Everyone knows that the best vacations usually have two main ingredients – a stop at a cheesy tourist spot and lots of greasy food. Of course, you might not want to admit that you like those kind of vacations, but you know you do. Who wouldn’t want to see the world’s biggest ball of yarn or a fence made out of bras? And of course, when you’re on vacation, how can you possibly pass up the local cooking, especially the dishes which are deep fried and/or coated in sugar.
When my sister, her two 12-year old twin girls and I recently spent some time on the Oregon Coast, we made sure that our vacation plans included the cheesiest of tourist spots – the Tillamook Cheese Factory – and some greasy food in the form of fish and chips. With a few gift shops thrown in for good measure too. My mom has trained her granddaughters well – they love browsing in a good gift shop. It doesn’t matter what knick-knacks and souvenirs they’re selling, these girls can spend hours combing through what’s on sale and pointing out all of the cute and useless things you can’t possibly live without. I bet you can’t imagine life without one of these carved bears.
Do you want an easy way to tell how old you are when you’re in a gift shop? You know those stands with name tags on them. Check them out and see if your name appears. If it doesn’t, you can be sure that you are part of the older generation and that your name is horribly old fashioned now. Or maybe that’s just me and my name - Ellen. The good news is that because my name wasn’t available, I didn’t feel compelled to waste money on one of these name tags. I did however get seduced by the Tillamook cheese t-shirt. I gave the cashier $12.99 and he gave me a t-shirt I don’t really need and a shopping rush that lasted all of five minutes.
Before we let the girls hit any gift shops, we forced them to learn about how cheese was made by taking the self-tour of the Tillamook Cheese Factory. It’s actually pretty interesting. You can stare through windows at the folks busily making cheese and getting it ready for sale. If you want, you can spend some time reading all of the educational signs scattered about. I didn’t. My attention span isn’t nearly long enough for that kind of nonsense. It probably didn’t help that they had a ice cream kiosk right next to the signs. Ice cream vs. knowledge. I think you can guess what won out.
My sister tried to get us interested in learning more about the dairy industry. She lived on a dairy farm in Finland for a year and told us a bunch of stories about getting up at 4:00 am to milk cows and watch calves being born. I have to say, she really didn’t sell the lifestyle. It sounds like a lot of hard work and not a lot of opportunities to sleep in. After her description, I’m pretty sure her girls don’t have any dreams to grow up to become dairy farmers. However, we do appreciate dairy farmers because they keep us stocked in cheese and ice cream.
In case you aren’t convinced about how wonderful cheese is, the good folks at the Tillamook Cheese Factory let you sample different types of cheese. Unfortunately, they start off the tasting with squeaky cheese made from the curds or whey or something. The general consensus was YUCK. Thank goodness, the next batch of cheese was Colby. Everyone liked Colby. Our faith was restored.
The cheese tasting station is very conveniently placed next to the gift shop. Guess what’s on sale. Yep, you guessed it, cheese. People were buying a lot of cheese. I think they would have also bought a lot of ice cream if there had been a free ice cream tasting stand. If you have to pay for your ice cream cone, you aren’t really likely to shell out more money to buy some more. Their marketing team should take a look at this. And send me a lifetime’s supply of ice cream for pointing out this flaw in their marketing approach.
After eating all of that cheese, we needed to make sure that we ate some greasy food while on vacation. Maybe we should visit a salad factory on our next outing. That way we would have a craving for kale and spinach for dinner, rather than fish and chips. Or pescado y chips. I would have thought there was a word in Spanish for “chips”, but I guess not? I had forgotten how much Spanish is used in Oregon. My nieces are learning Spanish in school – seems like a much more useful language these days then the French and Latin that I took.
One of my nieces ordered chicken and chips and made this cute little smiley face with ketchup. Who said food can’t be fun. The rest of us got with the program and had pescado y chips.
It was a really cute spot – just look for the place south of Newport on Highway 101 with the crab cooker out front.
I know you might be a bit worried that all we did were cheesy and greasy things. But not to worry, plenty of fruit was consumed (this is berry season after all in Oregon) and we did spend time playing on the beach to work off those extra calories. Here’s proof – the girls next to some driftwood at Seal Rock beach, watching the tide come in.