Western New York – May 2017 – Roadside America attractions

As with all trips one of the highlights is finding the offbeat things in an area, and our route to Buffalo was no different.

 

First stop – Barcelona, New York Lighthouse

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Silver Creek, New York – Valvo’s Candy – Dolly The Waitress

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Eden, New York – America’s only Kazoo factory

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Buffalo – Roswell Park Hospital Giant Buffalo Nickel

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Buffalo – Canalside – Shark Girl

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Eastern North Carolina & Raleigh – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 7

Our Thursday morning saw us leaving the Outer Banks westbound, with our first stop in Edenton, North Carolina, a quaint town from the Cotton is King Era.

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The original cotton mill is now a condominium building. The town also had well-kept majestic old homes of the pre-Civil War period.

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Edenton’s waterfront of the Albemarle Sound was picturesque with tall leafy trees growing from the water with roots visible above and below the surface. The roots seemed to wrap around the tree trunk and support it in the water. The lighthouse at the edge of the pier was not a tall columnar structure as most lighthouses but a unique lighthouse constructed as a two story home with a widow’s walk and a large lantern placed on its roof.

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Edenton’s Chowan County Courthouse is one of the oldest courthouses in the country. Built in 1767, it is one of the finest examples of public Georgian architecture in the American South. Edenton was settled in 1658 and incorporated in 1727, and is counted as the first permanent European settlement in North Carolina.

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In addition, to the courthouse and the Confederate Soldier memorial in the square, Edenton has the famous Historic Hicks Field, a baseball stadium that is now home to the John A. Holmes High School Aces as well as the Edenton Steamers of the Coastal Plain League. So, we as baseball fans wanted to see it.

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Hicks Field was built in 1939 as a Works Progress Administration project at the corner of East Freemason and Woodward, adjacent to the high school. The main structure is a wooden grandstand with a roof that was built to accommodate slightly more than 500 people. The main grandstand is the oldest remaining wooden grandstand of its type in the state of North Carolina.

Hicks Field was home to minor league baseball and semipro teams up until 1952, including the Edenton Colonials of the original Coastal Plain League, the Albemarle League, and the Virginia League. Players such as Bob Feller and other major league all-stars have stepped foot inside this historic stadium.

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A stop in Zebulon brought us to see the Carolina Mudcats high A baseball stadium. The Mudcats are affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers and play at Five County Stadium. The friendly office workers there allowed us to enter the stadium to take photos and they even opened the gift shop for us so that I could buy a t-shirt for my collection. A perfect photo op from the top of the stands captured a shot of the field with the water tower outside the stadium painted as a baseball in the background.

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Since we used to live in Raleigh, I tried testing my memory with names of the roads. I remembered the main roads although the area has developed a great deal. One thing that had not changed was the Char-Grill.   The Char-Grill has a company motto, “Simpler Times, Simpler Choices.”  This place cooks up classic hamburger patties cooked over charcoal flames and serves red hot dogs. The hot dogs are in a casing that looks very red unlike any other hot dog that I have ever seen. There is a protocol to ordering, you need to check off your options of your order slip and drop the paper order into a slot. The place was very busy but after a short wait we heard our name called for our order for pick up at the other window. The burgers are great but not the best we ever had.

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We drove into downtown Raleigh and parked the car across from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

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We walked to the North Carolina State Capitol for a self-guided tour of the building’s three floors. The Greek revival Capitol building, completed in 1840, currently houses the offices of the Governor of North Carolina, located on Union Square at East Edenton Street.

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During much of the Colonial period, North Carolina was without a fixed capital. Governors lived in their own homes and the Assembly moved from place to place, meeting in private homes, and in courthouses when available. In 1722 the Assembly selected Edenton as the capital, but years passed by as the center of the population had shifted westward. in 1788 a State Convention voted to set a capital plan for Raleigh, based on the then nation’s capital of Philadelphia.

