Day two on the coast started out just as wet as day one had finished. This was unfortunate since we were on our way to the Astoria Column. At 600 feet above sea level, the Astoria Column is the highest point in Astoria and on a clear day affords stunning views in every direction. That’s on a clear day. Luckily though, Paula Bue, a volunteer from the Friends of the Astoria Column was there to give us the history of the “Beacon of the Pacific Northwest Coast”. The column, which is also an ornate work of art, was open on this day despite the weather. Traditionally, if you climb all 164 steps to the top you can throw a biodegradable, balsa wood airplane from the top of the column. Planes can be purchased for $1 in the gift shop. I did this. The primary reason was because I was there and now I can say I did it. Another, perhaps more daunting reason, was that my daughter would give me the business if she found out I had the chance to climb to the top of something and throw an airplane, and opted not to.
Somewhat soggy, we left the Column and stopped at the Heritage Museum where we were once again met by museum guru and Name Hall of Fame inductee, McAndrew Burns. Housed in the old City Hall, the Heritage Museum is home to a treasure trove of historical goodies. Of particular interest to me were artifacts from a saloon called “The Louvre”, owned by a fellow named Gus Erickson. Take my Underground Portland tour sometime and I’ll tell you all about this character.
Our next stop was the historic Liberty Theater where we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour. This place was grand. We of course learned about the history of the building, but one of my fellow writers (hi Allen) asked what I considered to be a somewhat odd question at the time; he asked about ghosts. Our guide was pretty much done with her spiel at that point, but it didn’t take much prodding for her to unload several fascinating stories about what has been seen, or reported to have been seen, over the years. Allen would ask this question of any guide in any old or historic venue, and it would typically yield great results. It turns out that whether or not you believe in such things, these stories are often riveting threads in the historic tapestry of this country’s older dwellings. Sometimes people won’t be all that forthcoming unless you ask. I’m adding it to my repertoire. Thanks Allen!
We had some free time to wander around Astoria before reconvening at Fulio’s for lunch. I have actually had the pleasure of eating here before and was happy to be back. Owner, Peter Roscoe, was a relaxed yet attentive host that provided us with appetizers, as well as whatever we wanted from the menu. Peter was insistent that I try something that wasn’t on the menu, a lamb French dip. Admittedly, I had really wanted to square up on the eggplant parm. That being said, I think if the owner of a joint that is providing you with a free lavish meal insists you try an off the menu item, you roll with it. I was exceedingly pleased that I did. We also had a special guest at lunch, Astoria mayor Willis Van Dusen. The mayor joined us to detail the new Garden of Surging Waves project that the city is currently working on. The garden, which sounds amazing and is due for completion this year, will honor and commemorate Astoria’s Chinese heritage.
From lunch we headed out to visit the folks at High Life Adventures. This was a fun and interesting stop for a few reasons. For starters, we were treated to a delicious home made M&M based dessert. Then we were taken around the property and shown the new zip line park that they will be opening this summer (more research). The family that owns the land and the company were great. They have deep, generational ties to Oregon’s logging industry and very much believe in running a sustainable operation. I believe they referred to themselves as “Tree hugging loggers”, which I thought was great.
We then headed to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park (aka Fort Clatsop), which was another stop I was greatly anticipating. This is the very place where Lewis and Clark hunkered down for a winter, and I had never been. A fort has been recreated on the grounds to match, as best as possible, the inhabitancy described in the journals of Lewis, Clark, and the rest of the men on the journey. This place certainly gives you a fresh perspective on the difficulty the men faced. We also watched a very informative short film documenting the plight of the Clatsop tribe and their relationship with the Lewis and Clark expedition.
It was now time to check into the evening’s accommodations, only this time the group would be split up. We were staying in Seaside and I had the good fortune of landing at the Sandy Cove Inn. The Sandy Cove Inn occupies a property that had a less than savory reputation some years ago, with the colorful euphemistic nicknames that typically accompany such establishments. Since then, the property has become family owned and transformed into a boutique motel complete with themed rooms and WiFi. The place was cozy and comfortable, eclectic and colorful. Just in case you’re interested, I stayed in the Wave Room.
Dinner on night two was provided by the Twisted Fish Steakhouse. We were treated to appetizers and once again allowed to order from the menu. I had been jonesing for seafood for quite sometime, and picked this moment in time to get my fix. I chose a dinner consisting of lobster, scallops, and grilled salmon, accompanied by seasonal veggies and scalloped potatoes. I raise my glass to you Chef Jake Burden. That meal, and the brownie the size of my head that I was served for dessert, were both very much on point.
Now it was time for bed. We got back to our rooms a bit earlier than the previous evening, and this was a good thing because we were scheduled for breakfast the next morning at 8:15.