Un-July

Living in the Pacific Northwest, there isn’t a lot of variation in the weather. A typical January day looks like this:

rain-generic

Peek outside in March, and you’re liable to see this:

rain-generic

Curious about November? Here’s what you’re going to find:

rain-generic

Yes, it’s very often a broken record around these parts. But there is a brief window in which you are pretty much guaranteed a break in the rain. It’s known as July. With this in mind, Tara and I planned a camping trip last week. We figured the weather would be decent right after the 4th of July, so we took Thursday and Friday off and were eagerly anticipating a couple of nights around a campfire. We’d do some hiking and maybe a little fishing, too. It sounded like a perfectly relaxing getaway.

And then, a week ago, the forecast started showing rain.

“That’s gotta be a mistake,” I told my wife confidently. “It never rains here in July. The forecast will change later in the week – I’m sure of it.”

Sure enough, the forecast did change. But not in the way I anticipated. The 20% chance of scattered showers turned into an 80% chance of rain.

It’s been a very weird year for us weather-wise. Last 4th of July it was 95. This year, it reached 68. I’d spent part of the afternoon sitting out on the deck reading a book, but had to come inside because it was too chilly.

In the middle of the afternoon.
In summer.

And it’s been this way for weeks – unusually cool. Some nights it’s dipping down into the 40s. Quite a dramatic change from the past couple of summers, which have been unbearably hot. I’m calling it Un-July.

We debated taking a chance and going camping anyway, but memories of our washout at this same site four years ago were still all too fresh in our minds. Instead of eating S’mores, we were digging s’more trenches so our campsite didn’t flood. At one point our air mattress practically floated away. Not willing to put ourselves through that again, but also unwilling to cancel our vacation and actually work instead (perish the thought!), we came up with a Plan B: an overnight trip to the Oregon coast.

Our first stop was Drift Creek Falls, a fairly easy three-mile hike in the Coast Range east of Lincoln City. The highlight is a 240′-long suspension bridge traversing a canyon that overlooks a waterfall and a creek far below. Quite dramatic scenery, as long as you’re not afraid of heights like certain people I’m married to. I think Tara actually walked across the bridge with her eyes closed. In any case it was a gorgeous hike, despite the rain and mist that plagued us during much of the return trip.

Drift Creek Falls.
Drift Creek Falls.

After the hike we drove into Lincoln City, making a quick stop for essentials (and by “essentials” I mean alcohol) before checking into our room. Our motel, Sailor Jack’s, was pretty decent. Every room has an oceanfront view, and the bed was soft. Can’t really ask for more than that! We listened to music, poured ourselves a few drinks, and played cards while watching the waves roll in.

We drove to Depoe Bay for dinner. There’s a little dive bar called Gracie’s Sea Hag that we’d driven past for years without ever checking out. Well, I stumbled across an article recently that examined the 25 best places for clam chowder on the Oregon coast, and the Sea Hag was ranked #1. That gave us the incentive to stop, and I’m glad we did; the food was delicious (and yes, I’d have to say their chowder is my new favorite). I ordered a barbecued steelhead filet with veggies, and Tara got the seafood au gratin. Just as I was digging into my dinner, things got weird.

There was a blind piano player in the bar, and he started playing a very obscure Hawaiian song called “Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u.” I have never heard it anywhere else but on my dad’s record player growing up, so to hear that song in that setting blew my mind.

I left our table and sat down in front of him while he played what I’ve long considered my favorite Hawaiian song. Afterwards I walked over to him and struck up a conversation. Told him how much I loved the song and how surprised I was to hear it in a tiny coastal town in Oregon. To my surprise, he told me his cousin was Jerry Santos, the singer in Olomana.

Man, it really is a small world, huh?

I went back to the table to finish dinner. A few minutes later another patron came over to tell me the piano player was dedicating a song “to the guy who was born on Oahu.” That’d be me! Because of his visionless-ness, he probably thought I was sitting there the whole time listening to him play. Oops. Anyway, I went back over there for the rest of his performance. Afterwards, somebody else came over to our table and thanked me for my dad’s service to the country. That’s something that has never happened before.

Suffice it to say, we had a great time at Gracie’s Sea Hag. When we left, we almost felt like local celebrities. It was very weird, but in a good way.

We drove back to Lincoln City and ended up going to a video arcade, where we killed an hour playing old school video games like Frogger, Centipede, and Galaga. Back in the room, the rest of the night is a bit hazy. I recall drinking raspberry flavored vodka in the shower, so that pretty much sums it up.

Stormy July morning.
Stormy July morning.

Friday morning we were up early for a walk on the beach. It started raining when we were at our farthest point from the room (because Un-July, remember?) so we got pretty wet. Naturally, our solution was to go back to the room and drink Bloody Marys. We checked out a couple of hours later, grabbed breakfast at a Hawaiian-themed restaurant (might as well after the previous night, right?) called Macadangdang’s in Lincoln City before driving home.

Funny, after such a fun mini-getaway, we weren’t the least bit upset about missing out on our camping trip.

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6 thoughts on “Un-July

  1. Mark, what a touching story about the piano player in the bar! Isn’t it funny how things often work out for the better when our plans suddenly change and where lead to do something else? I listened to part of the video clip of the song and swore than I had heard it before. I think I actually heard Bette Midler sing it on one of her albums or perhaps in concert. And what a beautiful song.

    Faaaaaabulous photographs! Love the ones of the rainy umbrella and stormy July morning :)

    The summer weather has been strange here as well. It’s been on the cool side all summer, until last week went it sky rocketed into the high 90’s and even 100. And the humidity has been ruthless. Last Wednesday while I was in NYC, I thought I was going to die from a heat stroke.

    Have a cool week, buddy!

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    1. How interesting, Ron! I’ve been searching for a Bette Midler version of the song, but so far have come up empty. Let me know if you are able to find anything out. It’s such a beautiful song and, title aside, not your traditional type of Hawaiian anthem, so I can a more conventional artist doing it justice.

      Glad you enjoyed NYC (as always) and managed not to wilt!

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  2. What a great trip, all around! I loved the story about the piano player. But you’d better believe my eyes would be WIDE open, crossing a bridge like that! Do not want to misstep!

    And I had to LOL as alcohol is definitely a vacation essential for us as well. Has gotten me through weather ruined plans and too much family togetherness.

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