Oregon Tavern Age: The Great Escape

After building a driftwood fort near the south jetty of the Umpqua River, I repaired to the glorious Tide’s Inn in Reedsport. It’s one of the last great OTA joints on the Oregon Coast. They are going extinct so I try to savor these last moments in OTA country.

I walked in and surveyed the joint. OTAs played pool and slots. One man sat at the bar and ate a meal. I ordered a hippie IPA from the female soon-to-be OTA bartender and took up residence at my favorite table, the one where I typically read the Eugene Register Guard. The Tide’s Inn had a subscription. Not anymore because that once former excellent newspaper was dead, dead, dead, a murder victim of an investment equity firm.

Snippets of conversation floated through the air and I snagged them like reeling in a coho lurking in the depths of a coastal river.

One OTA man said he couldn’t sell his truck because it smelled like him. I get it; I’ve been there.

I was writing in my journal about my affinity for Reedsport and its utterly disheveled nature smack dab in Trump territory.

The classic movie The Great Escape played silently on television. Crap modern country with its phony American narratives played on the jukebox. Give me Waylon and Dolly and reality or give me silence.

I noticed the bartender eating what appeared to be a salmon dinner. Of course! Some OTA had landed a Chinook in the Umpqua and shared it with the regulars. Happens all the time in OTA country. I’ve tasted fresh crab, trout, octopus, oysters, foraged mushrooms and the best tomatoes I’ve ever consumed in OTA joints. All off the menu. Some regular just brought in the bounty.

Two OTAs losing at the slots began discussing the finer points of movie. One of them drank two Crown Royals neat at the same time.

God these dudes loved The Great Escape! I get it: I’m there.

The bartender interrupted my writing and asked what I was doing in the Tide’s Inn. I told her of my love for this joint and frequent visits during various coastal travels. I asked her how she came to tend bar in here. She told me the story. Being the way things are these days in my writing life, her story involved homelessness, or in her case, almost homelessness.

It went like this:

She had lost her rental home in a fire in Albany. She and her two toddlers were unharmed but had nowhere to live. With an insurance settlement, she was able to purchase a 1987 RV. That was all she could afford. For weeks she drove around the Willamette Valley from Salem to Eugene searching for an RV park that allowed older model RVs. She didn’t find one. She was almost ready to give up and go live in the woods. Then she discovered a disheveled RV park near Scottsburg on Highway 38 with a view of the Umpqua River. The owner allowed older RVs and cultivated a senior, poorer set of tenants that had nowhere else to go because of their similarly older rigs. She lived in the park, somehow found child care, scored a bar tending job with Tide’s Inn, saved some money, then moved to town and into a rental home with two other people, including a new boyfriend. Her rent in Reedsport was $1100 a month. She was never leaving Reedsport. People in the area had treated her so well. If they hadn’t, she would have been homeless and probably lost her kids to the state.

A disheveled RV park made the difference.

I know a lot about that. Once, a disheveled RV park on the Southern Oregon Coast helped save me.