The Beach

Possibly one of the best perks of being a parent is bearing witness to your child’s reaction when they see the ocean. While we were driving to the Oregon coast, my mom talked about when she was a little girl and how she would clamor to be the first one to see the ocean from the road when driving to the beach with her family. And I remember doing the same thing many moons ago; riding in the backseat and spying that distant patch of blue at the first instance the asphalt dipped down to allow an unobscured view.

Sun glistening on water as far as the eye can see.

Magic.

So we reprised this age-old ritual on the way to Lincoln City. Once we turned left from Highway 18 to Highway 101, five sets of eyes were peeled for the nominal privilege of being the first to spot the Pacific. I won, that same giddy feeling coming over me at the sight of sand and water.

After unloading the car, assigning bedrooms in our block-from-the-beach rental and consuming some hastily prepared hot dogs and burgers, we headed to the beach. I was dying to get a picture of the boys’ faces when they first saw the sparkling water (and the sand) but all my pleas to ‘wait’ fell on deaf ears as they bolted for the water.

Still, I managed to get a few happy photos.

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 Please note the Gort hiding in his foxhole behind the professor

We returned as often as possible over the course of our six-day stay, though the freezing cold water and windy conditions, along with the ages of our littles (and the short attention spans of the adults) meant we were usually there for about an hour at a time.

I managed a few runs along the water which, aside from the running, lung-depleting business of it all, was really quite magical. Maybe if I lived by the beach I would run all the time. Maybe not.

And there were sunsets the likes of which I’d never seen. On our second night there, the professor and I happened to go for a stroll on the beach just before 9, right when the sun was setting. There were people drinking wine at the top of the 73 stairs leading down to the beach (yes, I counted – one tends to do that when one has to make multiple trips up and down to retrieve forgotten items or take children for false-alarm bathroom breaks).

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We marveled on subsequent nights as, reminiscent of the Truman Show, other vacation goers emerged from their rentals like clockwork (8:51) to watch that orange ball dip beyond the slate-blue horizon.

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But, as we learned on our third day in Oregon, it’s not all spectacular sunsets and joyous children on the beach. There’s also fog (and rain).

We’d driven down towards Newport with my mom, to see the lighthouse at Yaquina Head and look for seaglass at Agate Beach. We stopped at the lighthouse first, because how cool is it to go inside a lighthouse?! 

Well, for starters, the lighthouse was fully booked by tour groups, meaning ‘no lighthouse for you!’ And also the entire southern coast appeared to be enveloped by fog. Which is beautiful and eerie and also obscuring, meaning you can’t see a whole lot.

We got to the beach and, instead of seaglass, found sand as far as the eye can see. Which, of course, wasn’t terribly far on account of the fog.

Initially, we’d hoped to see the dunes farther south along the coast, but nixed the idea because going there meant spending 5 hours in the car. So I was rather happy to set foot on Agate Beach and see a mass of wavy sand.

Dune-ish, but without the drive.

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After clomping through sand for what felt like ten minutes, my mind flashing back to House of Sand and the desert and the sense of desperation that pervades that movie (or maybe it was my sense of desperation), we got to the edge of the water – or at least to where the edge of the water was in view – and dropped our belongings by a totem pole of sorts; a very tall post stuck in the sand. The boys took off for the water, the professor parked himself on the sand and my mom and I began walking along the water’s edge.

We were walking for a while and I was taking pictures of fog and seagulls and then we turned around to go find the boys. While our backs were turned the fog had multiplied and left us with this:

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Having no sense of time – how far we’d walked, how long we’d walked – I just kept walking back in the direction we’d come from; assuming even if I didn’t see the tell-tale totem pole, I’d at  least hear my boy-children.  After walking for a while without seeing much, my mom looked at her watch or her fitbit and told me we’d walked too far and needed to go back in the other direction or risk getting completely lost. But I was certain the fog couldn’t disguise the sound of my boys playing by that blasted totem pole and that we should keep walking.

She persisted that we’d gone too far and I insisted that we couldn’t possibly have walked past the boys and the disagreement may have concluded with my saying something like ‘if you turn out to be correct I will acknowledge you as being the queen of direction.’

The nonexistent girl scout in me had no idea what to do, save praying the fog would abate so we could be reunited with the rest of our party. ‘Use your cell phone!’ you say? Well that would have been an option if the professor hadn’t left his in the car.

Hence, with no Macgyver-esque plan to extricate myself, I listened to my mom and walked back in the other direction..until we found the professor lying in the sand and his three sidekicks desperately trying to bury each other.

They’d relinquished their post by the totem pole and moved inland, about 100 yards away. No wonder we didn’t see, much less hear them.

Also, my mom is the queen of direction.

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