Construction of a State House began on the town’s central square in 1792. First occupied in 1794, the building served as the capitol until it burned in 1831. The cornerstone of the present State Capitol, constructed on the site of the former State House, was laid in 1833 and the building was completed in 1840. The Capitol remains largely unaltered from its completion of 1840.

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The Capitol building also housed the original state law library and the geology department. The geology room had cases lining the walls shelved with rocks labeled by type and specific name. The next room that we viewed was the House of Representatives chamber which follows the semi-circular plan of a Greek theater in an architectural Corinthian style. The Senate chamber was decorated in the Ionic style of an ancient Greek temple.

The Capitol is a cross shape, centering on a domed rotunda where the wings join. The rotunda stands 97-1/2 feet from the floor to the crown atop the dome. Centered on the interior ground floor of the rotunda is a statue of George Washington depicting him in a Roman general’s uniform with tunic, body armor, and a short cape fastened at the shoulder.

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The North Carolina Museum of History is where we began our tour of the museum with the early history of the settlers along the coast, then into the tobacco and industry era where we learned that the Portuguese brought the first African slaves to America before the English arrived.

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On February 1, 1960, four African American college students sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, and politely asked for service. Their request was refused. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats. Their resistance in the act of a sit-down helped to ignite a youth-led movement to challenge racial inequality throughout the South; a small section of that lunch counter is in the museum.

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In addition an authentic slave’s cabin plucked from a southern plantation and reassembled in the museum was also on display, showing how harsh their life was.

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An athletic prominence of North Carolina section honored those athletes associated with the state in their professional sport with large banners of the athlete and some memorabilia. Most surprising to me was a tribute to the golfer, Arnold Palmer, a Latrobe boy, has a connection to North Carolina from his college days at Wake Forest University. Motorsports hailed Richard Petty and showcased his race car. The football section highlighted Carl Ellis who played for the Minnesota Vikings, and Buck Leonard for baseball. Many more professional and college athletes were also admired.

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Since we still had a bit of time before the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences closed, we headed over there for a speed tour.

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The museum had exhibits of local wildlife past and present. Models of dinosaurs stood stories high and skeletons of a sixty-foot sperm whale and a blue whale hung from the ceiling. Preserved and embalmed fish, birds, and insects were displayed in recreated environments.

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We had a quick dinner at Panera’s before venturing to the PNC Arena to watch the Carolina Hurricanes play ice hockey against the Anaheim Ducks. Because nearby Durham was hosting a UNC-Duke football game, the ‘crowd’ was sparse, announced at at 4000 allowed us to move around seats throughout the game for various angles of shots.  The Carolina “Canes” lost the game 4-2 to the Ducks.

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A short drive later we arrived at our hotel in Durham, a Hampton Inn, that was packed with the aforementioned football game fans.

St Johns Newfoundland – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 10

NAt 7:30 a.m. the restaurant on the ship opened for breakfast and we were waiting. The breakfast buffet was overpriced; the hot food was only warm and not good. Since we still had a couple of hours to go we went for another walk on the top deck to get some exercise. We walked eight lengths from one side of the ship to the other side guessing that it equaled one mile, not to mention a great sunrise.

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At last – Newfoundland! Driving off the ship onto the road, we followed an old drunken Newfoundlander in a truck who swerved to the right nearly off the road and over the center line in front of oncoming cars, but fortunately we were able to quickly get past him, hitting neither him nor any moose, of which there were plenty of warnings.

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The 90 minute drive into St. Johns, Newfoundland went without incident. As soon as we reached town, we headed back out to the east to nearby Cape Spear to be at the easternmost point in Canada and North America (no more further east landmarks on this trip!).

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Because of its proximity to convoy routes during the Second World War, a gun battery was installed at Cape Spear to defend the entrance to St. John’s harbor. The bunkers and gun barrels offer a sheltered view of the ocean. Barracks and underground passages leading to the bunkers were built for the use of troops stationed there. The gun barrels and bunkers are still there which we explored a bit.

