The Secret Oregon Coast Part 1

(Last fall I wrote a proposal for a book I call The Secret Oregon Coast: My 101 Favorite Secret Spots. I sent out the proposal and it was unsuccessful. In the old days, I would have published this book myself, but I no longer have the financial wherewithal to do that sort of thing. I can envision bringing it out as a newsprint magazine and distributing it for free everywhere on the Oregon Coast, if I could find a sponsor. (Please contact me if interested.) The book was a list (with individual summary) of my favorite 101 spots and collection of 13 essays about the Oregon Coast on the following topics:

Great Birthright 1 (part one of Oregon’s unique legacy of publicly-owned beaches)

Great Birthright 2 (part two of Oregon’s unique legacy of publicly-owned beaches)

Crooked Inviting Fingers (about mysteries of visiting the beach)

Beer (about craft breweries)

Coastal Bookstores (on the joys of patronizing them)

Bridges (about the Coast’s unique Art Deco-style bridges)

Dive Bars (on the joys of investigating them)

Driftwood Forts (an explanation and guide to how to build)

Gas (on the joys of not being able to pump our gas in Oregon)

Pot (on the incredible proliferation of pot shops on the Oregon Coast)

Radio (about the independent classic rock stations)

Winter Rain (on the delights of experiencing rain)

Rule of Three (about how to make a transition to living at the Oregon Coast full time)


What follows is the introduction to the book. In another installment of the blog, I will reveal my 101 favorite secret spots.

 The Secret Oregon Coast: Part 1 / Introduction

The genesis of The Secret Oregon Coast began a few years ago when a striking couple resembling Matt Dillon and Kelly Lynch’s characters in Drugstore Cowboy entered the Sandbar in Newport on the Central Oregon Coast. They sat down. Kelly and Matt expected table service but none was forthcoming and never would be. Finally, Kelly stood up and went to the bar.

“What have you got in martinis?” she said to Lindsay, the veteran bartender.

“Well, you know martinis are martinis,” said Lindsay.

Lindsay then mixed two house martinis, and set them on the bar. Kelly carried them warily to her table.

She returned to the bar a few seconds later.

“Can I get you to try this again?” said Kelly.

“What?” said Lindsay, bewildered.

“Is that like your well vodka?”

“What?” said Lindsay.

“Can I get you to try this again,” said Kelly, extending the martinis to Lindsay, whose hands never moved.

“No. Martinis are martinis,” said Lindsay. “We have real problems here.”

I just laughed. The couple didn’t get it. They should have relished their terrible martinis, thrown them back, ordered two more, tipped huge, and begged off Yelp. I would suggest that drinking the worst martini in the world in a dive bar is the type of unexpected preposterous experience one should cultivate while touring the Oregon Coast. If you desire an artisan martini concocted with hazelnut vodka or raspberry gin crafted by a gorgeous bartender, don’t bother leaving the big cities.

Kelly and Matt were participants in what I call the Oregon Coast Cliché Festival. Twenty-five-million people visited the Oregon Coast in 2015, making it the most popular outdoor tourist destination in the Pacific Northwest. Most of these visitors attended the Festival and drove unwittingly past or failed to appreciate the secret spots that offer idiosyncratic charm and overlooked history.

In 1997, I immigrated to the Oregon Coast from Portland, intending to stay one year as a cultural experiment. I never left. In my 20 years of residency, I’ve explored practically every inch from Astoria to Brookings. I’ve met and observed many tourists, documenting their proclivities and preferences. I’ve written hundreds of features and columns extolling the virtues of living and visiting here. I became the state’s greatest advocate for Oregon’s unique legacy of publicly-owned beaches. I also discovered incredible places that were totally unknown to most visitors and many locals. I called them my secret spots and began compiling a list.

When the list reached 101, I decided to share. Readers may wonder about this apparent contradiction: why would he give away his secret spots? The answer: I want visitors to experience the Oregon Coast I have come to know and love; a different, richer, weirder, wilder, lustier, grittier place than what routinely plays out in the guides, blogs, apps, reviews or magazines.

To me, the best way to explore a place is to reconnoiter, get the lay of the land, talk to the locals, run into dead ends or fall through rabbit holes. That’s exactly what I started doing when I moved here and the habit remains. In these discursive explorations, I’ve walked into some of the most memorable stories and scenarios of my life and wasn’t even looking for them.

That very well could happen to you if you follow a similar strategy when visiting the Oregon Coast and use this book for information or inspiration. Consider this: Don’t you long to discover the unpretentious, unexpected, unprecedented, secluded, untrammeled, analog, languid, profane, preposterous, timeless and bizarre nature of a place? I sure do.

In no way does The Secret Oregon Coast attempt comprehensive coverage of all coastal cities, hinterlands or attractions. It isn’t suitable for families with small kids. This book offers the potential for readers to experience something incomparable. Follow the recommendations of conventional travel media and you will never relish that worst martini or find a remote beach that might change your life.

Of course I missed a lot. I don’t know everything there is to know about the Oregon Coast. I hope I never do. But I do live and work here fulltime and believe that gives me extra credibility to offer personal recommendations.

Find your own secret spots. They are out there, lurking, obscured, awaiting discovery by the curious, the wanderers, the devotees of anachronisms, the paper map readers.

One last thing: back in 1973, the late, great Oregon Governor Tom McCall said something to a CBS News reporter on national television: “We want you to visit our State of Excitement often. Come again and again. But for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live.”

Tom McCall was a very wise man.