Day 23 – Monday, July 22

We got a late start today because I had to finish yesterday’s blog this morning (damn all of you blog readers!).  After checking out of our KOA Kampground in Ilwaco around noon (an hour late), we continued to wind down the Washington coast and cross back over the Columbia River into Oregon, at Astoria.  The last time I passed through Astoria was slightly more than 20 years ago, with my brother Mike and some friends, on a one-week bike trip; we all met up in Portland, biked up to Astoria, then down the coast to Lincoln City, back inland to Salem (the state capital), and then back up to Portland.  It was an incredible trip, despite going numb below the waist for a week or two afterwards (how was I to know about testicular trauma?!?).

As we headed down the Oregon coast in our Honda Odyssey, we figured we’d make it to Tillamook by 1:30 or 2:00.  But I had neglected to account for pulling over for all the photo ops of the beautiful coastline, which added significantly to our travel time, so we didn’t make it to  Tillamook until nearly 3pm.

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Views along the northern Oregon coast

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The holy grail

Our first stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory was at the cafe for lunch, with a heavy focus on cheddar cheese.   Then it was off to the guided tour of the factory, which basically entails walking one flight up to the viewing area, where you can look down onto the main processing/packaging floor.  Not a great tour by any means, but who cares, when Tillamook ice cream awaits?

I started with a double scoop in a waffle cone: Oregon Strawberry atop Tillamook Mudslide.  Even though I was full, there were so many other flavors that I wanted to try that I went back for a 3-scoop sampler dish — of Wild Mountain Blackberry, Mountain Huckleberry and Fireside S’mores (the last two of which were amazing).  So after five scoops of ice cream, I was happily sated (disclaimer: the scoops in the 3-scoop sampler were just a bit larger than golf balls, so I didn’t go all Walmart or anything).

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This vehicle is powered by natural gas (only if the driver is lactose-intolerant)

We left Tillamook Cheese Factory around 5:30pm, so unfortunately it was too late to visit the Tillamook Air Museum just a mile or two down the road — it closes at 5:00 — but we drove by and took a few photos.  It’s housed in what is claimed to be the world’s largest wood structure, and it certainly looks like it is.

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The Tillamook Air Museum — so big, even Mr. Magoo couldn’t miss it

From Tillamook we headed down the coast a bit further, then inland through Salem and onward to Eugene, our destination for the night.  Fortunately my brother Mike happened to call me after we left Tillamook, and when I told him we were headed to Eugene, he mentioned that one of his med-school buddies — JJ Lefford — lives there.  So Mike quickly called JJ, and with about an hour’s notice, JJ is now hosting three people he never met until tonight.  Ahhh…the kindness of strangers.

It’s almost 1am here in Eugene, so I’m going to sign off and get some sleep before we head out tomorrow for Crater Lake National Park.

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