Friday, May 2, 2014

Tillamook, OR - Cheese, Trees and Ocean Breeze

Tillamook, OR has a slogan in my title above. Well, we learned about the cheese and the trees but we didn’t get to the ocean breeze though we heard that the ocean was not too far away. This is also where the townspeople cheer ‘Go Cheesemakers’ for the high school teams. Tillamook’s our goal for today so we’d better get crackin’ since it’s a whopping 60 miles up the road.

We awoke at 6:00 and were on our way at 8:30. Of course, that’s with a nice long breakfast. Since it was only 60 miles, I figured we’d be in about 10:00 or earlier - plenty of time for our drive. Yeah, right. As we drove through Depoe Bay, we decided to stop to see if we could see any boats shooting into or out of the harbor. And, maybe we could see a whale from the coast. We had our cameras and binoculars. Oh, shucks. We missed the only boat that busted its way through the narrow channel to get out but there, in the distance - is that a grey whale spout? Maybe. There again. Sure enough. But, man, is it ever far out. But we watched for more spouts. 45 minutes later...

Then the volunteer in the Whale Watching Center told us that a mother and baby had just headed up the coast and we might see them if we headed north also and parked in the next wayside. We hustled back to the RV and drove it to the next wayside. And, there were several whales, just having a fine breakfast in the kelp beds off the point. Others saw them too and we all stood with our binoculars and watched these marvelous animals just cruising and swimming around. They were close to the shore too.

Ok, about 1 1/2 hours later we decided that we had to be on our way. Down the road again. We spied a ‘Scenic View’ and had to stop to view it and read the signs about it. Ok, there’s another 15 minutes.

Then we saw a gas station selling diesel for $3.84, lower than any other kind of gas. Sounds like a bargain, let’s stop. But the maintenance crew had just been there and the pump did not work. (Great maintenance crew.) Well maybe if we open the pump up and cool the insides down, the manager said. Huh? Cool down the pump? Gee, it’s only 78 degrees. It needs to be cooled? What do they do in Phoenix with their diesel pumps - air condition them? Cooling it down didn’t make sense to us and we were on our way. We’ll get gas somewhere else but we spent another 45 minutes futzing around here.

Finally, we hit Tillamook, found a diesel station, filled up and headed back to our ‘campsite’, actually a dry camping spot near the Air Museum. 60 miles in 6 hours. Must be a new world’s record. At this rate, it will take longer than I’ve got to cover the US.

With the time we had left in the day, we headed on over to the Air Museum, one of our goals in Tillamook. It’s not difficult to miss - it is huge - the largest free-standing, clear-span wooden structure in the world. We could see it from our campsite.
This building covers 7 acres all by itself and is 1072’ long (> 3 football fields) and 296’ wide (almost 2 football fields). ‘Do the math’ as my brother says - that’s 6 football fields in area. And, by clear-span I mean that there is nothing inside holding it up - just the outside walls and the 15-story arch above it. No load-bearing walls - just space.
Altogether it could hold 9 blimps but here’s the official photo with 8 inside it. These K-class blimps are 252’ long, 62’ longer than the Goodyear blimp.
The helium inside it could lift 7700 lbs.
And the sliding doors. Imagine - these doors actually slide so that they could get the blimps out (the door is to the left in the picture below). Even the gutters and downspouts were wooden. And here’s a picture of the ladder up to the top (in about the center of the picture). Imagine climbing this ladder. Towards the top, when the roof begins to arch inward, you’d be climbing almost parallel to the floor, looking down. Oh, my.
The Navy built these blimp hangers along with quite a few others to protect America’s coastline, and as an anti-submarine patrol and convoy escort during WWII. Here’s a map of the blimp hangers and the territory they covered. I certainly did not know that this was how they protected our borders during the war. The blimps in Tillamook cover a radius of 500 miles, covering Washington, Oregon and part of California. These blimps could stay aloft for 48 hours, cruise at 50-67 knots and cover 13,000 square miles during a day’s shift.
Why wooden? Because metals like aluminum and steel were being used in the war.
Why Tillamook? Because it’s right on the coast, has lots of lumber to built this giant with and is in the center of the coverage they needed. These blimps covered a radius of 500 miles, Washington, Oregon and northern California.
Why bllmps? Well, for the same reason that they made the hanger out of wood - to preserve the metal for tanks and planes and guns and ammunition. They saved 2000 tons of steel this way. Blimps could also cruise lower and slower than a plane and make it possible to spot submarines. They also took up much less space when they had no air in them and were easier to transport. Above is not a centipede but a group of men carrying the ‘skin’ of a blimp out onto the tarmac for inflation.

