The Lisa & Clark Expedition:  Old Places and Familiar Faces

In which intrepid road trippers Lisa & Clark go in pursuit of historic hotels, old friends, rusty auto parts (the more the better), wineries, and gardens. And maybe a dress or two for Lisa, because she just can’t help herself.


Saturday, May 26, 2012
Depoe Bay; 8 miles

Our road trip theme, need I remind anyone, is Old Places and Familiar Faces, and one of our major goals is to find old junk for Clark, preferably car-related. (See The Day Before for a recap of the car obsession.)

In keeping with the goal, we went in search of garage sales in the morning, and found a neighborhood having its annual garage sale day. As usual, Clark started accumulating tools and auto-related items right away, while I found… nothing, except a box of microfiber cloths. But. It’s cheering to chat with the people running the sales, and some of them have lovely flower gardens, so I chatted with the sellers about gardening, garage sales, and the weather.

garden with statue

Bright colors on a cloudy day. Sure, the statue is a little cheesy, but the total effect was charming.

garden arch

Everyone loves a garden arch. I didn't love the little dog snarling and yapping at my ankles while I took this, but it was worth enduring for a peek into a hidden garden.

Everyone was cheery, with the exception of one elderly woman in a trailer park who was offended that Clark tried to bargain with her. She said she never tried to talk anyone down at a garage sale; we thought she was joking at first (isn’t that half the fun, arguing over 25 cents?), but she wasn’t. Ah well. We parted with smiles and laughter anyway, and we did buy the microfiber cloths.

Clark later stumbled on a fantastic buy: an older 4-ton floor jack. He’d been looking for one, so it was a true score: something he was going to buy, anyway. And a few doors down he found a treasure for me: an antique mirror for $5. I’m putting beveled, frameless mirrors up on our garden fence amongst my camellia sasanquas (which will be trellised against the fence), so I was delighted.

floor jack

The massive floor jack, strapped down in the back of the Subaru. It took both of us to lift the thing into the back of the car.

antique mirror

The old mirror that will continue aging on my garden fence.

One of the sales we stopped at was at a storage unit; all the stuff was stuff left over from a flea market that used to be on site, which was stocked with items from abandoned units. Clark is a fan of Storage Wars, so we were happy when the owner of the facility started chatting with us, and giving us the scoop on what it was really like to own a place like that. His facility was for sale, actually, as he and his wife were sick of the foggy cold of the Oregon coast and were moving to Florida. For interested parties: 1.2 million for the facility; he puts in about 15 hours a week running it; and it earns a cap rate of about 6%. Facility also had a house on the grounds, and a large artist’s studio/shop where his wife makes Wild Woman Creations felted hats, wraps, scarves…

felt hat

A very wild Wild Woman creation.

Anyway. The entertaining bit was that he said there was a story behind every unit. For example:  He should have known better when a guy rented a unit and didn’t bother buying a padlock for it. “It’s my ex-girlfriend’s stuff,” he said. And then when the guy skipped town without paying rent, and the facility owner tried to find the girlfriend, he discovered that there’s been a restraining order against the guy.

The interesting (to me, anyway) thing we learned about owning a storage facility was that according to Oregon law, when a facility owner sells off the contents of an abandoned unit, if the proceeds of the sale are greater than the amount owed in rent, the extra money must be held in escrow for up to three years and returned to the unit renter if at all possible. Wow. What a pain for the facility owner!

Next stop: Crystal Wizard, a gift shop specializing in rocks and crystals, and all things spiritual. I’d seen online that my cousin Sharon — now known as Shuba — was going to be there from 11-4, and was available for spiritual healing sessions (I love the tag-line on her website:  Roto-Rooter for the Soul). I haven’t seen Sharon in… oh jeez, it must be six years at least, maybe longer; was my dad still alive? That would make it nine years. So I thought it would be fun to drop in on her.

My most vivid memories of time with Sharon are from a road trip we took back in… 1980 or so, to a family reunion in Iowa. In July. Sounds like fun, huh? She and I rode with my dad and our grandparents, and I’m confident that that trip was the root of my hatred of road trips. We females sat in the back vinyl seat of an old Chrysler, no air conditioning, the seats so low that only my eyes peered over the sill. Long, long days in the dusty Dakotas are burned into my memory, as well as the moment Grandma got fed up with the men, put a coat over her head, crossed her arms, and said she was done with them. Sharon and I rolled our eyes, and to pass the time she taught me to make a fishbone braid. She and her sister Anne always had long dark hair, and I was fascinated with it.

Alas, alas, only Sharon’s husband Gary was at the shop today, but we had a nice chat, and I gave him a copy of Wake Unto Me to give to Sharon. He told me that their lives had taken an interesting path since they last saw me, and they were now followers of The Hugging Saint of India. He said they’d realized they were put on this earth to cleanse their souls… or something like that. I am misremembering, I am sure. I do remember thinking, “What’s the point of that? So you spend your entire life devoted to cleansing your own soul? Why?”

the hugging saint

Mata Amritanandamayi. I won't argue that hugs usually feel pretty good.

