Towards Y2K9 (10): Sands Of Time

We came into Bandon, a coast town in Oregon, in the early evening. We found a motel room near the beach and took a walk down a wooden stairway to the seafront. The panorama was breathtaking – there were lots of seastacks, small rocky islands, sitting on the sand and in the shallow water, large and small ones.

There was a strong very cold wind, the sky was very clear, and the sun was about to set. What an otherworldly place! I couldn’t stop taking photos.

I also took some 1-minute videos of the sand that was driven by the wind across the beach – the movement of the sand streams were not unlike the color streams in those psychedelic 2001 scenes. I turned the small videos into a short youtube clip two days later, using some of my own music that I found on my notebook, a detail from some guitar/computer music improvisation from a couple of weeks ago.

Sabine went back to the motel room but I continued until my hands were numb from the cold.

Next morning, the sky was foggy and cold. The feeling tone had changed dramatically, but the scenery was still otherworldly.

We left Bandon and continued the trip to the south, finding out very soon that the whole southern Oregon coast, right into northern California, is full of seastacks and breathtaking vistas. What a place!

And then there was that spot on my camera lens (near the upper right corner of those images that aren’t zoomed). I haven’t been able to locate it and get rid of it. Maybe I should turn it into my trademark? Oh, I see that spot on the upper right corner – is that a genuine Michael Peters photography?

Towards Y2K9 (9): Nautical Days

We came down the Oregon coast looking for a place to stay between Depoe Bay and Newport – our travel guide said that Depoe Bay was home to a group of gray whales, and we looked forward to seeing some. Most whales have already started going south for the winter, but we hoped that we could see some of the local gray whales at least.

Yes, I had even naively thought about dipping my hydrophone and recording some of their songs, but on seeing the high waves in Depoe Bay I dropped this plan. There was no way of doing an underwater recording here, except from a boat, and seeing the tiny whale watching boats going out into the high waves made me seasick, and they wouldn’t have stopped their engines just for me anyway. Well in the end we saw one whale for a second, unmistakably, because we saw its spout, but not really for long enough to be very impressive.

We could not find a place to stay in Depoe Bay, so we went further on towards Newport. I stopped at a motel sign that said Moolack Shores Motel, not really expecting to find something, but then the man behind the counter was very friendly and said yes, he had a very nice room available for us, not expensive, and would you like to see it? When we saw the room, it took about half a second for us to say yes. What a breathtaking view, what a beautifully decorated room! What a difference to all the boring loveless standard motel rooms we’ve seen on this trip.

The Moolack Shores Motel, situated directly above the beach, contains about a dozen „themed“ rooms, most of them with a deck facing over the Pacific Ocean, most of them with a fireplace. Our room was the only downstairs room, it had no fireplace, and its deck did not directly face the ocean, but it was wonderful – the Nautical Room was full of carefully selected seafaring-related decoration, and beyond the main bed it even had two bunkbeds each with a real porthole looking over the ocean.

We had intended to stay for two nights but after the first night, we extended our stay to four nights. The Nautical Room felt like home very quickly. We had the time of our life.

I thought that I could easily get used to living here, doing nothing, just watching the ocean, the changing weather, taking walks on the beach, finding driftwood, looking at the green sea anemones that grew in tidepools between the rocks, watching flocks of pelicans go by. Frank and Yvette, our very friendly hosts, fed us with delicious fresh cookies and really made us feel at home.

The Pacific sunsets were perfect, with clouds and without clouds … walking the beach at night (no photos of that) was a very special experience …

Some attractions were not far away – the Yaquina lighthouse with its spectacular views was just a mile or two south of the motel. Below the lighthouse, numerous large rocks are home to pelicans, other seabirds, and seals, and in the shallow waters, large tidepools house an astonishing variety of starfish, sea anemones, and other creatures that we had only seen in aquariums before.

Newport has an old harbour that has turned into a main tourist attraction. While all the shops are nice and the coffee is good, what draws most people is the sea lions that gather here – they can’t be ignored! Their loud barking can be heard from far away:

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The other attraction that Newport has to offer is its wonderful aquarium with its famous deep sea passages. To see large fish, even sting rays and sharks, from so near, even from below while they pass over the transparent visitor tunnels, is quite an experience.

One thing that I liked about Newport was that it was here that I saw my first wild racoons! They are extremely rare and shy where we live in Germany so I’ve never seen one except in a zoo. They did not seem very afraid of me, rather they looked at me with a certain polite interest. I know that they can become a nuisance but I couldn’t help finding them extremely cute. I wonder what they thought of me?

Towards Y2K9 (8): Oregonians

Portland was a city that we both liked a lot immediately – the first things that we encountered were lots of students (because our hotel was near Portland State University), a huge bookstore, a very good public transport system, and a huge organic food store. The city felt very civilized, full of culture, and rich (we found out quickly that there were lots of very poor people living here as well though, just like in all big cities, I guess).

The book store was quite impressive – it says of itself that it is „the largest used and new bookstore in the world“, and that may well be true. I loved the way they put used and out-of-print books side by side with new books – wonder why other bookstores don’t follow that example. I browsed through my favorite SF authors and actually found a used copy of Walter Jon Williams’s Ambassador of Progress, a book that was missing in my collection and that I hadn’t found so far.

A walk the next morning led us over giant steel bridges and through the old part of town to a very nice breakfast place with awesome coffee and fresh orange juice.

The most charming moment I encountered in Portland was when we walked through Chinatown and I saw a Chinese man in a shop practice a melody on his saxophone. He really tried hard and got through with the melody – some notes were quite off but it sounded nice to me anyway. While he played, I recorded him through the open door, and by coincidence, from a couple of blocks away, there were the horns of an approaching train. I thought that the saxophone and the train were really great together, almost like Ornette Coleman in a way, and I was the only one who heard it. Listen for yourself:

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Later that day we went a couple of miles east of the city to the Columbia Gorge area which has some spectacular scenery including a number of waterfalls and breathtaking vistas along the wide river valley. It was here that our car navigation system got thorougly confused, probably due to the many crooked and steep roads. While pretending to lead us to the next gas station, it led us into a very small remote valley that we actually liked a lot, but that didn’t feature a gas station. We made fun of the navigation system and on the way home it refused to talk to us. No kidding.

I don’t recall the name of the place in Portland where we went in the evening, but Sabine had a wine that she liked a lot, and I had some kind of cocktail that contained strawberries and some other stuff, and looked like this:

Towards Y2K9 (7): The Cake That Was Too Large

Leaving Washington towards Oregon, we crossed a gigantic bridge that spanned for miles across the mouth of the Columbia river, and arrived in a place called Astoria, the oldest town west of the Rocky Mountains. Too bad it rained at times … we had to sit in a wonderful cafe, waiting for the rain to stop …

… instead of walking around town, marvelling at the beautiful victorian style wooden houses (like the 1886 Flavel House), and the wooden walkway plus rails that stretched across the harbour. Well we did that later.

To see huge ships pass under the bridge while lots of traffic was passing overhead like tiny insects … like we had passed it a couple of hours ago … amazing.

Before we left Astoria on the next day we took a look from the Astoria column that overlooks many miles in all directions from a hilltop … and the Pacific shore with its high waves and the remnants of a ship that didn’t make it … a hundred years ago.