Year 1- This is the beginning. The trip was not yet annual. The idea was to get as many of our friends together as possible, go camp for several days, relax, and have a good time. The original idea, if I recall correctly, was thought up by Paco, Andre, and me. It was a good concept, and we quickly began to get a decent buy-in from fellow amigos, and spouses/girlfriends. With several people on board for a trip, a destination was needed.

We eventually decided to hit the Oregon coast for several days of beach relaxation. There were trails to hike, fish to catch, and generally, a lot of stuff to do…sounded great. We would divide the majority our time up between Florence and the dunes/coast area, and Brookings, and the coast/beach area. This was the beginnings, and what the beginnings they were.

Due to the different work schedules of those involved, everyone was leaving at different times during the first day, and we would be spending the first night in Cottage Grove Oregon…about 2 hours away from our first real stop—outside Florence, and about 5 hours drive from home.

Andre and I had the most time available, and decided to ride together. We loaded our car with our stuff, some icy beverages, and hit the road. The idea was to take the ride up slow, and stop to enjoy a frosty cold beverage every now and then.

We made our first stop at the rest area outside Yreka and had our first beverage. We stopped in Medford at the Costco to buy some more beverages, relax, and enjoy another beverage. We stopped in Grants Pass in a parking lot to enjoy another beverage, and relieve our bladders. It was at this time we discovered we’d probably better cut down on the beverage consumption, in order to make the drive safe. We waited it out a bit, and got back on the road.

Andre was the “navigator” in the car, and I’m using that term very loosely. He thought we could get to Cottage Grove and our first camp site by taking a “short cut”

“Yeah this way will save us some time, and be better than I-5….” He promised.

1 hour later we were in the middle of NOWHERE. I was waiting for the dueling banjos to start. Eventually we got to a point where pavement ended, and dirt began. It looked further away from civilization, not closer. Finally, Andre admitted he had no clue where we were, tried to justify his map reading skills, and suggessted we go back the way we came. We turned around, and went BACK to I-5 and took the correct way to Cottage Grove.

Pecos, Paco, and Paco’s ex-girlfriend were leaving later that night and driving the larger van down, they also had the majority of our eating supplies. Andre and I had to go into Cottage Grove for some dinner supplies. We bought some cheap steaks, and a few potatoes to bake in the fire pit. Dinner took a lot longer to make than we’d expected…potatoes don’t cook swiftly in a campfire…we had some waiting to do. We eased the waiting with more beverage consumption. Several beverages later, darkness had descended on us, and dinner was FINALLY ready…it was well after eight by this time.

We ate, and of course, anything worth driving 7 hours, getting lost, and waiting hours to cook, tastes awesome. It was still early enough that neither Andre nor I wanted to sleep, and Pecos and Co. were still hours away. Plus we had to assume since Andre gave them directions, they’d be in ‘deliverence land’ for about an hour before they realized they were lost. They would be in the dark too, and actually FINDING where we were camped could take some time.

With ample time to wait, we went BACK to Cottage Grove to find a bar to hang out at.

I can’t remember the name of the bar, but it was a dive. The only redeeming quality was its cheap beverage prices, and the Golden Tee game sitting in the corner. We drank a bit, played some pool, and a little Golden Tee. However, the atmosphere of the bar was too depressing, so we decided we could just as easily drink around our fire, and it was safer too…so we returned to the campsite a short while later.

When we’d consumed too many beverages and decided the rest of our group was probably not arriving, we decided to call it a night. No sooner had we gotten in our tent, and a car drove up. It was the van. They had gotten there very late, but significantly earlier than we’d thought. This put a damper in the sleeping plans, and we stayed up for another hour or so talking, and helping them get set up. Finally, very late at night we all went to sleep.

The morning came, and it was time to depart. In the daylight, our campground seemed to be very cool. There was a nice lake, lots of green grass in the camp ground, water sports, and Pine trees….very nice. I was a little sad to have not spent any real time there.

The trip, however, was really “just beginning” We were headed north to Salem, then West to Florence, and our first couple nights of camping. Fernando, and Guillermo were meeting us that evening at the Rogue brewery, and 90% of our total group would be gathered (all except my wife). We drove to the coast, and after setting up camp, went into Newport to meet Guillermo and Fernando at Rogue Brewery.

The Rouge brewery was fun. We played some pool…drank some ale, ate some good food, then noticed that they had blackjack in a room in the back. Blackjack in Oregon is run by anyone who can back the funds with their own bank account. The dealer is someone who brings in $3,000 or $4,000 of their own money, and deals blackjack to people like me, Paco, and Andre hoping in the end the house will win, and they’ll go home a winner. Andre is quite fond of Black Jack, he also tends to lose himself in the game. This was the case this night. We all played $20 or so then decided it wasn’t in our best interests to continue to lose cash, so we decided to leave.

