Ichiban Sushi Bar, Florence, OR

I forgot to write about the Ichiban Sushi Bar in Florence when I was on the Oregon Coast and it definitely warrants a post!

This is a restaurant I would not have walked into for sushi without a recommendation since it is a combination ‘Chinese’ and Japanese establishment. But I was in the electronics department of Fred Meyer and overheard the cashier tell the couple ahead of me that they just had to try this restaurant and that only good things were being heard about it.

I headed there the next day for lunch and was greeted like a celebrity. What friendly, happy people work there! The restaurant is new and the decor is fresh and clean.

The server started by telling me the specials, which included tempura rolls and ones with cream cheese. I told the server I don’t like those and he left me to peruse the the huge and extensive menu that includes several combo meals. I decided to go the more expensive à la carte route and ordered cautiously: miso soup, a tempura entrée, and tekka maki (tuna rolls).

The meal started off well with a miso soup that had a drop of soy sauce in it. The broth was very hearty, the seaweed chewy, and the tofu tender. Perfect! Same thing with the tempura, which included broccoli, yams, zucchini, and shrimp; light on the batter and the oil did not taste old. Tekka maki is such a simple roll, but it’s a good one to test how fresh the sushi is and this one was fresh, with the sweet sashimi almost melting in my mouth.

Everything was so good that when the waiter came by to ask me how I was doing I asked for a menu so I could order another roll!

I asked for something with salmon. I was then paid what I consider a compliment; the server said “I know you prefer traditional Japanese rolls [not entirely true since I like spicy tuna and California rolls], but our Oregon roll is very delicious.” At this point, I can’t recall all the ingredients, but I know it included salmon, imitation crab, a bit of mayo, and sesame seeds. I decided to try it and, oh! YUM! It’s definitely not something I would have tried on my own and I am glad I trusted the server. It was savoury and sweet, tender and chewy, basically everything that defines what makes sushi so addictive.

I would have loved to order one more thing, but I was stuffed by this point so I called for the bill. With tip and only water to drink it came to $20. A bit expensive for lunch, but reasonable for going with individual choices instead of a special.

Ichiban is located right on highway 101, on the west side of the road, just a few blocks north of the intersection with highway 126. It’s up from the road a bit and you could definitely park an RV in the lot.

South of Florence on the Oregon Coast

Tuesday morning, I was expecting Joan who was driving down from Salem two hours away. She hadn’t confirmed her arrival time, but I didn’t think she’d arrive before noon. So, I got up around 8:30 and went to the Starbucks where the wifi was misbehaving badly. It wasn’t a lost morning, though, since they ran out of dark roast and I got an espresso for the same price. Love when that happens. 🙂

I finally decided that the universe was telling me to get my butt back home, which I did, and there was Joan at about 9:30! She hadn’t slept a wink because yesterday she closed on the sale of her RV! I have been ‘mid-wifing’ the process since I got here but haven’t written about this in any great detail, waiting for Joan’s ‘I bought a rig!’ post.

Joan had an adventure with the security detail while she was waiting for me and I am sharing this story with her permission. She walked up to security to let them know she’s my friend so they wouldn’t question her about being parked by Miranda. This conversation ensued:

Joan: I’m here to see my friend Rae, but her car’s not here!
Security: Then she’s not home!

Bwa ha ha ha.

Neither one of us had had any breakfast (I rarely eat at Starbucks; the food is crap and overpriced) so I suggested we head over to the Dune Diner at the corner of 101 and 126, a little cafe I’d noticed on my outings.

I had some of the worst coffee of my life there, but the pancake (singular; they are HUGE in the States!) was very delicious, as was the sausage. We lingered over our meal and eventually headed out. I was driving and pointed the car south since I’d been north on Monday.

The drive south from Florence is more inland, making me very glad that I went north on Monday. We got to Coos Bay, where there is a Walmart, and Joan had mentioned wanting to stop in a Walmart if we passed one, so that’s where we spent the rest of the morning. The sun was shining and I just knew that this utterly ridiculous start to the day was going to bookend an extraordinary adventure. I figured that looking at curtains and sheets with Joan was karmic payback for subjecting Donna to that in Omak in the fall! 🙂

My GPS has been acting up and took us south of Coos Bay from the Walmart, but the detour on Seven Devils Road was worth it. It was a scenic, twisty route with no businesses whatsoever that was a ton of fun in my zippy subcompact. It actually reminded me a lot of being on the back roads of Dawson City!

