Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Benvenuto a Firenze

We are at the Elks lodge in Florence, Oregon (map). That's a mere 80 miles or so from where we were last night, and we feel like we have finally slowed down to our "normal" pace.

Yesterday was a relatively clear day, which afforded fantastic views of the coast -- this is a very beautiful section of the highway. It is also fairly challenging, with numerous hairpin turns bordered by 300' drop-offs, rough pavement from years of slide repairs, and constant elevation changes that had me alternately downshifting to second for the climbs and riding the retarder for the descents. Between enjoying the scenery and negotiating the road, that 80 miles represented more than two and a half hours of actual driving.

In Newport, we also made a stop at Safeway for groceries, adding close to an hour to the schedule. Four hours is generally our travel limit on a normal day, and so we started looking at the guides about half an hour north of here, figuring that Coos Bay was just further than we wanted to go.

Florence is right between the Siuslaw National Forest to the north, and Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area to the south, and between these two and several state parks in the area, we had plenty of choices for an overnight stop. Oddly, though, even though things are so slow right now that some of the facilities were actually closed, those that remain open make no adjustment in rates for the off season. Rather than pay full rate for dry camping, and then have to burn diesel all night to stay warm, we opted to come here, where $14 bought us a 50-amp connection. Other than the full-time campground host, we were the only rig here, and so had the whole lot to ourselves.

Another reason we picked this option was that the GPS indicated there were several restaurants within a couple of blocks, so we had several options for walking to dinner. Once we had the dish up, though, Louise went on line to check up on their reviews -- we have found some real gems this way, and likely have also avoided some total disasters as well. In any case, her on-line search turned up what must be the best restaurant in all of Florence about six blocks away. Appropriately, it is of the Italian variety, a place called Pomodori.

If you come to Florence, you should try it -- just a block off 101 at 7th and Maple. We called at 6:15 just to see if they were open, and got the very last table reservation of the night for 7pm. While the place is tiny, at just nine tables (mostly four-tops, with one deuce and one six-top), we were still amazed that they filled up on a Tuesday night in the off-off-season. The food was excellent, the prices reasonable, and both the menu and wine list were extensive for such a small place. Very deserving of the excellent reviews it has received.

Now that we seem to have relaxed back into our normal rhythm, we've taken a fresh look at our "schedule" for the next few weeks, and have revisited our Mexico plan. While we had intended to head straight to Mexico, it is more or less obligatory that we stop in the San Francisco Bay area for a visit. We also have been intending (I hesitate to call it a "commitment") to be in Death Valley on Presidents Day weekend, as has become our tradition. So the amount of time we had available between those for a jaunt down to Mexico was dwindling to a point where we might feel pressured to pick up the pace to have more time there.

It finally hit us that, while it would feel really good to be there in the warmth right now in the dead of winter, it will be just as lovely there at the end of February. Since there is absolutely nothing on our calendar after Death Valley, we can roll down into Mexico at our leisure and spend as much or as little time there as we want. Things will feel much more relaxed and comfortable to us without any sort of deadline for returning to the US.

That decision has taken any and all pressure off our current situation. With four weeks between now and Death Valley, we have plenty of time for a very slow roll from here to the bay area, a leisurely visit there, and then another slow roll to the desert.

This will also put us in the bay area on my birthday, which will give me a rare chance to celebrate with friends, and also likely on SuperBowl Sunday. While neither of us is a sports fan, and the SuperBowl is meaningless to us, we nevertheless get invited every year to an epic SuperBowl party, and we've been sorry to miss it the last few years. This may be our big chance to make up for it.

So, don't be surprised if we only make it as far as Coos Bay tonight. And now, if you'll excuse us, we need to walk over to the hardware store to buy a tarp for the bed -- the latest round in the humans versus felines saga.

1 comment:

  1. Sean, be sure and visit a couple or more of the Myrtlewood shops while in the area. Arguably the most beautiful wood in the world and only found there on the coast of Oregon and in the holy land.

    I am somewhat prejudiced as Driving Miss Lazy was built completely using this wood. I do not know if you ever got a chance to see some interior shots, but she was beautiful and one of a kind.

    My opinion is that the Oregon coast is one of the most beautiful spots in the country. We usually just pulled of in one of the viewing areas and spent several hours or a couple of days.



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