EDITOR’S NOTE: Regular columnist (The Littoral Life) and contributor to the Pioneer, Dan Haag is making a job shift – from Manzanita Visitor Center coordinator to Trails and Outdoor Recreation Coordinator for the Tillamook Coast Visitors Association. See link to that story below It’s a natural fit for Dan, after all he wrote the book on “Cultural Adventures” in Tillamook County, and he’s been dispensing good natured information at the Visitor’s Center for eight years. We thought Pioneer readers would enjoy his reminiscing on his last day at the Visitors Center, September 19, 2021.
By Dan Haag
Some random thoughts and memories on my last day at the Visitors Center:
– As office window views go, this one doesn’t suck.
– During the last 18 months, I haven’t had any of my volunteers here with me. I’ve missed them.
– I always loved being at the building on Halloween and watching local kids go up and down Laneda Avenue, even last year when I had to hand out candy with bbq tongs.
– To the person who recently took a dump on the floor of the men’s restroom: may your undergarments be infested with angry mosquitoes and biting lice in perpetuity. Same goes for the person who left a bag of dirty diapers hanging from the front door handle two summers ago.
– I enjoyed chatting with people from around the world. The Brits were always boisterous and charming, the Australians outgoing and ready for a good time, the Japanese exceedingly polite. My favorites were the Germans, who loved to talk about hiking, beer and didn’t mock me for practicing my rusty German language skills on them (well, at least not to my face).
– Americans get an unfair rap when it comes to being bad tourists. While I have certainly met my fair share, I will also say that the majority of people I encountered on a daily basis from around this country – even during the pandemic – were kind, respectful, and fun. I especially loved the family from Boston who were here for a family reunion. I couldn’t stop laughing at the way they kept butchering the word “Neahkahnie” and they were brought to tears by my overwrought attempts to mimic their accent.
– Two of my volunteers passed away recently, Jan Markle in 2018 and Denny Hennessy in 2021. Jan was one of the most delightful, giving people I have ever met. Denny was a ball of energy with a booming laugh. I miss them both terribly.
– I once got myself in the middle of a police chase here. I was talking to an elderly couple from Philadelphia when I saw a man dash frantically past the building. A few seconds later, Officer Sims roared down the street with his lights flashing. The man ran around the Visitors Center a couple of times looking for a place to hide. I ran to the front door and locked it just before he tried the handle and he ducked behind the shed in the back patio. Officer Sims pulled into our parking area and I stuck my head out and waved him to behind the shed. A brief foot chase around the building and the adjacent houses ensued, with Officer Sims emerging victorious with the man in custody. He had been involved in a series of car break-ins and thefts. I unlocked the front door and turned my attention back to the elderly couple, apologizing for the commotion. They laughed and told me it had been the highlight of their trip so far.
– I never got tired of seeing the range of emotion on people’s faces when they checked out a beach wheelchair, especially if they had never been able to go out on the beach to that point in their lives.
– The Christmas season was always fun, especially when our resident Santa Claus, Dave Dillon, would drop by the Visitors Center and bring huge smiles to kids and adults. I also loved that Nehalem Bay Fire & Rescue would give Santa a lift to the Holiday Kids Fair every year in one of their rigs, complete with flashing lights. Santa would hop off the truck to thunderous applause.
– I will always miss Kay Covert and be forever grateful for her influence on my life.
– Lilo, my previous black Labrador, loved coming to the Visitors Center with me. There wasn’t a person on this planet that was immune to her charms. Once, I was trying to calm a man who was angry about getting a parking ticket and Lilo came padding out to see what was going on. She quietly approached the man and leaned up against his leg. “I don’t like dogs” he declared, but was soon calmed down and petting her gently. She also helped comfort a little girl who got separated from her parents on the beach and a little boy who had fallen and cut his leg. That pup was a surefire Nobel Peace Prize winner.
– The oddest request I ever received? A woman called me hoping I would intervene on her behalf with a local hotel after she decided not to stay there or pay the rental rate. The reason: “God told her the view from the room hadn’t been blessed.”
– Right after the tornado in 2016, shopkeepers were lining Laneda Avenue with brooms and shovels, working together to clean the sidewalks and street. Incredibly, most everyone had re-opened by the end of the day.
– My first year at the Visitors Center, I gave a talk to a local group about tourism. Three people in the front row fell asleep.
– One summer, I was sitting at my desk when I saw a man carrying a microwave approach the back door. He looked left and right and I got the suspicion that he was looking for a place to dump an old appliance. I caught his eye and he held the microwave up nodded at the patio. I shook my head and I heard him say “oh, c’mon!” Confused, I stuck my head out and asked him what he needed. “I’m just looking for a plug-in so I can cook my dinner. I’m driving to San Francisco and don’t want to stop at a restaurant.” He offered me a Hot Pocket in exchange for electricity, so it was kind of hard to refuse.
– Why do I love this town so much? Because when I walk down Laneda to get the mail or grab lunch, I often lose count of number of people I exchange waves with in both directions.
– The scavenger hunts offered by Oregon Beach Experiences were always a blast. They’d come in and have to get a selfie with me or have me tell them about the famous “Neahkahnie Treasure.” I always made up something fun, like when I told some young boys that gold had been hidden up on the mountain by aliens. I really hope that rambling tall tale didn’t end up on YouTube.
– Manzanita City Council and staff, past and present, are some of the most dedicated people I have ever had the pleasure to work for and with.
– I recently read a comment on a local Facebook group page about how our small businesses exist only to serve tourists, not locals. I couldn’t disagree more. We have businesses that donate portions of their sales to local conservation groups. Our grocery stores kept their doors open and locals fed and offered food delivery to shut-ins during the pandemic. All of them – from hotels, to restaurants to retail – regularly donate items or money to local events, sports teams and causes. They sponsor the Farmers Market each year and arts and culture programs at the Hoffman Center. If that isn’t serving locals then I don’t know what is.
– So here we are at the end. What a fantastic ride it’s been. Thank you to everyone, everywhere who rode along. In the words of my favorite Traveling Wilbury, Tom Petty: “Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive. I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive.”
Dan Haag Joins Tillamook Coast Visitors Assoc. as Trails and Outdoor Recreation Coordinator https://www.tillamookcountypioneer.net/dan-haag-joins-tillamook-coast-visitors-association-as-trails-and-outdoor-recreation-coordinator/