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The Cape Spear Lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse in Canada, operating since 1836. The structure consists of a stone light tower surrounded by the lightkeeper’s residence. In 1955 a new lighthouse tower was built on the site using the active light from the original lighthouse. The historical park gave us a glimpse into the life of the keeper. Glass chimneys were kept upstairs of the keeper’s house so that the lightkeeper could clean and replace them on a three hour regular schedule. The life of a lighthouse keeper seemed isolated and hard.

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Next we drove to Quidi Vidi (pronounced by the local residents, as “Kiddy Viddy” a neighborhood in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. The neighborhood is named for both Quidi Vidi Lake and Quidi Vidi Harbor – known locally as “The Gut”.  Located in Quidi Vidi is the Quidi Vidi Battery Provincial Historic Site, which had significance as a battery during the War of 1812.

Quidi Vidi was known for once being a historic fishing village dating back to the 1600’s and still maintains the look of a fishing village today. This tightly tucked in a ravine village is also home to Newfoundland’s largest microbrewery, the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company which seems to be the only business in the town.

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St. Johns is listed as the oldest English settled city in North America but there is dispute in that Jamestown, VA could be the oldest English settled city also. Our next stop was at Signal Hill which overlooks the city of St. Johns, high on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and St John Harbor.

Due to its strategic placement overlooking the harbor, fortifications have been built on the hill since the mid 17th century. The final battle of the Seven Years’ War in North America was fought in 1762 at the Battle of Signal Hill, in which the French surrendered St. John’s to a British force under the command of Lt. Colonel William Amherst. Lt. Colonel Amherst renamed what was then known as “The Lookout” as “Signal Hill,” because of the signaling that took place upon its summit from its flagmast.

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Historical military barracks are nestled in the hill and the tour guide explained the life of a soldier stationed at the Queen’s Battery Barracks during the 1860’s when the barracks were built. The barracks furnished fold up cots and British styled table and benches of the era and a fireplace. The guide showed us the high-waisted trousers and short jackets worn with a tunic and leather shoes that the soldiers had. The shoes had metal plates fastened with ten tacks to prolong their wear since each soldier was only issued items annually.

Large cannons set at the front of the barracks protected the harbor below. Ruins of gunpowder storage once stood within thick walls and thin roofs in case of accidental explosions. We hiked the trail back up the hill to see Cabot’s Tower.

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Located at the highest point of Signal Hill, overlooking the entire city and the ocean, Cabot Tower is a Gothic Revival style of architecture. Built of red sandstone, it is a two story, 30 foot, square structure with a three story, 50 foot octagonal tower. The first transmissions received in North America by Marconi were at Signal Hill, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador in 1901 and Glace Bay, Nova Scotia in 1902.  In 1933, a Marconi station was opened on the second floor of Cabot Tower, which operated until 1960. In 1920, one of the first wireless transatlantic transmissions of the human voice was made there.  A few items honoring Marconi were displayed on the second floor the tower.

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We walked onto the open deck of the roof of Cabot’s Tower for a look of the city. It was extremely windy, so windy in fact; it was difficult to open the door to get back into the building. As soon as we entered the building again, the staff closed off the roof for safety reasons.

Leaving Cabot’s Tower and driving into the city allowed us to see the colorful houses. Each wooden-sided home was painted a bright color different from its neighbor. The city of St. John’s is well known for its jellybean row houses that started in the 1970’s as a way to inject new life back into the declining city. Residents jumped onto the idea whole-heartily and spread the colorful palette outward so that the majority of the city is a jellybean row house street.

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We found our boutique hotel, The Jag, in downtown St. Johns near the convention center. After check-in we walked the streets a bit and opted for an early dinner since we missed lunch. We went to Green Sleeves, an open bar cafe with pub grub, with a beer and burger for dinner. They servered us in a Rolling Rock glass etched with the familiar 33 words which begin “from the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe” but because we were in the bilingual country of Canada these words were also etched in French on the glass. I explained to the waitress the significance of Latrobe to our family, I asked her if I could buy the glass as a souvenir.

