I’m a big believer that of all the inviting qualities that Oregon has to offer – stunning scenery, rich and varied foods and exciting recreation – above all, it’s the spirit of the place, embodied by the people who live here, that sets Oregon apart.
I recently joined Gerry Frank, a man who gets a kick out of helping us make the right connections with our home state, at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria. Few can boast of a passion for their home state as deep and long lasting as Gerry Frank’s love for Oregon! At 91, he does not know the meaning of taking a break as Oregon’s unofficial travel ambassador – Frank owns an unmatched knowledge of Oregon that is fresh, engaging and honest.
You’ll discover the same when you take a gander through the latest edition of his homage to his home state, “Gerry Frank’s Oregon.”
“It’s all about stores, restaurants and hotels and varied statewide attractions,” said Frank. “The book is also full of interesting lore about various communities, places for kids to go and all of that stuff.”
The sort of “stuff” that’s been Frank’s bread and butter in his Sunday Oregonian travel column and his radio and TV reports through the decades. He is an Oregon man for all seasons whose roots reach back seven generations, linked by birth and profession to the famed ‘Meier and Frank’ family retail business.
But Frank insists that it was his 26 years on Senator Mark Hatfield’s staff that really “put him in touch” with the people and places of Oregon. “We hit every nook and cranny in the state and I got to know Oregon very well,” he said with a smile.
So you should not be surprised to learn that some of Gerry’s favorite places to visit are Oregon’s unchanged and timeless regions. “Oh, I love to drive along the Southern Oregon Coast that stretches from Bandon to Gold Beach. It is my favorite part of the state for the uniqueness of the geography, the natural beauty and so many friendly people – there’s nothing in the world like that.”
Or the Rogue River jet boat rides: “The ride is all about whitewater thrills! It offers magnificent scenery, but it’s fun because you get wet and it’s even more fun because of the wildlife opportunities there.”
And closer at hand, his favorite Cascade mountain parkland, Silver Falls State Park. “When you walk under the waterfall there – it’s a gorgeous part of the state and a lot of people don’t even know it exists.”
Gerry’s insights into Oregon travel are more than “chewing on the scenery” too. He holds near and dear the idea of Oregon’s spirit of community. We got a peek at that when he sought out local businessman Steve Fick, the newly named “Astoria Regatta Admiral.”
Fick is a life-long Astoria resident, community leader and benefactor and he told me that the Astoria Regatta reaches back to 1894 as Oregon’s oldest celebration in the state’s oldest community. It’s a four-day celebration of the traditional return of Astoria fishermen from Alaska aboard boats filled with salted fish. It harkens back to the early days of Astoria. As it turned out, the two had much in common. “I was the Regatta Admiral myself – 50 years ago,” said Frank with a smile.
Frank said that the Astoria Regatta is an important example of why more people need to be involved in their own communities, to build pride for the places we call home. “We need them! We need more people following up in the footsteps of people like Steve to insure that these kinds of events continue.”
And when it comes to Gerry’s list of Astoria sites to see, he suggested visitors should check out the Astoria Column, the Liberty Theater, the Fort George Brewery and the Maritime Museum. You can learn all about each and so much more in Frank’s latest book. As to his secret for staying so young at heart and ambitious at a time of life when most folks find themselves sitting in a rocking chair on the porch: “I think you stay young and healthy if you keep going strong and don’t slow down! I enjoy travel and I really enjoy writing about Oregon – plus being involved in community activities. That’s what keeps me young.”