The first blimp arrived in February of 1943 but, because the hanger wasn’t completed, it was torn to pieces in a heavy storm in March. After the war, the hangers were decommissioned and eventually Tillamook took them over. There were originally 2 hangers but one burned in 1992 when hay was stored in it.

But this museum had so much more than the history of the blimps. It was a short history of WWII on the homefront. It talked about saving resources for the war effort, about liberty gardens and canning and the development of Spam - all to save food for the armed forces,

TillamookAirMuseum-21-2014-05-1-22-18.jpg TillamookAirMuseum-10-2014-05-1-22-18.jpg
It talked about the work that women did during the way, both in the factories and in the war effort itself.

The hanger today is used for a museum and a private airplane collection. However, there’s this dry rot problem and the wood is finally deteriorating. Meanwhile, because there is a bit of a spat between Tillamook and the owner of the planes who leases the space over who will pay for the repairs, it will probably not continue in its present form. The airplane owner’s lease expires in December of 2015 and he has already begun moving his planes to another building in east of Oregon. If you want to see this marvelous museum and airplane collection, this might be the year.

Where’s the ‘cheese’ you ask? Well, here it is, all in good time.

We left the museum right at closing and headed on over to the Cheese Factory since they stayed open until 6:00. We knew that there were windows where we could view the cheese making process but hadn’t thought there would be much else. Were we ever surprised. In Tillamook the farmers prefer 4 breeds of milk cows although there are more than 4. Better tasting milk, they say. And, the taste of the milk depends upon what kind of food the cow gets. I guess that makes sense. Well, there were lots of other information about cows and dairy and cheese making here - more than the 45 minutes we had to see it all. Besides, after 5:00, there is nothing to view in the windows. We tasted some cheese, bought some cheese (and, isn’t that the point?), had some ice cream and decided to come back tomorrow at 8:00 when they opened

They also make ice cream and have a large ice cream bar there. I couldn’t find any samples of this though. Shucks, we’ll have to have some to sample it.

That ice cream ruined our dinner but what a way to go.


  1. Another post that I enjoyed. I could see on the far left corner that Sunnyvale had blimp hangers (we lived in Sunnyvale). Actually, there are or were six breeds of dairy cattle when I worked at the Iowa Dairy Association at Iowa State when Ron was in grad school--Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Jersey and Milking Shorthorn. You probably didn't spend much time at the dairy barns or Kildee Hall when you were at ISU, but I did. You could sometimes even tell what breed gave the milk by the feel!!

  2. Loved the comment, Sherron. I didn't know about Kildee Hall at ISU but I did hear about the dairy barns while I was there.
    Did you ever see the blimp hangers in Sunnyvale? they are still there - the red means that the hanger is no longer in existence but those in Sunnyvale are in black so must still be there - as of the year of this map.
    I just sent an e-mail to you also.

  3. Although the future of the hangars is in flux, they were still there a couple of years ago. We drove by them every day when we worked in Mountain View. They are on Moffett Federal Airfield, but when it was Moffett Naval Airstation, the Blue Angels performed there--so I've been in them. They are so huge that clouds sometime form. A couple of times, we saw Air Force One parked there when the Clintons were visiting Chelsea when she was at Stanford.

  4. That was a heck of a travel day...60 miles in 6 hours! Isn't it great to travel with your home, you've always got a restroom and snacks on hand...and on the OR coast plenty of turn outs to take in the scenery!

    That air museum looks wonderful, I'll get to visit it in Sept!

  5. Yep, love those easy travel days. I would recommend the museum, especially since its future is in doubt.