After checking with the bartender she said that if the glass was not there when she returned to clean up, oh well. We got the hint and the glass seemed little compensation for the very long wait that we patiently had for our food order.

It was fifty minutes before our food arrived. The restaurant gave us a discount on the food and apologized for the delay while they catered the wedding upstairs. When we got back to our hotel, the housekeeper knocked on the door to deliver us chocolates. It was a nice gesture and a good ending to a busy day, and as example of how our trendy hotel in far off Newfoundland was the best of the trip.

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New Brunswick – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 8

Another early start, on the road by 6 a.m., and we were off to the northeast. After entering our first destination into the GPS I found that it had me turn off U.S. 1, which turned out to not only be the quickest route (bypassing one of the numerous wanderings of U.S. 1 along the coast), but it took us up and down some fairly large hills, across bogs, and through a couple of small towns resulting in a really fun 30 mile segment, not to mention really waking you up as I was really pushing the Audi on the smooth curvy road.

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After stopping in Machias, Maine for a quick McDonalds breakfast (have you ever noticed that in the morning every McDonalds in the world has what seems to be the same 4 or 5 old men in them solving all of the world’s problems – a great reality TV show would be to go around and pull them from really random places and have them argue it out on live TV – but I digress).

Another hour down the road and we arrived at West Quoddy Park, the easternmost point in the USA not counting the Aleutian Islands that cross the International Date Line. As we drove into West Quoddy Park the Travelling Wilburys sang “At the End of the Line” It was perfectly timed as we rolled into the drive of the park and reached the end of the road.

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The park has a lighthouse and cottage set at the bottom of a hill; below the lighthouse cliff were boulders exposed because of low tide. The water shimmered from the sun as a fishing boat chugged through the large isles of rock with only a small fence separated the hill where we stood and the craggy shore but we could see stretches of land across the water.

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After heading north a bit we reached the edge of Calais, Maine, where we were to cross into New Brunswick. After a brief stop at the border crossing where we were asked a few questions and had to show our passports, we were on our way onto a recently built freeway. Just ahead we rolled into the visitor center to get a map, where the very helpful visitor center workers recommended we make a brief stop to view the waterfalls in the town of St George, only 20 miles ahead (or as they said about 30 kilometers).

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Continuing on we arrived in St. John, New Brunswick, to see the Mortello Towers, small defensive fort that was built as a coastal fort. The tower stands up to 40 feet high with two floors and typically had a garrison of one officer. Their round structure and thick walls of solid masonry made them resistant to cannon fire, while their height made them an ideal platform for a single heavy artillery piece, mounted on the flat roof to fire in a complete 360° circle. The Mortello Tower, was used in the War of 1812. We were not able to enter the tower because of renovation but stood at the base of the tower looking out to the sea.

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St John is the largest city in New Brunswick with a metro population of a little over 100,000 people, as a result they have a decent downtown where we found the City Market, the oldest continuous farmer’s market in Canada, for our lunch. We ordered a shrimp platter and fish and chips from an open shop vendor. While eating our lunch, we noticed that all the signs were in English and French. Even my can of root beer was labeled in both languages, root beer on one side and racinette on the other side of the can. There were bilingual signs for street posts, and car license plates too; New/Noveau Brunswick.

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All of the southern New Brunswick borders the Bay of Fundy, on the places that was very high on my list to visit. As we left St John we found the Fundy Trail, a park featuring a road hugging the coast with stunning views in every direction that includes over 20 spectacular lookouts, a waterfall, and 600 million-year-old rock formations. We stopped at one of the vistas looking out into the New Brunswick coastline, sparkling water and a view of Nova Scotia in the distance.

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We followed the Fundy Trail as far as the Salmon River where we walked across the suspension bridge. The bridge had a ten person limit and bounced a lot as we walked on it but the bridge is only 25 feet off the ground so it was not a fearless act. Our journey took us pass the Sea Caves at St. Martins, New Brunswick but it was high tide and the caves were only accessible by kayak now and not accessible to walk to the caves.