Joan had mentioned possibly doing a dune buggy ride, so we decided to pull into Sandland Adventures just south of Florence to find out if and when there were tours and then schedule lunch around the answer. There were two options; rides in the small dune buggies for $25 per person, or on the giant one for $12 a person. Neither one of us was too sure about doing the little one so we tentatively booked a seat on the bigger one, with the understanding that the tour would only be a go if two more people showed up. We decided that if no one else showed up, we’d take a chance and do the little buggy.

We had less than a half hour to kill, so we agreed to have an early supper (or linner, as I like to call it) and forget lunch. We both had enough of a snack to tide us over. We went down the highway a bit to a state park so that I could get an idea of what the dunes look like. I was amused to find people sitting in the sun on the beach of a lake. Kids were actually wading in the shallow water!

We went back to Sandlands and tons of people had showed up so the ride on the big dune buggy was a go. I’ve never been on a sand dune of any importance and ‘riding in a dune buggy’ has been on my bucket list, but doing the little kind really wasn’t important. As it turns out, I’m glad I started with the big one; it was plenty thrilling!

I can’t even describe what it felt like to ride out into that landscape, to emerge from deciduous forest into an arid playground. There were tons of people out on the dunes in ATVs and dune buggies enjoying the gorgeous weather and performing all manner of stunts.

The half hour ride felt like an eternity in the best way possible. Our guide gave us a fantastic ride, the highlights of which were when he took us down nearly 90 degree face cliffs! I can honestly say that the last time I had a rush like this was in the summer of 2002 when I went white water rafting for the first time and went over a 16 foot waterfall! Oh, this didn’t have the jolt of that, by far, but you still get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you go over the edge, especially the first time when you don’t know what to expect.

Near the end of the tour, we stopped and had a chance to walk on the dunes for a bit. Joan got a picture of me and I have to laugh; I am SO not dressed for hiking around the dunes and look completely out of place!

This was a half hour that will be seared into my memory. It is the kind of half hour that reminds me why I have chosen to live this life. Thank you so, so, so much to Joan for initiating me to the Oregon dunes. I don’t think I would have thought to do the tour on my own. Doing it with a friend made it even more memorable.

It was coming on to five when the tour was done, so we headed back to the casino to have dinner at the buffet. It was steak and shrimp night. I don’t eat steak, but there were plenty of other offerings, like shrimp linguine, mustard salmon, and BBQ chicken so it was still worth my eating there. I really ate more than I should have, but I hadn’t had lunch! I gave my steak ticket to four guys sitting at the table next to me. I happened to cross paths with them later and they admitted that even split four ways, the extra steak was a bit much for them, but thank you!!!

Dinner came with $4 in free slot play. After Joan and I made our goodbyes, I decided to head up to play the slots. I actually enjoy playing slots and have played an average of $5 a night since I got here, not counting my $10 in free play. $5 to $10 a day is my limit on the penny slots; I can usually stretch that into a good half hour to forty-five minutes of fun. I don’t play slots every time I can (I’d have been broke doing that in Dawson!), but since I’ve been dry camping here I felt that $5 to $10 a day was more than fair for my spot.

By then, I knew which machine I liked, so I went straight to it. I had to put $1 of my own money into the machine to get my $4 in play. Within a minute and a half, I’d won $20. A minute after that, I won another $20! I played down my $4 in free slot, got my balance back up, and cashed out at $42.20! A perfect end to a perfect day with a wonderful friend!

Winchester Bay

Winchester Bay

Winchester Bay

Winchester Bay

Winchester Bay

Winchester Bay

Winchester Bay

Winchester Bay

Winchester Bay

Winchester Bay

ie. Do Not Mess With the Dunes

ie. Do Not Mess With the Dunes

dunes by a lake

dunes by a lake

dunes by a lake

dunes by a lake

dunes by a lake

dunes by a lake

dunes by a lake

dunes by a lake

dunes by a lake

dunes by a lake

lake by dunes

lake by dunes

our dune buggy

our dune buggy

ride of a lifetime provided by Sand Dunes Frontier

ride of a lifetime provided by Sand Dunes Frontier

the smaller, more roller-coaster-type, dune buggy

the smaller, more roller-coaster-type, dune buggy

Joan fiddling with her camera

Joan fiddling with her camera

climbing up to the dunes through the trees

climbing up to the dunes through the trees

*gasp*

*gasp*

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*still gasping*

*still gasping*

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the grass was imported from Europe to keep the sand off highway 101

the grass was imported from Europe to keep the sand off highway 101

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about to go over the edge

about to go over the edge

we went down that dark slope!

we went down that dark slope!

