My little brother calls Lincoln City the “Chile of the Oregon Coast.”
The long, long skinny beach town hugs Hwy 101 for miles: a rambling collection of nondescript businesses, gas stations, and strip malls dotted with a few eye catching boutiques, outlet stores, and saltwater taffy shops. I remember my parents taking us to the shoreline in the eighties and nineties to watch soaring cloth birds fill the sky during the annual Summer Kite Festival, but my adult memories of Lincoln City consist of passing quickly through on drives to destinations north or south: never quite enough time or reason to simply stop and be there.
This trip, though, the pin on the map at the end of our route was just a west turn off Hwy 101 and two blocks from the sand: a cheery little beach house in Lincoln City, proper.
(Side note (I’m the queen of side notes): Did you know Lincoln City earned its moniker in a 1960s naming contest between candidates Miracle Beach, Miracle City, Surfland, Holiday Beach, and Lincoln City? More on that later…though can I say I’m a little relieved that Miracle City didn’t win? Somehow I feel like with a name like that, the kitsch factor would’ve been exponentially upped over the past five decades.)
Anyway. Chile. Oregon Coast.
Back to the Story
You might remember where we left off in the big scheme of things? (Cliffhanger, I know.) Two adult friends with three little girls in the back seat of the car, driving through the rain somewhere in the Coast Range. I’m happy to report, we arrived alive (after our alcohol-free stop at the winery) and settled in, divvying up bedrooms, busting out the girls’ toys, and assembling dinner while we waited for Heather’s husband Micah to drive out and join us.
The super-cute house (complete with “birdies! birdies!” hanging from the ceilings) fit our two families well.
(We’re just wondering, though, do they keep friends in the closet?)
It was late enough by arrival time that dinner turned into PJs turned into bedtime without a visit to the ocean, but we could see the waves from the second story window and we assured the girls we’d go straightaway after breakfast.
Day Two: In Which We Actually Make it to the Beach
The weather forecast looked awfully gloomy, and we parents talked over rainy day scenarios after the kids were tucked in bed, but (thankfully!) in true Oregon-springtime form, the next day’s heavy gray hail passed through quickly and left us with a surprisingly blue morning for wandering through the tidepools.
At the Oregon coast you can almost always spot a person or two willing themselves to believe they’re at a warm and sunny beach. (Brave souls pictured above, waist deep in frigid Pacific Ocean waters.)
Our girls, bundled in mud boots and jackets and knit hats and rosy cheeks, satisfied themselves on (mostly) dry land with pails and shovels and brightly colored beach toys.
Ever the adventurous teacher, Micah went to the outermost rocks and returned with “creatures” for Penny, Ramona, and Lucie to meet.
Lucie watched the crabs for two seconds and then returned to her new-found love of shovels and buckets. (A future landscape architect, creating built forms in the natural world?)
The most entertaining creature watching (in my opinion) came when Lu would yell, “Puppy! Puppy!” each time someone’s four legged animal came rushing by. She’d grow animated with excitement, and then bashfully flutter her eyelashes and quickly turn away. Such a tease.
There are so many ways to “visit the beach.”
We compared notes amongst ourselves: Heather’s family used to make a day of it: blankets, chairs, food, playing in the sand for hours on end. Micah’s would bring the kids down for a walk to the water, take a look around, and not too long later head back for food and shelter somewhere warm. Mine would pack up for full-blown, day-long field trips (after weeks-long unit studies including cut-out tidepool sea creature coloring sheets pasted on the wall-chart of tidal zones), and at least on one occasion my parents squeezed all five of my brothers and me (or was it four? maybe Jesse hadn’t been born yet) into the RV and spent our family vacation visiting every lighthouse up the coast from California to Washington.
Who knows just how ambitious Ted and I will be with kid-friendly beach trips in the future?
Seems like so much is dependent on each unique child’s temperament, so our best laid plans are at least partially subject to luck of the draw. I’m so glad Lucie showed more interest in the beach on this trip than she did in Hawaii last December. Then, at 15 months old, she’d break down in tears and try with all her might to lift every part of her body off the sand. (She did love poolside lounging at the resort, though. Smart girl.)
These days, I’m just happy that Lucie’s happy to join me for a wander and chance to take a photo or two (or ten).
Watching my sweet friend Heather and her growing girls makes me wonder what life will be like in three years…six years…when Lucie’s as old as they are now, full of words and stories and excitement for life.
