Exploring Newport’s Yaquina Bridge

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The Yaquina Bay Bridge that links Newport, Oregon with South Beach has been called The Green Lady for the green arch that rises 600 feet into the sky. One of five Oregon Coast bridges designed by Conde McCullough and erected between 1934 and 1936, the bridge bears the marks of 81 years of weather, waves, birds, cars, and people. Memories flood my mind, even though I have only been here 21 years, not even a third of the bridge’s lifetime: Marches to celebrate sobriety and to protest war, a parade of old cars and people in costumes celebrating the bridge’s 75th anniversary, flowers tied to the posts in memory of six-year-old London McCabe, whose mother threw him off the bridge to his death in 2014. Police reports document others who committed suicide by slipping over the side of the bridge.

Countless tourists have walked the bridge, stopping to take pictures of the bay to the east and the jetty leading into the ocean to the west, of the marina, the coast guard station, the fishing pier, sea lions, and fishing boats followed by flocks of gulls. Others walk or jog the bridge for exercise or simply to get to the other side. Yaq. bridge 71417P

Yaq. bridge 71417EI have been reading a book called Crossings, about the construction of the coastal bridges. Written by Judy Fleagle and Richard Knox Smith, it tells the story of McCullough’s designs and how hundreds of workers laboring through fog, sun, rain and wind made them real. Before the bridges, travelers on the Coast Highway were forced to take ferry boats across the bays and rivers in Newport, Waldport, Florence, Reedsport, and Coos Bay. It made for a mighty long trip, and if you missed the last ferry of the day, you had to stay the night. A friend of my father’s who lived here in those early days remembers taking blankets when he went to town, just in case he couldn’t get back to the other side of the bay before nightfall.

All but one of the five bridges are still in use. The Alsea Bay Bridge in Waldport was replaced by a new bridge in 1991, but the builders left some of the gothic pillars and other markers in place. Someday The Green Lady will go, too. Highway experts are already warning that, despite frequent maintenance, it’s getting too old and too narrow to accommodate modern traffic loads, especially as development increases in South Beach. A strong earthquake or tsunami might take it down. But today it stands as the symbol Newport uses as its logo and the one thing everybody wants to photograph.

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I cross the 3,223-foot Yaquina Bay Bridge nearly every day by car, but I recently walked it for the first time. I’d always meant to but never got around to it. Getting new tires at Les Schwab, right at the northern end of the bridge, gave me a perfect excuse. It only took a half hour to cross the bridge and come back, feeling triumphant. Also tired. I never realized how much of the bridge was uphill.

The weather was sunny with a light breeze as I played tourist, noting the sights on and off the bridge that I can’t see from the seat of my car. No wonder the tourists gawk and creep along in their cars. Below, I saw a lone guy clamming at low tide, fishermen on the pier, a family on the beach, a gull cruising to a landing on the sand, and tsunami evacuation signs pointing to the hill southwest of the bridge. Inside the little “houses” under the obelisks near the center of the bridge, graffiti told stories the writers felt compelled to share.

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Back in the ’30s, McCullough surely never dreamed there would be a “webcam” attached at the north end of the bridge to feed pictures to the Internet, that bike racers and marathon runners would include the bridge in their course, or that a steady stream of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and RVs would fill the air with exhaust fumes. But The Green Lady is still a beauty and worth the walk.

Text and photos copyright 2017 Sue Fagalde Lick

 

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Eclipse: Sky Show Doesn’t Disappoint

12887800 - full eclipse of the sunI woke up Monday to fog. Great, I thought. I won’t see the eclipse, only the darkening and lightening as the moon passes over the sun. The naysayers were right.

“Come on, Lord,” I prayed.

He heard me. He heard lots of us. The sun burned it off just as the moon started taking bigger and bigger bites out of the sun. By 9:55, it was getting darker every second. As the shadows dimmed, I felt a physical thrill high in my chest that I can’t accurately describe. I wished my late husband Fred were here. I wished my neighbors were outside with me. I wished I were at a party with lots of people. But my plan had always been to stay home, and my back, out of whack again, seconded the motion.

As the moon slid over the sun, I walked down my street, seeking other people to watch with. I found only a flock of chickens and a black cat, all huddling in place. I noticed the fog hung very close, ready to cover our houses again. I went home, feeling like the last person on earth. No one here! Later I would learn that my neighbors had gone east to escape the fog.

