For better or worse, we live on the central Oregon coast. There’s nothing really special about it - except the Pacific Ocean keeps us from driving West.
We seldom make the news. Unless people are talking about the Cascadia plate or a “killer tsunami.” Then we’re usually referred to as the “doomed” or “dearly departed.”
But, come August 21st, we’re gonna have something special here. Seems we’ll be smack in the middle of a track for a very rare, major solar eclipse. The path will make a large curve heading Southeast as it moves over us. Idaho will see some of it as will a piece of Utah. But in our neighborhood, we’ll be blacked out for a couple of minutes - about 10:17am we’re told. And that’s making for a lot of excitement. And price gouging.
Costs for motels and dining around here are usually divided into two categories - Memorial Day to Labor Day (higher) and Labor Day to Memorial Day (high, but not so high). The only exception is Spring Break which lasts two weeks because Oregon, Idaho and Washington operate on different attendance schedules.
But the eclipse. Ah, the blessed eclipse. As a headline in our local weekly put it the other day, “Eclipse promises to be a money-maker.” Well, that depends.
Let’s take lodging. In the off-season, a standard motel room (two queen beds, bath and microwave) usually run $150 to $275 a night. Pretty standard. But, at least one local non-oceanfront outfit is up to $1,000 for a room for eclipse night that normally goes for $170 that time of year. $1,000! And they’re getting it.
Another is charging just $320. BUT - you’re charged for a five night minimum. Which makes the tab $1,600! Then, all of these places tack on a local transient room tax of 11% a night.
One other eclipse screwing that locks my jaw. Some of the lodging outfits are cancelling reservations made many months ago for that time - a lot of ‘em by people who come back year after year. Not only cancelling, but then having the guts to offer to re-register at the higher rate! I know what I’d tell ‘em. And it ain’t polite!
Not all local outfits are jumping on the price gouging wagon. My favorite place, for example, (with by far the best food and ocean views) is increasing the overnight by just $36.
But this whole business doesn’t end there. City officials are talking 50,000 tourists over at least a 48 hour period. Try to rent a porta-potty within 150 miles anytime during eclipse week. Can’t be done. All law enforcement agencies are calling in volunteers and the reserves and cancelling all time off for that period. Garbage service will be working overtime. Fire departments and ambulance services will be fully staffed.
And who’ll pay all the extra costs for all those service an emergency providers? Who? We do. The taxpayers who live here. We get the tab for all the extra overtime.
And who’ll struggle with the highway gridlock up and down U.S. 101 for several days? WHO? WE DO. Those of us who live here and who didn’t ask for this damned eclipse to come anywhere near.
I’d just as soon this eclipse thing was up or down the coast by 200 miles or so. Leave us the hell alone! We don’t want it.
But - if you’re determined to make the trip to our edge-of-the-Pacific-neighborhood, you can rent our house for the day. $2,000. Up front. We’ll be in Salem. Oh, and feed the dog.