Friday, May 26, 2017

a blue day in newport

Yesterday was a day at the Oregon coast. Newport, to be specific.

Every time I visit the coast, I wonder how people can make a good living here. There is, of course, tourism. And that is a about it ever since the government and environmental concerns effectively shut down the only two high-value commodities the area had to offer -- fishing and timber.

Young people have three choices. Serve in tourist-oriented jobs. Leave the area. Do nothing. The most talented usually choose the second option. And that is just as true for the area around my house in Mexico.

But I did not come to the coast to think about the future of young people. I was there simply to do my part as a tourist.

The goal was to take a look at Lady Washington -- a Revolutionary War replica ship built to celebrate Washington's 1989 centennial as a state. Of course, few of the visitors were interested in its history. They wanted to see the ship because it is a movie star, and would be open to visits in the late afternoon.

When we arrived, Lady Washington was motoring (Yes, motoring; not everything is authentic about the ship.) around the Newport harbor. So, we decided to do something I have not done in a long time -- to walk across the Yaquina Bay bridge.

The bridge is a star in its own right. The Oregon Highway Department in the 1920s had a grand plan for building a highway that would stretch the full length of the Oregon coast -- what we now know as Highway 101.  Up until then, the coast highway was the beach itself.

But there was an enormous engineering problem. Eleven rivers needed to be crossed. Some of them major estuaries.

Conde McCullough was hired to head the highway project. But we remember him most for his eleven coastal bridges.

He had three goals for the bridges. They had to be efficient, economical, and beautiful. And he succeeded.

Some of the bridges have already been replaced. But, in my opinion, the most beautiful is the Yaquina Bay bridge.

At almost every angle, the bridge has classic proportions. And that was difficult for McCullough to accomplish because the south ramp is much longer than the north ramp -- and requires the ramp to be slightly oblique in approaching the span.

What is most striking is the use of neo-Gothic cathedral supports tied with art deco decorations on the span itself. The style would be at home in Cole Porter's Manhattan apartment.

Then, we were off to see Lady Washington. My first reaction was the same as most of the visitors. It seemed so small. That is because when it is used as a movie set, it is packed with people. Pirates, at times.

In reality, the crew consists of a dozen members. Just as a ship of that size would have had during the Revolutionary War. It was in Newport to raise money for its operation. And, of course, to amuse the Memorial day crowd.

What interested me most was hearing about what the ship represented. The captain said they do their best to experience what a crew in the 18th century would. On board, the crew suffers deprivations. But they have the joy of experiencing sailing at its most primitive.

We topped off the day with dinner at one of my favorite restaurants -- The Bay House in Lincoln City. What could be better than dungeness crab cakes and duck confit?

And that leaves today as my last day in Oregon. At the moment, I am sitting in a blimp hanger at the Tillamook Air Museum.

Who says there is nothing to do in my former home state?

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