Life & Cheese in Tillamook
Could you see ourselves living here?
This is the reverberating question that Jave and I always ask ourselves whenever we travel to someplace new. Whether we’re traveling abroad or stateside, this is the one question that we always ask ourselves, so no exceptions were made on a recent trip to Portland, Oregon. Despite the incessant rain and crisp cold, Jave and I agreed that while not our first choice, we could definitely see ourselves making a life for ourselves in Portland.
We continued to ask ourselves this same question as we drove towards Oregon’s coast along the OR-6 West for the majority of our trip to Tillamook – home of the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Throughout our drive, we were surrounded by giant Douglas-fir trees and streams and rivers that run along the highway.
Along the way, we saw houses sporadically lining the highway and we glimpsed others that were tucked deeper into the forest. We couldn’t stop ourselves from imagining what life in the woods would be like, and we commented aloud and asked questions like:
Me: What if you worked at nights and had to drive all the way from work through the woods in the middle of the night just to get home?
Me: I’d be too afraid to stay home alone at night. There are so many trees and too many places to hide a dead body!
Jave: Carmel, thank God we filled up our tank because I haven’t seen a single gas station yet. Not one!
Me: Oh – there’s a gas station right over there…but there’s only one pump!
Jave: Where do people shop for groceries up here?!
Me: I think they shop at the convenience store back where the gas pump was!
Me: Oh my gosh – what if someone had a medical emergency and had to urgently rush to a hospital?
Jave: By the time they’d get there, they’d be dead.
Me: What do people do for entertainment up here?
Jave: Well, look at that guy in that rushing stream over there out kayaking alone in the cold rain!
Me: It’s so dangerous to kayak solo. If it flips, he’s screwed!
And this is how our conversational banter continued during our entire drive through the Tillamook State Forest.
Once over and through the mountainous woods, we reached Tillamook where the landscape changed to coastal farmland. Although we’d prioritized a visit to the factory, we decided to keep driving to see if we could see at least one of the capes that comprise the Three Capes Scenic Drive. We passed dairy farms and fields-upon-fields of grass, as we once again started asking ourselves whether we could live in Tillamook and the surrounding areas. We agreed that while coastal Oregon is beautiful, we wouldn’t want to live there because it’s so removed from the conveniences of a city like Portland.
After lots of driving and wondering if we were following the right signs, we finally made it to Cape Kiwanda. We were short on time, so we vowed to return to the Oregon coast someday to complete the drive.
After a few photos, we got back into our warm rental car to make our way to the cheese factory.
The factory is a part of the Tillamook County Creamery Association – a dairy cooperative that produces all sorts of products including cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream. At the factory, you can read displays about the history of the factory and dairy production in Tillamook. You can even sample the various cheeses that are produced there. My favorite is the medium cheddar which won the gold medal in the 2010 World Cheese Championship Cheese Contest.
The best part about the factory is that you can actually watch the factory workers in action!
At the end of your self-guided tour, you can buy cheese and cheese products as well as gifts in the onsite grocery and gift shop.
And be sure to try the delicious ice cream – it’s some of the freshest-tasting ice cream I’ve ever had, and the waffle cones are divine!
After our ice cream break, we hightailed it back over the mountain and through the woods because we didn’t want to make the trek in the dark.
Jave: I guess when people living in the woods want a night of entertainment they make their way to Tillamook.
Me: I guess so…I did see a movie theatre back there.
Learning about how other people live in different parts of the world or even right here at home in the U.S. is one of the most gratifying things about travel. Whether in big cities, small towns, or foreign countries, I’m always curious about what life is like in other places.