It was late August and I’d been FunEmployed and living on the road for just over 2 months. Most of that time I’d been staying with family, sleeping indoors, with access to hot showers and cold beer. Now, after dropping my family off at the Medford Airport and saying goodbye to my brother in Ashland, I’d be on my own for 2 months until I reached my mom’s house in Indiana. Let the adventure begin!
I drove west from Medford through the giant Redwoods to Crescent City, California where I worked a few hours in a coffee shop and parked the van to spend the night in the Walmart parking lot. The next morning I drove to South Beach and donned my wetsuit to paddle out for my last surf session for awhile. The water was cold and I was beat after half an hour of battling the waves, but it was definitely worth it.
I drove north, following the gorgeous Oregon Coast and stopping in Coos Bay to live in the Walmart parking lot. I worked in a downtown coffee shop and toured the Steve Prefontaine exhibit in the Coos Bay Art Museum. Leaving Coos Bay, I stopped for a run in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, climbing over massive mounds of sand and running several miles on along a deserted beach. I stripped down and dove into the chilly Pacific Ocean, taking a quick saltwater shower before climbing back in the van to drive north.
I spent a night in Newport and as the sun set I walked down Bay Boulevard past seafood restaurants and brew pubs. I stopped to watch the sea lions jockeying for position on the docks and wished I had more time to stay and explore the town. That night I worked in a coffee shop until it closed and urban camped in the Walmart parking lot.
I preferred to spend most of my nights in nature, but I didn’t want to pay for a campsite each day (sort of defeats the purpose of living in a van). I was also spending most of the daylight hours out exploring and almost every evening I sat in a coffee shop to get my work done. This made finding a nearby Walmart or truck stop much easier than driving out to the woods to set up camp.
Along the coast I visited Pacific City, the Cape Meares Lighthouse, and the Tillamook Cheese Factory where I perused the sample buffet several times, making a light lunch of the bite sized dairy cubes. The Cape Meares Lighthouse had a giant Fresnel Lens, similar to Point Conception Lighthouse Fresnel Lens that has been restored in the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. I reached the end of the Oregon Coast in Astoria and reluctantly turned east, not knowing when I would see the Pacific Ocean again. I was bummed, but also excited for more adventures in the mountains.
I drove to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, toured a reproduction fort, and watched two films about their journey. Amazing. In Astoria I rode my bike along the Columbia River and bellied up to the bar at the Rogue Ales Public House for fish and chips and beer. Before leaving town I tried to visit the house from The Goonies film, but the new owner is not fond of thousands of tourists taking pictures of their home, so I settled for a quick view from the road. I followed the Columbia River east and slept in the parking lot of the St. Helens Walmart, across the street from a very active checkpoint for the popular 195 mile Hood To Coast running relay race.
The next morning I woke up early to drive into Portland, Oregon and found a small coffee shop to get several hours of work done. It turned out that the barista had recently managed The French Press in Santa Barbara, the same coffee shop that I frequented when my office was downtown.
That afternoon I drove to a park, sat out a rainstorm in my van, found a water spigot, and tested the solar shower for the first time. It was cloudy, so the ‘solar’ aspect of the solar shower was broken. I took a cold shower, something that I got used to doing in the Pacific Northwest, and while shivering, I at least felt clean! That evening I checked out the Lucky Labrador and Base Camp breweries before trying to sleep in the Walmart parking lot. I got kicked out by security, eventually finding a truck stop parking lot to sleep in.
Sunday in Portland meant that I could park downtown for free. I got several more hours of work done in a coffee shop and then went for a walk. I stumbled upon the Deschutes Brewery and grabbed a bar stool. A guy traveling from Cincinnati sat next to me and we spent the next few hours talking about living in the Midwest and traveling around the world. I went back to the Lucky Labrador that afternoon for the Wiener Dog Races, a truly unique event made better by silly dog costumes and good beer.
The next morning I drove north to Washington. It was a quick visit to Portland and I had only been to 3 of the many breweries around town, but I knew that I’d be back someday. My cousin Brad Tumbleson had just landed in Seattle for work and I couldn’t turn down few days of beer drinking and exploring the city with him!
Hey Chris if you go thru the Cascades on your way home there is some great trail running. I did hood to coast this year so enjoyed reading your post. I gorged at Tillamook like you did too, it’s a good life!