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Leaving the Fundy Trail as the road across the coast is not completed, we traveled from St. Martins along Route 111 to Route 114 down through Fundy National Park where the coastal road continued until we reached Hopewell Rocks in Chignecto Bay, an extension of the Bay of Fundy. This area is noted as the highest tide in the world at an average of 39 feet high.

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The narrow bay funnels water out and the ocean floor is exposed three hours before and after low tide. We took the trail to an overlook and saw the towers of clay rocks covered with seaweed. Once we made our way down to the ocean floor we walked over seaweed, mud and rocks to see the sun shine down and through hallowed towers and crevices. In addition you could see bull eyes targets on the rocks thirty feet up or so, assuming those were probably placed there by kayakers at high tide. The park closed at 7 p.m. Atlantic Time so we left to climb the multilevel stairs and take the trail back to the car. We changed our muddy shoes and headed to Moncton, New Brunswick for the night.

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After our check-in at the Chateau Moncton, we walked to Woody’s BBQ North of the Mason-Dixon Line. Woody’s is a chain restaurant that started in Florida with a few restaurants in Canada. Our meals were meh, not good.

The Chateau Moncton hotel sits along the Petitcodiac River that connects to the Bay of Fundy which draws out water at low tide and then rushes in so forcefully at high tide (called the tidal bore) that surfers ride the waves on the river. We had hopes of seeing high tide roar into the city but high tide is set near midnight and it is too dark to see the river.

Oregon Coast – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 12 – Florence to Lincoln City

Our morning drive took us to Florence, Oregon, on the coast, where the Suislaw River meets the Pacific Ocean. The most noteworthy structure in Florence is the Suislaw River Bridge, a concrete arched piers and finials near the center with arches between, providing an interesting design we have not seen before.

The west bank of the river was a dune of sand that stretched for miles, which we followed until we found a parking lot that allowed us to climb the dunes. From here we watched a sea lion romp in the water near the river’s edge.

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Just north of Florence we paused for a brief walk at the Darlingtonia State Park, a bog with insect eating carnivorous plants. Why go there you might ask, but it was on our list, so why not. The Darlintonia California also called the cobra lily because of the resemblance of its tubular leaves to a rearing cobra, complete with a forked leaf that resembles fangs or a serpent’s tongue thrives in the bogs of Northern California and Oregon.

The plants nectar hidden under its hood attracts insects and the use of lubricating secretions and downward-pointing hairs force their prey into the trap. The slippery walls and hairs prevent the trapped prey from escaping.  We did not see the cobra lily eat a bug but wished those plants had eaten more insects as the area was filled with insects along with the unique plants.

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The Sea Lion’s Caves located about 11 miles north of Florence, Oregon is a privately owned sanctuary for sea lions and birds. A steep walk down a path took us to an elevator that dropped us 200 feet further into the cave.

The cave is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest sea cave in America and is the year round home of the Stellar Sea Lion with the height of the cave is equivalent to a twelve story building and the length of a football field. The cave also served as a museum of facts and skeletons of sea lions and seals.

While a bit smelly we were able to learn the difference between a seal and a sea lion is that the sea lion walks on its large flippers and have visible ear flaps. Seals have small flippers, wriggle on their bellies on land, and have indentations instead of ear flaps.

The sea lions use the caves along the Oregon coast to rest, molt, and mate in the rookeries during the breeding season. The months of May and June are the time for the bulls to meet females. Behind a grated fence, we stood to see the sea lions lying on a large rock within the cave.

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The elevator took us up to the top of the cliff again where we walked the trail to the other side of the grounds to a viewing point. Below the cliff we saw a hundred or more sea lions lying on the rocks at the ocean shore.

A cow sea lion lying on the rock seemed on the verge of giving birth. This lying cow snapped at all sea lions that came near her. Meanwhile, bulls pecked at each other and there was a lot of activity among the sea lions and seals on the rock.

A bonus was a whale further out in the ocean that surfaced blowing water from its spout.