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another steep descent

another steep descent

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(still gasping)

(still gasping)

one small step for Rae...

one small step for Rae…

first step in a lunar landscape

first step in a lunar landscape

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dunes and ocean

dunes and ocean

I look like I got dropped out of a spaceship! LOL

I look like I got dropped out of a spaceship! LOL

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Last Shots of Eugene (Valley River Center) and First Shots of Florence (Heceta Water District)

Let me take you way back to last Sunday when I quit Eugene for Florence. The Valley River Center is a really great urban dry camping spot; it’s conveniently located and scenic! Below are a few pictures of where I was parked, along the Willamette River and the bike path.

After doing some internet stuff in the evening in Florence, I took off in the car to look for some ocean and did not need to go any further than the Heceta Water District where I had fun playing in the sand.

Miranda at River Valley Center, Eugene

Miranda at River Valley Center, Eugene

Miranda at River Valley Center, Eugene

Miranda at River Valley Center, Eugene

Miranda at River Valley Center, Eugene

Miranda at River Valley Center, Eugene

Miranda at River Valley Center, Eugene

Miranda at River Valley Center, Eugene

Heceta Water District

Heceta Water District

Heceta Water District

Heceta Water District

hmm...

hmm…

:)

🙂

Heceta Water District

Heceta Water District

Heceta Water District

Heceta Water District

Heceta Water District

Heceta Water District

In case that's not clear, it's about a $475 fine for parking overnight in an RV in this lot!

In case that’s not clear, it’s about a $475 fine for parking overnight in an RV in this lot!

Hood River Stopover

Yesterday, I pulled out of Florence around noon and drove straight through to the first rest stop north of Eugene. The trip was much easier this time around. I didn’t have far to go so I took a full hour for lunch then continued on to the Camping World in Wilsonville. This is a great overnight spot in an ocean of NO OVERNIGHT RV PARKING signs. I was told that so long as you don’t block the bays or stay for ‘like a week’, they ‘don’t care’ if folks overnight. I’m going to come back to this night soon as I can get pictures posted because the rigs parked along side me were rather memorable.

My stupid GPS told me there was a McDonald’s nearby, so I walked there to look for internet, but there were none of the businesses it promised in the area. By that time, I’d walked a couple of kilometres in the direction opposite the Starbucks and it was getting dark, so I just went back home.

This rainy morning, I’m following the Columbia River along I-84. I have a spot picked out for tonight but won’t reveal it until I know if it pans out or not. I will try to tag back in later in a more relaxed fashion, but I’m parked at the RV unfriendly Walmart and don’t want to push my luck.

North Along the Oregon Coast From Florence

I still have some photos of Eugene to share, but after a total of three hours over as many days, I finally have all the pictures about my Monday in Florence uploaded, so I’m giving this post top priority! I had wanted to integrate pictures into the post, but do not want to push my luck with the connection dropping out as it does, so please scroll down after all the bla bla bla for the illustrations.

The Oregon coast wasn’t on my bucket list. To put things into perspective, remember that I have seen the Pacific Ocean from Baja to San Francisco, Bellingham to Skagway. I’ve tasted the Arctic Ocean and traveled the Atlantic from Gaspé to Jacksonville. I’ve been around the whole of the Scottish coast, splashed around in the Hebrides, and the Orkneys, and have very nearly been sea sick on a choppy North Sea crossing. In short, I’ve seen more ocean than many people see in a lifetime.

I think that the niggle that I just had to see the Oregon coast started with Croft. Then just about every person I spoke to since I got to Oregon told me to make a detour to the coast. The guy at the Eugene Starbucks told me it would break his heart for me to miss the coast when I was so close. I decided that coming out to Florence with Miranda, two hundred kilometres round trip, could be fit into the budget since I’d have a free place to stay.

