McCLEARY BEAR FESTIVAL OR BUST

“We laughed all the way to Astoria, knowing that we’d just made history in McCleary, as being the two biggest idiots to ever hit town.”

Begging for coffee – Saturday – March 22, 1997

Most of the time when I take pictures my camera date stamp is turned off. Thankfully, several photos my wife stumbled across have March 23, 1997 printed in the lower right corner. If this date wasn’t recorded, I wouldn’t have remembered specifics to this story.

March 22 and March 23, 1997 were two of those days when a person should’ve been arrested for having too much fun. I told my friend some 24-years ago, that somewhere in the future I’d write this article for posterity sake. He ordered me to make sure he was retired when I did so. The time’s now ripe before all trip memories turn to fog.

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Dee Linton and I arrived in Seattle on Friday, March 21, 1997. We were there to attend a five-day automotive technology seminar starting on Monday. Checking in early Saturday morning with the seminar receptionist, we had the rest of that day free along with Sunday to sight see.

Having a rental car with unlimited mileage, sky was the limit as to where we could go. Stopping at a local Starbucks before leaving town, Dee snapped a couple of photos of me posing with a sign made out of cardboard.

Leaving Seattle an hour later, our ultimate destination was Astoria, Oregon, normally a four-hour trip. We turned it into 13, having to snooze in the car Saturday night. Someone told Dee there were beautiful beaches close to Astoria. I brought swim trunks just in case we had time for a swim.

The scenery was spectacular. Anchorage was dingy-brown from melting snow when we departed. Lush green trees and bushes captivated our eyes all along the route. We eventually came to a town called McCleary, Washington early Sunday morning. A large sign advertised it as being home of the Bear Festival. Dee had me stand in front of the weathered boards holding out my hand.

Welcome to McCleary!

Stopping at a small convenience store, two teenage girls asked if they could help us. The youngsters appeared to be sisters.

“We’re here for the McCleary Bear Festival.”, Dee said with straight face. “We came down from Alaska.”

The girls started laughing but then quickly stopped, believing at this point my pal was dead serious.

“The Bear Festival isn’t until July!”, one of them apologetically replied.

Both Dee and I acted stunned.

“You’re not serious?”, I gasped.

About this time an older fellow stepped out from behind a food counter. He’d evidently been listening, and wanted to see what stupid looked like. Undoubtedly it was their father.

Dee looked at the man and asked in serious tone, “Is there anything else in town worth seeing?”

“There’s our county museum.”, the gentleman replied. “But it’s closed today.”

“I guess we’ll have to come back in July!”, I remarked, paying for drinks and snacks. I needed out of there pronto or I’d bust a gut.

“It’ll be worth it!”, one gal added as we exited the place. All three people stared out a front store window as we drove off.

We laughed all the way to Astoria, Oregon, knowing that we’d just made history in McCleary, as being the two biggest idiots to ever hit town.

Our first stop in the city was a McDonald’s restaurant. The place was jammed with customers. Walking up to the counter and glancing at his watch, Dee informed the young clerk,

“We’re from corporate. Doing a food turnaround inspection!”

Word traveled fast. Before long, employees were bumping into each other trying to hurry. I had to bite my cheeks to keep from laughing.

The manager quickly came out of her office asking Dee what he needed.

“An Egg McMuffin and coffee please! What do you want Mike?”

I could see the woman didn’t think our stunt was funny, yet she didn’t say anything, most likely still not totally sure that we weren’t from corporate.

Dee and I grabbed our food and scurried out. Employees and customers watched as we exited. Evidently word leaked out to them that professional pranksters were in their midst. I found it hard to eat my sandwich while laughing at the same time.

Our stop at a beach near Astoria was relatively uneventful. For whatever reason no one was there but us. Slight rain was in the air, so perhaps that kept the crowds away? A little precipitation didn’t bother us.

I found the water teeth-chattering cold. A jacket was needed and even that didn’t help. My legs and feet quickly went numb. It wasn’t until time to dry off that I discovered no towels had been packed. My shirt had to suffice. By then, Mr. Hypothermia was knocking at the door.

Our car heater quickly righted the situation. A cup of steaming coffee was just down the road. All was now good in Astoria.

The beach was empty?

Arriving back in Seattle late Sunday evening, Dee and I found a restaurant that served steaks. Being on the road for nearly 36-hours had wiped us out. Our eyes were bloodshot from little sleep. We were famished as well.

The next five days were spent hitting the books and listening to many guest speakers. I came back to Anchorage not only educated, but having memories that most likely will never be topped.

Where having fun with a friend is concerned, this trip was a barrel of hoots!

Too much fun!

Note: Some day I hope to attend the McCleary Bear Festival. It’s on my bucket list. The country around that part of Washington is beautiful!

Author: michaeldexterhankins

ordinary average guy

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