When I was young, I went on many trips to Oregon and Washington. Every time I went to Oregon, I said that I would love to retire there someday. I especially loved the Rogue River with all of the gorgeous houses right on the river, with small grassy meadows between their homes and the river, gorgeous backyard decks overlooking the water, and a little dock out into the river with a fishing boat stored there for getting to town. I just loved Oregon, I felt at home there. The forests, the rivers, the lakes, even the little creeks trickling through the backyard of a little cabin made my heart sing. This desert girl has always yearned for trees and water as far back as I can remember. My parents told me that I would kick and stomp my feet if we didn’t stop and let me play in the water when a stream of it would run across the road after a heavy rain. We always had a swimming pool, even if it was a little kiddie pool before we had our built in pool. I even caught pneumonia from playing outside in the pool when my mom didn’t know I was out there one day in the cold rain. And trees… I cannot express the love I have for some trees. I have literally fallen in love with trees before. I had a huge cottonwood tree in the front yard of my little cottage for 13 years. I loved that tree. It made my home feel like a home, provided my yard and house with shade, and made a beautiful view out of the front picture window. Sometimes, I would sit in the afternoon and just watch the big, light green leaves sway in the wind. When the tree got sick and the landlord had her cut down, I was devastated. So devastated that my sweetie Dennis loaded up the pieces of the trunk into his truck and saved them for me. The pieces are still in our backyard to this day as tree stump seats around our fire pit. I will always be in love with the desert but I have longed and yearned for something more for many years now. My love of trees and my insatiable need for water always drew me back to Oregon and to the coast.
This dream took many years to manifest. It was always in my heart, in the back of my mind, but not something I’d ever suggested out loud aside from the idea of retiring there someday. A year ago, one of my Dennis’ (my sweetie) friends moved to North Bend, Oregon. He got a great deal on his house – we’re talking $55k – and he was loving it there. Lots of work, tons of stuff to do in nature, especially the dunes riding in his four-wheel-drive – did I mention the dunes sit right on the ocean? He started posting short Instagram videos and Flipagrams of his experiences there. The ocean, the dunes, the trees, the water, the beauty all made Dennis dying to go and see it for himself. He would show me the videos and photos and we would both dream of living somewhere so beautiful.
We started looking on Zillow for houses on the Oregon coast. We had always wanted to live on the West Coast, near or on the ocean, but knew we could never afford to do it in California. The houses were incredibly inexpensive. At the time (a year ago), we were finding houses that were as little as $30k right on the beach! Of course, those were fixer uppers but wow, to live on the beach mortgage free, really got us much more interested in the Oregon coast than ever before. We spent the next year looking at houses online. Saving our favorites, narrowing down what we were really looking for in a new home there. Asking ourselves what the most important things were if we were to move there.
After the first few months of looking, we were seriously sidetracked. A potential job opened up at the camp that my dad managed in the beautiful Angeles Forest. He was retiring and they would be looking for a new camp manager and spouse to come in and run the camp. We were very intrigued. Having already gotten the spark for moving to somewhere where we could be closer to nature, this job and the location felt so right. We began working at the camp in early Spring and worked all the way through to late Summer. We had planned that if we had gotten the job, we would have worked there for at least 5-10 years to build up a savings, work on painting our house and getting it ready for sale, and looking for just the right place to retire (young!) on the Oregon Coast. Unfortunately, the job didn’t work out. I’ll definitely be writing later about the summer we spent with a boy scout – there is much to tell!
As soon as we realized that the position wasn’t going to work out and we were not moving forward with the idea of living and working at the camp, we instantly re-focused our thoughts back to Oregon. We started to think, why wait until we are retirement age to have our dream? Why not have it now? With much ferocity and determination, we began looking at every single house that came through via Zillow’s notifications. I had searches for every beach town on the Oregon coast (and every town in between) saved and set to send me updates on new houses, changes in prices, and everything we needed to know about the housing market there. There was one home that I always came back to. This lovely lake house in a tiny little town south of Florence. The house just looked and felt like home to me from the first photo I looked at. But not having been there to the home in person yet, we wanted to have lots of other houses, towns, and neighborhoods to see. We wanted to learn which neighborhoods we would love and which ones weren’t our style.
At the end of summer, we decided we would make a trip to Oregon – both for a vacation and to look at houses we had saved as favorites. I had over 200 homes saved in the beginning. As the trip got closer and the idea of trying to see 200 homes in 2 weeks all along the entire coast of Oregon became less attainable. I started to weed through the ones that weren’t that interesting. Track homes went off first – basically what we live in now. We love our current home with its vaulted ceilings and tons of extra space but it’s all you see here in the desert. Big track homes, cookie-cutter designs, garage in the front… not much character. The more we narrowed the homes down, the more we realized that we both really loved two things about a home – a cabin-ey feel and a water view (water access even better). I finally narrowed my list down to 68 homes to see while we were there. They were all in our price range and were either on the beach, walking distance to the beach, or on a lake or river.
With our list narrowed down, I began to make a separate list of homes to see by town and in order of our driving path from south to north. This REALLY helped! I can’t imagine if we had just gone off of Zillow’s list the whole time. One of the biggest reasons not to do this is that we had very little and sometimes no cell phone reception in the more remote areas that we loved. If I hadn’t had that separate list in my “notes” app on my phone, we would have had to drive to a town with reception and make lists of addresses while on the road. Making the list pre-trip really is what allowed us to see so many homes in such a short period of time.
We wanted to leave at the beginning of October, but we had several family events happening and couldn’t leave until the 16th. With a date set, we began to pack, create a list of campgrounds to stay at along our journey – we would be taking the Blumebulance (our ambulance turned camper van) and camping to really get to experience nature on our trip. Having been all over the 101 Highway on the Oregon coast now, I can tell you, that unless you’re nervous about having just the right campground for your needs, you really don’t need a list of places to stay. There are camping signs practically every 5-10 miles all up and down the coast of Oregon. All of the rates were reasonable, anywhere from $15-22/night. All included free hot showers, restrooms, a fire pit, and a picnic table. Most were absolutely beautiful!! I’ll talk about the best and worst campgrounds coming up… stay tuned for the rest of our Oregon Adventure in part 2…