Florence is almost right in the middle of the Oregon coast. Once here, and settled, it was time to decide which way I’d explore on Monday, north or south? I did a bit of research and decided that north had more things I was interested in than south. I’d been given a list of suggestions for things to do in far flung corners of the state, like Tillamook, but I decided to set my limit at no more than about one hundred kilometres, the town of Newport, so as to give me a full day, yes, but also plenty of time to savour the sights along the way.

I quickly learned just what it is that makes the Oregon coast so special. Most of it is still truly wild since the government had the foresight to reserve most of it for park land. I have never seen coast like this before! It just goes to show how there is always something to astound the most jaded traveler.

First stop of the day was the Heceta Point lighthouse. It’s quite a hike to the top!

Next stop was Cape Perpetua. I did a lot of hiking here, but did not take too many pictures since I was in rain forest like any other and also because I’d forgotten to charge my camera the night before. Better save it for more memorable shots.

Newport was anti-climatic. They’re doing major roadwork and my GPS couldn’t keep up, taking me down dead end streets and through constructions before leading me to The Steepest Hill in the Universe. Seriously, do not wander around Newport in an RV without a topographic map! Newport also has the most randomly placed dump site I’ve ever seen. Anyway, I had a full morning of hiking behind me and was ravenous, so lunch was foremost on my mind. I wound up having truly forgettable teriyaki at the Yummy Noodle. I knew what to expect–very North Americanized ‘Chinese and Japanese’ cuisine, and I was right. There was nothing wrong with the food; I just don’t think it’s necessary to deep fry everything or add a ton of sugar to it.

Newport has an aquarium with a $16 admission cost. Research on it told me that it was a mid-range aquarium, the kind that is good value to those who have never been to that sort of establishment and over priced for those who have seen larger facilities. I passed.

Coming home, I stopped at a number of turnouts to get some photos, most notably of Cook’s Chasm bridge and Devil’s Churn. The latter particularly impressed me! I also talked myself out of going into a fudge place, with my will power astounding me.

The final stop of the day was the Sea Lion Caves. I was really apprehensive about this. A fellow on the sea lion dock in San Francisco had told me back in ’07 to add the Sea Lion Caves to my bucket list, but hadn’t really recorded that memory. I’d seen a few reviews and they varied too much for me to be able to determine if they are a tourist trap or not. I decided to let the admission price decide for me if I was going or not. $15 or less, go, $16 or more, pass. Admission was $12.

You have to go down two flights of stairs then down a long exterior concrete pathway to reach the Elevator that will whisk you down the equivalent of twenty stories in just fifty seconds! When the doors opened in the cave, my first thought was ‘tourist trap’: I was looking at a very dark cave with a few exhibits and the walls seemed to be made of paper maché. But the strong animal smell boosted my confidence a little and I followed the sound of non-human chatter to a platform that looked out onto one of the most amazing vistas I have ever seen…

There had to be hundreds of sea lions below me on the rocks and dozens playing in the water. The cave itself was immense. I stood there for a full half hour entranced, listening to the sea lions chattering and watching the waves come crashing in. The two dozen or so human observers were deathly quiet, all entranced. A young girl next to me could not be convinced to leave. If the sea lions noticed their audience, they did not let on, remaining very dignified in their poses, occasionally scratching an itch or body surfing the waves.

From the cave, it’s possible to climb up a staircase to a viewpoint for the Heceta Lighhouse. From there, I could see more sea lions, and whales, playing in the surf, enjoying the rare sun.

The Sea Lion Caves are completely worth a visit. Just be sure to do so when the sea lions are in. Summer is not the best time to go. Late winter, early spring, and the fall are perfect.

After all the hiking and climbing I’d done today getting back to the entrance in the gift shop was a lot of work. I was headed for the door when I heard the most damnable words in the English language: “Would you like to try our fudge?” Oh, what the heck. I had a bite of savoury chocolate and pecan and the burst of sugar and protein was most welcome. Unlike a lot of fudge places that sell pieces that are too big for a single person, this one was okay with my buying just a small chunk for a treat. It was a nice dessert that night!

