People on The Stretch

People I’ve met who love what they do for a living.

I Scream

Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.  -Don Kardong

 

Perfect Bowl of Strawberry from Zinger’s Homemade Ice Cream

There’s barely been a day this summer that I’ve not enjoyed a scoop or two of the world’s finest culinary invention.  I’ve been on the road three months and my ice cream indulgence is going to catch up to me pretty soon.  In one shop in Klamath, CA the scooper asked if I was sure I wanted two scoops.  I just narrowed my eyelids and she understood to get her arm down in that barrel of cookies and cream and start digging.  Ice cream makes me happy.  Memories of my grandfather having a bowl of premium vanilla after supper every night come to mind.  My dad and I sneaking off to Carberry’s in Cocoa Beach, Florida for a scoop of one of his rotating favorites and always mint chocolate chip for me is another good one.  We’d scoff at generic Baskin Robbins across the street.  I’m an expert at finding the best in any town or village.  It’s all about the scoopers, the cones, the chalkboard out front, the aroma.  I just know.

Zinger’s Homemade Ice Cream in Seaside, Oregon definitely made the cut.  Two high school aged girls were manning the front (good sign) and

Mike Exinger with the perfect scoop.

Mike Exinger, CFO Cone Filling Officer, was backstage.  Mike and his wife are in their 12th season and make 40-50 gallons of homemade ice cream a week.  They stick to the mainstream crowd pleasing flavors.  Aztec chocolate is as “kinky” as they get.  They make a mean caramel cashew and sell more Oreo ice cream than any other.  Mike told me I was lazy for asking the most popular flavor I loved him immediately.

All Your Favorites

After working various jobs in radio and then as director of marketing research at a firm in Idaho, Mike and his wife wanted to change course and work for themselves.  They looked at what they really wanted at this stage in life and packed up for Seaside, Oregon, a place they’d vacationed many times.  Their research revealed ice cream is the #1 comfort food for men and women so they converted a shop on Broadway into Zinger’s Homemade Ice Cream.  They’re open 7 days a week, 8 months out of the year.  He does admit his waist expanded a little over the years-  an unavoidable consequence of the ice cream game. Their season is winding down and I suggest stopping by before it comes to an end on October 1st.

The thing that makes their ice cream so special is that it’s made fresh daily and has an 18% butter/fat content with no artificial flavors.  It rolls out of the tub with little effort but isn’t too soft.  It stays firmly on the cone and melts at the perfect pace.  You don’t have to race it to the edge of the cone.  A cone from Zinger’s is the perfect companion for watching the sun set on the Pacific.  Lick at your leisure.

Ice Cream: A Self Portrait

MIKE ZINGER’S RECIPE FOR HAPPINESS:

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO: Mike doesn’t really think of “work” and “happy” in the same sentence.  It makes him happy, though, that people come in and say they like his ice cream.  He likes seeing the same people year after year.  “Ice cream makes people happy.  It’s hard not to have fun with that.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT SEASIDE, OREGON: It’s a walkabout tourist town and always has been.  It’s an authentic town that hasn’t changed very much over the years.  Plus, the climate is unbeatable.  The weather is perfect.

WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPY: Always looking for the next passion and continuing to progress.

The Perfect Pacific Coast Sunset

**MY PICKS FOR DRIVING UP HIGHWAY 101 ALONG THE OREGON COAST**

*COOS BAY:  Hit the sand dunes, the beautiful beaches, do some crabbing, and take a surf lesson.

The Agatha Christie Room at Sylvia Beach Hotel

*NEWPORT: 90 miles to the north on 101.  I had fish tacos at Cafe Stephanie and definitely recommend this spot.  Don’t dally though, this is a spot to eat and move on.  Walk on the beach a little and definitely check out Sylvia Beach Hotel— a creatively designed inn with rooms dedicated to famous authors  The Hemingway RoomThe Agatha Christie RoomThe Tolkien Room.  Really fun.  Paradise for a nerd like me.

*LINCOLN CITY: Just 30 minutes up the road is a breathtakingly beautiful place, but my favorite thing about it is their Glass Floats.  World renowned glassblowers make hundreds of unique glass blown balls called “Floats” and from October to March “Float Ferries” hide them on Lincoln City’s shoreline for lucky people to find.  The Float Fairies’ identities are concealed and their floater  hiding  techniques are an artform all their own.

Lincoln City Glass Float

*TILLAMOOK: Keep heading north on 101 with a quick stop at Tillamook Cheese Factory.  Sample Tillamook cheese and ice cream to your heart’s content.  The crowds are thick during the height of the season but worth a stop.

*CANNON BEACH: About an hour north you’ll hit one of my favorite places in the world, Canon Beach.  Home of Hay Stack Rock, one of the largest monoliths in the world.  There’s always a guide there to tell you about Hay Stack and the tide pools surrounding its base.  Stick around for the night and build a little campfire on the beach.

*SEASIDE: End up in Seaside, a throwback of a beach town.  There’s a carousel, bumper cars, a tilt-a-whirl, and of course Zinger’s Homemade Ice Cream.  Make sure to hit one of my favorite book stores while you’re there, Beach Books.  Karen will help you find the perfect title for your visit.