So it was just me, standing in my driveway with my eclipse glasses. It got darker and darker till the sun was just an orange sliver around the moon. The street light came on, a slightly lighter orange. Cold, I pulled the red blanket out of my car and wrapped it around my shoulders. The chickens cackled then hushed. And suddenly . . .

The moon lay right across the sun, a black disk with a silver halo. I heard people shouting. I shouted back. I grabbed for my phone to take a picture, although what I saw in the viewfinder was just a round glow. After my second shot, a blast of sun burst through. More shouts. It started getting light. The street light turned off. The sun began to show on the right side of the moon. The fog crept eastward. A plane flew over. Standing in my garage huddled in my blanket, I cried.

I went in to warm up for a minute. The dog followed me around, nervous.

“Come on.” By now the sun was above the trees, so we could see the rest of the show from the back yard. Little by little, the sun reappeared. I watched until the edges of the orange ball were completely round again. I felt the sun’s warmth on my shoulders. Reluctantly, I took off my cardboard eclipse glasses. Annie sniffed them and tried to eat them. “No!” I hid them in my pocket.

I will never see anything like this again. I wish I had remembered to look for Jupiter and Venus and for the weird shadows that were expected. But totality came and went so quickly.

Afterward, I look around at the trees and the grass and the sky. Nothing seemed the same.

While I watched the total eclipse in South Beach, Oregon, my father and my aunt were just arriving at Kaiser Hospital in Santa Clara, California, for an appointment with his orthopedic surgeon. (Some healing of his broken leg, but it’s very slow). Traffic had stopped completely. People got out of their cars. Doctors, nurses and patients were gathered in the parking lot with their eclipse glasses, looking at the sky. One of them handed Dad his glasses. He took a look. He was interested but not impressed. Ah, but he didn’t see the “totality,” that moment when the moon completely blocked the sun. That’s what I won’t forget. The rest was a lot like the lunar eclipses I have seen, but totality, oh my God.

The eclipse entered the United States on the Oregon Coast just a few miles north of where I live. As I wrote last week, thousands of visitors were expected. Stores stocked up on eclipse T-shirts and other souvenirs. Some asked their employees to stay overnight and work extra shifts. Police and fire departments called everybody in, and the National Guard was on standby. Signs went up: no beach access, no camping here, no fires anywhere. Stay off the roads, we were told. Traffic will be stuck in total gridlock. The Lincoln County commissioners declared a state of emergency in advance.

But it didn’t happen. The crowds did not come here. For us, it was another y2k, the disaster that didn’t occur as 1999 transitioned into 2000. The streets of Newport, Depoe Bay, and Lincoln City were deserted. Hotels suffered mass cancellations. Businesses saw fewer customers than they would on a normal day in August.

Now everyone is debating over why people didn’t come, why they went to places like Prineville and Madras in Central Oregon. Were they scared away by overblown predictions of horrible crowds and ridiculously high prices? Or did they simply decide not to take a chance on the coast’s ever-changing weather, the one thing no one can control?

We could easily have missed it. The day after the eclipse, we were fogged in all day. The rest of the week was a mixed bag, some fog, some sun, some clouds. Now when the sun is out, I keep wanting to look at it. I want another show. But it just sits there, glowing, while the moon finds its own place in the sky and the waves roll in and out as usual.

Besides the glasses, I have another souvenir. No, it’s not a T-shirt. As the world darkened, I walked through my garage and ran into my big steel dolly, leaving a cut and a bruise just below my right knee. I’m kind of proud of it.

Text copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017

Photo Copyright: johanswan / 123RF Stock Photo

Why I don’t move back to San Jose

Last week in Newport, it was “Dine Out for Samaritan House” day. Once a month, a local restaurant offers a percentage of its proceeds to support the local homeless shelter. That shelter was founded and is maintained by people I know, mostly from my church. Years ago, I even did a story about it for the local newspaper.

This month’s restaurant was Nana’s Irish Pub in Nye Beach. I had a hankering to try bangers and mash, so I invited my friend Pat to join me for dinner after her shift at Samaritan House. When I walked in the door and paused by the bar to scan the crowded tables, I realized half the people in there were people I knew. It soon turned into a party, complete with beer and Irish music in the background. We talked, gossiped about our priest, and compared Irish dishes. I don’t have a Celtic palate—more Mexican and Italian—but my bangers and mash were good and Pat nearly swooned over her bread pudding.

I had already been to Nana’s the previous week for the church ladies’ monthly lunch. Best Reuben sandwich anywhere.

The same thing happens at Georgie’s Beachside Grill every Sunday when friends fill the tables after church. Party time. That simply does not happen back in San Jose. People commune with their phones.

