Crescent City

Published: May 10th 2014
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Both images from today look gloomy. That is because it was.
I had planned to make Crescent City a hub for a day or so. As it turned out I had little choice because on Thursday (May 8) it rained and blew hard all day. There were a couple of reprieves from the rain and I got out a bit, but it was basically an inside day. Still, I have one event to write about and a few images to show.

I went for drive north of Crescent City looking for an access point to the shoreline called Pelican Beach. It was prominently noted on the map I had, but I couldn’t find a sign telling me where to turn. It was about lunchtime so I turned off highway 101 into Smith River to see what I could find. Smith River is another ‘almost surviving’ town. There were lots of businesses boarded-up. What I found was “Alta’s Hamburger Bar” situated in an old trailer that looked like it had been there for a long time. No one was eating there when I arrived, which is not always a good sign. However, I was hungry and there was nothing else around, so I stayed.

The waitress/cook wandered out of a back room. In a soft, muffled voice she asked, “So, what’ll ya have?”

“I’m not sure. Do you have a menu?”

She pointed to the booklets stuck into the counter top, said nothing and walked away.

It turned out the waitress was the cook and the owner. Her name was Rhonda and she turned out to be very nice. I reminded myself again not to jump to conclusions about people too quickly.

The hamburgers looked like more than I wanted so I asked if she still served breakfast.

“Sure I do, but no pancakes or waffles.”

“Well, that is OK,” I replied. I’ll have one of your Denver Omelettes.

I knew better than to trust the coffee so I got some tea and Rhonda settled down to cook. An old guy, actually older than me, wandered in and sat down at the bar close to me and shouted at Rhonda, “What can I have for breakfast?”

“Whatever you want old man, but no pancakes or waffles,” replied Rhonda.

“What! I came all this way and there’s no pancakes. What’s going on here,” he said with a smirk on his face. Rhonda wasn’t paying much attention.

“Look Butch, just tell me what you want. How about a sausage patty and home fries?”

Butch looked sort of non-plused, on purpose, and told her, “All right Rhonda, I’ll have the sausage, potatoes, and a couple of eggs.”

Rhonda said nothing, but must have heard what he said as she finally did arrive with what he ordered.

Butch turned to me, “You know what? I knew her when she was a little girl. I’m really a lot older than I look.” I think he was just a lot older….period. He was beat-up looking, missing a few front teeth and had hands that looked like they had done a lot of hard work through his life. He told me that he was a salmon fisherman, but wasn’t out right now because his boat was being worked on.

People started drifting in and it didn’t take long before the cafe/diner was almost full. Rhonda’s food was obviously popular.

I couldn’t believe my breakfast plate when it arrived. I was expecting that Denver Omelette we get on the prairies at home - a fried, scrambled egg with peppers, onions and tomatoes mixed in the egg. Rhonda’s version was a three egg omelette wrapped around a mess of onions, tomatoes, peppers (red and green), chunks of German sausage and some other kind of meat. Along side of this were home fries and sourdough toast. Good grief. I only ate about half of what was on my plate. What I ate was very good.

Unprompted, Buster started to enlighten me about some of the local history. His main story was about how the Japanese dropped bombs on a local mountain during the war. He said he was four years old when it happened and he remembers seeing the airplane flying over his house in Brookings, Oregon, just north of Smith River. Evidently the Japanese had a plan in which they were going to drop bombs on the forest, start a fire in an area that could not be accessed easily and it would burn out of control. The hope was that it would burn some raw product used in the war effort and create some terror in the US. They used a miniature submarine to bring close to shore an amphibious airplane that was assembled on the deck of the submarine and flew off the deck with the aide of a rocket. It worked and the bombs were dropped. Unfortunately for the Japanese, they hadn’t taken into account how wet that part of the west coast was, so although the bombs started a little fire, it fizzled out in the wet woods.

Now, Buster didn’t just tell the story straight like I’ve done, he had his own embellishments on the tale that took him about half-an-hour to relate. It was a great story. I listened to his version where the local troops that were training in the area shot a hole in the submarine and the Japanese beached it nearby. The crew that escaped, according to Butch, were all found and shot! It sounded plausible, but reading the real record of events I’m not sure all that Butch had to say was real. Here is the link to the real story.

I asked Butch about what I should see along the coast during my stay. This was an opening to the others in the cafe to make sure I knew about their favourites. I think I was there for another half-an-hour listening to all the opinions. The ideas were, I’m sure, good. But the directions they gave left me wanting.

“So ya go up the road towards Brookings. If you get to the Nautilus ya gone too far. Ya, need to turn around and come back to the first road on your right. Isn’t that right Bill? Or is it the second.”

Bill then entered the fray, “Oh hell, you know it better that me. I haven’t been down to the beach there for twenty years.”

I asked, “Buster. What is the Nautilus?”

“Oh that is the old Nautilus motel. It isn’t there any more, but there are some buildings that you’ll see. You can’t miss them.”

Oh yah, I thought.

And so it went. I left without much idea of where to go, but it was sure fun getting stuck in with the locals.

The rest of the day drifted by and I got a lot of my images processed, at least in a preliminary way.

I forgot to mention that I stayed in the “Oceanview Inn and Suites”. It was a great place and only $79 a night. I couldn’t believe the price. It was probably an off-season price.


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