We got to the parking lot and discovered Andre was missing. Well it didn’t take a genius to realize you can’t be missing if you never left. He was still sitting in the chair playing blackjack. It took a lot of coercing to finally get him out, and he still almost got left behind. It would have been terrible if he did, I think he lost a lot of money, getting a bus would have been hard.

We got back to the campsite, and finished the night consuming beverages, and unintentionally disrupting the campers in neighboring sites. A ranger even came and told us to quiet down. Andre finished the night passed out in his own lap.

In the morning I had to return to Redding to get my wife, Guillermo went with me so he could spend a night at his parent’s house, and visit, being as he lived in Seattle, he didn’t get home too often. The trip back was uneventful, and long. It was a long ride just to turn around and return the following morning. Although when we returned, we’d be meeting in Brookings, not all the way in Florence.

The morning came and Guillermo, my wife, and I left for Oregon. It took about 5 hours for us to get there with stops and what not. One particular stop, I had used my ATM to buy gas from the pump, and apparently the pump slider didn’t work, because as I drove away, thinking I’d paid for my gas, I looked and saw the cashier running towards me angrily…I think he even had a wrench. He was pissed, he thought we were doing a pump and dash. We settled the confusion, and went on our way.

We got to the new campsite, which was awesome. This campground was one of the coolest I’d seen. It was very close to the beach, and each campsite was surrounded by trees, and foliage, making it both pretty, and peaceful. We set up camp, cooked dinner, and then as usual, began to consume beverages. At one point Paco, myself, and our respective women decided to go stroll on the beach. I don’t remember anything from the “stroll” part of the evening, only that Paco and I tumbled down a large dirt hill at one point.

Brookings is really close to the ocean, and has a sizeable sport fishing business. For about $60 you can charter a boat, and go out fishing for rock fish for a day. I’d never done it before, and was really looking forward to trying it. Fernando agreed to go with me, and the next day we decided to go on what would be a semi-annual fishing adventure.

This was the least eventful of the three fishing excursions, and sadly one of the least productive…still fun none the less. The idea to fish was finally agreed on mid morning, so our trip would be in the afternoon, rather than morning, as is typical for most trips. Fernando and I would fish, and the rest of our group sans Andre, who was “hiking” would rent crabbing devices and gather crabs from the docks. The combined efforts would hopefully yield a tremendous seafood feast.

Fernando and I along with two other fishermen found ourselves aboard a small boat with a captain and his first mate. Gilligan and the Skipper these guys were not. The old guy, who was captain, resembled Santa Claus more than anything else, but he appeared to have the right amount of grizzle, and looked to be a worthy captain. His first mate, from what I gathered, was along more for the ride than anything else. He baited hooks, fixed lines, brought in fish, and generally helped out, so I guess he was good to have on board.

The boat we had was by far the smallest of the fishing boats I’ve been on. The water was pleasant, and it looked to be a nice (calm) day for fishing. The plus side to the smaller boat, according to the skipper, was its mobility. We were able to get into areas, closer to rocks, larger boats weren’t able to get to. This was my first endeavor fishing in the ocean, so it seemed like good logic to me. We would position our boat in an area the captain has designated as fishable, with his fish finder then he would holler out the command to drop the lines, and a-fishing we would be.

The fishing that day was good. Fernando and I both caught our fair share of rock fish. Each time we would get a fish on the captain would blow this kazoo, to let the other boats near by know how many fish we were removing from the sea. It was silly, but strangely gratifying.

The trip ended, and Fernando and I had caught most of the fish from the trip. The catch was definitely enough to feed our group, AND have some to take home. The only problem WAS, that the company divided ALL the fish caught on the trip between all four of us who were fishing. That meant the other two fishermen onboard would reap just as much fish as us, while actually catching significantly less. That was frustrating, but I guess we didn’t have a say in the matter. We docked, and arrived back to discover the rest of the group has been successful as well. They got 6 or 7 crabs from off the dock, and were proud that they did better than all the locals doing likewise.

The evening would be a bountiful feast of Fresh fish, and crab…and a great end to our trip.

A feast like this required us to buy a few things from the local Fred Meyer. The trip to the store was shaping out to be a typical uneventful shopping expericne, except that Pecos, and Guillermo had been looking to make what I’ll call a “questionable flora purchase” for the entire trip, and for some reason they asked some random group of teenagers outside the local FM if they had access to said flora. Unbeknownst to the group who was shopping for real groceries, Pecos and Guillermo set up a meeting at our campsite to purchase their flora.