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Respite

Respite
Douglas, MI

Douglas, Michigan is a charming town right on Lake Michigan.  It’s a beautiful place and during the height of the summer season you can’t get a reservation. But, now in the middle of September the crowds have thinned and the locals are relaxing.  It feels like being backstage.  I love it.   Sunsets over the lake are breathtaking.  It’s easy to take in the beauty especially since everyone is exhaling and there’s room to move around.  Today was overcast, chilly, and threatening rain all day.  I welcomed the grey because I had some things  to do online and hate feeling like I’m missing the sunshine.  I found Respite, the aptly named coffee shop with delicious lattes and really good food.  For lunch I had the last serving of their coconut sweet potato bisque–much to the chagrin of a regular.  I couldn’t help but overhear a lot of different conversations today.  At first, I’ll admit, I couldn’t believe how much people can say about absolutely nothing.

– I hear it’s going to rain.  Oh no, it better not.  Tell that storm to go away.

Sunset over Lake Michigan

-The thing I like about the Lincoln is that it adjusts to YOU.  Yeah, but it’s too much car for me.  I saw Stu, he has a new Lincoln.

-You’re as tall as my sister.  Is your boyfriend tall?  My sisters are all tall but none of them have tall boyfriends.

-I just put a little bit of basil in it.  Oh, you do?  Fresh?  Yes, i just tear it up and drop it in.

-Oh, that yogurt looks yummy.  I might come over there and take it from you.

But they weren’t wasting time.  And they weren’t really talking about nothing.  They were doing something very important and it was wonderful to watch.  They were looking at each other and taking the time to exchange a few words and be kind to each other.  These neighbors, friends, and familiar strangers were connecting.  It’s a simple thing.  It’s tempting to say that it’s just easier  to take the time in this relaxed environment. But, there really wasn’t a jerk in the bunch.  I hope I’ll remember the nice balance of Respite the next time I’m tempted to be one myself.

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The Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, Oregon

Coos Bay, Oregon

Katherine Hoppe, Director of Promotions and Conventions for Coos Bay, Oregon found out I was traveling up the coast, sent me a quick email, and that’s how it all began.  After a few exchanges I knew I had to meet her.  She, like all of the tourism professionals I’ve met on the road, is so cool, so helpful, and so ready to show off her town.  It was hard not to break the speed barrier driving into town to meet her.

With Coos Bay and I it was love at first sight—it’s not your typical coastal tourist town.  This

Katherine Hoppe

is a town with industry- lumber and fishing.  This is a town where you can settle into seeing all sorts of action instead of just dropping in and skimming the touristy surface.  Of course, Kat made sure I got to see it all.

The first thing she deciphered – do I like clam chowder and oysters?  Yes and yes.  Do I want to go crabbing?  Yes.  Do I want to go surfing?  Yes.  Do I want to see the giant sand dunes?  Yes.

She said, “I’ll pick you up at 9am and wear sneakers.”  The plan?  To wear ourselves out with fun.

COOS BAY HIGHLIGHTS

32.000 Acres of Natural Sand Dunes

1. First up, the picturesque 500 foot natural sand dunes—31,000 acres of rolling, white sand mountains— on top of 400cc Quad ATVs.  Spinreel Dune Buggy Rentals provides a thorough explanation of how the dunes were formed, and their future.  Then they show you a safety video, strap a helmet on your head, and turn you loose to experience their magnitude by doing your best Evil Kneivel.  SO. MUCH. FUN.  Then, full of sand and on an adrenalin high, the Spinreel guys had a treat for us— the RZR 800cc 4-seater.  This state of the art dune buggy is fully equipped with seat belts, hallelujah.  The ATV is rough and tumble but the RAZR is like a hovercraft. I don’t think we had four wheels on the ground for more than a few seconds at a time.  Here we are screaming our faces off in terrified delight.

2. Next up— crabbing with locals on the docks at Charleston Boat Basin.  I helped Kat carry the pods and bait to the

Off to see…

dock, and picked up a six-pack of local beer.  That’s what you do when you go crabbing— hang out, talk, drink beer, throw the pods out,  and pull them back in.  You take a bunch of chicken legs and secure them to the inside of the pod and whirl the pod out into the water like a frisbee.  It sinks to the bottom and you leave it there while you drink your beer.  It’s a stress-free sport.  When you’re about 3/4 through your beer you pull up the pod.  People gather round ooohing and ahhhing over whether he’s big enough to keep— females and babies go back automatically and males have to be a certain size.  We caught only one keeper and gifted him to the crabbers sitting next to us.  The hours gently drifted by.

Our catch

I squeezed as much of myself into this thing before I asked for help.

