Wednesday 5 July 2006, 12:26 am

Tuesday, July 4

If the town of Tillamook sounds familiar, think cheese. Yes, this is where they make our favorite cheese. (You can get a great price on it at Costco.) Somehow we both thought Tillamook was made in Wisconsin. Not so.

But I get ahead of myself. After a very late morning breakfast at the hotel, we sat in the hotel lobby and fired up Yahoo Messenger. At about 1:30 pm, we were able to connect with Matthew. Our son is serving with the Marines in Iraq, and his unit just recently got access to this chat software. We have not really "talked" with him in this way for several months; he has been in Iraq since March, but our only communication with him has been the infrequent email message. We're really jazzed that we'll be able to "talk" to him a couple of times a week, just as we were able to during his first deployment.

After they put Matthew back to work and we had to sign off, we were able to visit the Tillamook Creamery "factory" just north of town. I did not know that they make butter, milk, and ice cream in addition to cheese. The factory was mostly not working because their production was ahead of schedule and today was a holiday. But there were short videos that showed the normal daily activities of all the inactive equipment we could see below us. The "factory" is mostly really a gift shop, where you can buy ice cream, cheese, and fudge. I tried the wonderful huckleberry ice cream, and we bought a little fudge for the road, but we haven't tried it yet because Mary is starting to feel lousy again.

We headed down the Oregon coast, which we've never travelled before. In the past, we've driven the length of Highway 5 through the Willamette Valley, the length of Highway 97 through the edge of the desert, and some of the eastern area around Lakeview. But the coast is by far the loveliest drive we've ever experienced here. Lincoln City is the cutest town, and some of the larger towns have a bit of a rough edge to them. But the road is relatively straight and fun to drive, and the road crosses up and down from mountain forests to the beach and back up again. There are several "historic" bridges and at least one lighthouse that we've seen so far.

We made it only as far as Coos Bay by nightfall; we had hoped to make it all the way down to Crescent City in California, but at a fruit stand I heard about a fireworks show to be held over the water in Coos Bay at 10 pm, so we decided to stay here tonight, see the fireworks, and let Mary get a good night's sleep, since her cold seems to be coming back again.

We are a good ten to twelve hours from home, and while we hope to make it home by tomorrow night (exactly three months on the road), we also want to take it easy. Today was very relaxing and we want to arrive home in that condition, not frazzled. So I'm hoping we might make it as far as Mendocino, where we spent part of our honeymoon seven years ago. Then we would arrive home on Thursday.