July 20, 2011
This week is a much needed break from competition, having played seven tournaments in the last seven weeks. In my free time I decided to take a road trip out to my buddy’s beach cabin along the Oregon Coast by myself for a few days. I’ve grown to love the quiet, rugged coast of the Pacific Northwest, and wanted to take the opportunity to explore the area with my days off.
The drive west from Salem was your typical, yet breathtaking adventure through the beautiful backcountry that dominates the Oregon landscape. Small, two-lane highways navigate their way through lush forests and rolling hills with tall, green trees looming as far as the eyes can see. Tiny buildings litter the roads, either a local general store or your neighborhood bait shop, with miles of dense woods in between. You drive through little town after little town, amounting to little more than 2 blocks of storefront and a few old, wooden cottages.
The Oregon Coast is often overshadowed by its big brother to the south. The California Coast has the glitz and glamour, from the majestic beauty of Big Sur to the “Beach Boy summers” envisioned between Malibu and San Diego. It has the fame, the weather, and with it, the people and industry. People from all over the world flock to the beaches in Southern California to see if it looks just like it does in the movies, then they rent a motorhome, and drive up the hallowed Highway 1. Rarely do they make it all the way north through the Redwoods and into the state of Oregon.
The Oregon Coast isn’t the California Coast. The weather is brutal and cold, with temperatures rarely reaching the 60s even in the summer time. It’s cloudy and foggy most of the time, and the entire scenery blends together into a dullish grey wash. Instead of calm, sandy beaches, its jagged, rocky coastline, battered by rough ocean waters. However, the monotonous bluish-grey tint and rough coastline suggest an air of solitude and tranquility. Because of the brutal weather and violent seas, it’s a tough place to live. So instead of your heavily visited surf towns in California, you get small fishing villages that offer quaint and cozy places to stay for those seeking a little more seclusion and serenity.
Half of the locals look like descendents of Tom Sawyer, the other half descendents of Willie Nelson, but everyone is real, whole-hearted, and welcoming. The contrast of people blend together with a common distain for mainstream culture and large crowds of people. Back when people wanted to move away from a growing country, they moved west and they moved north. And this is where they ended up. It’s a collective energy of people seeking isolation and solitude, where people generally keep to themselves and just slowly live life, soaking up the beauty in the lands around them.
When sun creeps through the clouds, it lights up the coast with a vibrant energy. The monotonous grey color transforms into a contrast of deep colors. The water reflects a deep blue, set against lush green forests and grasslands. This time of year, the clearings between the groves of trees are a mix of soft brown and green, seemingly confused about whether it’s spring or summer, just like the weather they reside in. Today was one of those sunny days when everything seemed alive, so I decided to drive a few miles to a beach that you could drive your car onto. Families were all over, picnicking and letting their kids run crazy on the endless sand beach. I decided to find a somewhat isolated section of beach, park my car, and read my book all day, as the waves crashed less than 20 yards in front of me and the occasional screams of happy, playful children interrupted the steady roar of the rumbling sea.
I could tell by the cooling temperatures and lowering sun that it was getting late, so I got ready to head back. I started my car and hit the gas, but my tires just spun. I hit the gas harder and thrashed at the steering wheel, only to make my tires spin more and send sand flying everywhere. I got out and looked under the car, and observed the sand come up to within inches of the drivetrain underneath my car. I suddenly realized I was stuck, burried in the sand.
Despite a working cell phone and help being just a 10-minute jog away, I grew as concerned as one could be considering their options. Ultimately, I didn’t want the solitude of my solo vacation corrupted by the need to use my cell phone to call for help. I got out of the car, got on my hands and knees, and began digging. I dug frantically for 10 minutes, in front of each tire and under the car, trying to harden the sand so that my car wouldn’t keep sinking and had something to grab a hold of. I got back in the car and tried again. I hit the gas hard. My car gave a hopeful jolt forward, but continued to spin in place, kicking up more sand than before. I got out, got back on my hands and knees, and started digging in.
This process continued for the better part of an hour, with me digging until I thought adequate, getting back in the car, spinning the tires, only to be most stuck and buried deeper than before. Finally, after digging for another 20 minutes, with all the sand from under the car shoveled out and packed down hard in front of the wheels, I hit the gas one more time, and after a couple jerks, my Jeep broke free. A huge relief swept over me, and I drove home in silence. The voices that you develop in your head after spending three days by yourself sat dormant, embarrassed and frustrated, like an annoyed couple, sitting next to each other in a car blaming each other for being so air-headed as to get the car stuck on a beach. Needless to say, I was relieved and felt pretty stupid at the same time.
And about now you might be asking, “How could you get stuck with a Jeep? Couldn’t you just use the 4-wheel drive?” Well, no. I get a lot of crap from my friends in the Northwest for having the only Jeep within 500 miles to NOT be equipped with 4-wheel drive. They walk away muttering, “stupid, soft Californian…”