But then I realized that it made sense if you believed that this life was not the only life; that it might be but a stage before another life. I have no such belief.

We fantasize about that which we do not have. I do not have a spiritual belief system, but part of me very much wants to believe in one… and maybe that’s why I get such a kick out of paranormal stories. I love ghost stories, and tales of paranormal powers. But I don’t believe any of it, except for that tiny part of me that wants to believe. It’s why I obsessively read research about the things that go on in the brain that make us think something supernatural is going on: I want to know, what is real? What’s the scoop? What’s really going on, here?

Manger scene

That's me in the foreground, cruising by the manger scene with other things on my mind. It's Sharon's sisters in the robes. The Hawaii poster, admittedly, gives an off note to the Christmas vibe.

The paranormal always comes up empty, alas: the closer you look, the less there is to see. When we left the Crystal Wizard, I complained that my hair smelled like incense.

We returned to George’s house, and all of us went to lunch at the Canyon Way Bookstore and Restaurant, in Newport. On the way out we went into the bookstore; I chatted with the clerk and gave her my card, and she’s going to order both Wake Unto Me and Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells, for the shop. Thank you, Canyon Way Bookstore!

Lunch was fortification for a hike, at Yaquina (yuh-KWIN-uh) Head Lighthouse and Natural Area. None of us had actually even been to the lighthouse, which brought up a host of references to Virginia Woolf and that tiresome English major requirement, To The Lighthouse. Turns out Clark and I were the only ones who had ever read it (not willingly, mind you). The whole book is about people who talk about going to the lighthouse, but don’t. (Yeah, there’s more to it than that, but… you have to admit, there’s a lot of talk about going to the lighthouse, and not going.)

Yaquina head lighthouse

To the lighthouse! And don't be snacking on that cow parsnip.

We hiked up the hill behind the lighthouse, Salal Hill, so named because it’s covered with salal, a.k.a. gaultheria shallon. There’s also wild iris, roses, daisies, and cow parsnip. Which reminded me of someone Clark knew who thought cow parsnip might be delicious, took a bite, and ended up in the ER with her throat swollen shut.

plants and iris

Wild iris amidst the false lily of the valley and other plants.

Clark and Lisa on Salal Hill

Looking down from Salal Hill to the lighthouse.

Yaquina Head used to be made of two hills, but for several decades last century they used the inner-most hill as a quarry for basalt, to build the Pacific Coast Highway. People had cars, and wanted to drive the route, just as we are doing. It finally stopped when the residents of the beach to the south complained that the removal of the hill had changed their ecosystem, and the fogs and winds were now much more severe than before the hill was blasted away. You could see their point; their protective wall had had a hole blown into it.

interpretive sign

Everywhere we look, there are references to old cars.

Coming back, we stopped at the What Not shop in Depoe Bay, where Clark had spotted a gas pump out front. He bought an old NY license plate, and the base to a Model T motometer. I’m appalled to say that I already knew what a motometer was, and didn’t need it explained.


The winged thingy with the thermometer is a motometer, in case you were wondering.

front of whatnot shop

The Whatnot Shop is housed in a former gas station. When I met Clark, he told me his dream retirement home was a remodeled gas station... We're still not quite seeing eye to eye on that one.

shop interior

Clark trying to dicker with the owner of The Whatnot Shop.

The guy running the shop practiced his lines of patter on us: “If you get bored, I got some rags here for dusting!” “You’re lucky! You found us on our half-yearly cleaning day! Got some rubber gloves here for ya!” Clark didn’t have much luck dickering him down on prices, but the chat was worth it. Turns out he and his brother used to go to the Portland Swap Meet just like Clark and his brother go now. “Me and my brother, we spent all our time reminiscing,” he said. “We got so caught up in the past, we didn’t go out to buy new stuff.”

Ah, all is metaphor.

Back at the house, Clark’s motometer purchase reminded him of one he’d been watching on ebay, and on a lark he threw in a bid… and won it. This delights him.

The thing about pursuing car junk is that it’s cheap entertainment, and as long as you’re willing to sell the stuff you pick up, you can break even, and have a great time along the way. As one woman of our acquaintance put it, talking about the swap meets, “You guys spend all day selling stuff to each other. It all just rotates around.” So true.

Dinner tonight: halibut that George caught off the coast. He often goes fishing on the ocean, and Karla complains that his practice of ‘first in (the freezer), first out” means that he only ever serves anyone old halibut. “It’s not going to be old halibut tonight, Dad, is it?” Karla asks. George says, “I’m not telling.”

Judging by the vacuum-packed parcels thawing on the counter, I’m voting old halibut.

clark looking out window

Clark, taking in the view of ocean.

George’s house has a view of the water, through shore pines. We spend time yakking while sitting looking out at the ocean. I’m reminded that Karla said her mother, dying of cancer, spent all her time sitting in a recliner, looking out these same windows. Perhaps that wasn’t a bad choice: it’s soothing. There’s never much to see, but there’s always movement, and the muffled rush of surf.

More of the Lisa & Clark Expedition:

Day One

Day Three


Who are Lisa & Clark?

Lisa’s latest novel,

Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells, from Simon & Schuster


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