WORDS OF WISDOM: Taking the Long Way Around

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EDITOR’S NOTE: As we are hearing from irritated locals and visitors alike about the Hwy. 131 closure, about blowing past roadblocks and ignoring “road closed” signs, here’s some insight from Neal. There are advantages of “taking the long way around” or exploring a new road or beach, and slowing down to see the new view. Ahhh! Yes. And a shout out to our amazing local ODOT crew and Tillamook County Public Works – Road Department and many more organizations and officials that are making sure that emergency responders continue to have access to the area. Watch the Pioneer for regular updates, and then take in the long way around.

by Neal Lemery

Life sometimes says we take the long way around. We are used to being efficient, energetic, and living life in the fast lane. We want it now and we want it easy. We don’t want to be pushed out of our comfortable routines.

The recent road closure on the road to the beach, connecting Tillamook with Netarts and Oceanside, has forced us to slow down, to find the alternatives, to not take the direct and well-known routes to where we want to go. When you realize that “Plan B”, the alternative route, the next best thing, is a drive across Cape Lookout and through part of South County, even if you want to go to Bay City or Oceanside, you know you need to have some gratitude for the normal, everyday, don’t even think about it route to and from the beach.

We take so much for granted, like the idea that the road from here to there will be open, available for us to drive it without any thought to its convenience, and that it will be a safe and easy road to travel. We expect there won’t be a bottomless sink hole in the middle of the road, or a big “road closed” sign looming ahead along our everyday route.

Like the rest of the locals, I have my gripes about all the tourists, the crowds at my favorite places, and the perils of what I call “no left turn season” on Highway 101. I get impatient with them, needing to remind myself that they are falling in love with where we live, and want to enjoy it too, just like the rest of us. They are taking the long way around, too, and enjoying it.

I remind myself that we live in a beautiful place, that the natural beauty and the attractions and benefits of small-town life are more attractive than the busyness of the city. And I can put up with all the visitors in July and August. After all, it is the height of tourist season. What should I expect?

My wife and I took a day off last week, wandering north towards Astoria and a leisurely visit to Ilwaco, Long Beach, and the two lighthouses on the Washington side of the mouth of the Columbia. We joined the other tourists, queuing up on the Astoria-Megler bridge for the bridge painters. We needed to take our time to find a parking spot at some amazing scenic turnouts, and a popular café in Long Beach.

We slowed down and took in the 19th century beauty of restored lighthouses and the keepers’ cottages. We watched the fog roll in and listened to the waves crash ashore on pristine beaches. We admired the hand-crafted murals and small-town pride in those towns, and a carefully restored church next to the river. The locals love their hometowns and manage to put up with all the tourists, even the Oregonian day trippers like us, going the long way.

When that road is fixed, and the sink hole is just an accomplished project for the ODOT engineers and contractors, we will go back to our routines of driving out to the beach. We should still be grateful for what there is to find when we go the long way, and that we live where so many people want to come and visit.

We should do that with our lives on the coast, too, dealing with August and no left turn season, going the long way and taking it easy in the slow lane.

Neal Lemery – community volunteer, author and blogger neallemery.com
Books: NEW book – Building Community: Rural Voices for Hope and Change; Finding My Muse on Main Street, Homegrown Tomatoes, and Mentoring Boys to Men