I’m sure you’ve made the drive from Corvallis to Newport plenty of times, but have you ever gone the long way? Have you taken a minute to stop and appreciate the quaint, natural beauty of the Oregon countryside? Have you gotten in your car with a friend and just started driving, with no goal in mind except to enjoy yourself? Spontaneity can be especially healing in the face of a stressful, cold, and sleepy winter holiday season. I highly encourage you to just hop in your wheels and go, but here’s a little something to get you started on the un-beaten path.
Drive west past Philomath, and make a stop at the Blodgett country store. Notice the sign: “Slow down, you’ll live longer.” Look around the store, which apparently has the state’s largest walk-in cooler (nice), and make conversation with the clerk. Listen to her when she tells you to drive five miles up the mountain to a tiny town called Summit and check out the community center, whose doors are always open. It’s in a cute old church, complete with a wood stove, a Ping-Pong table, and local memorabilia taped to the walls. Get excited about your discovery of this gem and appreciate the randomness that led you there.
Keep driving north towards Nashville just because we’re in Oregon, not Tennessee, and that’s kind of funny. It’s pretty much just a gas station, so keep driving towards Toledo, a cool little town that you’ve been meaning to check out. It’s equal parts artsy and industrial, and despite it being a Sunday afternoon and Toledo only having a population of 3,700, Main Street still feels alive. Go into Timbers and order the chili dog. Realize how much you needed a chili dog without even knowing it. Keep walking down Main Street and visit the Crow’s Nest Gallery and Studio, where you can see local artist Janet Runger’s found art creations. Chat with the employee and meet his dog, Jackson. You won’t regret it.
Now you’re only about fifteen minutes east of Newport. Drive straight through the coastal city because, let’s be honest, that place sucks. Get on 101 and head south until you hit a state park with a mostly empty parking lot. Seal Rock is a pretty good option—there’s a lovely trail and, you guessed it, a really cool giant rock. Keep an eye out for wildlife—winter is prime bird watching time, and there’s always the chance of seeing whales and sea lions on the Oregon coast.
If you feel like spending $14, check out the sea lion caves north of Florence. If you don’t, pick up a free sample of popcorn at the gift shop and drive towards Triangle Lake, then Mapleton. Appreciate the fact that as long as an Oregon town has at least ten people living in it there is guaranteed to be at least one dispensary. Enjoy the farmhouses nestled in small pockets along riverbanks and on the sides of mountains.
Slow down, take a breath, and once you roll back into good old Corvallis, you’ll probably feel a little better.
By Maria DeHart