June 24 – July 26, 2021
We took off for the three-hour drive to Gold Beach along highway 199, passing through numerous small towns and lush forest until hitting the coast and what would begin a week of spectacular and unique vistas that never fail to amaze. We stopped once at a viewpoint that involved driving down a dirt road on a steep hill to catch sight of an impressive stand of rocks jutting out of the surf.
Too early to check in to the Pacific Reef Hotel, our home for the next two nights, a nice complex on Highway 101, we drove north through town to the mouth of the Rogue River, stopping briefly to locate the launch point for Jerry’s Rogue Jets, our planned adventure for the next day. Crossing the bridge over the river, we pulled off on a stretch of sand to watch boats going in and out of the harbor and noted a collection of small houses, which we later learned were for the local cat population.
We returned to the Pacific Reef to check in and unload into our economy room, no view but priced so that we could afford to stay. Checking out dining options we decided to give Spinner’s, the top-rated sea food joint in town, a go especially since it was in easy walking distance of the hotel. Noting a crowded parking lot, we weren’t surprised when advised of a long wait to eat, but that we could make a reservation for the next day at 6:00pm as we watched the manager write our names down in the guest book.
I’d earlier noted another option, Tortuga, a Mexican restaurant, a short drive away and we set out for it, arriving soon thereafter and although also crowded, were seated at a table on the porch. Margaritas were in order, and they came quickly, along with an order of Elote which was good, but not quite what we expected. In the past we’ve enjoyed the corn loose in a cup with mayo and spices, this presentation was a cob on a stick, smothered in the treatment, tasty but ultimately a bit too messy to really enjoy.
For entrees Joanna had the flavorful Chile Verde and I the crunchy taco combo. As is usual with Mexican food, portion sizes were large, enough so that beans, rice, and leftover pork went back with us to the Pacific Reef to enjoy a day or so later. As we’d arrived to catch the last part of happy hour, our drinks were just $4 apiece and with other prices lower than we get at home, the total came to $34 without tip (Oregon doesn’t have any sales tax), as good as it gets for food on the road.
Just before bedtime we walked through the complex to a line of buildings facing the ocean to catch that evening’s light show, slated to start at 9:00pm. It was a nice evening out, a cool breeze coming in from the water and we waited along with a few other folks for the show to begin. After about 15 minutes I grew tired of waiting and returned to the room. Joanna followed a bit later and remarked that the show was nice and was glad to have stuck around for it.
The following day would be a full one, with our scheduled ride on a mail (jet) boat up the Rogue River. I’ve fond, and not so fond, memories of this experience when I was fourteen and on vacation with my family for a month. Starting from home in Los Angeles, we camped at Big Sur, Richardson’s Grove, Prairie Creek Redwoods, rented a trailer in Gold Beach, camped at the Dunes north of there and made it to Astoria before returning home. Followers of the blog will note our return to these campgrounds featured in prior posts and indeed, this portion of the trip was a journey down memory lane.
What I most vividly recall is not recognizing that the lack of restrooms on the boat suggested caution was the word of the day when consuming beverages at the lunch stop, I would pay for ignoring it as the bouncing boat’s return to the harbor was one of the most excruciatingly painful of my then young existence. I did manage however to not soil myself, nor my reputation, but relief was not easy to come by as I and others in the same state rushed to the small restroom, where I had to stand in a queue, hopping from one foot to the other, holding back the rushing tide. I made it though, and there the story ends.
This voyage would be different as we started out on a misty cool morning (the temperatures would not get above 65 degrees our entire time on the coast) that required light jackets. We soon left the fog behind and as the day warmed up to an eventual inland high of around 90 degrees, we enjoyed the scenery and excellent narrative provided by our pilot who also was the guide.
One of the fun parts of the ride is when the pilot executes a 180-degree spin of the boat, causing a large wave of water to fly into and onto many of the passengers. With the warm day, this was uniquely refreshing. Two hours in, after sighting much wildlife (an eagle, egrets, etc.) we landed at Cedar Lane Lodge in Agness for lunch, which was included in our fare of $68 per person.
It’s a big modern facility catering to those coming in off the river and others who might drive in from the coast. I ordered one beer to tide me over and for food, Joanna went for the BBQ Plate (Ribs, Pulled Pork, Brisket, Muffin, Baked Beans, & Coleslaw) while I opted for the Veggie Wrap (Hummus, cucumber, tomato, carrots, mixed greens, and avocado), far more food than either one of us could consume in one sitting. The wrap would return with us, its garlicky odor lacing our cooler for the next day or so.
The ride back to the coast went uneventfully, much to my relief, and after landing we drove back into town to stop in at Gold Beach Books, a used bookstore for a quick browse, but not finding anything to add to our collection of unread books. Some down time back in the room soon found us ready for dinner and the short walk to Spinner’s for dinner.
The same gentleman who had taken our reservation the night before was at the front desk and when we announced ourselves advised us that he didn’t have us down that night for a table. After some going back and forth it all worked itself out and we were soon seated in a narrow room off the main dining area, bracketed by windows high in the wall that let in copious amounts of sunshine.
We’d be treated to friendly and attentive service the whole night and that started with our drink order, a blackberry-based cocktail for Joanna and a bourbontini for me, both so good we nursed them through the meal with no need to order more drinks.
This being the heart of salmon country, it would have been a sin not to order it, so I selected the Cedar Planked Local Wild King Salmon Ssrved with Old Vine Zinfandel Sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables, while Joanna got the chef’s seasonal salad which highlighted local in season strawberries. All in all, it was a fine meal, the salmon the real deal and with just a couple of drinks consumed (at under $10 apiece), the tab came to $75 including tip, a bargain by big city standards.
We returned to the room to prepare for our journey north the next day, with stops along the way, to Waldport. It would be another fun day on the coast.
Pacific Reef Hotel: https://www.pacificreefhotel.com/
Jerry’s Rogue Jets: https://www.roguejets.com/
Cedar Lane Lodge: https://www.cougarlane.com/
Gold Beach Books: https://goldbeachbooks.com/