It should be a minor matter for a major city to erect signs marking the routes from its downtown area to the major highways leading away. Olympia should be no exception, but the subtlest nuances of route 101 seem to have escaped the Olympians: It goes in two directions. The signage to route 101 northbound is excellent, but Olympian scripture denies the existence of the southbound lane. In fairness, the southbound lane is not continuous in the area adjacent to the city, but other cities manage to post signs to the effect of "To Rt. X south use Rt. Y east." The locals I asked for directions invariably encouraged me to go north instead, insisting that 101 would "soon" or "eventually" loop around and face south. Two problems with this approach. First, while 101 does eventually loop around and face south, it first circumscribes the girth of Mount Olympus — going 200 miles before it faces south. Second, when I would have returned to my starting point (where I was now), four hours later, I would be in precisely the same position I am now: trying to find the southbound lane of route 101. See, the southbound lane merges with I-5 for a while and reemerges 40 miles west somewhere to the south.
Note to all Olympians: To get to 101 south, take I-5 south for ten miles, then route 12 west for 40 miles. From there, route 101 is continuous until it reaches the Mexican border.
Note to CDC: The dread Idiot Virus has mutated and is now airborne.
Man's quest for the perfect blueberry pancake has ended. Ordinary blueberry pancakes are either too densely or too sparsely packed with blueberries. In both cases, the berries clump at the bottom of the pancake, giving you a fruit compote with buttermilk topping. Edible, but not ideal. At Deanna's Restaurant — a greasy spoon at a truck stop in Tenino (hi Teri!) — they have discovered the secret of whipping the batter until it forms tiny air bubbles which support the berries and hold them off the pan. The result is a suspension of the berries during cooking, allowing the batter to harden around the berries as they "float." Voila, we have achieved the optimal dispersion of blueberries.
Today's biggest thrill was visiting Fort Clatsop, my first Lewis & Clark site. Eventually, I may visit them all. My first stop was the historic canoe landing, where the Corps of Discovery beached their vessels between hunting and mapping expeditions during the winter of 1805-1806. Next, I visited the fort. The National Park Service has done an admirable job preserving the site, with authentic pieces and accurate replicas adorning every room. NPS invites visitors to lie down in the enlisted men's beds and try on their rawhide blankets and clothes. The most inspiring moment of this day came when I stood at the very desks where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark penned their journals during his three-month stay at the fort. Despite the constant work to be done (mapping, hunting, fishing, collecting scientific specimens), each found time to write one journal entry more often than any other: "Nothing interesting happened today."
Stopped for lunch in Seaside, Oregon, an honestly named town with heavy pedestrian traffic. Returning to my car from the restaurant, the juxtaposition of two signs over a shop door caught my eye: "Enjoy Coca-Cola" and "Antique Collectibles." I am not the sort to buy antiques but this combination intrigued me. What can be more interesting than stale Coke? To be sure, this is the sort of shop I would have derided with harsh language not long ago. The front half has the usual collectible trash: glass and porcelain figurines, hand-painted plates, and lace doilies. The back portion, however, is a sight to behold: the largest collection of soft drink memorabilia I have seen outside of the Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta. The two most complete collections were Coca-Cola and Pepsi, with smaller displays for RC, A&W, Dr Pepper, and "other" sodas. From bottles to historical magazine advertisements to model delivery trucks to replica soda fountains, this shop was a small museum in itself. Indexed by date, the Coca-Cola advertisements were a lesson in 20th century American history. Trends in clothing and hairstyle fashions, both world wars, each President since FDR, and even shifts in racial tensions are all reflected in these Coca-Cola ads. I normally eschew impulse purchases, but I quickly shelled out $20 for a World War 2 era bottle and three period magazine advertisements. I have never seriously collected anything — even my fantasy figure collection from my youth was accumulated haphazardly. This chance encounter with an antique shop has inspired me to begin collecting Coca-Cola advertisements and other memorabilia systematically. I am not, however, in a rush to devise the system just yet.
This vacation has been a happy combination of detailed planning and spontaneity borne of coincidence. Somewhere along route 101, I stopped in a Wal-Mart to use the restroom, and I chanced to pass a display for Rand McNally road atlases. The display had a splashy sign announcing a joint Rand-McNalley and Fuji Film road trip photo contest. The winner will get a one-year supply of Fuji film, and the winning photo will be on the cover of next year's atlas. The only significant criterion for the photo is that it must reflect the character of a road trip. I had taken over 40 snapshots at that point, but none of them, except perhaps one, were unique to a road trip. That one features my car at the edge of a cliff on the south face of Mount Mazama, overlooking the Cascades south of Crater Lake. Seeing this contest announcement made me think of ways to work the road into my next few pictures. Two hours later, 25 miles north of Florence, I stumbled upon a golden opportunity.
Each time I enter a new stretch of 101, I check out a few vista points to see if there is anything interesting. At this particular point, I could look north to high cliffs overlooking the ocean, with jagged rocks being bombarded by the surf below. A small church sat high on one such rock, above a small town. Halfway up the local cliff, the road hugged a curve, jutting its way into the foreground of the picture. If my pictures (I took three) turn out well, I will enter one in the contest. I hope they do not mind that I used Kodak film.
After taking those vista photos, I continued south to Sea Lion Cave, the only year-round mainland sea lion habitat in North America. The local formations and the sea lions' residence there are interesting. At one end, they occupy a series of flat rocks at the base of the cliff beneath route 101. At the other end lies the moniker cave — a hallowed-out semi-sphere about half the size of a football field. The company operating the tourist site bored through 208 feet of rock to install an elevator which brings visitors to stand about 20 feet above the water level. From this vantage, they opened a hole in the side of the cave for us to spy on the sea lions as they rest in the shade. This is high enough that the sea lions cannot get into the tourist area, and a mesh fence prevents hooligans from goosing the sea lions.
On the recommendation of the keeper of the Lighthouse Inn, I had dinner at the Bridgewater Seafood Restaurant & Lounge in Old Town. Only one entree caught my attention, but it was a combination I never imagined I would see: a shrimp and crab enchilada. The sauce was a house secret, and it was excellent. I would eat there again if I ever return to Florence. I do recommend to others that you ask them to go easy on the sour cream. I say sarcastically that there was a "healthy" helping glopped on top of the enchilada.