We got back to camp, and the first thing we’d noticed was Andre hadn’t done very much hiking at all, he’d spent the better part of his day sitting around the fire pit drinking to excess. Not a big deal though. Everyone got back to camp, and started to relax and sawp fishing tales prior to dinner prep when we noticed a very large LTD type car growling through the campground, bumping its system.

The entire group sat around the fire in stunned confusion, as to why a car like this would be slowly creeping ala ‘boys in the hood’ though this family camp ground. Then something stranger happed. It stopped…RIGHT at our camp site… it was weird. Then something stranger happened. Pecos and Guillermo got up, and strolled over to the car, got in, and drove off.

The remaining members of the group sat around in total confusion at what had just transpired. Where were they going? Dinner, however, was in need of preparation, so we sat to the task of getting that ready.

15 minutes later the LTD drove back up, and in what resembled a Snoop Dogg video, the door opened, a cloud of smoke came out, followed by Pecos and Guillermo. They bid adieu to their new friends and came back to join the rest of the group.

We kept making dinner, which included boiling the crabs. Paco is deathly allergic to shellfish. He’s so allergic to them, that he can’t even breathe the steam they produce while boiling. We found this out the hard way.

While the crabs were boiling Paco strolled over, lifted the lid, and peaked at the bubbling crustaceans. That brief encounter was enough to turn Paco in to the elephant man, and begin what would turn out to be one of the worst nights of the trip, instead of the best, like it should have been.

We ate dinner, sans Paco, who was lying in his tent doing his best John Merrick impersonation. Paco’s girlfriend was gone a lot too, checking on Merrick, and making sure he hadn’t died. Andre was in an alcohol based stupor, Guillermo and Pecos were in another dimension. My wife was getting sick. Fernando and I were the only ones in a “normal” state.

The sun fell, and soon Paco made the decision that he probably should seek medical attention, before he died, and Michael Jackson tried to buy his skeleton. Fernando, and Paco’s girlfriend, loaded him in the car and drove off to find medical help. Guillermo, and Pecos, took off to go wander around the beach, and look at the pretty waves. Andre was seated near the fire ring, watching the pretty fire. My wife was sick in the tent, trying to go to sleep. I decided, that it did me best to stay with my wife, and went to bed as well.

There really wasn’t anything else to do.

I was trying to fall asleep, but I was having a hard time, for some reason the tent kept getting significantly brighter about every 20 seconds. It was really annoying. One second the tent was dark and peaceful, and the next it was lit up like daytime.

“What is that?” my wife asked me obviously annoyed with being sick, and not able to sleep.

I didn’t know, but it was annoying. I decided to check it out. I unzipped the tent, crawled out, and looked around. To my surprise there was Andre, STILL sitting by the fire, all alone, surrounded by beverage bottles holding the lighter fluid; every 20 seconds or so he’d squirt a stream of fluid into the fire, and send up a huge flame. The huge flame didn’t even make him flinch, just smirk a little. He’d consumed so many beverages that he’d turned in to Beavis.

Needless to say, I was a little irritated, and told him where I was going to shove the lighter fluid if he didn’t knock it off. He got the idea, kind of, and crawled off in search of his bed. The night disruptions were not over though.

Several hours later, after I had gone to sleep I awoke to the sounds of something rummaging through the van. I thought it might be raccoons, but wasn’t really sure, so I peaked out to check. I looked in the direction of the van, and all I could see was a faint outline of Guillermo, and Pecos scrounging around inside looking for something, and laughing like Jr. High school kids. Turns out they couldn’t find the macadamia nuts. I bet that was catastrophic to them. Although I wanted to be hanging out with them, I had to return to the tent, I was too tired and sober to deal with them at that point.

Paco and company had returned at some point, and went directly to sleep.

The “best” night of the trip turned out just the opposite for most invloved.

The morning came, and it was time to go back home for most people. My wife and I had one more night and stayed in a creepy 3rd world campground outside Trinidad, the rest of the group went on back to Redding.

What did we learn from that first trip? Many things…

1) We needed to find one place and stay there the entire trip. We found we spent way too much time setting up, and taking down, and moving from one site to the other, we could have enjoyed ourselves more had we stayed put.
2) Camping was fun, but didn’t really allow for as much enjoyment as we wanted on the trip. It was too dirty, too hard to cook, people in neighboring camp sites got irritated, too many ice chests, runs to the store, etc. We might need a cabin or something.
3) I discovered fishing was a lot of fun, and would be great fun whenever we returned to the coast. I wanted to go with all the people in the trip at once, but that has yet to happen.
4) It was a lot of fun, and something we should do every year.
5) Some people got carried away on vacation…we wonderd if there was something we could do to preserve their achievement .

The next year we decided to go to Bend, for a more mountainous version of the trip…and hopefully we’d learn from some of our mistakes, and as usual, make more mistakes.