Cannon Beach was another nostalgia destination for me. Located only a 90-minute drive from Portland, we we had visited often and I have wonderful memories of our time there. So, we set out once again, me full of anticipation and Hans Einar, my companion on this journey and in life, supportively helping me to navigate my trip down memory lane.
Less than 2 hours into our 5-hour trip to Cannon Beach, we passed near Florence, Oregon, home to the Oregon Sea Lion Cave . I had vivid memories of a trip to the cave during at least one of our summer trips from Portland to Los Angeles, so I did not hesitate to stop, nostaligia-tear tissues at the ready for another few steps down memory lane.
In its own words, the Sea Lion Cave is “nothing short of wild“, “a cave of wonder and enchantment“, with sea lions as the “original hard rockers” who “rock a capella style” in a veritable “sea lion jam session“.
With such superlatives, we were undeterred when the ticket seller said she could not “guarantee that we would see many sea lions”. We paid a reduced entry fee and took the elevator on the 63-meter descent into the cave. There was not a sea lion in sight, neither in the cave nor on any of the rocks surrounding the cave. There was, however, a film that showed the hundreds of sea lions usually in the cave for those lucky tourists who had come at the right time. I kept saying to Hans Einar “it’s really amazing when there are sea lions here” and “I remember the place being full of sea lions” and “just imagine this enclosed space filled with hundreds of barking sea lions”. He smiled and put his arm around my shoulders to comfort me and my dashed childhood memories of the Sea Lion Cave.
Upon exiting the elevator for our trip back to the car, we ran into a couple who were getting ready to enter the elevator. I blurted out “there are no sea lions” and we stopped to chat. They told us that they had just come from Newport, Oregon where there had seen hundreds of sea lions just hanging around the rocks near the town center and just under the pier…and you could watch them for free! So, we left the “cave of wonder and enchantment” and headed the 40 miles north to Newport where we did, indeed, see hundreds of sea lions. We stood for almost an hour (just enough time for me to take 107 photos), enthralled by a small flock of sea lions lounging around the pier. Dashed childhood memories rescued!
A small selection of photos of these truly amazing creatures.
To be fair to the Sea Lion Cave attraction, their website does state in its frequently-asked-questions section that “we are not a zoo and the sea lions come and go as they please”. They encourage travellers to call ahead before visiting, as do I.
Two and a half hours later we arrived at Cannon Beach. I had selected a hotel with a view of Cannon Beach’s most famous landmark, Haystack Rock, a 72-meter sea stack that is a nesting site for puffins in April each year. The hotel room did indeed have a splendid view of Haystack Rock and my first glimpse was from our balcony at sunset. Unlike the Sea Lion Cave, it did not disappoint.
No trip down an American child’s memory lane is complete without a trip down “candy lane”, and it was at Cannon Beach and its neighbouring Seaside, that I had enjoyed my favourite treats. Being on a mission to find my childhood candies, we took a trip to Seaside and the Buzz on Broadway candy store. The owners, Steve and Carolyn, have clearly understood the post-baby-boomers-on-a-mission mentality and have stocked their store to meet our needs. Their website notes:
When people walk into our store for the first time, they seem to turn into children! The memories of childhood treats and stories connected to great times are discussed. Over and over we hear “Oh I haven’t seen these since I was a kid!”
I was no exception, as I walked around taking photos and exclaiming to a slightly bewildered Norwegian “oh I forgot all about these” and “I can’t believe these still exist”! From the now politically incorrect bubble gum cigarettes to the multi-coloured, wax-paper-wrapped taffy, from the chocolate-covered sea foam to the Beeman’s chewing gum, this place aimed to please and for me, it certainly did!
While strolling in Seaside, we happened by a closed indoor amusement park where, through the grimy windows, I spotted a Tilt-A-Whirl, a ride in which two or three people sit in a freely-spinning car “whirling around” on a rotating platform. I exclaimed to Hans Einar “oh, that is the ride I was on with my sister Judi who began throwing up and the guy running the ride didn’t see her and kept the ride going as vomit was being flung back over me!”. My wonderful, bewildered Norwegian husband had to laugh at that one. The description of a Tilt-a-Whirl on Wikipedia notes “The ride is commonly known for making riders experience nausea”. Wish I had know that before I got on the ride with my sensitive-stomached sister!
My memories of Cannon Beach are of cold, blustery days, us girls bundled in blankets, lounging on those 1960s aluminum lawn chairs with woven webbing, throwing off our blankets from time to time to run giggling into the ocean, barely getting our feet wet before running back giggling to my parents who sat bundled in blankets of their own (yes, we Bensky girls giggled a lot!).
My grandmother, Lily travelled from Houston to Portland to visit us during the summer months and I have strong images of running, cold and, yes, giggling into her outstretched arms for a warm hug. Lily’s 10 grandchildren called her “Mamar”, a tradition that began when her first-born grandchild’s pronunciation of “Grandma” sounded like “mamar” (a tradition that continues to this day with the new generation of Mamars in our family). My Mamar is no longer with us but since my memories of Cannon Beach (and so much of my childhood) include her, my Lily of the Valley, I instinctively felt the need to pay tribute to a grand lady with a small gesture: