** T-Day Road Trip **
This year it was going to be different. This year we would go someplace where there was wind during the Thanksgiving holiday. For too long had we had languished amongst windless days on the Bay in November. Oh sure occasionally a low-pressure system would be hammered further south out of the Gulf of Alaska by a freak turn of the jet stream but it was the exception and not the rule.
This year rather than wait for the wind to come to us we were going to head north to the storm track to find wind. The oracle NOAA was consulted for the all seeing all knowing barometric gradient charts at the surface, 300mb and 500mb. Satellite photos showed a series of cloud edges scalloping one after the other all the way to Vladivostock. Four of them lined up to rapidly hit the Pacific Northwest. So with the vision of small kites and large winds dancing in our brains the call rang out. Road Trip!
Friends in central Oregon were contacted with whom we could share turkey and pumpkin pie, roof cargo box was loaded with kites and boards, dog zone was established between the two rear windows and sundry maps, CDís, road foods, barbeque, cooler and other essentials to survival packed into the final third of the 4runner and we were off.
The first stop along the way was Arcata to visit friends and case out the Big Lagoon. Woe that we had known then that this first stop of our week adventure would be as close as we should come to actually kiting. We knew that the first in the series of fronts was just hitting the Washington coast and expectations were high as the tall redwoods that groaned in my friends yard.
When we arrived at the beach the wind was - just - not - quite - enough - for the big board and big kite combo so out came the trainer kite to at least refresh our skills and give our friend the chance to play with a kite. All the while I am looking over my shoulder thinking its enough wind while my voice of reason is gently reminding me that the wind is on the edge, its an unknown site and if you can not stay upwind your hike out of the marsh could be a bitch. I am blessed with an intelligent woman who knows how to keep me from hurting myself without hurting me.
Safe and now confident that our kite skills had not deteriorated we left Arcata for points north where the second frontís landfall was imminent. When we pulled into Gold Beach the rain was horizontal the ocean waves were fifteen-foot walls of closeouts and the wind was bisecting the beach with the precision of a protractor. Securing a room with a view of the water we sat and waited for something to give and finally it happened. The sun went down and the wind still howled dead on shore right up until sunrise when the wind shut off like a fan hit by a power outage. Nothing left to do but enjoy a glorious walk on the beach in fresh scrubbed air with a buoyant puppy playing in the remnants of deadly surf.
ìNo worries honey, there was a series of fronts and we should be up at Whiskey Run before the next one makes landfall.î So we continued north in our quest for wind and swung into Flores Lake for a look-see. We had heard wonderful stories of butter water and smooth wind coming off the ocean creating a premier location for kiting and windsurfing. I can vouch for the butter water. Without wind it certainly reflected the stillness of the ocean dunes nicely. With great expectations as intact as the initial packing of our kites we turned back onto Highway 101 North and Bandon.
We would have a day to play there before heading over the pass into central Oregon and a shared Thanksgiving dinner with a life long friend. Only that last storm, it seems to have been snow in the mountains. Lots of Snow. So much snow that most of the mountain passes were closed and those that were open were requiring chains and reduced speeds. With yet another front, the biggest of the three to date set to dump more snow on the mountains, and more rain on the coast, and discretion being the better part of valor, and the fact that we had not kited yet on the trip AND the forecast was calling for WIND we opted to stay on the coast with the wind.
And the wind came. Did I mention that this was the biggest of the four fronts that had lined up? We drove down to Whiskey Run and sure enough there were five vehicles lined up on the beach with wet suited figures lined up in their lee. The locals! The kiters! Finally we would get out on the water!
Did I mention that they were huddled in the lee of their vehicles? Turns out there were good reasons for that. The sand was dancing a foot above and across its own surface and dunes were rapidly building up (or disappearing) around driftwood, car tires and kite boards as we watched.
It was one of those days. Who would be the first to brave the conditions and prove to all the others that is really was kitable. Eventually the chomp on the bit became too great for one of the local studs and he rigged his seven grabbed a tiny plank and headed into the surf. By the time he had crossed the first wall of secondary white water he was completely hidden in the trough only to appear as he soared over the next wall of white water a mere remnant of the impact zone he was headed out to. A quick tack and a race back to the beach. One smooth turn in the butter of wave remnants shifting across the flat shallows and out again only to be chased back by an even bigger set of waves, catapulted by a kite lunging in the 50+ gusts. Discretion seemed to have caught up with this kiter too as he came ashore and began to grind his steps backwards up the beach. He was but a few steps before a gust rocketed him vertically about 20 feet, board propellering away in the gust followed by a sickening landing some 50 feet downwind. Safety blown and shock overcome by the local who dared, we decided that maybe it was a bit to radical a day for our first experience in Oregon.
So Thanksgiving was spent at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort enjoying a marvelous holiday buffet and views of the 36-hole complex. The next day would be windless but rainy and as it turned out foggy as well. Into these conditions I decided to play golf, my intrepid girlfriend acting as caddy. The course is billed as one of the best in the world with spectacular views of the ocean. One featured hole is situated directly above the scene of yesterdays ground based boosting. Only the fog was so thick we could not even see the green on a 100-yard par three. Hell we could not even see the end of the tee boxes. So we never did see Whiskey Run from the bluffs.
The game was memorable as was the night spent in their luxury accommodations but the next day we would have to head south to the Bay. As we crossed over Siskiyou Pass and back into California we could just see the leading edge of the fourth front approaching the coast but receding in our rear view mirror. Approaching someone up north with the promise of great wind!