Aug 192020

I’m tired of telling you in every blog that I spent the day writing, and I’m pretty sure you are tired of reading it, so today I thought it would repost a blog from June of 2011 about one of our favorite small town gems.

We love getting off the interstate highways and taking the two-lane roads whenever we can. As I have said many times before, a Denny’s or a chain hotel at an interstate exit in Kansas is no different than one in Michigan or California. But the two-lane roads will take you to the real America. Small towns where you can sit in a diner on Main Street, where the waitress will call you honey or dear, and by the time you finish your lunch, you will know who is cheating on who, who just bought a new pickup truck, and who’s out of work. You will meet friendly people, see things you never imagined, and learn a lot about history in these small-town gems scattered from border to border and coast to coast.

After a quiet morning at home, we crossed the bridge into Oregon, and spent yesterday afternoon exploring Astoria. This charming and friendly little community at the mouth of the Columbia River was the first permanent American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.

Astoria started life as a fur trading outpost in 1811, and has a long and colorful history. The Lewis and Clark Expedition discovered the region when they came through here in 1805, and in 1811, John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Trading Company established an outpost at the site of present-day Astoria. Since then, Astoria has thrived as a fishing community and an important deep-sea shipping port. Over the years it has seen good times and bad times, but the good people of Astoria have worked together to build a town to be proud of.

We drove to the top of Coxcomb Hill, where the beautiful 125 foot tall Astoria Column dominates the skyline and offers incredible views to those who are willing to climb the 164 steps to the viewing platform at the top. Greg White and Miss Terry grabbed their cameras and made the trek to the top, while Jan White and I stayed down below, ready to catch them if they fell.

Astoria Column

Built in 1926, the Column is decorated with fourteen 25 foot long scenes depicting the history of the Pacific Northwest. The art form is known as sgraffito, which combines carving and painting into the tower’s concrete surface.

Column artwork close

The 360 degree view from the top is unforgettable, and includes the Columbia River, the deeply forested mountains, Astoria, and the bridge to Washington. 

Columbia River view

Astoria from above

Astoria from above 3

When we left the Column, we drove up and down some of Astoria’s steep streets in the residential areas, admiring the beautiful old Victorian homes and small cottages that had us rubbernecking in every block.

Astoria house

Astoria house 2

Astoria house 4

If Astoria looks familiar to you, it may be because is has been the backdrop for many movies, including The Goonies, The Ring Two, Come See The Paradise, Kindergarten Cop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Point Break, Free Willy, Short Circuit, and The Road, to name just a few. The house where characters Mikey and Brand lived in The Goonies is a private residence, located at 368 38th Street, and the folks who live there are used to fans of the movie walking by to take a photograph.

Goonies House

Astoria has a busy waterfront, with commercial fishing boats, huge ocean going freighters, and pleasure craft plying the waters. The Columbia River Maritime Museum, located on the waterfront, tells the story of the region’s nautical history, and we’ll be going back to Astoria to tour the museum while we’re here.

Ship in Columbia River

We drove a few miles east on U.S. Highway 30, to the Twilight Creek Eagle Sanctuary, which is a popular breeding ground for bald eagles, and where as many as 50 of the birds are known to congregate. Unfortunately, the day had turned gray and windy, with a pronounced chill, and we only saw one eagle, flying too high to get a good picture of.

About 5 p.m. we drove back to Long Beach for a nice birthday dinner for Miss Terry at a Mexican restaurant called El Compadre. The food was good, and we’ll go back before we leave the area.

Thought For The Day – Today I discovered that there is no popcorn in popcorn shrimp. I was also disapponted in the pot roast.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  5 Responses to “Astoria, Small Town Gem”

  1. Thanks for this blog, Nick. I hope we get to go to this area next summer. Can you recommend some RV parks/campgrounds in this area.


  2. Debbie, we usually stayed at the Thousand Trails in Long Beach, Washington or the one in Seaside, Oregon. There are several campgrounds in both towns, and both are a short drive from Astoria.

  3. Hi Nick and Terry, we are currently staying at the Thousand Trails in Long Beach Washington and recently visited the Astoria Column. The column itself is closed because of Covid but you are able to walk the grounds and have a picnic checking out the beautiful scenery. The Long Beach Kite festival was cancelled as was the car show. So sad this year. Hope all is well. Jerry and Sylvia

  4. Great description of Astoria and surrounding areas. I live in Ocean Park, on the Long Beach Peninsula. El Compadre is my favorite restaurant here!

  5. Sounds like a wonderful destination. Thank you for the photos to enjoy. I noticed that about popcorn shrimp, too!

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