It began in Coos Bay and ended in Gold Beach, and in between it was just plain weird, a day in which everything was slightly off, as if I was in some parallel universe — when actually it was just the coast of southern Oregon.
Like our previous days driving down Oregon’s coast, it was magically beautiful, but dotted in spots with a thick fog that obscured not just the view, but seemingly every human I ran into. Was it just me? You decide.
We left Coos Bay at noon, not sure how far we would drive. We passed through Bandon, a touristy town that seemed normal enough.
Later, seeing Cape Blanco State Park — and remembering that it is supposedly the last place to see the sun set in the 48 contiguous states — we decided to hang around for it, and seek lodgings in the next town, Port Orford.
Before we got there, we crossed a bridge over the Elk River. It was lined with cars — fishermen I assumed. But nobody was fishing. Instead all the people were leaning over the bridge railing, looking down. As it turns out, salmon were spawning, and maybe, when salmon spawn, humans — in some yet to be discovered cycle of nature — get a little strange, too.
I enjoyed a fine breakfast in Port Orford and talked to a man whose dog fell out of his truck.
Jake was his name — the dog, not the man — and he sat stoically in the rain in the bed of a Dodge pickup truck as his owner enjoyed chicken fried steak and eggs.
The dog’s owner was nice enough to recommend a dog friendly motel, so after breakfast I headed there, going up a road that promised, in big letters — really big letters — an ocean view. It wasn’t lying.
At the end of it, I turned right into the Hotel Castaway, I went into the office and attempted to confirm it was dog friendly. A vacuum cleaner was running in the back room, but eventually a man stepped out.
“What kind of dog?” he asked.
“A mutt,” I answered, fearing the breeds that make up Ace — Rottweiler, Akita, Chow and pitbull — might give him the wrong impression.
“A mix of what?” he asked.
“Different breeds,” I answered.
There was a long pause, and then he said, “Smoking?”
I told him a smoking room would be fine, but wasn’t a necessity.
“None of our rooms are smoking,” he said.
Finally, he quoted me a price — $79, which included a dog fee.
Charming as the place was, it was over my limit, so I headed to a second place that had been mentioned at breakfast. The sign on the door said closed, but the door was unlocked, so I stood in the office for five minutes. When no one showed up, I went to another motel, two buildings down. It was closed as well.
Back in the car I noticed another motel, the Port Orford Inn, which has a sign saying “pet friendly.” It also has signs saying “for sale” and “for rent.” It was a run-down looking place, with some of its windows boarded up.
The office was locked tight, so I approached two guys in the parking lot, who were loading their car up for a fishing trip.
“Do they rent rooms here?” I asked.
“Are you a fisherman?” one of them responded.
“No,” I said. “Is that a requirement?”
They explained that the motel was all but abandoned. There was a handyman who watched over it, but he wasn’t around. They stay there when they come to fish, apparently on a help-yourself, semi-squatting basis.
One of them walked me over to another room, where a man sat on the floor, recovering from a hangover, he explained.
The man on the floor said I could stay with him in his room for $10.
“If you don’t mind kinking it, you could stay here. I could used the ten dollars for beer.”
Not knowing what “kinking it” was, I wasn’t sure whether I would mind it or not. My guess is he meant something similar to roughing it, but — not being sure, and not wanting to make a commitment to kinking it — I begged off, using Ace as an excuse. “Thanks, but you probably don’t want a dog in your room.”
He said that would be no problem, and sweetened the deal by saying the guys who were going out fishing would probably be coming back with some salmon we could eat. As I declined again, a few other people came out of rooms, and it seemed all of them had a strange look in their eyes — vacant and intense at the same time.
We departed and drove back up to Cape Blanco, passing some sheep with blue polka dots, to the very edge of the continent — to watch the sun not set.
After that, we kept heading south, passing through Humbug Mountain State Park, where the rain, fog and darkness, coupled with sheer cliffs, made driving tense.
Reaching Gold Beach, we opted for the Sand Dollar Inn, which proved to be both affordable and dog friendly and promised (but never delivered, at least not by 9 a.m.) a continental breakfast.
Before going into my room, I walked Ace up a road, where we encountered not one, but two black cats. They both crossed our path.
Back at my room, we encountered the man staying in the room next door. He wore shorts and a black t-shirt with a motorcycle on it. He liked standing inches away from the person he was talking to, and he liked to talk. His head was shaved and covered with nicks and his words — though I tried hard to make sense of them — made little. Interspersed with some understandable phrases were allusions to other things, and he frequently lapsed into a stream of consciousness babble.
“Is that dog blind? You need a shave. I shaved (points to head). I cut myself five times. Hells Angels. Volkswagen bus. Why does the dog look at you when I’m talking? He loves you, man. That’s why.
“Why’d they try to do it, man? Why’d they try to accuse me of rape? Lucky dog with a cloth around his throat. He loves you. Why’d they try and do it man? Forty-seven Harley. Volkswagen bus. Like Bonnie and Clyde. Why’d they try to do it man. I love you, brother. You’re old. I’m old. Why’d they try and do it, man?”
He looked to be in his 40’s and, except for when he took a sip from his can of beer, his monologue was continual, and showed no signs of letting up.
I apologized and told him I had some things I needed to do, but that I’d come out and smoke a cigarette with him later.
Instead, I fell asleep, assured that nothing I could dream would be any weirder than the day had already been.