Long stretches of beaches with giant rocks rising from the sea, windswept, crooked trees, tidal pools with electric purple and orange starfish. . . we drove the entire coast of Oregon. We slept overnight in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. All we wanted to do was catch the sunset on the ocean and so took the trail over the dunes to see it. Well, we walked over the first dune and found ourselves in a desert wonderland.

Rolling, sandy dunes as far as you could see, the ocean far away in the distance. We walked and walked to random small hilltops of forest and then to the sandy, clear pools of water scattered about. We watched groups of ATV's and dune-buggies jump the ridges and skid out of wide turns. After one particular group had passed, the rear guard crested the hill, saw us, and drove over.

"You ladies lost your camel?" he said.
Nicole swooned, "Yes, he ran away. Please help us."
"Unfortunately, I can only take one of you."
"Take my mother, kind sir," said Nicole.
"As if!" Mary Lou snorted.

He tipped his helmet and drove off to rejoin his group. We took full advantage of the Recreation Area, and recreated. Nicole rolled down the dunes until she started getting a headache. Mary Lou made sand angels. We had so much fun that we spent the next day walking another section of the dunes. It was awesome.

Back on the road, pressing North, we stopped for a fill-up at the Chevron gas station near the Umpqua Dunes. It was full service, and as we sat and waited, we saw a thin little cat sneak out of the bushes, cross the busy street towards us and jump into the gas station garbage can. "Aw!" Nicole said. "Don't even think about it," Mary Lou said.

"Yeah," the gas station attendant chimed in, "that cat has been around here for a few days now. It's starving. I've been thinking about taking it to the shelter, but they will probably euthanize it."
"Fine," said Mary Lou, "if you can catch it, and it doesn't have fleas. . . "

Nicole bribed it closer with a piece of ham, grabbed the scruff of its neck and threw it into the RV. It catapulted itself up on the dashboard and pressed itself as flat as possible against the glass, eyes wide and wild. Nicole gave it a quick check for fleas, found none, and curled it up in a ball on her lap. It buried its head in her arm and rode the next two hours in silence.

When we stopped at the campground, kitty slowly, gingerly sniffed around the RV. We fed it milk and ham, and found out it was a she. Stomach full, she submitted to a brief health exam, some olive oil in the ears to clean them, and then took a long, deep nap. She has chosen to stay, is quite fond of us, and is very grateful. When she sits on our lap for some ear scratching, she raises her paw up and tenderly places it on our cheek. She uses the litter box, loves string and broccoli.

We named her Umpqua. A funny name for a funny looking cat. Mary Lou says she looks like a calico cat that's been put in the blender. She's a mash-up of colors and patterns, and has a thick black mustache like a Marx Brother, over a white bottom lip. It is our intention to find her a loving, stable home somewhere along the way, but how we'll make that happen, I don't know.

Driving North up the Oregon Coast, we stopped at the Sea Lion Caves. We smelled them before we saw them, but it was incredible to watch all the Sea Lions in their harems, sleeping and swimming in the rough surf. At sunset we stopped and walked out into the tide pools, poking at neon green, squishy anemones and brilliant purple star fish. We went to the Tillamook Cheese Factory, watched them make and package cheese, and ate lots of cheese curd. Had baked oysters and grilled crab and cheese at Pacific Oyster.

Stopped and saw the California Seals in another harbor. We watched them for a good hour, flopping their fatty bodies over each other to get better sleeping spots, barking at each other the whole time. A marine biologist who was there to tag the younger ones told us that all the hundred or so seals were all male, and the fattest they have ever been, due to the high number of salmon they are eating up the river. They were hilarious to watch.

We went to visit Mt. St. Helens on the anniversary of its eruption. 31 years ago, when Mary Lou was pregnant with Nicole, in 1980, it erupted, causing the largest land slide in recorded history. It was a rare, clear, sunny day, and we were blessed with some spectacular views.

We went into Portland, visited the Powell Street Bookstore, had lunch at Rogue Brewery and rode the tram up to for an overall view of the city. We hiked into the Columbia Gorge to chase some more waterfalls. It was a great hike through the steep caverns and wildflower covered hills of the Gorge. As we were leaving the trailhead, Nicole said that it be cool if she caught a snake today. And sure enough, on the way into the gorge, she spotted a snake, but couldn't follow it into the incredibly steep hillside. But, on the way out of the gorge, Mary Lou spotted a little guy, a garter snake, and Nicole caught that one. Snakes crossing your path usually mean forthcoming good fortune, or good sex, right?

We went back into Portland to hear Dj Joe play some lounge music at a place called Saucebox. Met some Aussie visitors, who ended up getting kicked out of the bar for breaking two glasses and being loud. They actually asked us to leave too, but when they found out we has just met them, they let us stay for a few more cocktails.

Oregon was fun! Our 20th state. Northward to Washington.

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