025. ROADTRIP: PORT ORFORD TO HECETA BEACH / by Cara Hines

I didn’t get very far down the road after I left Scott and Clare in Port Orford. There’s so much to see; so many little towns and such diverse natural beauty and I find I want to stop every few miles to explore! I know I’m driving past unknown caves, waterfalls, beaches, trails, scenic routes, mountains, forest groves, coffee shops, artists, craftsmen and galleries, wildlife, and especially many fascinating people….To really do this trip right, I’d need two months.

As I passed through the tiny community of Langlois, a mere 13 miles up Hwy 101 from Port Orford, something about it grabbed me. There’s a small but well kept public library, The Langlois Market grocery store selling as much local fare as possible including grass fed beef raised by the owner’s son. I passed by The Greasy Spoon Café (I know John would have insisted we check that out, but I had just eaten!) and Wild Rivers Wool Factory with felt and knitted crafts. A female duo own and operate an organic farm that supplies the town and surrounding areas with fresh organic produce. There are blueberry farms and cranberry bogs. And an abandoned bleu cheese factory that burned in the 1950’s and now serves in its renovated state as a community event center. Then there’s LaLa Belle’s Espresso Café and Consignment. I hadn’t had my espresso that day, so I parked to check things out.

LaLa Belle’s occupies the bottom level of a two-story house facing Hwy 101. I entered through the front door and was greeted by a delightful personality I soon learned was the owner. Dawn Sorensen and her husband are transplants from Nevada. They bought their property five years before they moved to Langlois a few years ago, and she's thrilled with their lifestyle change. They have a 4-year-old son and live upstairs from the café. She makes all the food from scratch using local, organic ingredients whenever possible…muffins, cakes, rolls, soups, etc. She uses only freshly ground organic coffee beans and brews her own chai.

Her friends see her life on Facebook and comment, “Wow! How amazing! You’re so lucky!” and it is wonderful she says, but it hasn’t come without giving some things up. Her weeks are dedicated to taking care of her son and preparing food for the weekends when her focus shifts to operating the coffee shop. Besides providing great homemade food, fresh coffee and chai served with charm and smiles, Dawn operates a consignment boutique. The treasures in a place like this say so much about the history of a place, its people and their lifestyles. As I sifted through the clothes rack like an archeologist in search of clues to an unknown culture, I found an adorable leather jacket that was miraculously my size…tiny. It fit perfectly! “But do I spend the money on yet another jacket,” I’m thinking to myself when from behind the counter as she’s serving coffee to the woman who owns the blueberry farm up the road, Dawn says, “That jacket is free!” I was astonished. “Why?!” I asked. Apparently, the woman who’d brought it in months ago stopped by just days before and said, “Since it hasn’t sold, just give it to someone who really wants it if you find someone it fits.” And that someone happened to be me!

As all this was going on, LaLaBelle’s was being filled with the laid back crooning and strumming of a spontaneous trio. They were John on guitar and vocals; Kevin on guitar, harmonica and vocals; and Kim on vocals. Besides spreading musical magic and goodwill, they shared a little about their lives with me, in particular the unexpected apprehension they’re being met with as they transition to life as empty nesters. Kevin described feeling their purpose was disappearing and life was somehow over. But they’re rediscovering what it’s like to focus again on what brings them joy and makes them come alive, and their mutual love for creating music is reviving their excitement about life. At first, Kevin said he was terrified of performing in front of people and absolutely hated it. I couldn’t tell by their performance that day! He seemed natural in front of our small audience, as if he’d been doing it his whole life. I shared with them the story of my brother John and how I was on a road trip in his memory. I showed them the memorial biker patch, and it inspired them to play a few songs in his honor: Come to the Cross (WATCH VIDEO), John Denver’s “Country Road” and “Follow Me”, and others. It was such a happy gathering I was content just to stay and enjoy their music for a couple of hours.

By the time I left, I’d amassed a small music video collection of their songs, exchanged contact information with Kevin, Kim and Dawn, and briefly contemplated staying overnight to join everyone in festivities at the Old Cheese Factory that night with more live local music and reverie. But I decided finally to keep moving. I bade everyone farewell—including Oscarina, the manikin standing sentry at the front entrance—and continued driving north, enjoying perhaps the best homemade banana muffin my mouth had ever had the pleasure of devouring.

The rest of the day I spent mostly driving and simply enjoying the scenery. I detoured off Hwy 101 several times. Most notable was Beach Loop Drive through the small resort town of Bandon, stopping briefly at Face Rock Viewpoint to take in breathtaking scenery and write messages in the sand. At this spot and all along the west coast, rock formations jut dramatically out of the churning waters. These rocks are often referred to as haystacks, a term that falsely elicits notions of something soft and yielding. These are not. White capped waves crash constantly against and over them with force violent enough to strip the life from a person in a single dashing, yet these haystacks remain apparently unaffected. The effects of this constant churning and colliding, however, are there. They’re simply undetectable by our five senses and human perception of time. I will never see the same haystack twice, regardless if it’s in the same location. They change with each wave lapping against it. It’s a law of nature—constant, inexorable change.

That night I opted to car camp. That’s a fancy term for crashing in my car. I found a spot in a residential neighborhood on Heceta Beach and bedded down for the night. OK. I know what some of you are saying. Isn’t that dangerous? Honest answer, I don’t know, but I think it’s fun! And I’m careful about the spot I choose. In a residential area, I might be asked to move along, but there are people around. I can honk the horn or hit the panic button on my key fob if anything were to happen (which has never happened). If I park in a secluded park or country road, there’s no one around, so I generally don’t do that. So for a few hours I had beachfront property, amazing views, and the roar of the ocean waves to lull me to sleep and awaken to. Sing it, “I’ve got…ocean front property in my C – R – Veee…from my front seat I can seeeee the sea…”

View more photos in the Roadtrip: Port Orford-Heceta Beach gallery