No doubt about it, the 4 mile long Meler – Astoria Bridge from Washington to Oregon across the Columbia River is an experience in itself. With no one else on it (seemingly) but us, and the waters covered in an eerie mist, being on the longest truss bridge in the States was a little bit special. Not that I am a bridge expert I have to point out, but it sure was a mighty fine bridge. We were in Astoria for a number of reasons…
Mainly because two of my favorite movies from my childhood had been filmed here; Goonies and Kindergarten cop, but also because I’d heard the beer was amongst the best in the United States.
Astoria relishes the golden era of quaint picket fences coated regularly in bright white paint. A fishing town by nature it is home to a zillion sea lines all gurning for attention and beautifully kept wooden homes longing not to be struck by lightning.
The goonies house was bought by some woman, some years ago who with the best of intentions bought the most famous house of 1980’s movies and opened its doors to fans of the classic Spielberg masterpiece. As tends to happen, when folks are afforded a privilege they invariably take advantage. Claims of over 1000 visitors per day, of people littering, climbing over the garden and knocking on the door at 3am prompted the owner to change stance and deny any visits whatsoever. Until recently the house was covered in tarpaulin, giving goonie buffs little more than a shady looking photograph set to the backdrop of a house that once was. I have no idea why, but the day we rocked up, the house was in plain view to see and though we ignored the ‘private property’ signs, I was sure to make our visit as innocent as possible. Seeing the house up close ignited within me the desire I had way back in the 80s of being there. It really was a dream realised.
The remainder of our time in Astoria was spent strolling the streets/hills, spotting marine life, staring at sea lines and drinking good beer. Travelling the Pacific coast it is virtually impossible to miss Astoria, but then why would you want to miss such an amazingly beautiful place anyway.
Driving along the 109 from Aberdeen to Ocean shores I was expecting huge things from highly touted slither of beach, the small hamlet perched on the Oregon coast and home to supposed world class casinos, shopping and views. After spending time in Aberdeen I was actually looking forward to anywhere that didn’t have a name starting with Aber and ending in Deen. I mean genuinely, it is a strange place filled with even stranger people.
Imagine stepping back in time to the 1950’s, a year of industry and steel erected bridges. Driving through town is actually great, old style buildings, cars and a gorgeous river that cuts right through the centre. However, and this is a huge however. Step out of the car and you will find yourself in what must be a gated community where folks that didn’t complete school are sent. I have to tread carefully here, for obvious reasons, but I have never been in a dumber place in my life. I have every bit of sympathy for these people I really do, but how anyone is allowed a driving license is beyond me, and a gun license scares me. We actually watched a guy spend 5 minutes trying to pull up his trousers before giving up and sitting on the floor. People wondered the streets with jaws dragging on the sidewalk and others simply stood and stared into nothingness. In Wendy’s for lunch, it was as though we had just stepped into a coma induced congregation of benzopdiazepem addicts. Genuinely, people were sat dribbling as they ate their food, we witnessed a guy stood at the drinks machine from when we walked in, to when we left, in what must’ve been a drug induced inability to make a decision on what flavour soda he wanted.
Walking through downtown we saw a guy salivating as he stared at us through inch thich jam jar-olive from popeye- esque glasses. It really is hard to put into words how desperate Aberdeen is, but it comes as no surprise to me whatsoever, that when you google the city, a picture of a school burning down in 2002 comes up. Clearly it was never re-built. There is absolutely no reason to ever visit the place, it offers nothing at all to the tourist other than a drive by glimpse into life as an uneducated city dependent upon crack and who knows what.
Alas, when you finally get out of Aberdeen and beyond the painfully slow drivers whose cars are either unable or unwilling to pass the 20mph mark you invariably have high hopes of what is to come. The 109 West is dotted with bill boards advertising a gambling mecca, paradise by the seaside complete with Chanel number 5.
Pulling in to ocean shores is every bit as exciting as you can imagine and when you pass those two stone pillars it’s as though an angel from above is beaming down light upon your pathway. And then suddenly it fades. A grim façade akin to 1940’s British seaside’s appears and the weather instantly turns grim. The only neon lights in sight are that of a Subway shelling out $6 footlongs, and the fantasia you expected is little more than a vacant concrete street headed by an Irish bar. To say it wasn’t what I expected would be stating the obvious. Imagine buying a Corvette and having a Camry with a racing stripe delivered, with no wheels. That is no exaggeration, I actually cannot think of a single thing Ocean shores has going for it. There is absolutely nothing there other than a Days Inn and a few overpriced fish and chip shops. The beach is terrible, the sparse timeshares looked tired and the only time we found anything worth smiling about was a bunch of Elks eating someone’s spring flowers. Then we noticed that even the Elks have been downsized, having had their horns cut off. It made complete sense, Ocean shores likes to big itself up, but really it is a lame, grim place and the only thing it has that is of any interest to the tourist is the road out of there.