Bandon Oregon is the kind of place I hope to find on my latitude travels, weaving together the places and people and narrative directly East and West of Manchester, Vermont, around the world.
I arrived to Bandon with the helpful driving power of my good friend Jason. We departed from Portland, Oregon in the mid-afternoon, and coursed our way down towards the Southern Oregon coast line.
We were lucky to find a camp site along the coast, given that this is peak summer season, and with the total solar eclipse just a few days away.
The camp site happened to be at Bullards Beach State Park, a place far more beautiful than is possible to understand from the distance of google maps and online imagery.
Coos Bay, just to the North of the beach park, is where the lumber industry and the ocean seem to meet. Stacks of lumber along the highway, a beautiful marina in the setting sun as well.
We zoomed through and on to Bandon so we could find our campsite- a yurt- before sunset, and catch that sunset on the desolate beach, facing the sun and looking west, essentially to Hokkaido Japan.
Bullards Beach Park is exactly and directly West of Manchester Vermont, where my latitude travel meets the pacific ocean.
You can pick which latitude line you want to explore, but you can’t pick what’s on that latitude line. So it is exciting when you come to a place like Bullards, a place you may not have gone otherwise, but a special gem of a place. It’s what you hope to find- perhaps off the beaten path because it is a small place along the coast, and hours from any major cities or airports. The solid five hours it took us to get there says it all- a forgotten beach outside the normal range of our lives.
The tormentuous Oregon coast with a strong wind and ceaseless waves, tall sand dunes and a beach holding some of the waves in a kind of collection of ocean water oasis, where birds hunt for morsels, meets us, as well as a setting sun. The haziness of the sky from fires somewhere more inland gives way to a crisp blue sky at dusk.
This arrival feels important because it is a bookend to my original latitude trip to Ogunquit Maine, my latitude line’s entrance to the Atlantic Ocean (just an hour or so north of Boston), and here is another strong addition to the latitude narrative.
Bandon is a small town- population 2,500 or so. It’s downtown is a couple blocks, but there are good places to eat and plenty to do relative to the size of the town. It seems that Bandon has a lively arts scene given its small size, and with a non-profit connecting arts with efforts to clean up the ocean.
Bandon has a small museum that is the quintessential small town museum. A little bit of everything, newspaper clippings, old equipment and machinery representative of Bandon’s three historic industries- lumber, cranberries, and cheese. All three of those industries have latitude connections. I notice some old equipment in the museum manufactured in Rochester, NY.
With Bandon, it’s not hard to see the movement West of settlers in the US that gained steam with the Erie Canal, and ended here in the late 1800’s, with the promise and potential of gold to discover.
Two major fires loom large in the history of Bandon in the early 20th century. Residents used the terms AF and BF- ‘after the fire’ and ‘before the fire’.
A historic lighthouse warns boats and ships along the treacherous coast.
Moving inland, we arrive to Coqueville, directly East along the Coqueville river. It seems a little more truggling than Bandon, losing the lure of the coast, but it has its own charm.
There seems to be a thriving small theater- the Sawdust- and plans for a riverwalk along the Coqueville, where Georgia Pacific had once operated, but closed up shop.
Approaching Roseburg, we start to sense we are running out of time. Roseburg is a larger city center for the region.
Bandon had so much to offer, with the addition of Coqueville as a kind of local latitude sister town, that we felt full on the sense of discovery.
The desolate coast reminded me of Costa de Morte, in Galicia, with a lonely lighthouse overlooking crashing waves.
Why am I here? Because of the latitude line. A, I happy I am here? Yes.
Bandon provides another gift. It turns out that Jules Verne wrote a book featuring the location as a utopian community- a latitude must read for sure, and something more to explore.