Monday, May 01, 2006

A Passage to Rogue (Part 3): Floating up, in, over and out to Newport.


By Tuesday, April 11th – our seventh day on the road – Graham and I were safely across the Oregon border in Brookings. The remainder of the day after our morning tour of North Coast Brewing Company in Fort Bragg had gone splendidly, with ample afternoon time spent gaping at coastal redwood groves in their remaining preserved pockets of immensity, fortunately under state and federal jurisdiction, in northernmost California.

From Brookings, Rogue was within easy striking distance further up the gorgeous coast. We had planned all along to relax for a final pre-Rogue night somewhere south of Newport, before arriving in the brewery’s home town early Thursday for the day’s expected tour and related gala festivities, but as Mapmaster Graham studied the mileage on Tuesday night as we dined lazily in the midst of a sizeable contingent of senior citizens who reside year-round in Brookings’s numerous RV parks, the thought began to take shape that it made no sense whatsoever to be so close to the Rogue beer paradise and not to proceed there immediately.

There was one sizeable consideration to be heeded: Would we have a place to lay our weary heads? While Thursday night’s V.I.P. accommodations at “Rogue’s House of Bed and Beer,” i.e., the guest rooms upstairs at the Public House on Newport’s historic bay front, had been reserved for us in advance by the brewery’s legendary General Manager, Jim Cline, he would be out of town until late Wednesday at the earliest and unable to intercede.

Either way, we were headed north.

Wednesday breakfast – for me, a homemade sticky bun and cheese Danish with good, strong espresso – was taken at yet another small and exquisite diner in downtown Brookings.

It’s worth noting that somewhere around Eureka, California, we’d started noticing drive-through espresso kiosks. I had been forewarned about their ubiquity by my wife, a former resident of Seattle, who has long characterized their absence from the Louisville urban scene as a sure sign of decadence and decay.

As usual, she’s right. If a coffee table book depicting drive-through espresso stands hasn’t already been done, be the first – and get caffeinated.

It was another in series of incredible drives past beaches, bluffs, sand dunes and logging operations, the latter becoming increasingly obvious the further north we drove. Clear-cut forest certainly is a depressing sight at first glance, but less so when reassurance is forthcoming in the form of mass tree plantings. The resource is renewable, and trees will grow back. As society grows increasingly paperless, perhaps some of the trees won’t need to be felled again.

We paused for lunch on Wednesday in Florence, fifty miles from Newport, and visited the local tourist information bureau, where Graham inquired of the elderly gentleman on duty as to where we might find the town’s best place to eat.

He responded that it would be impolite to suggest one over another, to which Graham asked, “where are you going today for lunch?” The man pointed to a cafĂ© across the street, and there we adjourned for what proved to be improbably large homemade Malibu Chicken sandwiches. I dug out a phone number for the Rogue general offices and soon was chatting with a helpful representative.

She promised a return call, and within minutes I’d been given a confirmation to use the same two-bedroom suite for both Wednesday and Thursday. We were in! Now, finally, was the time to get excited at the prospect of sampling pints of Rogue’s many classic styles, fresh and at the source, and unimpeded by considerations of drinking and driving.

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Prior to the construction of Highway 101 in the 1930’s, water-based communications and transport were speedier than wagons crawling across the forested mountains on mud tracks -- as in the case of the construction of the lighthouse at scenic Heceta Point.

Materials for the lighthouse itself, two large frame houses for the light keepers, and various support structures were shipped in, loaded onto flatboats to shore, pulled up to the promontory and assembled.

So was the very expensive and mechanically ingenious lamp itself, an interconnected network of prisms rotating on a carriage powered by clockworks, in the middle of which was a simple kerosene lamp optically magnified to throw a signal 21 miles out into the ocean.

For reasons unclear to me, this long overdue primer on the theory and practice of the lighthouse made me extremely thirsty. Fortunately, relief was a short time in coming.

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Oregon’s stretch of Highway 101 is known as the Oregon Coast Highway, and as it passes through the state on its route from Los Angeles, California to Olympia, Washington, an abundance of graceful, stylish arch bridges carry the roadway over bays and waterways. Most of these bridges were designed by a renowned engineer named Conde McCullough and date from the time of the road’s construction in the 1930’s.

One such span passes long and high over the entrance to Yaquina Bay, marking the Newport harbor, with fishing boats of all sizes and purposes crowded into a commercial marina alongside the city’s original northside bay front and another, a leisure craft docking facility, serenely lying across the water to the south.

Providentially, each side of the bay has its own unique Rogue dispensing station, one within the brewery complex itself, next to the sporting craft southward, and the other our first destination upon arrival: The Rogue Ales Public House, which appropriately faces a fishery building near the area where the working boats congregate.

Graham parked the Crown Vic in the municipal lot next door, and we giddily made our entrance, facing an imposing display of two-dozen Rogues on tap and an early afternoon crowd.

“What’ll you be having?”

A tough question, indeed.

We were about to spend two sessions on separate days and locations attempting to answer it.

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