morning to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, with a quick stop at Nye Beach  and a wander through the Sylvia Beach Hotel (a haven for writers and cats). We then dropped into the Newport Visual Arts Centre and took in a sobering but fascinating Washed Ashore project by Angela Hazeltine Pozzi. Large sculptures - turtles, jellyfish -  created solely from the plastics that she had found on remote beaches in Southern Oregon.
After that we made a stop at Oregon State University Hatfield Science Center(suggested donation: $5)  and it proved to be an excellent place (an alternative to the Aquarium)  full of interactive displays, information on Tsunamis and earthquakes and other research studies complete with a "touch pool" full of ginormous sea anemones, starfish, sea urchins each managing to survive in spite of being poked more than a cute Grade 5 girl by the Grade 5 boy who sits behind her in class.
In mid-2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will move its base for research ships from Seattle to Newport. The base has about 110 marine officers and a total of 175 employees. It will base four ships and provide support for up to two itinerant vessels.[5] NOAA already has some personnel at the Hatfield Marine Science Center which support the Alaska Fisheries Science Center and the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. The ships will join the RV Wecoma which is based at the center. There were signs all over town welcoming NOAA and you can only imagine what a welcome to the economy new residents will be.

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