When I was young, I went on many trips to Oregon and Washington to visit my aunts and cousins and later as a teenager with my best friends to see their family and friends. Every time I went to Oregon, I said that I would dream of retiring there someday. I especially loved the Rogue River with all of the gorgeous houses right on the river, with small grassy meadows between their homes and the river, gorgeous backyard decks overlooking the water, and a little dock out into the river with a fishing boat stored there for getting to town. How fun it would be to go to town on a boat! I was infatuated with Oregon, I felt at home there. The forests, the rivers, the lakes, even the little creeks trickling through the backyard of a little cabin made my heart sing. This desert girl has always yearned for trees and water as far back as I have memories. My parents used to tell me that I would kick and stomp my feet, in traditional toddler tantrum style, if they didn’t stop and let me play in the water when a stream of it would run across the road after a heavy rain.
We always had a swimming pool, even if it was a little kiddie pool before we had our built in pool. I once caught pneumonia from playing outside in the pool when my mom didn’t know I was out there in the cold rain. And trees… I cannot fully express the love I have for some trees. I have literally fallen in head-over-heels-love with trees before. I had a huge, 20+ year old cottonwood tree in the front yard of my little cottage for 13 years. I had an affection for that tree that could only be described as love. It made my home feel like a home, provided my yard and house with shade, and made a beautiful view out of the front picture window. Sometimes, I would sit in the afternoon and just watch the big, light green leaves sway in the wind. When the tree got sick and the landlord had her cut down, I was devastated. So devastated that my sweetie Dennis loaded up the pieces of the trunk into his truck and saved them for me (this was no easy task). The pieces are still in our backyard to this day as tree stump seats around our fire pit. I will always have a fondness for the desert but I have longed and yearned for something more for many years now. More green around me, more nature, more trees! My love of trees and my insatiable need for water always drew me back to Oregon and to the coast.
The dream took many years to manifest. It was always in my heart, in the back of my mind, but not something I’d ever suggested out loud aside from the idea of retiring there someday. A year ago, one of Dennis’ (my sweetie) friends moved to North Bend, Oregon. He got a great deal on his house – we’re talking $55k – and he was loving it there. Lots of work, tons of stuff to do in nature, especially the dunes riding in his four-wheel-drive – did I mention the dunes sit right on the ocean? For a girl that grew up riding quads and three-wheelers at Dumont and Glamis, dunes on the ocean are my idea of heaven! He started posting short Instagram videos and Flipagrams of his experiences there. The ocean, the dunes, the trees, the water, the beauty all made Dennis dying to go and see it for himself. He would show me the videos and photos and we would both dream of living somewhere so beautiful. He always said he had never visited the Oregon Coast because he might not ever come back to the desert.
We started combing through houses on Zillow on the Oregon coast. We had always wanted to find a place to call home on the West Coast, near or on the ocean, but knew we could never afford to do it in California. The houses were incredibly inexpensive, especially on the coast. At the time (almost two years ago), we were finding houses that were as little as $30k right on the beach! Of course, those were major fixer-uppers but wow, to live on the beach mortgage free, really got us much more interested in the Oregon coast than ever before. We spent the next year and a half looking at houses online. Saving our favorites and narrowing down what we were really looking for in a new home, asking ourselves what creature comforts we could and couldn't live without – all got us increasingly excited about the possibility.
After the first few months of looking, we were seriously sidetracked. A potential job opened up at the youth camp that my dad managed in the beautiful Angeles Forest. He was retiring and they would be looking for a new camp manager and spouse to come in and run the camp. We were very intrigued. Having already gotten the spark for moving to somewhere where we could be closer to nature, this job and the location felt so right. We began working at the camp in early Spring and worked all the way through to late Summer. We had planned that if we had gotten the job, we would have worked there for at least 5-10 years to build up a savings, work on painting our house and getting it ready for sale, and looking for just the right place to retire (young!) on the Oregon Coast. Unfortunately, after a series of trials, the job didn’t work out. Let's just say it involved a boy scout, a compulsive liar and manipulator, and a whole lot of kids. I’ll definitely be writing later about the summer we spent with a boy scout – that one is a doozy!
The moment we realized that the position wasn’t going to work out and we were not moving forward with the idea of living and working at the camp, we instantly re-focused our thoughts back to Oregon and our earlier draw to the Pacific North West. We started to think, why wait until we are retired to go after our dream? Why not try to obtain it now? With much ferocity and determination, we began looking at every single house that came through via Zillow’s notifications. I had searches for every beach town on the Oregon coast (and every town in between) saved and set to send me updates on new houses, changes in prices, and everything we needed to know about the housing market there. There was one home that I always came back to. This lovely lake house in a tiny little town south of Florence. The house just looked and felt like home to me from the very first photo I laid eyes on. Not having been there to visit the home in person yet, we wanted to have lots of other houses, towns, and neighborhoods to see. We wanted to learn which neighborhoods we would love and which ones weren’t a fit for our lifestyle.
At the end of summer, we decided we would make a trip to the Oregon coast – both for a vacation and to look at houses we had saved as favorites. I had over 200 homes saved when I first began to organize the trip. As the trip got closer and the idea of trying to see 200 homes in 2 weeks all along the entire coast of Oregon became less attainable. I started to weed through the ones that weren’t that interesting. Tract homes went off first – basically what we live in now. We love our current home with its vaulted ceilings and tons of extra space but it’s all you see here in the desert. Big tract homes, cookie-cutter designs, garage in the front… not much character. The more we narrowed the homes down, the more we realized that we both really loved two things about a home – a cabin-ey feel and a water view (water access being even better). I finally narrowed our list down to 68 homes to see while we were there. They were all in our price range and were either on the beach, walking distance to the beach, or on a lake or river.
With our list narrowed down, I began to make a separate list of homes to see by town and in order of our driving path from south to north. This REALLY helped! I can’t imagine if we had just gone off of Zillow’s list the entire time, trying to find each house. One of the biggest reasons not to use Zillow's site on the road is that we had very little and sometimes no cell phone reception in the more remote areas that we loved. If I hadn’t had that separate list in my “notes” app on my phone, we would have had to drive to a town with reception and make lists of addresses while on the road. We would have also had to read a map... can you imagine the horror of getting out a paper map? (insert silly horrified face here) Making the list pre-trip really is what allowed us to see so many homes in such a short period of time.
We wanted to leave at the beginning of October, after the Henna Intensive & Retreat was over and we had some down time and time to pack, but we had several family events happening and couldn’t leave until the 16th. With a date set, we began to pack, create a list of campgrounds to stay at along our journey – we would be taking the Blumebulance (our ambulance turned camper van) and camping to fully experience nature on our trip. Having been all over the 101 Highway on the Oregon coast now, I can tell you, that unless you’re nervous about having just the right campground for your needs, you really don’t need a list of places to stay. There are camping signs practically every 5-10 miles all up and down the coast of Oregon. All of the rates were reasonable, anywhere from $15-22/night. All included free hot showers, restrooms, a fire pit, and a picnic table. Most were absolutely beautiful!! I’ll talk about the best and worst campgrounds coming up… stay tuned for the rest of our Oregon Adventure in part 2…