For this season: my little Peach, a year and a half old, plumb tuckered out after a morning on the seashore.
Somewhere, Lincoln City: Abraham Lincoln and the Rocking Horse Mall
I have to admit, I’m not really sure that I can speak to where “downtown” Lincoln City actually is. Remember that Chile of the Oregon Coast thing? Drivers pass through several nodes of development along the Hwy 101 route from one end of the city to the other, and I’m not sure whether any single one truly feels like a main center. An investigation of curiosity lead me to learn that Lincoln City actually grew from a collection of five little towns along the coast that joined forces around the time my dad was turning five years old:
Lincoln City was incorporated on March 3, 1965, uniting the cities of Delake, Oceanlake and Taft, and the unincorporated communities of Cutler City and Nelscott. These were adjacent communities along U.S. Route 101, which serves as Lincoln City’s main street. The name “Lincoln City” was chosen from contest entries submitted by local school children. The contest was held when it was determined that using one of the five communities’ names would be too controversial.
–Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce
But why “Lincoln”?
Guess what? Abraham Lincoln (despite having never ventured west to Oregon) had been offered the position of Secretary of the Oregon Territory and later, in 1849, Governor of the Oregon Territory! History went a different direction; he politely declined the offers and later ran for President of the United States, but this little spot on the west coast respectfully bears his name.
Ta-da! The more you know.
Anyway…back to present day Lincoln City and (sort-of) downtown: we took the girls to Candyland for fudge and then stumbled into the kookiest little world of antique dolls and doll furniture and seashells and odds and ends at Rocking Horse Mall.
Like I said, kooky. (Especially the little figurines in bathtubs and bathrobes.) But for a pocket full of quarters, Penny and Ramona were happy to pick out a treasure trove of seashells and tired Lucie patiently waited until we could head back outdoors for more fresh air.
Kites on the Beach
Heather and Micah’s great friends Mark and Amy drove out from Albany, Oregon to join up with our party, and Saturday afternoon found us flying kites (and makeshift kites) back on the beach.
Amy is a pediatrician by day (and night, when the emergency cases roll in), and she’s a warm and generous spirit all the time. She showed Lucie the ropes of kite flying and gave her the chance to hold the spool in her tiny little toddler hands. Lucie’s attention span was much shorter than the length of rope, but for a quick moment she watched the yellow spot flutter in the sky.
Honestly, though, Lu had the most fun chasing after the “BUBBLES!” washing up with the waves.
I wonder what the sea feels like to a tiny child used to splashing in bathtubs?
Makes my mind traipse over to memories of C.S. Lewis quotes…
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses
Feast From the Sea
While Lucie slept away her post-adventure-fatigue, Amy and I ran to the grocery store and gathered supplemental ingredients for the seafood feast we planned to prepare once the kids were tucked away at bedtime.
Trusty reusable shopping bags to the rescue! Can you spot my favorite? It’s “The Big Green Bag” from hiding behind the groceries on the counter. My mom brought it to me from Tesco in the U.K. years ago, and it’s been the hardest working bag of the bunch.
Also, can you spot my favorite character below? She’s sporting her post-nap smile and stretch.
That night, once the kids were in bed and just as the sun set, Micah, Mark, Amy, and I went back to the shoreline to gather a few more mussels and take in the mellow sky.
Just as I started to breathe in a fresh round of salt air and exhale to unwind my tensed muscles after a day of solo parenting (oi! it’s so much easier to manage an 18 month old when Ted and I are both on hand!), Heather texted me from the house to say that Lucie had woken up and started to wail.
Dusky beach walk cut short.
Back to the house.
Once Lucie was down for good, sound asleep and peaceful again, I emerged to find dinner well underway. While I’d been calming her, the mussel crew was hard at work preparing the night’s feast:
I joined them in time to contribute a salad and laugh over our suitably chosen Duck Pond Cellars pinot gris. (And, irony of ironies, just as I typed that last sentence, Lucie woke from her 11pm slumbers to cry out from what I can only chalk up to a new round of teething pain. I tell ya, the things little humans go through – and put their parents through – to be able to grow up and chew food.)
We set our table and reveled in the feast, heaping emptied mussel shells into bowls and sopping up every spare drop of broth with toasted, buttered garlic bread. Amy’s face says it all.
One of the delights of life is eating with friends; second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.
