Collectively, Barb and I’ve lived in many different environments across our very large country. New York City (9 million folks) to Middleton, Idaho, when it was about 1,200. Always new experiences. But we’ve never lived in a more remote, end-of-the-food-chain location than the Oregon coast.
Lots of people want to live by the sea. Even many who’ve never seen more water in one place than a swimming pool. The idea’s been so romanticized – and commercialized – that many folks spend lots of time poring over computer-enhanced pictures of coastlines, ships, lighthouses and empty oceanscapes. Being an old Oregonian, I’ve fantasized about it for years. So, when the wife decided that’s where we ought to be, I was O.K. with it.
And here we are.
To make my point of being unaware of life’s little things we take for granted, here’s something you might not know. Every President of the United States during my lifetime has made the same personal admission after being in that office a few months. Different words, maybe, but same thought. Long-term politician or newbies in national politics, all of them – all – have admitted they never really knew the full scope of the job. Even Bush-the-elder – with decades of elective and appointive experience – said the day-to-day experience of being President was something he was not totally prepared for.
Well, my friends, so is the awakening to the realities of living on the Oregon coast. Don’t get me wrong. It’s fine. Most of the time. We like it. We’re adjusting. But, like Bush-the-first, the realities are not something we were entirely prepared for.
In the month of May, I wanted a new long-sleeved shirt for some reason. There was one “department” store in our area – the only one within 50 miles. I looked and looked but could find only short-sleeved. When I asked the clerk where the long-sleeved ones were, she said “We only stock them September through April.” I made do. We’ve learned to “make do” a lot.
There’s one store in our town that sells TVs. Just one. I was in the other day and counted six. Not six of one size. Six in ALL sizes.
There are three new car dealers 30 miles from where we live. All in the same town. I recently had the need for someone to apply some striping and decals to our new RV. At all three dealers I was told, “Well, there’s this one guy we use. But he’s going through a messy divorce right now and doesn’t want to be bothered.” The decals are still in the shipping box. And will likely stay there until that one guy gets his life reorganized.
Speaking of RVs – if you go 60 miles North of us – and 60 miles South – you’ll find one guy who works on ‘em. One. There used to be two but one died. Given the large numbers of RV’s that ply Highway 101 all year – plus the hundreds of full-timers living in those 120 miles – waiting for help with a bum refrigerator in summer or a busted furnace in winter can be heartrending experiences.
There are a lot of things you can’t run out and buy here. So you make lists of things people inland take for granted. Then, every few weeks, Barb and several friends make the trip to “the city” for supplies. We call it “the Costco run” no matter how many stops they have to make. They fill up someone’s large SUV with all the “necessaries,” then hit a few latte and quilt shops to make an occasion out of it.
We ordered satellite TV service. Oh, they’d sign us up right now and charge the old credit card on-the-spot. But we’d have to wait three weeks for the installer to drive the 100 miles between us and him. Nobody closer.
Given the age of utilities on the coast, you get used to power outages, sewer line ruptures and water line failures. Not just from old age but those storms that we’re famous for. You get used to waiting to flush. Or do it less.
Which reminds me. When we get one of those big Nor’wester’s in our forecast, there’s always the NOAA warning to avoid travel, stock up, stay inside and hunker down. After the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you wanna guess when we see the second highest tourist traffic? Right! Lines at motels with ocean views and low-lying campgrounds. And people parked at the beaches. The first row of seats for the tsunami.
“Blow, damn it, BLOW!!!”
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all “life on the frontier.” We’ve got the necessities. If your list of necessities is kinda short. And when the days are sunny and the Pacific is blue and smooth, watching the whales spouting and enjoying the breezes can make a lot of the inconveniences seem small.
Besides, we’ve got a good selection of really great restaurants and dozens and dozens of coastal craft breweries and wineries. How the Hell do you think we locals get through all those storms?
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