AFT Retrospect – The Oregon Coast and Ecolodge Gardens

[Originally written in January, 2016 as we had just met and ended up staying with our dear friend Marcel located west of Eugene, OR. This was not published in real time because of the vagaries of the Ambling Full Tilt (AFT) journey and the demands of life in the interim. As I find time I will periodically publish excerpts from my copious pile of notes remaining from the trip.]

In Travels with Charley Steinbeck wrote of that moment when you realize the grand trip is over. That’s especially noticeable when it occurs before the physical end  of your trip. It happened to him. It happened to us. I would say it happened in Portland.

With dreams of homesteading in our minds we viewed five properties while we were supposed to be taking time off in Yachats. Yachats has been our haven; our secret hideaway since we first visited there shortly after Dani and I became a couple. But in the search for a future home “vacation be damned!” We trudged through both clear-cut and forested spaces, always rain-soaked. We almost got Charley stuck once. We ended up dredging up more questions than information. So we followed the plan and headed to Portland to stay with my wonderful cousin Alison and her husband Casey.

While staying in Portland we continued our searches diligently for days. We made left Portland only because we’d missed the window where we could cancel our hotel reservations in Manzanita without penalties. It can be tough to predict how travel plans will mesh with the serendipity of the real estate market! That intense search for land was a major shift in focus; and thus it felt like the Ambling Full Tilt journey was ending.

We hit the road and traveled in a very circuitous manner looking at four properties before ending up in Manzanita.

We had been away from the ocean too long. We stood on the beach watching the gargantuan waves whipped by the winter wind crashing on the long shallow sand… it was good – wonderful even – to be back in Manzanita. Our room right over the water was very plain, small but long and narrow. It had no windows apart from the sliding glass door in the front of the unit used as the entrance. Painted white, it felt to me like I imaging a room on an ocean-liner might feel. We left the door open a crack – almost no moonlight could peek through the omnipresent rain clouds, but the sound of the ceaseless winter waves added to the illusion. As sleep came I imagined we were adrift in the ocean as it felt we were adrift in life.

The little free time we had was spent mostly absorbed in real estate searches and conversations with agents and officials. A serendipitous inquiry to a friend in the bay area also put us in touch with Marcel the curator “Ecolodge Gardens”  (homeowner/gardener/arborist are technically correct, but when you see the scope of the place “curator” is more appropriate).  After some e-mail exchanges we decided to stay at Ecolodge with Marcel, our host and benefactor; he gave us – complete strangers! – free reign of the place to take the time we needed to plan and take our next steps.

After only one day “off” in Manzanita, spent as busy as ever, we moved on to Ecolodge Gardens. We pulled off the highway and up the wet, steep driveway. Charley managed to climbed it as it was “paved” only in slick fir needles coated in weeks of rain.  We parked, breathed sighs of relief and instantly Marcel came bustling out of the front door with umbrella in hand to provide shelter for us as we made our way to his front door.  We hurried in but taped to the inside of a window facing us was a homemade sign saying “Welcome home, Dance” – Dance is his portmanteau of Dani and Lance. Marcel really was (and is!) something else.

Thus we were welcomed into Ecolodge Gardens with no idea of what laid in front of us.

[Afterword: We stayed with Marcel for 10 days, I believe it was. We spent the vast majority of our time researching real estate and making forays from Port Orford to Tillamook Bay to look at prospective properties. The quest for our future home took six months, far longer than the mere three days that elapsed between leaving Marcel’s place and reaching Boise; the official end of AFT. Regardless Marcel declared us family, many great meals were shared, many glasses were raised, and many laughs unleashed. And all transpired within the bounds of a living work of art.

Although we now live on the East Coast parts of our hearts remain on the West Coast. With any luck we’ll find a way to return.

But for now, Homesteading Full Tilt it is!



2 thoughts on “AFT Retrospect – The Oregon Coast and Ecolodge Gardens

  1. Thank you both for continuing to share your lives, not just in this generous tribute, but in both of your writings.

    I’m vicariously struggling to get the essential? pieces of your home lined up, repaired, restored, and renewed as I also wait for the new pale green leaves to emerge from your self-sustaining hands.

    What a difference ten days makes!




    • Dani took most of yesterday to plant our first succession round in the new garden bed yesterday while I finished the mini lighting project from hell. The former very essential, the latter debatably so – it’s about making a house your home. I’m still a long ways off from building projects on your scale, but I’m always learning, always improving.

      Some big tasks are ahead for winterizing (insulation additions, propane, backup generator, heat pump/inverter) and then we’ll move on to cold frames and a little thermal greenhouse. We’re still undecided on chickens this fall or next spring. I’m sure that will be made clear in due course.

      In the mean time we just keep addressing what each day brings. What a difference each day brings! Those ten were definitely a pivot point in our lives. And we never could have guessed where we actually ended up. But we ended up exactly where we needed to be, marvelously circuitous route notwithstanding.

      It’s possible we may have a wedding to attend in Boise next summer. If we find a way to do that, I don’t think there’s any way we’d miss a chance to visit the Oregon coast in the same trip 🙂 Let us see what life brings!

      All the best!


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