January Roads

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It’s easy to not like January. It’s bleak, it’s past the grand family holidays of December, it has 31 days, and it represents the coldest, hardest, deadest part of winter.

No flowers will bloom until late February, and the daylight, while remaining infinitisimally longer each day, is dulled by steel-grey skies in the long and relentless march to Spring.

I made a playlist for myself but with her in mind. She likes to sing in the car, so I picked every other song to be one she could sing along to.

I sipped on green tea and watched the road for sunless patches where frost and black ice lurk even in the warmer temperatures.

I like getting away from it all, just the two of us, even for a few hours on a Sunday. The way she relaxes when she doesn’t have to worry about all the little details of our life on a daily basis.

We stopped into a local bar to get some clam chowder and fried clam strips. The locals drifted in from their cabins and shops and ate fried fish and played pool. Some just chatted amicably with the bar tender, a scrawny girl in a pony tail who liked to sing along with the juke box blaring redneck ballads one minute and an Elton John and George Michael duet the next.

The people who have proudly adopted the term deplorables in the last election cycle, were once known as the salt of the earth. I liked them better before they adopted that term, because when you meet people who know they are in the salt mines of society, there is no pretense, just honesty.

We listened to their banter, and I wondered what they think about living here on the edge of the West, where it falls off into the great ocean. It’s a hard life. There isn’t much beyond fishing and tourism.

The beach is full of surfers and couples wrapped in blankets. It’s cold for the Oregon Coast, mid-30s with a strong and chilly breeze off the ocean. There is a 10-degree temperature differential between the water and the air. The surfers ride the waves into the beach and then run down the beach to the spot they know they can paddle back out into the waves.

The surf is bigger than I’ve ever seen it before, at least overhead, maybe double overhead. Beautiful, clean lines but very few surfers willing to drop into those bowls.

We walked up the big dune, but not directly. We straddled the side of it and watched the waves break on the rocks below, crashing powerfully under a pristine, blue sky.

I saw a whale spout and tried to help her find it. But it’s too far out to reference against any landmarks succesfully. She frowns in despair or maybe disbelief.

So we meanderd back down to the beach and watched the surfers for a while longer in the noisy, salt-infused atmosphere of the shoreline.

Beachcombing is thirsty work, so we packed up and headed north to Tillamook and De Garde Brewing, the wild ale place peope inland keep talking so much about.

An older couple came in after us, and the barntender asked if the’ve ever had sour beers before. They shook their heads enthusiasticlly, but when they sat down to sample their three beers, they quickly decided they didn’t like it and left abruptly.

I tried a dry hopped saison first, then a two-year-old lambic. Both were good and tasted like the area full of cow farms and sea air and fir trees would smell if I could remember it.

As the sun began its plunge into the ocean, we decided to head home, and I thought about how much I hate having a January birthday. I’d move it to June or July if I could, when everything is ripe and celebrations can stay up as late as the sun does.

The cold welcomed us back to the valley with a reminder of whose grip we are in until the rain returns later this week.

January roads are cold and lonely roads. But things change every sixty miles. So they suit me.


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