When we pulled into Bullards State Beach, just outside of the small coastal town of Bandon, OR, we all breathed a collective sigh of…something. Not really relief, for we have little to be relieved from on this trip; it was more like an “at last” feeling. Bullards would be our longest stay yet and we were all craving some rest and routine. After setting up at our site, we strolled the mile-long path to the beach, through woods and over dunes, and spent our first evening playing in the sand and watching the sun slowly drop into the Pacific.
Yes, we could stand to stay here awhile.
The next week was filled with afternoon trips into downtown “old town” Bandon. We visited the dock, where seals peek out of the water and well-fed seagulls sit contently watching fishermen clean salmon and Dungenous crabs, ate fish tacos at the dueling Tony’s Crab Shack and Bandon Fish Market, and spent hours in the most wonderful local used bookstore, Kimberly’s Book Nook, which is conveniently attached to a cafe. We bought bread and apples at the farmer’s market, sampled too many chocolates at the Cranberry Sweets candy store (Bandon is Oregon’s center of cranberry production), checked out Henry the Fish, who is made entirely from washed-ashore plastics, and explored the cliffs and beaches of the Oregon coast. It’s chilly here in October, but gorgeous.
Our mornings were busy with school and getting to know our new little neighborhood. The Bullards campground was filled with campers who were primarily there to fish since the salmon were “running” in the nearby Coquille river estuary. For the first few nights, our site sat in the middle of a group of couples with their campers, boats and dogs who have been meeting at this same park every October since 1986. They were as friendly as can be, and we felt like part of their small tribe for a while. One neighbor gave us part of his crab take one night, which we immediately picked and ate with glee (and Old Bay) at our picnic table. Bullards also boasts a resident turkey, who we have taken to calling Tom (her name, the rangers tells us, is C.J., short for Charlotte Jane).
We’ve come to know Bandon pretty well. The library is closed on Monday. The Mexican restaurant right on the highway is a better choice than the cuter one in town. You cannot get a haircut unless you call and book at least a week in advance. And the Minute Cafe is a good place to eat at the counter and ask where we might find a mechanic to take a look at the toad (check engine light now blinking).
Of course, to really know a town, you must go to a Friday night football game. Bundled up for the cool coastal air, we sat alongside a good slice of Bandon (pop 3,000) to cheer on the Bandon Tigers as they went up against the Reedsport Braves. The kids didn’t care much about the game, which was a whopping 25-0 loss for Bandon, but they were happy enough with snacks from the concession stand. And we all enjoyed checking out the Bandon fans, who seemed generally good-natured given the score, and listening to the entertaining announcers, who seemed to be coaching as much as announcing. “A quick pass to #28 and then, he should really go right, go right!” And then, “Oh, that’s a real shame. They need to go long on this next play.”
We like Bandon, and are happy to stay put for the next couple weeks. And now, best of all, my mom has arrived, a visit we have all been anticipating for some time. We are thankful to have her here with us, and grateful too for all of the extras she’s brought along with her: our mail (yikes! we owe Canada $114 for toll fees we don’t recognize), quarters for laundry, a much-needed backpack, and, most special of all, treats from our neighbors at home (Thank you, Manubernsts!). Elian could not contain his joy upon seeing the Washington Post’s Sunday comics, and we are all still enjoying the nice big batch of homemade cookies and pumpkin bread they included in their package for us.