Destination: Tillamook Creamery / by Akira Ohiso

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Our destination today is the Tillamook Creamery just north of Tillamook, Oregon. We head south on 101 and take in wide swathes of open coastal scenery.

Around the mouth of the Nehalem River we pass through Wheeler and Brighton with a view of Nehalem State Park, a peninsula dividing the river from the North Pacific. We drive in and out of tsunami hazards zones as we elevate and dip close to the coast. Vacation rentals and local homes dot 101 with an occasional eatery, pub or chipped-paint establishment flapping solicitous banners: PIZZA, OYSTERS, ANTIQUES.

Around Manhattan Beach and Rockaway Beach, the touristy atmosphere picks up. Boat rentals, resorts, ticky tacky gift shops, clams, oysters, crab, this is the season for seasonal income. On the east side, we pass Crescent Lake and Lake Lytle where cabins and homes connect to piers with tethered recreational equipment sitting placidly in weekday waters.

The seemingly defunct railroad tracks that have been running parallel to us are suddenly in use by the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, transporting visitors from Rockaway Beach to Garibaldi. At one point, we see the steam engine pulling passengers in an open car as an animated tour guide in denim overalls, matching cap and red hanky points towards the Pacific.

Between the Barview Jetty and Garibaldi, we pass The Three Graces, sandstone formations that were once submerged below sea level. On the way to the cheese factory, I think they look like a pile of sea porpoises, on the way back cheese curds.

In Garibaldi, we pass a giant smokestack and a white G in the side of a hill. The smokestack was built by A.B. Hammond in 1927, owner the Hammond Lumber Company. The stack took noxious smoke away from the residents of Garibaldi. Today, the smokestack is an ambiguous marker-dereliction or attraction- that has been preserved with fiberglass to stop further deterioration.

The big G seems to have originated in the 1930s when the junior high school wanted to foster town pride. Wood was supplied by Hammond Lumber.

The Port of Garibaldi shows rusty hints of its maritime past. The lumber and fishing industry had both a seafaring port and a railroad to transport their products across the country. Like many small American towns, industry dries up with time leaving those without modern technological skills below the poverty line.

On the east coast, my family used to travel up and down the seaboard, but I never experienced the open natural views of Oregon. I wonder if older cities with larger population centers monetized the coastal real estate before a leisurely class had developed to enjoy the views. Those colonial east coast cities were part of the soot gray industrial revolution. It’s hard to change what has always been.

Garibaldi continues to support fishing and the United States Coast Guard, but there is a sense that this place had a heyday. Neon motels, seafood, restaurants, small gift shops, and a maritime museum continue to remember and share their historical past with summer vacationers, but I would be more interested in the future of Garibaldi. What’s next for these clapboard towns?

The Tillamook Creamery suddenly appears by the side of 101 and we notice its new scripted logo on a large sign. The solid logo pops and carries weight. It is classic, modern and presents a confident Morning Star ship pushing towards the future. The old logo now seems antiquated like a lacy doily.

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A farm exhibit educates visitors about Holstein and Jersey dairy cows. The takeaway: Happy cows produce delicious milk. The viewing deck demonstrates Tillamook’s process for making cheddar cheese.

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Next, we are directed to a tasting area where we sample a selection of cheeses. I am introduced to their habanero jack. A hip gift shop sells their cheeses and other products as well as trendy apparel and gifts.

We stayed for lunch and ice cream in their rustic dining area that reminds me of a gastropub you might find in Portland or Seattle.

I highly recommend the deep fried cheese curds with a local IPA.