Well, we learned something a few weekends ago. Going on a family vacation when one or more members of the family is an infant is not the same as going on a family vacation when no member of the family is an infant. If one hopes to “vacate” one’s daily routine, one is sadly delusioned: one only makes it more complicated and difficult. And as it turns out, Emilia likes car travel even less than I do. We managed to enjoy ourselves — a lot, actually — but really it was like we all took Mara to the beach, and even Mara had to wait around a lot wishing we were doing something else besides feed Emilia or watch her sleep.
Nevertheless, we got our licks in. We stayed three nights at the Gearheart Ocean Inn, a delightful little hostelry a mile or two north of Seaside, Oregon, which is just north over the hump from Cannon Beach. Gearheart is cheaper and quieter and offers guests its own private beach. It’s an expansive beach, and it is preceded inland by a hundred or so yards of grassy dunes. Tidepools form as the ocean ebbs away from high tide, in which one might find crabs and sand dollars, if you don’t wait for the seagulls to find them first. The only think the beach at Gearheart lacks is Haystack Rock, which is a lot to lack, but there is only one beach in the entire world that does not lack Haystack Rock*, and we were just a short hop down the highway therefrom.
Gearheart looks like nothing much out on the main highway. Strip malls with tax preparers and hair-and-nail salons, auto-wrecking yards, real estate offices, the odd antique barn or espresso shack. But toward the beach there is a tiny business district — a cafe, an ice-cream and candy shop, a garden shop called Seven Dees (part of a local chain) a grocery and a post office, and the Gearheart Ocean Inn — surrounded by quiet little beach residences, some very charming and old.
We expected lousy weather and came resolved for the sting of wind-whipped rain in our faces, but it was just warm enough during the days and bracingly chilly in the mornings and evenings after sundown, and the sun was out for a good portion of each day. Mara and I ducked into Seaside the second day to find a book store because we forgot to bring any books for her nighttime routine (right, like I would need an excuse to go hunt down the local indie bookseller), and found ourselves awash in the largest roadster rally I’ve ever seen. Both sides of the main drag through town for half a mile or more were lined with glimmering souped up old cars, and the sidestreets and parking lots were full of more of them — hoods and bonnets up so the throngs of mainly aging enthusiasts could peer inside, comment and query, nod approvingly.
One afternoon we zipped down to Cannon Beach, where the sands were teeming with vacationing life forms. We’d hoped to get out to Haystack Rock to poke at starfish and anemones, but we had come midway between low tides. Mara and I built a sandcastle, pausing to marvel at a flock of pelicans that swooped down and disappeared between the waves as they skimmed the surf for whatever they eat, while Angela put Millie in the Moby-wrap and took her for a long, pacifying stroll down the beach toward the Rock. Later we strolled through Cannon Beach town and ate ice-cream cones that were positively indecent in size.
Mornings, we nipped over to the Gearhearat Cafe (I don’t know if it was called that, but there is no other cafe in town so anyone would know what you meant if you called it that) and availed ourselves of their fresh-baked pastries — sticky buns, apple turnovers, mixed fruit and peach tarts and cream cheese danishes, croissants and blueberry muffins, yumm — which drew a perplexingly large crowd to the cafe’s inside and outside tables, considering it is in the middle of absolutely nowhere, or rather at the edge of nowhere.
We had lots of books and games and DVDs for hunkering down in the cottage during foul weather, but we actually spent most of our time exploring. We took some pictures, naturally. We took lots. I’m surprised we don’t have any photos of us doing what we do most and best on vacations, and that’s hunt down brunch. We tried a place out on the highway at Gearheart — suitable, not ravable — and of course we had to go back to our favorite, the Pig ‘N Pancake in Cannon Beach (there’s one in Seaside, too, but tradition is tradition). We tried the crab omelette and the Polish kielbasa scramble this time. Never a bad mean at the Pig ‘N Pancake.
All in all, it was a lot of work to get to the beach, and we still had a great time. Next year, we might try something closer, even if we have to trade the Columbia River area’s sandy beaches for northern Washington’s pebbly ones.
*Not true, actually. There are dozens and maybe even hundreds of them. Just consult any high-resolution coastal map.