Newport has 10,000 people, fewer than fill the average professional sports stadium. Everywhere I go, I meet people I know, and that makes my life as a childless widow a lot less lonely. For example:

* I go to the hospital for minor surgery. The anesthesiologist is a music friend. The nurse goes to my church. All of my friends have the same doctor.

* When I visit one friend at the local rehab facility, another friend is just down the hall, and I pass yet another just leaving.

* When I shop at Fred Meyer, I meet at least one and more likely a half dozen friends as I peruse the vegetables and stock up on dog food.

* I go to see a play. I know the guy handing out programs and most of the cast members. One is my hair stylist; another is a writer. And I know the performing arts center so well it feels like home. I have been on stage, backstage, in the dressing rooms, and in every section of the seating area. I have sung in the lobby and in both theaters. Unlike the enormous airport-like facilities in big cities, there is no way I can get lost here.

* When Annie and I go hiking, we wave at the drivers of every vehicle that passes us, and they wave back.

* I not only know where everything is at the J.C. Market, I know what the J and C stand for: Jim and Cleo.

* My neighbors have promised to take care of me should the mega-earthquake and tsunami come. I know they will. They have already helped me plenty, feeding Annie when I go away, fixing my gutters, power-washing my house, and sharing halibut and elk from their fishing and hunting trips. My dog Annie and their dog Harley are in love.

Also:

* My mortgage for a four-bedroom house on a massive lot near the beach is a third of what people are paying to rent apartments in San Jose.

* I get paid to play piano and sing solos at church, even though I don’t have a music degree.

* We don’t have black widow spiders, yellow jackets, poisonous snakes, or poison oak.

* I can run four or five different errands in a half hour because everything is close, and there are no crowds. I can even renew my driver’s license in a half hour.

* We complain about the traffic if we have to wait for three cars to pass.

*“Nature” is right outside my door. I don’t have to drive for hours to get to it.

* I am still awed by the beauty I see in every direction. Not concrete and cars, but the ocean, hills, forests, and wildflowers.

Some of my relatives don’t understand why I stay here. Sometimes I do want to go home. I miss my family so bad it hurts, and the rain gets tiresome when it comes day after day. I’m not fond of ice and snow. It gets frustrating when I have to drive for hours to the airport or major stores. What I wouldn’t give for an Olive Garden restaurant. And I’d kill for an electric or gas heating system to replace the pellet stove. But I don’t miss the traffic, the smog, or the crowds in which everyone is anonymous. My father doesn’t even know most of his neighbors. When he goes out, he almost never meets anyone he knows, and no one gives way for an old man with a cane.

We born-again Oregonians don’t want lots more people to move here. With luck, the weather and the lack of jobs will keep out the crowds. Maybe I can claim some rights to Oregon soil. My Fagalde great grandparents settled in Oregon back in the 1800s. If only I could visit them on their ranch and talk to them.

This summer I will have been here 20 years. Fred and I lived together on the Oregon coast longer than we lived together in San Jose, and I have stayed five years since he passed away. Someday I may have to go back to California to help my dad or deal with his house. Maybe I will need the kind of health care I can’t get here. But not today. This is where I live. Like the dead hydrangea I have spent the past week trying to dig out of the ground, I have put down thick roots that would be nearly impossible to cut.

 

P.S. Somebody help me get this stupid plant out of the ground. I have company coming this week, and it looks awful. Anybody got a chain saw?

 

Who needs words when you’ve got a beach?

Recent trips between rainstorms to Otter Rock, north of Newport, and South Beach, south of Newport, yielded some stunning views last week of beaches scoured by the wind and covered with bubbles that blew around like tumbleweeds. Great for walking, meditating and taking pictures.

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All images copyright Sue Fagalde Lick. Republish them without my permission and I will send Annie to eat your computer.

Halloween photo sparks memories

Halloween at TimberwoodA few days ago, Facebook showed me a photo from 2010 of me and my late husband Fred at a Halloween party at the Timberwood Court memory care facility where he lived most of the last two years of his life. He looks disoriented. I look weary, and my glasses are askew. I wore an orange hoodie, the same one I wore this Halloween, and I can see orange and black decorations in the background. I remember bowls of candy,  somebody’s kids in costumes, and “The Monster Mash” playing in the background. The merriment was forced. Most of the residents had no clue what was happening.

