I didn’t invite the elephant, but he came anyway.
We got up early and worked as much as we had energy for. Since Wednesday we’ve been unpacking, sorting, shopping, and organizing in an attempt to make her dorm room like more like home because, well, it’s going to be for this next year and all the while I’ve had this horrifying thought in the back of my head, the countdown, the timeline, the goodbye that would have to be said… but I wasn’t ready.
So we shortened our list. Some things could wait. Some things could be done on our own. I could help from afar and she had the weekend to finish up the details. Books were purchased (ouch!). We needed a break, so around 11 we took a walk, found her class buildings, got excited about a posting for the equestrian club and some cooking classes later this fall, and made a whole lot of small talk knowing it was just hours until… we couldn’t say it yet.
So we prioritized play. It was needed. We’d done enough and we wanted to create a memory on this “last day,” the day she’d be on her own, really, for the first time. My emotions were a muddled soup of pride, excitement, fear, sadness, joy (for her), loss… we decided to spend a few hours on the coast before the final goodbye.
Newport (Oregon) is just an hour from Corvallis and a fairly easy drive through tunnels of green overhanging trees that line parts of the drive across the coastal range where the road dips and rises but remains so beautiful it’s nearly a destination in itself,. We didn’t mind the hour. We talked a bit. I kept reviewing lists of things to do and things that needed to be done. It was reflexive, unintentional, but the “easy conversation” to be had. Emotionless while I fought back the well.
Though I’ve been to Newport countless times as kid, I didn’t remember it beyond the Oregon Coast Aquarium and Mo’s Restaurants. A friend mentioned Mo’s marionberry cobbler and that sounded divine, so we headed there. There’s more than one now. “Famous” for the clam chowder, there are several Mo’s sprinkled along the Oregon coast. Even within the tiny strip of Bay Blvd., there are two. We parked easily and walked to Mo’s Annex where we enjoyed this beautiful view of the bay complete with pelicans, seagulls, and the occasional sea lion. The food was meh, may be because of our moods, but it just wasn’t phenomenal. At the end, we didn’t care because we did order the marionberry cobbler a la mode and it was not only large enough to feed two, the bowl was all but licked clean.
Bay Blvd hugs the Bay in what’s known as Newport’s Bayfront District. It’s a stretch built in 1866 as a tourist resort destination and looks like it hasn’t changed much since. In 1908 the seafood industry moved in, so now the simple walk along Bay Blvd is a beautiful mix of the two. Within view of the Yaquina Bay Bridge are great restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, oddities like Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium and fish – lots and lots of fish. Newport is home to Oregon’s largest commercial fishing fleet and many of them are settled right here. Crab pots are stacked on the docks and this machine cleans the shrimp right next to the market that sells them. Falling here are just skins and tails.
Where there are fish, there are sea lions – at least in these parts.
As we walked east down Bay, we heard the telltale barking of sea lions. At first I thought it was a recording from a nearby shop, but it got louder as we neared Port Dock 1. So we turned and walked down it to find this. Like overgrown flippered puppies, they fought and barked, flopped on top of each other in unwieldy piles of blubber in what proved to be a feeble attempt to nap, and belched rudely and often in the afternoon sunlight. It didn’t surprise us to learn that they were all male.
Apparently male California sea lions migrate north spending August – June here along the Oregon coast while the females stay in sunny California. We must have watched them play and squabble for nearly an hour. A semblance of quiet shattered with the bark of one, then a chorus of others joining in until the entire floating pier was a cacophony of sound. They’d settle down for a moment of quiet until one moved invoking the barking of another who’d come at him with fangs showing, or one of the swimming ones, just hoping for a sunny spot to nap would dare to jump onto the small open space just to have one of the obvious alpha males sitting alone roar and fight him off.
Aggressive, but cute, furry, and so sweet when they’re sleeping or scratching themselves. We tore ourselves away just because we had to.
I got a good laugh out of this. That rock in the background is covered in sea lions, so Tiara saw the mannequin in scuba gear and asked if he was a “scare-seal.” You know… like a scarecrow, but intended to keep the seals off the dock instead? Of course, I don’t know, but it’s an interesting concept. May be I need to develop a “scare-mosquito.” I’d be rich overnight.
