Oceans ten

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.

Crickets serenaded us at night in the big field outside our windows. Practically all of Gearheart is visible in the background of this photo.

Beauty and the beach. The sun sets in the surf at Gearheart.

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.

A girl, a bucket, an ocean, and some sand.

Rest for weary souls.

Mara calls most old cars "Chitty cars". There were a LOT of Chitty cars in Seaside that day, my friends.

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.


The sandcastle is an annual tradition. I tunnel while Mara adds architectural embellishments.

A lucky shot, considering how few other souls were at Gearheart's beach to ask to take a photo of us. Note that Mara is dry only from the shoulders up.

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.

Mara twirling her dance while the Tillimook Light hoves like a whale's flukes in the distance.

My annual "happy place" photo. In case of emotional breakdown, send me here.

Emilia looks serene because we paused in the long homeward drive to feed her. I look grumpy because we're at a Starbucks that's completely surrounded by the parking lot of a mammoth outlet mall. My idea of a view of the sea is not a sea of cars.

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. 


15 Responses to “Oceans ten”

  1. 1 Kip September 27, 2010 at 13:31

    Well, it was our original plan to spent some time on the Oregon Coast last week,(that was before our trip to Seattle) and when next we start thinking about that destination,we’ll look into Gearheart. Traveling with our 2 is always an adventure, but I’m lucky in that both kids have really never disliked the car rides. Oh sure, there have been incidents, in fact Claire started her nasty cold Saturday for the drive back (thus explaining the “I’m not gonna get too far from my mommy” behavior Friday night!), but with enough stops, and not stopping when they are asleep, and a Mickey Mouse dvd (or 2)….well, we’ve found it is possible! And for me, I prefer the driving to taking 2 kids through an airport and on a plane. But again, that’s just me.

    • 2 jstwndrng September 27, 2010 at 16:00

      Definitely prefer driving to flying. Flying = yuck.

      I have this image of you looking in your rear view mirror to assure yourself that the bairns have nodded off, then hitting a button marked H for hyperspace on a Mach V-like dashboard. (Didn’t Speed Racer always press G regardless whether he wanted the car to spring into temporary flight or sprout sawblades for cutting down trees at high speed?)

  2. 3 Marni September 27, 2010 at 19:37

    That picture of Mara twirling…pure joy, that. Thanks for sharing your anniversary adventure with us, Matthew!

  3. 5 Kip September 28, 2010 at 15:55

    Matt, you’re close. It generally happens near a rest stop. A question: “Should we stop?” “Let me check…..they’re out! Keep going!” Then I hit the G and we’re off! I just have to hope that the Starbuck’s doesn’t need a change of venue!

  4. 6 Louis October 3, 2010 at 08:07

    Gearheart, a place always near to my heart. Many family vacations were taken there. Many happy memories.

    Lovely photos. I´m with Marni. That picture of Mara is positively joyful. Once again you took me with you, and that´s why I keep on coming back. Well, that and the crab omelette (badda boom)…

    thanks Matt.

    • 7 jstwndrng October 3, 2010 at 09:24

      I picked up your subtle pun/rhyme: Gearheart:near…heart. Nice. That’s kindof a big coinkidink, isn’t it? Did you stay in one of those charming houses overlooking the dunes?

  5. 8 Louis October 3, 2010 at 08:14

    Just for the record, I believe Speed pushed “A” to make the Mach 5 spring into temporary flight.

    Here are the fruits of my extensive research on the subject:

    • 9 jstwndrng October 3, 2010 at 09:32

      I had to pause and “rewind” several times, but you’re right. I was also surprised that the letters were on the center of the steering wheel. For some reason I had them down low on the panel right of the wheel.

      I had also forgotten that long before The Matrix, the creators of Speed Racer used the freeze-and-spin shot, as seen at the very end where Speed gets out of the car and then the whole universe rotates as he hangs in stop-motion.

      Thanks Louis!

  6. 10 Louis October 4, 2010 at 15:32

    YES! That was always my favorite part of the opening credits. I used to think to myself, “How do they do that?” And even in this day and age of cgi, and my work in animation, I still don´t know how they did that!

    I´m not sure where we stayed in Gearhart. I recall it was a hotel with sliding glass doors that opened right out onto the beach. But I´ll have to ask my folks if they remember…have you ever made a trip to Kalaloch, WA? That was another fine family destination..

  7. 11 jstwndrng October 5, 2010 at 08:20

    I stopped at Kalaloch for an hour of rock-skipping with a college friend once on a madcap drive around the coast. I think we were skipping out of Art History.

  8. 12 Libarian Girl October 5, 2010 at 11:24

    Wow, that Happy Place photo? Sign me up.

    So much beauty in all of those photos. Makes me wistful.

  9. 14 Libarian Girl October 5, 2010 at 11:25

    I don’t know why I have such a hard time typing “librarian.” Yeesh.

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