After we said goodbye, I drove home through Corvallis. The trees were so brilliant with fall colors that I had to stop and take pictures. I walked the promenade along the Willamette River among kids in costume, couples strolling, and bicyclists speeding by. Mostly I stared at the river. It was always difficult to come out into the world after a visit to Fred, especially on holidays, which he used to enjoy so much. I didn’t know this would be his last Halloween, but I did know Halloweens were not the same anymore.

My mind goes back to 1997. Halloween occurred just a few days after Fred’s father died suddenly of a stroke. Perhaps it was unseemly, but we decided to go ahead with Halloween at Fred’s mother’s house in Newport. Fred’s brother and his wife were there, and we brought our dog Sadie. Mom Lick had a cold and stayed in the back room while we “kids” took turns handing out candy. In that neighborhood behind the Fred Meyer store, folks block off the streets every year and hundreds of trick-or-treaters come seeking candy. That year, they came in such a steady stream that we never really got to close the door. One of us had to hold the dog to keep her from bolting outside while the other tossed mini tootsie rolls in their bags or plastic pumpkins. It was cold and windy, but it was fun. Fred talked to all the kids, praising their costumes. Friends who knew my father-in-law had just died seemed surprised to find us doing the Halloween thing, but Mom insisted. She hung up her spooky stuffed monkeys in the window, set out her pumpkins, and we did Halloween as usual. We continued the tradition for another four years, until she too passed away.

It was a nice change from Halloween here in the woods where it’s so dark and spooky nobody ever comes trick-or-treating. I hang up orange lights, light a candle in a pumpkin and buy candy just in case, but always wind up eating it myself. I just finished last year’s bag of little Hershey bars. Now I have Tootsie Pops. You know what? They still taste great, especially when you get to the chocolate in the middle.

Our weather usually changes to winter in October. This Halloween, just before dark, it started raining like a hurricane, coming down so hard it looked like the ocean was coming to get us. I imagined the scene at many homes where the kids were set on going out and the parents were just as set on staying dry. Downtown was set up for the usual Deco District festivities where merchants hand out candy, but I didn’t see a single kid there. In Mom’s old neighborhood, over a hundred souls braved the storm. You’ve got to be tough growing up on the Oregon coast.

Growing up in San Jose, my brother and I did the typical Halloween thing. I remember smelly plastic masks, scratchy store-bought costumes and embarrassing homemade ones. I remember going door to door with our Halloween bags while Mom or Dad watched from the sidewalk, making sure we said “thank you” at every stop. As we collected Three Musketeers bars, Life-Savers, suckers, candy corn and other wonders, we never worried about the weather or had to cover our costumes with raincoats, gloves and hats. We also never worried about running into bears or cougars in the dark. Different worlds.

This Halloween, I sang at the 5:30 Mass, ate a late dinner and watched three episodes of “Gilmore Girls” on DVD. In the glow of my orange Halloween lights, Annie snored in the big chair and I contentedly sucked on a chocolate Tootsie Pop.

I hope your Halloween was good. Now it’s time to brace ourselves. It’s standard time, and winter is here. Will it be a trick or a treat? Wait and see.

Crunch! Car Crash Changes Plans

IMG_20150828_153133529[2]I was expecting to write a very different post today, but . . . life happened.

I was all dressed up and heading to Corvallis for a Timberline Review literary magazine event. Traffic on the coast was terrible. I just wanted to get out of Newport, which was flooded with tourists. I was on Highway 20, but still in town, when my phone rang. I know. I should have ignored it. But it was my dad, and I was afraid something was wrong, so I made a sudden turn into a parking lot to answer the phone. At least that was my intention. Bang, crash! I lost control of the car, hit something on my left and was headed for a fence. I did not know until the other car pulled in beside mine that my car had been hit from the rear. The driver was local, uninsured, and in tears. Her tiny black dog was hysterical.

The front of the passenger side of her car was smashed, the headlight in pieces, wires and such dangling, radiator leaking. My back bumper was damaged. But where did the piece of car lying on the pavement come from? Big piece. It took me a while to figure out it came from the front, where the real damage was, where I ran into a metal post.

People came running out of the nearby candle shop. Someone swept up a big pile of glass and car parts from the street. We were both shaken but apparently not hurt. Our air bags did not deploy (the recalled ones I didn’t have replaced yet). A fire truck came, followed by a police officer, crew-cut, shades and all. He filled out a report. I told him I turned abruptly. I was willing to take all the blame, but the officer insisted that the law says that if the other driver hit me from behind, she was following too closely, so she would be cited and I was in the clear.

