Car-camping isn't my usual recreation, but I thoroughly enjoyed last week's trip (compensation for the scuttled backpacking trip in the high Sierra) that Mike and I took on the Oregon coast: from Bandon up the coast, past the Heceta Bay Lighthouse,
to Nehalem Bay, then inland for two nights in motels for wine tasting in the Willamette Valley, an afternoon at Oregon Garden (with its amazing conifers-used-like-flowers garden and a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), and a day at beautifully forested and waterfall-rich Silver Falls State Park, where I wanted so badly to swim in those luscious pools!
We took long walks on extended stretches of white-sand beaches, walked through the coastal forest at Shore Acres to see the newly arrived California sea lions, barking and baying on the rocks; kayaked on the Nehalem River; and stayed at the Sylvia Beach Hotel,
named not for the beach in Newport, Oregon (that's Nye Beach), but for the American bookseller and publisher who was a major literary figure in Paris between the two World Wars. Its literary-themed rooms – Shakespeare, Kesey, Colette, etc., including the Jane Austen room, where we stayed – made it a place where I could ask people, with complete appropriateness, "What are you reading now?"
The Oregon State Parks where we camped were crowded with both RVs and tent campers. For a person used to wilderness camping, the proximity of neighbors was unsettling, but I did appreciate the way so many people were using these parks. Mostly they were families (though I might not have seen the more elderly couples, enclosed in RVs). They didn't seem to be just camping for the night on their way somewhere else, as Mike and I were doing, but staying for a week or two weeks. This was their vacation, and what a wonderful vacation it was. The kids dashed around on their bicycles. Cars carried kayaks on their roofs. Little boats, fishing gear, and beach toys lay about campsites. Fathers and sons threw footballs. People walked the beaches, flew kites, built sand castles. Dogs chased balls or bit at waves. In the campgrounds, people sat under canvas tarps at night, playing cards by lantern light. It did my heart good to see so many people outdoors, eating, sleeping, enjoying themselves without technological devices.
Besides the numbers of people, I was impressed with their varieties – the predominantly but not entirely Hispanic family that camped next to us at Sunset Beach State Park; the Hispanic wedding party with a couple of white people mixed in that we passed at Silver Falls State Park; the number of mixed-race couples we observed at restaurants and on the streets; the families with dark-skinned and light-skinned children; and that's not even counting the Indians running the motels or the foreign-born visitors we had breakfast with at the Sylvia Beach Hotel: a young Russian woman who taught physics at a community college in California and owned fourteen horses (there with her American-born security-guard husband, who wrote crime novels); a woman from England; an Irishman who had been living in Milan for many years. There was the tediously voluble owner of the Tsunami Gallery in Gardiner, who maybe talked so much because, in a tiny town so diminished from its glory days as a bustling port, he had someone new to talk to; the attendant at Prehistoric, a fabulous store in Lincoln City with fossils of fish, petrified wood, thunder egg rocks, trilobites, ammonites, and similar marvels, who spoke with such enthusiasm about the archeological process of finding and cleaning fossils that I thought to share one's passion with people who are interested must be the best thing in the world; the four-year-old boy hiking up the hill from Winter Falls at Silver Falls State Park, with his tiny back-pack and hiking stick, and he was so-o-o tired already, and his mother said, "What do you do when you face something difficult? Do you give up?" He sullenly didn't answer, but then, with a burst of speed, even running a couple of steps, hiked strongly to the top of the hill and waited, breathing hard, for his mother to catch up.
With only one exception (the surly young man who rented us a kayak, and why should he be so unpleasant, with such a job on the lovely Nehalem River?), everyone we met or even observed was pleasant, friendly, and good-natured. The varieties of people foreshadowed a more happily mixed nation in years to come, and the children having a good time with their families in the outdoors foretold happy generations in the future. My car-camping and motel-staying vacation reconfirmed in me that (since I couldn't imagine that people so much enjoying life and being so pleasant were Trump voters) there is hope for our nation.