I call the big sprawling campground in Garibaldi, Oregon (about 55 miles south of Astoria) magical mostly because of the free crab meat. Patty, the caretaker/campground angel, brought us over four whole soft shell crabs as a thank you for visiting Oregon (and also because her grandson, like us, lives in Illinois). Already cooked, she cleaned the shell fish in front of us and we were good to go. Then the next morning our fisherman neighbor gave us another crab for the road which we later clumsily cleaned for lunch.
Besides crabs, coastal Oregon gave us plenty of good conversations including one with our (we hope) future selves. It happened at the farmers market in Newport, Oregon where the food stalls were all a family affair with little kids helping their parents serve up delicious eats like kimchi and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Twice in Newport we told someone that we were from Chicago and they immediately mentioned “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” My parents remember a time when people associated Chicago with Al Capone. In the 1990s it was Michael Jordan. Now it’s Peter Sagal.
Anyways, while sitting at a picnic table eating our Japanese noodles and grilled cheese sandwiches, this couple sat down next to us and we began to talk about campers. They had made the leap from tent camping to recreating in a modified, fully self-sufficient Sprinter camper. They also exuded a genuine calming aura that lulled us completely out of our petty trip related concerns (specifically where we were going to spend the night) and into the present. Just prior to lunch we contemplated paying $60 to camp at the KOA in Astoria. This would be by far the most we ever paid for a campground but given the scarcity of campsites over the weekend it seemed a better choice than maybe paying twice that for a motel. After talking to our new friends we knew that was crazy. So instead we ate lunch, strolled the waterfront (one side of the street Ripley Believe it Or Not museums and t-shirt stores, the other a working dock), and then meandered down the road. Later we discovered the magic campground and met Patty. I cannot think of a better way to finish the Oregon coast.