Continuing our journey up the Oregon Coast, to explore Coos Bay, we reserved a night at the Itty Bitty Inn through AirBnB in North Bend, which is just next to Coos Bay. Upon our arrival, one of the Owners greeted us and we became thoroughly acquainted with him and his inn. He was the epitome of a Portlander stereotype; very friendly (insisted on giving us hugs and doing “the robot” dance move together), loves the community of AirBnB-ers and was one of the first hosts (being a friend of a friend who is friends with the person who started it years ago), supports local businesses through supplying their coffee and toiletries in the room, is laid back and is turned off by “bitey” people (he even has a picture of a crocodile with a “no” symbol over it displayed at the front desk of the office), employs his cleaning staff by paying them a “living wage” and providing healthy food for them to enjoy while taking a break in-between meticulously cleaning each room for an hour and a half, etc. We soaked up listening to him talk to us for the first 30 minutes or so we were there, as he was such a likable character! He explained to us the time and detail he put into coming up with and assembling each of his room’s themes (we had the pleasure of staying in the Tiki Room, but there are decade-themed rooms also that comprise this quaint, 5-room inn off of the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, a.k.a. the 101). He showed us to our room and allowed us to observe his cleaning inspection of it (complete with flashlight under the bed)! He and his wife work full-time in design but they also run this inn on the side because they love doing it. He gave us some great recommendations for what to do in the area, including borrowing their bikes to ride, gear to go crabbing (which we didn’t do but would have if we had stayed longer), and suggesting places to eat. We were provided with a beer growler in our room which we could use to fill up with beer on tap at a store across the street, featuring local craft brews (Aaron later did this). He even offered that if we wanted to smoke, we could just add money to the community fund in the office and take what we wanted (recreational weed is legal in the state of Oregon, so it’s not uncommon to pass a plethora of dispensaries or smell its aroma in public). Overall, just a likable, friendly, community-oriented guy and a gracious host.
We rode our bikes through two nearby parks and walked a short hiking trail. We rode to Cafe Mediterranean, a local, nearby recommendation from our AirBnB host, and feasted on the appetizer platter of hummus, baba ghannouj, tzatsiki, and pita bread (crunchy and soft).
After returning our bikes, we drove down to the Coos Bay Boardwalk area and walked around the downtown area adjacent to it. We then drove to and walked around the paved trails around the Empire Lakes before heading back to North Bend for a sushi dinner at Momiji Japanese Restaurant (my first of this trip and much anticipated)! The sushi was okay; their service was slow and they made us a cucumber roll instead of the avocado roll we ordered, and we were bummed to have just missed their happy hour by minutes, which featured $2.50 nigiri! We were pleased with the cheap prices anyhow, and we still got a deal by ordering their special roll of the night.
In our Itty Bitty Inn room, while Aaron enjoyed his local craft beer out of the growler, we planned our rough itinerary for the remainder of our U.S. road trip. We realized at this point that as much as we wanted to continue driving up the Oregon Coast, go up through the Washington Coast, and visit Vancouver, BC (which Aaron has now tried to do 3 times on road trips without success), we just didn’t have enough time; on the plus side, we have another desired trip to plan in our future, and it’s do-able for us living on the West Coast! I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. blogging, while Aaron hit the hay after he was finished with his involvement with our trip planning, as he was still recovering from his cold/allergies.
In the morning, we worked out in Simpson Park, which was right next to our accommodation. It was great, but we felt rushed toward the end of it (we had realized just beforehand that AirBnB listed our checkout time as 11:00 a.m., and we were positive our host had mentioned 12:00 p.m. the afternoon prior while we were checking in with him).
After checking out, we drove to Luigi’s Italian Sandwiches to eat the locally famous Garbage Grinder sandwich for lunch, which included everything but the kitchen sink! Thank you, Kathy Baker, for the recommendation! All the locals in there were raving about it around us, so it seemed to be the talk of the town! Thank you, also, for the Coos Bay Oysters recommendation; for only $6.50 for a dozen “small/medium” oysters, we indulged in the largest oysters we’ve ever had! In fact, we’re certain this has ruined oyster-eating experiences for us in the future, because our expectations are now held at the standard of what we ate from here! For those that want to check this place out, it’s actually inside Chuck’s Seafood.
We spent much of the afternoon exploring the Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area, where we trudged through mounds of sand for a couple of solid hours. There was direct sun exposure, yet it was also windy, desolate, and nothing like we’d experienced before; it was a great workout! The path wasn’t very clear, however, as it was certainly the road less traveled. Luckily there were some trail markers and faint footprinted paths; however, we noticed how quickly our own footprints were erased by the gusts of strong wind picking up rapidly. Aaron likens these sand dunes visually to what he imagines it must be like to be in the midst of the Sahara Desert. Have you ever hiked barefoot before? Well, you can here if you so choose!
On our way to our campground for the evening, we randomly stopped to use the restroom and buy a baguette of sourdough bread and a loaf of banana bread from a local bread company. Both were so soft and moist! We also stopped for a short loop hike at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, which was breathtaking and a nice break from sitting in the car driving to our next destination (thank you, Margerie Reyes, for the recommendation)!
After setting up camp at South Beach State Park, we had our dinner and campfire (with smores again, of course) before reading our books and going to bed. It was a busier, more populated campground than the others we’d stayed in prior in our road trip travels.
The next morning, we drove up to Tillamook Cheese Factory, which was a zoo; there were throngs of people spilling in and out from the parking lot and facility, and the cheese tasting was set up like an assembly line. We quickly observed the production crews working in the factory from windows upstairs, ate our lunch, ordered and ate our ice cream, and got out of there! We were surprised how busy they were for a weekday, although perhaps being late August, this could have been the end of the kids’ summer vacations. If you have kids, this could be a fun place for them to visit, as there were many cut-outs for kids to take pictures in and exhibits for educational learning experiences (and of course, I already mentioned the ice cream). 🙂
We backtracked slightly down the road to Blue Heron French Cheese Company, which we’d passed on our way to Tillamook Cheese Factory. This was more our kind of experience! Quiet, less crowded, and with stinkier cheeses. I got my picture taken in one of the animal cutouts and we enjoyed the outdoor animals! It looked like there is a petting zoo during certain hours (also good for if you have kids).
From here, we headed inland further to Portland, where we have friends in the area who we were going to stay with that we were looking forward to seeing and catching up with!
Until next time,