Switch it up for the 2020 holidays

Henry the Fish by WashedAshore.org
Mask up!
Henry the Fish made of reclaimed beach garbage. He was a fun find on our Thanksgiving adventure. (WashedAshore.org)

By now you have made it through the first (and hopefully last) Thanksgiving during the pandemic.  Scrolling through my friends’ photos, I could see many stayed home and made traditional food – just for a smaller number than other years.  Did you?  Or did you find new ways to celebrate?  Or are you looking for inspiration since we have more holidays coming up – and tradition seems to “necessarily” be out the window?  Why not switch it up for the 2020 holidays? 

This year my birthday fell on the weekend before Thanksgiving.  My Adventure Partner’s birthday fell the weekend after.  Since getting together with family wasn’t a healthy option, we decided to give ourselves a birthday gift of a Thanksgiving adventure.  Maybe this will inspire you to try the upcoming holidays differently, even if you stay home.

Setting the intention for our 2020 holidays

We set the intention to take proper precautions while on our adventure. The first decision we made was that we would drive somewhere.  This option would keep us in our “bubble” while traveling.   We looked for a destination that was a decent distance to warrant staying overnight.  We would bring food with us. This was partly to lessen our interactions with others, partly because most restaurants aren’t open on Thanksgiving (even in ‘normal’ times), and partly because the pandemic restrictions made even roadside options unreliable.

The most important intention was to not expect to explore any one place deeply.  We would stop when we felt like it.  We didn’t want to rush, so we agreed that a 3-hour trip could take seven.  A local guide helped us have an idea for each area’s highlights.

two story hotel room overlooking beach
We searched and finally found this reasonably priced hotel located right on the beach – our room was the one with the big windows! Windermere on the Beach in Bandon, OR was the perfect distance for us.

Thanksgiving picnic

A picnic for Thanksgiving? Having grown up in cold New England, it was hard for me to envision this idea.  But then I asked that adventurous question: Why not?  There are plenty of scenic spots where we could pull over and either find a picnic table or sit in our warm truck. 

Continuing with doing things a little differently, the turkey was cooked early. A friend taught me how to roast a turkey on the barbeque.  This meant we could have fresh, flavorful turkey for our picnic sandwich and salad.  Potato chips subbed for the mashed potato.  Keeping things easy and light, I went to a gourmet supermarket for sides and meals for the rest of the trip.

Thanksgiving picnic on blue scarf
Our Thanksgiving picnic. I brought the white pumpkin for decor! The tablecloth is my favorite scarf.

Coastal Town Sampler

Aspens on the rivers edge in Oregon
This river ends up in Waldport, where it goes into the ocean (and we turned south to continue our journey)

The Thanksgiving exploration of the Oregon coastline started in Waldport.  We’ve been to that cute little town before, to visit Brenda (owner of “Just B Tiny” tiny house), so it seemed a good place to launch our adventure. 

Devil's Punchbowl in winter
Devil’s Punchbowl was our first stop just after Waldport. Earlier in the year we had visited and walked all around.
Totem pole by Seal Caves store
Seal Caves were closed due to the Covid restrictions. The store featured a totem pole with seal images.
bridge by Heceta Lighthouse
Heceta Beach and a view of a bridge on the coastal highway 101
Heceta Beach with raven on a sign
That raven made the scene even moodier
Heceta Lighthouse
There are 11 lighthouses in Oregon. We saw three of them. This is the Heceta Head Lighthouse. We noticed enough traffic to know we weren’t the only one with the idea of driving the coast.
Dunes next to pine trees
Florence is known for its dunes. Parts of it reminded us of Michigan. It was near here we decided to follow a path and have our Thanksgiving picnic.
old bridge heading to North Bend, OR
So many pretty bridges! This one was just before North Bend.
Bandon Beach rocks at sunset
We made it to our hotel just at sunset. We bundled up and went to quickly check out the beach.
Bandon Beach rocks at sunrise
Waking up early, I went to explore the beach out in front of our hotel. Here’s the same rock view we saw at sunset
Face Rock on the left, me making a funny face in the cold on the right
On the other side of Bandon Beach is Face Rock. There were actually so many rocks that looked like face, I couldn’t be sure. Maybe next time I will find out. It looks sunny, but at 7:30 in the morning it was 33 degrees.
Bandon Beach at sunrise
These rock monoliths are so different from any of the beaches I knew from back East.

There are 363 miles of Oregon coastline, and on that trip we traveled 190 miles of it.  The southern coast had the lowest COVID19 rates in the state, which reassured us when we chose a place to stay overnight. 

Keep on Truckin’

In the morning, we made the decision to head to Brookings, the last coastal town before California.  To head home via the inland route, we needed to go just a bit further south to Crescent City, CA.  Our 2020 holidays almost turned into a two-night adventure, but we kept on truckin’ and made it back later that evening.

cranberry bog near Bandon OR
Leaving Bandon we saw cranberry bogs! How is that for a touch of Thanksgiving? I learned that Bandon is Oregon’s largest producer of cranberries! (They even have an Ocean Spray factory!

Roadside Attractions anyone?

Fake dinosaurs at the front of Prehistoric Gardens
Crazy fun to find these ancient beings guarding the edge of the forest by the side of the highway. Prehistoric Gardens in Port Orford is definitely a silly roadside attraction!
Cape Blanco Lighthouse sign
It was a surprise to find the Cape Blanco Lighthouse listed as a Roadside America stop in my favorite travel app. It was such a pretty area, but we decided to keep traveling south. We sampled enough to know we’d like to come back and hike to the lighthouse.
Thomas Creek bridge view from rest area
For the fun of it, we pulled into the rest area to check out the legs on the Thomas Creek Bridge (the highest in Oregon!) It was built a few years before I was born – we both are holding up well.
rocks at Harris Beach State Park
80 miles south of our hotel and we made it to Brookings! It’s well-known for having great weather year-round. While I wore a light coat (on Harris State Park Beach), there were several others running around in swimsuits!
overlooking McVay Rock Park
Picnic time again! We sat on a cliff at the McVay Rock Park and munched on the lunch I had packed (not turkey!)

Turn Around in California

Battery Point Lighthouse and buoys
The tip of California. We lucked out with the low tide and were able to walk to the Battery Point Lighthouse island (Crescent City, CA)
Stacey in front of a redwood tree, Jedediah Smith Park
As we headed inland, we took a quick turn off at the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Those redwoods! So much more impressive in person. We are definitely coming back here!
Burnt forest and full moon, Gasquet CA
The reason we didn’t take this adventure sooner was due to the wildfires. We saw the aftereffects on the CA/OR border of Gasquet. Although sad, I liked the full moon rising over the dramatic skyline.

What will you do for your 2020 holidays?

Looking back at our excursion, it felt like we sampled the coast.  With everything but the parks mostly closed, we didn’t have much choice but to check out only the outdoor spaces.  However, in our limited time-frame, this was perfect.  We made new memories instead of bemoaning the lack of previous traditions. I would recommend this safe, and fun, twist on holiday celebrating to anyone (no adventure partner needed, but nice if you have one!) 

With more 2020 holidays looming, and the pandemic still raging out of control leading to another season of un-traditional celebrations – what adventure will you create? Where would you go if you made a limit of three-hour drive distance?  What new-to-you path would you follow? Share in the comments!

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