My Honda Element is drivable, but it needs repairs. The estimate is $3,000, with possibly more showing up when they take things apart. I have Cadillac insurance. State Farm will pay for repairs and a rental car, and I will be okay (although my bumper stickers are toast.) The other car, an older Honda Accord, was towed to the same place I took my car. The woman doing my estimate looked out the window and said, “Oh, that’s totaled.” It’s not fair. It’s not right. I’m sure the other driver needs her car as much as I need mine, and I doubt that she can afford a new one.

My phone has a new name: “that f-ing phone.”

It’s a knee jerk reaction for me. Phone rings, I grab it, I look away from the road to see who’s calling, and if it’s family, I answer it. Not anymore. I’m turning the phone off when I drive so I won’t even know if anyone calls.

It happened so quickly. I sometimes think about what I would do if I were about to get in an accident, how I would try to protect my face or my hands. But there was no time for a thought or a word. I just knew I was hitting things and had to get away from the fence that was coming right at me. Since then, I keep hearing the crunches and seeing that fence over and over in my mind. Driving scares me now.

When I was done with cops, insurance and repair people, I called my father. He gave me a good tongue-lashing. I deserved it. “Let the damned phone ring,” he said. “Call back later.” It turned out he was fine, just calling to see how my medical tests had turned out. I get those results this afternoon. Fingers crossed.

Today I am aware of how blessed I am, so blessed I feel guilty. I’m not rich, but I have enough. I can afford a nice car and good insurance. My body still works as well as it did before the accident. I can still write, play and sing my music, walk the dog, and go to lunch with my friends. Not everyone is so lucky.

Dear friends, turn off the phone. It’s not just texting, it’s telephone calls, email, checking the weather, fiddling with the GPS and all the other features on our Smart Phones. It’s hard to resist their allure, and you cannot safely use the phone and drive at the same time. When I slowed to turn off, I didn’t even know there was anyone behind me. I didn’t look. My attention was completely on the phone. Smart phones are smart, but sometimes we people who use them are idiots. A phone call can always wait. Always. Minus the phone, I would have spent my evening eating hors d’oeuvres and listening to poetry. Instead I was filling out a report for the DMV. It’s not worth it.

Next week, I promise, even if the house burns down, God forbid, I will offer a blog full of happiness and beauty. Or dog pictures, which are the same thing.

Leave me a message at the beep.

Ten Ways You Know They’re Tourists

This is the time of year when the Oregon coast is flooded with tourists. Suddenly it takes twice as long to drive through town. We have to wait for tables at our favorite restaurants. They wander the aisles at J.C. Market in groups, carrying beer and tortilla chips. I look out at the people in the pews at church, and see mostly unfamiliar faces.

Among ourselves, we curse the tourists, especially those slowing traffic with their RVs laden with bicycles, kayaks and little perfectly matched cars. But in public, we call them visitors to be polite. After all, most of us were once tourists, too, before we became born-again Oregonians. And we know, in our hearts, that we are just as clueless when we go on vacation.

How can you tell the tourists from the locals?

1) License plates from elsewhere, mostly Washington, Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico and British Columbia. But we get people from all the other states, too.

2) They walk around in shorts when it’s 50 degrees out—with an Oregon Coast hoodie they just purchased for $50 at a gift shop because they were freezing. OR they bundle up for the Arctic when it’s 65, which we consider warm.

3) They dawdle on the roads because they’ve never seen an ocean before or don’t know where they’re going. If from California, they drive 10-20 mph over the speed limit, not realizing cops actually do give speeding tickets here.

4) They’re not white, and they’re under 60 years old.

5) They say freeway. We don’t have one. They say mall. We don’t have one of those either.

6) They want to know where Main Street is. It’s Highway 101.

7) They mispronounce Yachats (YA-hots), Yaquina (Ya-QUIN-a), Siletz (Si-LETZ) and Willamette (Wih-LAM-ette).

8) They come in bunches, filling the whole car or the whole booth at the restaurant, and they go ga-ga over clam chowder.

9) They use a GPS when all you need to know is you’ve got the ocean on the west and the hills on the east and can’t get lost. Just follow the numbers north and south or the alphabetic tree names east and west.

10) They go IN the water at the beach.

I know there are more. Feel free to add your own tourist clues in the comments. Although they clog up our traffic, our visitors keep our economy going, so we’re glad they’re here. We like to share our beautiful home. After all, Newport’s slogan is “The friendliest.” Besides, most of the visitors will flee when the rain starts. If we had spent the winter here before selling our house in California, we would have fled, too.