We walked toward the bridge to the end of Bay Blvd where it begins to loop up to meet the Coastal highway, then looped back to our car. It’s a pretty little district and one that though I’m sure I’ve visited before, I didn’t remember. Many buildings are painted with murals and several restaurants are decorated with old fishing floats.
From here, we drove to Nye Beach, another Newport District that I don’t remember seeing before. Apparently once the number 1 tourist attraction on the coast and the once-upon-a-time home of a well visited sanatorium, this little neighborhood and beach have their own unique character. The restaurants and shops seem more artsy and upscale than the Bayfront and the beach has a beautiful view of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and vast expanses of soft sand. We both loved it instantly and regretted not having more time. The bayfront was nice, but this tiny set of streets definitely has it’s own vibe and would be fun to explore. For now, it’s on a list for another day, another trip.
It was nearly 5 and though I was most certainly stalling, I knew that 1) I had an early flight in the morning and 2) the goodbye was inevitable, so we swung by one more place, one quick photo op before we left. Closed, I could only snap a picture of the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse finding it odd that it served the area for only three years, a ridiculously small amount of time for a lighthouse. It’s open for visits during the year, but the hours are, perhaps appropriately, short.
Drive by history blurb from the sign across the street:
“The old Yaquina Bay Lighthouse established in 1871 is the earliest aid to navigation, standing within the range of the first recorded landfall made from a ship to the shores of the Pacific Northwest. Captain James Cook made this landfall on March 7, 1778. At noon he named Cape Foulweather. On account of the heavy weather he was compelled to stand out at sea at night and only approach the land in the afternoon so that he was unable to find any harbor along the Oregon coast. News of Cook’s voyage to the Pacific Northwest stimulated the American interests in this region and aroused in Thomas Jefferson an interest that led to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the dispatch of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.”
Smart planners have set up two very tiny parking areas under the Yaquina Bay Bridge so that snap-happy people like Tiara and I can pull over safely and take photos. She took a few for Livemapp and I shot a few with my “real camera.” On another day I’d love to walk this entire thing. The Oregon Coast icon was finished in 1936.
One last stop before the long drive home… another little corner of Newport that we’d have liked to explore if time allowed, the tiny harbor area just east of all the shops along Bay Blvd.
Life is changing and I’m running out of “next times.”
And so we drove home, the ride seemingly longer back, the car much quieter. Words unsaid, not because I didn’t want to say them, but because I couldn’t speak without tears and I couldn’t talk through the emotion. She knew. I started to tell her that… she cut me short. She felt the same.
So we drove on as the elephant sat silently behind us. The words we couldn’t say.
I drove, thinking about all those words, how incredibly proud I am of the woman she’s become, the fears she’s overcome, the bravery and fortitude to pursue her dreams. I’m proud of her heart – her compassion and her kindness. I’m proud of her gift of helps – the way she jumps in when needed. I’m going to miss that so much. I’m going to miss her laugh and the way she understands my humor and the way we laugh together when the rest of the world thinks we’re crazy. I’m going to miss cooking together and watching Bones or House much too late into the next morning, ice cream midnight snacks, lunches out, walks, car rides. And I know she’ll do well. She’s smart. She’s grounded and overly mature and oh so ready. I could not be prouder of who she is in every way. But I can’t say that. Even now, the tears come and my throat aches.
Driving on fumes, I stopped in Blodgett, a tiny unincorporated town of just over a handful. The Blodgett Country Store is a one pump gas station, shop, cafe, espresso bar, and post office that began in 1888. In Oregon, you can’t pump your own gas, so I went in to find help since no one was coming out. The guy who’d normally pump gas was busy making a pizza, so the postal worker pumped my gas for me and chatted about his tiny town. “Did you see our motto?” Yes, I most certainly did.
“Slow down, you’ll live longer.”
That’s what we did today or we tried. Our minutes flew anyway, but we tried to slow them and in a way we did by heading to the coast. We made those hours count, every single second of them.
The goodbye went quickly. We hauled some things to her room, I used her computer to check in for the morning flight, then we both knew it was time. She insisted on walking me out. We hugged, kept our tears to a civilized volume, then parted. By the time I pulled out of my spot, she’d disappeared into her dorm and the flood that would ebb and flow all the way to Sherwood, began. Yes, I thought about turning around and heading back just for another 30 minutes, an hour… just a bit more. But neither of use needed another good-bye. It’s time for me to let go – just a little.