Day Eleven

June 9, 2007

Salem, OR to Waldport, OR

We only had about 35 miles to drive to Corvallis to see cousin Kristie, so we decided to visit to an English garden in Salem first. It was a bit too realistic for our tastes that morning -- dreary English weather surrounded us and we didn't feel like walking in the rain. I drove west over the Willamette River to collect Polk County, and then we headed south on OR 99W. Although it was a direct route, it was my biggest navigational error of the trip -- according to my original plan, we were supposed to return to I-5 and head south to Albany in order to collect Linn County, and then go west to Corvallis. Later that day, we even came within sight of Linn County -- it was right across the Willamette River -- but we didn't go there. In a few days, I would have to drive an extra 45 miles up to Santiam Pass to get it from the east side instead.

We met Kristie at McMenamins, a PNW chain of restaurants and hotels, for a long lunch (we weren't sure whether we were spending the day together or just lunch, so we stretched it out too long). I had Wilbur's Jumbo Deluxe Burger, which was topped with bacon, Tillamook cheddar (those Oregonians just can't get enough of that Tillamook cheese!), and a fried egg. It was pretty good. The restaurant also scored points with me for offering a Reuben Kincaid on the menu. I don't eat reubens, but I always think of the Partridge Family's manager when I see the sandwich on a menu. Unlike most chains, McMenamins has different menus at different locations so the Reuben Kincaid may not be available everywhere.

Kristie showed us her apartment and then took us on a tour of the town, featuring the exciting bicycle fence, the Oregon State University campus, both of Corvallis' FedEx drop-off spots, Hewlett-Packard's printer cartridge plant, several grocery stores, and a lot of mundane scenery. I deemed the bicycle fence worth photographing.

       

Kristie drove us downtown and parked, but it was too late to shop. At 5:30 on a Saturday night most of the sidewalks were already rolled up for the evening. I took a few pictures, though. I'm pretty sure the Hotel Corvallis was an apartment building.

                   

The Whiteside Theatre was closed, begging for renovation.

The Benton County Court House was built in 1889.

One bookstore was open, The Book Bin, and incredibly I found a few more books to buy. I think my wife's eyes were still glazed over from yesterday's visit to Powell's. We returned to Kristie's place to get our car. Then we went to Woodstock's Pizza for dinner. It wasn't bad for West Coast pizza.

Facts about Corvallis that Kristie didn't tell us:

After dinner, we said goodbye to Kristie and headed for our motel. Many of the motels in Corvallis were full due to an Oregon State alumni gathering, so we opted for an overpriced Howard Johnson's in Waldport on the coast.

We should have slept on Kristie's floor instead.

The drive to the coast would have been okay if not for the combination of rain, darkness, and construction zones. We took U.S. 20 to Newport instead of OR 34 directly to Waldport because it looked a little easier (less twisty) on the map. But since the state is working on upgrading U.S. 20, they decided not to bother repainting faded lane markers or implanting reflectors in the worst 15-20 miles of the road. It was the first time I had to use my high beams in 3,400 miles. Occasional clouds of fog added to the challenge.

Once we reached Newport and U.S. 101, the worst was over. We headed south toward Waldport. But as we approached the motel, we saw flashing red lights. "Oh shit, what if our motel is on fire?" I asked. "I know it's past cancellation time, but I hope they won't charge us if the place is burning!" Leave it to me to be more concerned about my guaranteed reservation than about the lives of my fellow guests.

A fire department ambulance passed us, driving away from the motel without its lights flashing. I took that as a good sign -- at least there weren't major injuries, right? I was also relieved not to see hundreds of motel guests standing outside since that meant there probably wasn't a fire. When we pulled up to the motel office, two police cars were there. The doors of the lobby had been shattered, shards of glass scattered on the ground. From what I overheard, there had been some kind of fight.

Because of the hubbub, it took a while to check in. The clerk was a bit frazzled because she had finished her shift and gone home, only to be called back into work when the fight broke out. Finally, I got our room card. We parked the car, gathered our stuff, and went inside. There were at least two dozen hyperactive kids in the hallway, which did not bode well for a good night's sleep. Our room was in a remote corner of the motel. I stuck in the card, opened the door and *clunk*. It was the security latch... Someone else was already sleeping there! I went back to the lobby, leaving my wife to guard our stuff in the hallway (and hoping the people in that room wouldn't come out). The clerk said this had happened with two other rooms that night -- the rooms were supposed to be empty according to the computer, but they weren't. She went to check another room herself, saving me the embarrassment. It's a good thing she did because that room was also occupied -- a dog barked inside when she knocked. She returned to the desk and sent another employee to check two rooms.

While he was gone, I got the scoop about what had happened earlier. Around 10 PM, some guy who had been drinking (surprise, surprise) upstairs came down to the restaurant bar and tried to order a drink. The bartender refused to serve him, and he became hostile. She managed to walk him out to the lobby, but then he punched the doors, shattering them. She yelled for help and a female co-worker came out. The drunk punched her several times. Then a male co-worker came out, and the drunk knocked him to the ground. Yet another male staffer came out and pinned the guy to the ground. The drunk got away before the police arrived, but they found him nearby -- he probably had nowhere to go since he was checked into the motel!

Finally, they found an unoccupied room for us. Our room was on the end of the building so we hoped it would be quiet, but lots of kids and other assorted yahoos roamed the hallway throughout the night. My wife was really irritated about the noise although she fell asleep quickly. When I went out to the car to get something, I found an empty Miller High Life case outside the door. For $80 a night, I expected a much better motel. On the bright side, at least a bathtub meth lab didn't explode while we were there.

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