― Laurie Colwin
Far Away, And Home Again
On our final morning of the trip, Lucie lazed in her jammies while I sipped coffee, and the smell of Micah’s ginger pear pancakes filled the air in the house. The three little girls ate and played and played and ate, and when Lucie wore herself out and went down for an early nap, Heather and I snuck away for a bit of shopping at the Lincoln City Outlet Mall.
By the time we returned, the girls were playing again, happy as little clams.
Over the course of our long weekend, Lucie loved joining the big girls in their adventures, and I loved spending time in a new place with friends who remind me to relax and keep perspective. “She won’t always be this young, and it won’t always be this hard,” they kindly tell me. She’s at that independent stage where she’s just aware and mobile enough to want to do everything, but she’s dependent enough that she can do very little without my full-time attention.
Yes, I’m sure each future phase is assured its own set of challenges, but it can be such a godsend to hear another friend and parent farther down the line say, “Hang in there, it won’t be like this always.”
Life is so full right now: Ted’s got four months left in his grad school program, and I’m up to my eyeballs in work for landscape design clients. Good things, but tiring things. (Ted wasn’t even able to join us on the trip because of school and work conflicts, though we included him as best we could, sending oodles of Snapchats and making silly mugs over FaceTime.)
I’m so slammed with other obligations that my hopes of finishing blog posts are nothing more than wishful thinking most days of the week. (Though I do write drafts in my head all the time, and the photo collections stack up on my hard drive, just waiting to someday see the light of a computer screen.)
I think normally I’d try to write some pithy reference back to Chile to close this post down, but really, the end of this beach story has nothing to do with South America and really has little to do with the long, long town of Lincoln City.
The trailing-off ending came when I packed Lucie’s and my bags back in the car, bade farewell to Heather and Micah, Penny and Ramona, and Mark and Amy, and stopped at my favorite little central Oregon coast coffee spot before driving back through the Coast Range. Lucie voiced her discontent during the first half of the drive and mercifully napped for the second, and the little sneaky ball of nerves in my stomach reminded me of the high-stacked to-do list waiting for me in Portland.
(Mojo! They serve Stumptown coffee with a smile and donate 10% of their income to nonprofit work in the local community and in Ethiopia. I’d just about give my right arm for a third wave drive through coffee shop in Portland, let alone one with a mission for social good and purple lounge chairs in a boxwood garden.)
In this super-intense season of work and parenting and life, I’m working to hold on to the big picture: Faith. Family. Friends.
Thank you, Heather, for inviting me to come and rest with you and your family. Thank you, Lincoln City, for the unexpected sunshine and the quirky shops and the seafoam and kites and tidepools and creatures (especially the edible ones cooked in white wine and garlic). Thank you, Ted, for sending us happily on our way even though you couldn’t join this time. Thank you, Lucie, for stretching and growing me in more ways than one, now two years and counting.
Thank you, God, for people and place to sustain life in these roots.
Heather and Lucie and me: March 2015
I don’t have a tidy ending right now.
Just tales and photos from the long, long journey.
And a grateful heart.
Fun Times: Grab a $7 Recreational Shellfish License from the store in town and harvest your own mussels (up to 72/day!) at low tide. See this Oregonian article for a few tidbits on methods and safety.
Accommodations: It’s pretty satisfying to find a unique little (or big) spot to hole away on the coast. We stayed at our friends’ friend’s place. Check Airbnb.com for other great Oregon Coast rentals, and get $25/off your first booking when you use our referral link.
Wear: You’ll probably be glad you packed a wind breaker or a rain jacket to layer over your other clothes, regardless of the time of year.
Eat: Mussels! Here’s a recipe for Moules Marinières (Sailor-Style Mussels) that fairly closely matches our group’s meal-made-without-a-recipe.
Drink: Mojo Coffee at 3565 NW US 101, Lincoln City, OR 97367.
A Little Bizarre: Rocking Horse Mall.
Take to the Skies: The Lincoln City Summer Kite Festival.
Keep Exploring Oregon Beaches: I loved this little post from Wayward Spark complete with Latin names of the sea kelp washing up on shore.
This post is part of our twoOtourthecoast series with stories and photos from “The People’s Coast.” For more trip planning fodder from the Oregon Coast Visitor’s Association, head to visittheoregoncoast.com.
P.S. Back to that 1960s naming contest. What do you think? Did they choose the right winner all those years ago?
- Miracle Beach
- Miracle City
- Holiday Beach
- Lincoln City