3. Rounding out the first day– a special humiliation associated with booking a surfing lesson.  Trying on a wet suit.  This whole rigmarole would be a lot easier if you could just slick your epidermis from the neck down and wheel a pulley system into the dressing room.  Getting into this thing was a pride swallowing event for me and endlessly entertaining for my new friend Kat.  Brian, owner of Waxers Surf Skate Shop, is a natural teacher– amazing and unbelievably patient.  A total man’s man.  He put me at ease right off the bat.  I felt  like a real surfer girl carrying my  board on my head down a harrowing makeshift trail to Bastendorff Beach.  The water was freezing but totally worth it.  Brian  taught me how to use the current as a guide, when to scoot my body back on the board, and when to paddle like hell.  I caught a dozen waves and didn’t wipe out once.  (Notice there are no photos of this glorious morning on the water.)  Even if you don’t surf, which you should, check out  Bastendorff for watching the waves roll in.

Brian heading to the water on Bastendorff Beach.

4. Finally— Kat’s Culinary Tour.  In two days I compared six bowls of clam chowder.  Coos Bay claims they have the world’s best.  It comes down

The Unbelievable Crab Melt Sandwich

to personal taste– do you like thick, potato-y, thin?  Kat wouldn’t tell me her favorite but she did narrow it down to a nice sample set.  My favorite was from Shark Bites— their broth is on the thinner side, really tasty, and they use red potatoes thinly sliced.  We also compared oysters from three different locations.  Again, they’re all delicious but my personal favorite was Hilltop House.  Below you will find name and location of the places we tried.  Don’t miss the crabmelt sandwich at The Mill Casino Hotel— I will dream of this sandwich all my days to come.

Sitting on the docks, watching the sea lions dive for tuns scraps, pulling up our pods and sorting the keepers from the throw-backs is where I got to know Kat.  She’s been the Director of Promotions and Conventions for Oregon’s Adventure Coast for 5 years.  It’s obvious she loves what she does.  In fact, everyone I’ve met who’s working in tourism really enjoys their work and find themselves creatively challenged every day.

She moved to Coos Bay 7 years ago and had a hard time adjusting to the small town life after years of big city California living.  Trading in her heels and regular mani-pedis for the slower pace and focus on the outdoors wasn’t her plan.  But, that turned around when her family visited for the weekend and she planned the ultimate tourists’ adventure right in her hometown.  From that moment on, she realized she was living in a dream location and began promoting Coos Bay to potential visitors around the world.  She’s a one-man-band but cultivates partnerships with local businesses, is a social media marketing maven, and everyone’s favorite around town.  There wasn’t one place we visited where someone didn’t light up when she walked in.  The charm of a small town.

KAT’S FORMULA FOR HAPPINESS

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO:  I enjoy the diversity of what I do. I love showing off the area off to writers and visitors and letting them in on the secrets that the locals know. I work on so many different things that I am never bored. Perhaps my favorite thing is cultivating a relationship with travel writers and seeing that moment where they get how special this area is. Seeing that translated into print to share with a larger audience is extremely satisfying.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT COOS BAY: Almost everything… I love being so close to the beach

Kat Hoppe with her kids.

and that I can let my dogs run free. I love going crabbing on the docks and making new friends each time I go. When you first come into town it has a very industrial feel; you can see the boats coming in and the wood chips being shipped out… and then you turn… and there’s an unimaginable beauty that makes it feel like a secret that was meant just for you. It’s a combination of timber, fishing, small businesses and a seclusion that you don’t find many other places.  It’s also the little things; In the morning when I’m contemplating going crabbing, I call the fish market on the docks and find out if I should wear pants or shorts that day, and no one thinks its strange that I call.  If I’m taking a trip out of town, I always run by the airport the night before and weigh my suitcase to make sure it’s not too heavy.  I drive through my favorite coffee shop and I don’t have to order, they know exactly what I want. There’s a friendliness here that allows you to come as you are and never feel out-of-place.

WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPY:  My dream is to retire here and have a house overlooking the beach. The beaches here are so scenic and rugged, I love falling asleep to the sound of the ocean and watching the waves come in. I can think of nothing better than waking up every day to a view of the ocean and taking my dogs for a morning walk on the beach.

Kat at The Polar Bear Plunge

Dune Adventure Riding: Spinreel Dune Buggy Rentals

Crabbing:  Davey Jones Locker
 Cape Arago Highway & Boat Basin Road
 Charleston, OR 97420 (541) 888-3941 and Basin Tackle Shop
 63510 Kingfisher Rd Charleston, OR 97420 541-888-3811

Surfing: Brian Menten  Waxer’s Surf Skate Shop 242 South Broadway (hwy 101) Coos Bay, OR 97420 541-266-9020

Recommended Restaurants: 

Shark Bites Seafood Café 240 South Broadway
 Coos Bay, OR 97420 
(541) 269-7475 My pick for best clam chowder. 

The Coach House 604 6th Avenue
 Coos Bay, OR 97420
 (541) 267-5116 A great dive with delicious oysters and chowder.

Miller’s at the Cove 63346 Boat Basin Road
 Charleston, OR 97420
 (541) 808-2404 Don’t miss the fish tacos and chowder.

Hilltop House 93405 Wilsey Lane North Bend, OR 97459 541-756-4160 My pick for best oysters.  Also, don’t miss the prime rib sandwich.

Mill Casino Hotel  3201 Tremont Ave., North Bend, OR 97459 541-756-8800 Best crab melt sandwich I’ve ever had. 

Categories: People on The Stretch, Stays on The Strech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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