I handed Kelly his 60th birthday card at noon on Friday, October 16—announcing this was going to be his weirdest gift ever. He unwrapped our copy of Weird Oregon and withdrew a map of Oregon covered in red dots—the places we would be going to or reading about. He only got a glimpse of the agenda one day at a time, so I gave him page one and we hopped in the car. First stop, Chinese food, which he’d been craving for weeks. Nothing too weird about that, just yummy.

Weird stop #1 was the Tillamook Pioneer Museum to check out the sample of Nehalem Wax mentioned in the book. People kept finding chunks of the stuff on Oregon shores in the mid to late 1800’s, and they wondered if it could be bee’s wax from one of the many shipwrecks along Oregon shores in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. Another theory, were they lumps of ozokerite often found around oil deposits? Some were convinced it was and invested wads of money to drill for oil. Unsuccessfully.

After reading the story we went inside but the wax was nowhere to be found. The sweet lady at the desk helped us find what looked like a dirty white rock about the size of a football. There was no marker so we were glad we had help and knew about it beforehand. We snapped a picture and were off to our next destination. But not before finding a bumper sticker that made us laugh. This was the first of many additions to the trip—our own weird discoveries. This was so Tillamook (where milk cows almost outnumber people)!

Our second stop was the Ghost Forest of Neskowin Beach. As we drove it started to rain and the new windshield wipers I’d just purchased weren’t working very well. In fact, the windshield looked worse than before I replaced them. Noisy too. We pulled over to see if the wiper needed to be cleaned and Kelly discovered the guy who installed them forgot to peel off the plastic cover. Ah, much better!

We chattered away as we drove, thankful to be together. From my research I knew the Ghost Forest would not be visible when we got there. The barnacle-covered remains of some 2,000-5,000 year old Sitka Spruce trees behind Proposal Rock only materialize in low or minus tides. Low tide wasn’t until 7:00 that night. We stopped to enjoy the beach, even in the cold and mist. It was a beautiful and fun break from driving. We plan to go back when the tree stumps are exposed. The photos of them I found online looked amazing!

The next two items on our list were what I called “read only” parts of the trip—stories and historical events we couldn’t witness, but enjoyed learning about. Those we documented with an on-site photo when possible. Heading south on highway 101 we read about Old Hairy, the sea serpent of Devil’s Lake in Lincoln City, and other monsters off the Oregon Coast. We stopped at Devil’s Lake and took a selfie for Hairy, even though the park was closed. It’s fascinating to imagine what might lurk in the deepest oceans! Whether they were truly man-eaters wreaking vengeance on human interlopers, or as yet undiscovered ocean dwellers, it’s hard to say. I’m sure the ocean is full of unexplained mysteries. 

Back in the car again we continued south. Though late in the day, the temperature warmed and the sky looked bluer than ever. Just before sunset we got out at a rest area for an impromptu beach walk. We played like kids, giddy with freedom, anticipating another nine days of adventure.

Our fourth destination was The Pat Boone Inn in Waldport, built in the 1960’s by the singer-songwriter and other investors. The place had quite a history. Not only a popular entertainment spot, but also the original meeting place for the Total Overcomers Anonymous seminar, which attracted a lot of attention. It began a movement which ended in the late 1990’s when 39 followers committed mass suicide while waiting for the spaceship that was supposed to pick them up.

Earlier in the 1900’s Edmund Creffield claimed Waldport as the “New Eden” for his love cult, the Holy Rollers, after he spent time in the Penn for the crimes of his “calling.” Women who followed him there left heartbroken husbands, fiancés, and family to engage in his teachings. After one unsuccessful attempt on Creffield’s life in April 1906, he was murdered by the brother of one of his disciples in May of that year. The brother was no sooner acquitted in July, than his heartbroken sister shot him. Many of Creffield’s remaining devotees settled in Waldport; others ended up in insane asylums or committed suicide.

Our GPS led us into a neighborhood north of town then cheerily announced, “Arrived” as we looked at the former location of the Inn—a vacant lot on the bank of the Alsea River. What a gorgeous view of the Bridge! Kelly cheesed for a photo “eating at the “Inn.” We welcomed the fresh air at this beautiful, peaceful spot, and a little smooching. Despite the depravity of the past, we decided Waldport is a charming little town.

By the time we reached stop #5—the Sea Lion Caves north of Florence—the shop and elevator to the caves below were closed. We were not heartbroken since we’ve both been there and remembered the noise and pungent odor. However, we had learned on our drive the grotto is the largest in the world—125 ft. high and 2 acres in size—the only place in the world where Steller and California sea lions breed and winter over together. We posed for photos in icy cold wind and ran for the warmth of the car. 

As we neared Florence, where I was born (that’s not what’s weird about it), we read about the dead whale that washed up onshore in 1970. After much discussion on how to get rid of the stinky, decaying mass, officials decided blowing it up would enable scavengers to dispose of the rest. Kelly and I paused to watch the YouTube video of Paul Linnman’s famous newscast documenting what twenty cases of dynamite can do to a whale. Blood and blubber flew through the air; people screamed and ran for cover. My parents remembered when this happened. They did NOT rush to the scene. I think they were wise to stay home.

On this first day of our weird adventure, we realized how many things we didn’t see: the ghost forest, sea serpents, the Pat Boone Inn, sea lions, and the beached whale. But reading about them made us feel like we were there, especially as we stood on location. We heard theories and perspectives we would not have been privy to if we had been there when they happened. We could picture each scene and identify with the people who experienced—curiosity, fear, anger, wonder, perplexity, amazement, disgust. 

This is so much like another weird adventure many of us are on—our journey as Christians. We have not seen Jesus in the flesh; we read about Him from eye-witnesses. They knew Him personally, touched Him, and experienced His incredible love and sacrifice. The disciple who doubted the others’ testimony of Jesus’ resurrection “unless I see Him myself” got a personal demonstration. Jesus came into the room and Thomas touched the scars in His hands and side. Thomas saw and believed! (John 20:27-29).

Not everything we read is true, however. It’s up to us to examine the evidence and decide what we believe. This world has enough oddities to boggle the mind. God coming in the body of a man, to show us His love and die for us, is the most amazing historical event of all time. Whether we choose to believe or not has eternal consequences. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

At the end of Day One, we admired the lights from the Siuslaw Bridge reflecting on the River from our hotel room in Florence, Oregon. We were exhausted, but already anticipating Day Two. We peeked at the itinerary—a lighthouse on an island, prehistoric animals, Sasquatch sightings and more.

I hope you return tomorrow for Day Two.