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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Likness

Ain't Nothin' but a Coast Thang

In the late 70s my parents moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. You can't live anywhere in St. Pete without being more than a short drive to the beach. To me, it was sticky sand, greasy sun lotion and nasty sunburns. I hated the beach. Twenty years later I met my wife, and Doreen showed me the beach in a different light. It didn't hurt that sun block was now something I could spray on, didn't smell like coconut oil and actually protected me from sunburns. I was hooked!

We began looking for a home on the coast almost as soon as we were married over 25 years ago. Our search brought us from Florida to Mexico.

A woman standing on sand looking out across brush to the ocean
Inspecting the land in Todos Santos, Mexico

We checked out the islands off the Washington coast. I tried building Doreen a log cabin, but it fell apart. She's still happy though.

A woman smiling as she sits on a piece of driftwood with the sound behind her
No driftwood was harmed making up the cabin story (Camano Island)

Nothing prepared us for the beauty of the Oregon coast. We fell in love with it immediately and began looking for options to move closer. A few years ago, we found a piece of land we love and purchased it "for the future." We thought it might be years before we decided to build and then it would be a vacation home.

Stacks of rocks jutting from an ocean of waves under a blue sky
Our first Oregon visit was to Oceanside

Recently, we paused to review our situation and realized if we changed our strategy a bit, we could get to the coast faster and realize our dream sooner. For me that goal is even more important for the role that stress plays in triggering my symptoms.

I feel much more relaxed on the coast and it's easier to sleep and avoid distractions. This, in turn, reduces the severity of my symptoms.

First, we hired an architect firm to design our home and understand how much the cost would be. We focused on a home smaller than the one we were in because we didn't use many of the rooms in it. We also designed it with our accessibility needs in mind. We know with Doreen's major back surgery and my Parkinson's Disease diagnosis that mobility will be an issue.

This was reflected in things like minimizing flights of stairs by using a split-level design, or keeping appliances up high so Doreen can avoid bending (which she is unable to do) or squatting (which she can due but puts undue strain on her back), and even factoring in an elevator. We're delighted with how the firm listened to our needs and created a design around our unique lifestyle. There's even a place with storage in line of site to a balcony so it's easier for to store and deploy my astrophotography gear.

After consulting with our financial advisor and accountant, we chose the course of action to purchase an interim home, sell our Washington home, then start the build. We will have the flexibility to either sell or rent the home we're in once the new one is built.

Phase One: Find a new home

Finding a new home was fun and went faster than we expected. We took two long weekend trips down to the coast. The area we focused on first is outside of Salem, Washington in the towns of Dallas, Falls City, and Independence. This is further inland and would be over an hour from the build site, but the houses there were within our budget and the area is beautiful. We wanted to be closer to the coast but that weekend there were only two available with our criteria.

On our second trip we thought we found "the home" in the town of Independence and were prepared to make an offer. The two options on the coast were prefab in an adult community and a quirky 113-year-old home in Newport. We initially were going to cancel the trip to avoid the extra hours of drive time but decided at the last minute to be thorough and check out our options.

I walked into the Newport home just knowing I wasn't going to like it. The pink carpet wasn't my style, but the sunroom was very bright. The guest bedroom was small, and the master, but the bathroom was bigger than I expected. The kitchen was nice and open, with plenty of room to relax. Then we stepped out back where there is a separate studio room and very private, terraced backyard. There is space to sit in the sun, in the shade, or under an overhang to enjoy rainy days outside. Hmmm.

The agent led me down to the basement and there I discovered more surprises. There is a guest area off one side of the stairs with a sitting area and small bedroom. The basement itself is massive. It contains a huge basement office, a laundry area and shower, and more space leading into the two-car garage with one side converted into a conventional door. Even with giving up a lot of "stuff" our downsizing had us considering long term storage, but there wouldn't be a need for that here.

Doreen and I make our decisions together, so the rule is if one person doesn't like it, it's off the list. I came out with a puzzled look and Doreen raised her eyebrow.

"Just take a look."

We made an offer the same day.

Phase Two: Prepare for the move

We shared our plans with close friends. Our friends who live on Orcas Island invited us to stay for the week. I worked remotely but spent the rest of the time enjoying their company, delicious food made fresh from their expansive garden, and relaxing on "island time." I also tried my hand at some macrophotography taking closeups with my 135mm Samyang lens.

Despite the lights on the island, the Milky Way was clearly visible at night. This exposure captured both a ferry crossing the bay and a car driving along a road by the coast.

The Milky Way stretches over water with lights exposed from a ferry and a car
Milky Way over Orcas Island

If you're a fan of Milky Way pictures, take a look at my Milky Way gallery.

After we returned, I captured this photo of Mt. Rainier. It was one of my last Mt. Rainier pictures from our deck in Monroe. I also have a dedicated Mt. Rainier gallery.

A few of my last astrographs include this picture of the Sturgeon supermoon.

A full moon
Sturgeon supermoon

Check out my lunar gallery for more moon shots!

I also set up my camera to capture a timelapse during the Perseid meteor shower. I captured quite a few meteors! Notice how they seem to radiate from the same point.

Meteors, stars, and the milky way
Perseid meteor shower

To say "see you later" my good friend Dan took me on a hiking adventure into some of the most beautiful country I've ever hiked. I'm not sure if it was a ploy to make me stay because the hike was so beautiful, or an attempt on my life. The hike began with a short trek that ended in this beautiful meadow.