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A short drive away, follow by a steep half-mile trail lead us to Heceta Head Lighthouse. A volunteer from Florida who was training at this park gave us some history about the lighthouse and the area.

The lighthouse was built in 1892 and still works today. At 205 feet above the ocean, the lighthouse is one of the most photographed on the coast. The light at top of the 56-foot tower was illuminated in 1894 and the beacon can be seen 21 miles from land; it is rated as the strongest light on the Oregon coast.

We climbed up a trail behind the lighthouse to peer into the lantern at the top of the lighthouse. The view was spectacular.

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Afterwards at Devil’s Churn, we scrambled over rocks to see tidepools at the rocky coast. We wanted to see Spout Horn, a spot where the waves bursts through the hole of the rock creating a loud noise like a whale spouting.  We waited for a while but did not see the waterspout but it gargled and churned continuously with some small bursts.

A stop at the Blue Whale Cafe in Yachats, Oregon provided lunch of fried fish and shrimp for us. The name Yachats comes from the Siletz language, and means “dark water at the foot of the mountain.”  Then we were off to see the Alsea Bay Bridge Center to learn about the 3,000 ft. long bridge. The Alsea Bay Bridge is a concrete arch bridge that spans the Alsea Bay on U.S. Route 101 near Waldport, Oregon. Oregon has a number of beautiful old bridges along the coastal route.

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The Yaquina Head Lighthouse stood on the cliff that overlooks one of the largest murre (sea bird) colonies on the coast. The birds sit upon the top of a huge rock. The lighthouse is 93 feet tall and was built in 1873. Its area is swamped with birds.

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Down the trail is access to the beach with lots of tidepools filled with sea life, monitored by a park ranger who gave us guidance on where to look and what to look for. We saw hundreds of urchins, anemones open and closed, crab, sea stars, barnacles, and more. It was fun identifying these creatures in the tidepools among the rocks. The rocks tested our balance while walking on barnacles and slippery seaweed. In addition we saw an eel in a tidepool. The beach was covered in black smooth stones that shifted with each step we took.

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Next stop going north was the Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area, a hollowed rocky basin surrounded by tall round rock walls. The Devil’s Punchbowl is partially open to the Pacific Ocean allowing waves to enter and churn sometimes violently inside the bowl. The bowl is thought to have been created when two caves carved by the ocean collapsed.  As we walked around the area, we saw strange large squirrels that looked like a mix of a squirrel and a groundhog. Even better we were able to observe a whale blow its spout out in the ocean.

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Further up the coast we came to Otter Rock and Depoe Bay for more whale watching then down to the World’s Smallest Harbor. Depoe Bay is a 6-acre harbor that the city promotes as the world’s smallest navigable harbor. This harbor is also the fishing trip scene from the 1975 movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”  

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Finally we checked into our hotel, the Pelican Shores, in Lincoln City for the night then went to the Chinook Winds Casino for dinner in hopes to find a spot to eat and watch the Stanley Cup finals. It took a little convincing to get the staff to turn on the hockey game and allow us to sit in the non-dining room to watch the game. It was a bit surreal sitting in this large dining room by ourselves watching a small TV, but the wait staff was very accommodating; made even better as the Pittsburgh Penguins won against the San Jose Sharks by a score of 2-1 in overtime. We were happy with our dinner and the game so we splurged for dessert.

Our room’s balcony provided a pretty view of the ocean and again we saw a whale swim by spouting water.

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We went for a walk on the beach and on the way back we met a couple sitting on the beach at their campfire. Their fire was not a pile of logs but a heavy round stump with four slits cut like a pizza. The center hole of the slits was doused with lighter fluid. The couple dropped a lit match into the center and the stump smoked for a bit before burning from the inside out. Streams of light from the fire in the center beamed outward through the slits. Fire and smoke rose through the center hole creating its own chimney. We talked with the couple for a bit who said the fire burns slowly and makes enough light from the burning embers for almost two hours. The fire glowing through the slits of the stump had a really wild look.