The camera was out of juice by then, but still managed to get two final pictures.

from the parking lot of Heceta Lighthouse

from the parking lot of Heceta Lighthouse

from the parking lot of Heceta Lighthouse

from the parking lot of Heceta Lighthouse

from the parking lot of Heceta Lighthouse

from the parking lot of Heceta Lighthouse

from the parking lot of Heceta Lighthouse

from the parking lot of Heceta Lighthouse

from the parking lot of Heceta Lighthouse

from the parking lot of Heceta Lighthouse

from the parking lot of Heceta Lighthouse

from the parking lot of Heceta Lighthouse

Heceta Lighthouse

Heceta Lighthouse

hiking up to the Heceta Lighthouse

hiking up to the Heceta Lighthouse

the windows were plastered over to protect against vandals

the windows were plastered over to protect against vandals

"the entertainment centre"

“the entertainment centre”

spiral staircase to the top

spiral staircase to the top

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this 200lb weight used to control the speed at which the light would rotate

this 200lb weight used to control the speed at which the light would rotate

window wells are still thick here but would get thinner as the lighthouse closed in on itself near the top, for stability

window wells are still thick here but would get thinner as the lighthouse closed in on itself near the top, for stability

staircase getting narrower

staircase getting narrower

modern-day mechanism

modern-day mechanism

first degree Fresnel lens

first degree Fresnel lens

looking down towards the parking lot

looking down towards the parking lot

looking up at the window from that last shot

looking up at the window from that last shot

from the base of the Heceta Lighthouse

from the base of the Heceta Lighthouse

former lightkeeper's residence, now a luxury B&B

former lightkeeper’s residence, now a luxury B&B

interesting plant at Perpetua Point (I think Joan said it's skunk cabbage)

interesting plant at Perpetua Point (I think Joan said it’s skunk cabbage)

interesting plant at Perpetua Point (I think Joan said it's skunk cabbage)

interesting plant at Perpetua Point (I think Joan said it’s skunk cabbage)

Perpetua Point

Perpetua Point

Perpetua Point

Perpetua Point

Perpetua Point

Perpetua Point

Perpetua Point

Perpetua Point

a randomly located dump station in Newport

a randomly located dump station in Newport

bridge in Newport

bridge in Newport

Devil's Churn

Devil’s Churn

Devil's Churn

Devil’s Churn

Devil's Churn

Devil’s Churn

Devil's Churn

Devil’s Churn

Devil's Churn

Devil’s Churn

Devil's Churn

Devil’s Churn

Devil's Churn

Devil’s Churn

Devil's Churn

Devil’s Churn

along 101 going south

along 101 going south

along 101 going south

along 101 going south

Cook's Chasm bridge plaque

Cook’s Chasm bridge plaque

Cook's Chasm bridge

Cook’s Chasm bridge

Cook's Chasm

Cook’s Chasm

info about Cook's Chasm Bridge

info about Cook’s Chasm Bridge

Bray's Point

Bray’s Point

Bray's Point

Bray’s Point

Bray's Point

Bray’s Point

Bray's Point

Bray’s Point

Bray's Point

Bray’s Point

Bray's Point

Bray’s Point

Bray's Point

Bray’s Point

this San Francisco Chronicle about the missing Sea Lions is dated summer 2010

this San Francisco Chronicle about the missing Sea Lions is dated summer 2010

this San Francisco Chronicle about the missing Sea Lions is dated summer 2010

this San Francisco Chronicle about the missing Sea Lions is dated summer 2010

this San Francisco Chronicle about the missing Sea Lions is dated summer 2010

this San Francisco Chronicle about the missing Sea Lions is dated summer 2010

this San Francisco Chronicle about the missing Sea Lions is dated summer 2010

this San Francisco Chronicle about the missing Sea Lions is dated summer 2010

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

looking towards Heceta Lighthouse at Sea Lion Caves

looking towards Heceta Lighthouse at Sea Lion Caves

looking towards Heceta Lighthouse at Sea Lion Caves

looking towards Heceta Lighthouse at Sea Lion Caves

looking towards Heceta Lighthouse at Sea Lion Caves

looking towards Heceta Lighthouse at Sea Lion Caves

looking towards Heceta Lighthouse at Sea Lion Caves

looking towards Heceta Lighthouse at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

at Sea Lion Caves

original staircase shaft into the cave

original staircase shaft into the cave

information about the building of the Sea Lion elevator

information about the building of the Sea Lion elevator

pull out on highway 101 looking south

pull out on highway 101 looking south

second to last shot of the day just outside Florence

second to last shot of the day just outside Florence

final shot of the day, the battery was out of juice; not a bad way to end!

final shot of the day, the battery was out of juice; not a bad way to end!