A broad green meadow surrounded by mountains
Spider Meadow

We then trekked up an over Spider Glacier and crossed several glacier-fed streams.

I brought my camera gear, so when we camped in a valley beneath the glaciers, I was able to capture this Milky Way photograph.

You can read Dan's short non-fiction narrative of our adventures for a detailed and hilarious recap of the four days we spend in the wilderness. I also made a short video of our escapades here:

My daughter flew in from Colorado Springs to help us pack and move. We have two vehicles and she offered to take on a share of driving. Before we knew it, moving day was upon us and the movers arrived.

Phase Three: The move

We had a strategy for the move. We've done this a few times and thought we were prepared. The movers anticipated being done by 3pm. Our plan was to break up the move. We would drive just half the distance (around 3 hours) to Portland and stay overnight. My daughter would work from the hotel while Doreen and I drove the rest of the way to collect our keys and let cleaners in. We would board the animals for the weekend and stay at a resort to relax before tackling the unboxing.

At 10pm, it was obvious that the movers were not going to finish in the early afternoon. They also underestimated the amount of stuff we have and ended up running out of space. The remaining items were more than we could fit in our vehicles. We set out with no idea how we would get the remaining items and arrived at our hotel at 3 in the morning. On the way down, Doreen realized one of the messages was from the cleaners who apologized for the mistake but said they wouldn't be able to clean the house. It was quite the adventure.

In the end, the movers did a "turn and burn" and basically drove back, gained access with the help of my gracious neighbors, and packed the remaining items. They were back at our new home the next day and unloaded without incident. Doreen found another cleaner who not only agreed to help at the last minute but came to the resort to pick up the keys and cleaned overnight so we could unpack the next day.

The restaurant at the resort had a pool table, so my daughter and I had a great time playing 8-ball. I showed her my secret way to get onto the beach and gain entrance to the Devil's Punchbowl.

A hole in a cavern exposed to gray clouds
Inside the Devil's Punchbowl

We checked out of the resort and began unpacking.

Phase Four: Our new home

I knew from maps that our home was close to both the bayfront (a series of restaurants and shops on a road that runs along the edge of Yaquina Bay) and the ocean. To take a break from packing, I asked my daughter if she was up for a short walk (Doreen's knees are giving her grief right now, so she's not walking much). In less than ten minutes, we crossed two streets and entered Yaquina Bay State Park. We walked out onto dunes and an amazing sunset.

The sun setting over an ocean with sand dunes in the foreground
Yaquina Bay State Park

Our cat, Jinxie, just "goes with the flow" and adapts to pretty much everything. She had a fun time hopping into boxes while we unpacked. Pepper is more sensitive, but apparently loves the climate by the ocean. She absolutely loves the new place. Her favorite thing to do is chill on her bed or on the grass in our backyard.

Our house is close to a bridge that spans Yaquina Bay.

A long bridge with curved arches.
Yaquina Bay Bridge

It's just a short 20-minute drive to Cape Foulweather that has stunning views of the ocean and coastline. We saw several whales there on a visit not too long ago.

A wide view of a coast with bluffs leading to the ocean.
Cape Foulweather

Cape Foulweather also happens to be far enough from nearby cities that it is a dark site. I returned the other evening to see what I could photograph with my camera after the sun set. I was not disappointed. In spite of a bright moon that cast a long reflection over Gull Rock and the ocean, the Milky Way was clearly visible rising above the distant glow of Newport.

Lights from Otter Rock, a glow from Newport, the Milky Way and a bright moon reflected by the ocean.
An evening of stars

Across the street from our home is a small spot we can look out over the bay. It faces east with views of the beautiful sunrises.

The sun rising over the bay

On the other side, just a few blocks away I can easily approach the ocean and catch stunning sunsets like this one.

The sun setting over the ocean
Sunset on the Oregon Coast

I don't have to travel for dark sites. The park next to my house is pretty dark. Here's the Milky Way seen from Yaquina Bay State Park.

The Milky Way rises over a glow of light pollution.
Milky Way over Yaquina Bay

I grabbed a few shots with my camera. The first one is a group of nebulae in the Orion constellation. The other is a crescent moon with earthshine.

I will post about my adventures with telescopes in a future blog!

The future

It's taken me so long to write this post that it went from a "what's fresh in my head after the move" to "reflecting on almost a month in the new place." My symptoms were severe during and shortly after the move, but now they've settled down. I also began exercising more regularly. My wife gave me an awesome gift for my birthday: a CrossFit membership. The local gym has 5:30am classes so I should be able to do those before I start my workday. I'm optimistic that CrossFit will have a major positive impact on improving my quality of life, reducing the severity of my symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease.

Yesterday, we visited a local art gallery on the beach and talked to them about my astrophotography. I learned that members pay a yearly fee and have a minimum amount of time they commit to volunteer at the gallery. In exchange, the gallery will showcase our work and I can also sell prints from there. I'm very excited and plan to join soon!

I will always be a fan of the area in Washington we lived and have many close friends and neighbors there. Working for Microsoft means I'll have plenty of opportunities to come back, but my first return trip will be for a different reason.

It's a conference I helped organize and design, and I hope I see some of you there! Learn more about the YOPD Conference in Seattle.

That's all for now, folks. I appreciate you!

Jeremy Likness

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