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Coastal journey: Coos Bay or bust

Summer’s inferno is on a tear with flame and fearsome temperatures. Some folks swear they predict the approach of a cold front through achy joints. I sense the heat index rising with the first cicada’s refrain, the assembling of the county fair Tilt-a-Whirl, and the appearance of two or three zucchinis of the Cricket Bat variety in my fridge.

There’s no mistaking when the signs line up. That’s when my seagull friends beckon.

Lane conveniently had a meeting scheduled with the owner of Second Street Gallery in Bandon. He also had an invitation from the Coos Art Museum to propose a show there, so we had good excuses to flee the valley sweat box, if only for a few blessed days.

Normally I opt for Highway 42 below Winston when Bandon is the goal. But since my trip with Ann to Umpqua a couple weeks back, I knew a backroad that needed exploring. We drove a few extra miles north to the Sutherlin/Elkton exit and used rural byway 138, which would direct us northwest to the tiny town of Elkton, nestled in the coastal mountains through some of the prettiest countryside you’d want to slip through.

I’d heard that Elkton vintners produced their own wines, and it’s one of the newest AVA’s (American Viticultural Area) in Oregon, meaning that the soil, climate and/or geography is unique. I was curious about their grape.

We had the road to ourselves, and a natural beauty it is as part of the Umpqua Scenic Byway, with the river of the same name running alongside. About 26 miles later we pulled into Elkton hungry and hoping the restaurant we’d visited years before was still open. The place is Tomaselli’s Pastry Mill & Café. It’s a mere coincidence that I keep ending up in bakeries. I had Asian chicken salad, which satisfied, but next time I’ll boldly order a choker setter sandwich (corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese), on gluten-free bread, then dare them to toss me out on my GF ear. Anyway, they offer a wide variety of delicious-sounding fare.

Following lunch, we walked across the street to Brandborg Vineyard & Winery, where we visited with owner Terry Brandborg and sipped a few of the several vintages offered, many local to Elkton. I brought home a spicy pinot noir.

Westward along Highway 38, we reached a rest area and favorite tourist spot where I saw some fat cows lying in the grass. Now before you accuse me of crass insensitivity, I refer to cows of the elk persuasion. It’s a sanctuary where the elk know they’re off limits to hunters and spend a great deal of time chewing, lounging and shooting the breeze. They don’t seem to mind the gawkers, and one can always tell where the gang is holed up by the number of cars pulled off in any of several areas.

Reedsport is where Highway 38 ends and becomes Highway 101 as we head south to Coos Bay. The Coos Art Museum is the cornerstone of visual arts on Oregon’s southern coast and is housed in the former post office. The museum is currently showing its 25th Maritime Exhibit through September 29. If you love beautiful paintings of boats, the sea and related subjects, I highly recommend viewing these pieces by artists from all over the United States. They’re for sale, and you can vote for your top three.

We visited three additional galleries upstairs with works by regional artists, a permanent collection, and a room devoted to photos and trophies of the famed hometown Olympian and U of O track star Steve Prefontaine.

Next week I’ll write about our trip south to Bandon by the Sea and how the wind tried to rip my face off.

Reach freelance writer Peggy Dover at pcdover@hotmail.com.