By Ruth Liao, StatesmanJournal.com ~ After sweating for days, Kimmie Lewis decided to bail out from her un-air conditioned home in Dallas to the temperate cool of the Oregon Coast on Wednesday.
“We didn’t think that many people would be out here, but everyone had the same idea as us,” said Lewis, as she looked out toward a crowded Siletz Bay in Lincoln City.
The drive from the Mid-Valley to the coast was a refreshment in itself — even if traffic was backed up for about two miles coming into Lincoln City, said husband Bryan Lewis, a Salem firefighter.
“The truck (at home) was reading at 98 degrees,” Bryan Lewis said. “It was a 30-some-odd degree difference.”
The stretch of triple-digit temperatures has driven many Mid-Valley residents like the Lewises to seek relief at the Oregon Coast, spurring tourism businesses and traffic congestion.
“When it gets really hot in the valley, you try to come and escape it,” said Sandy Pfaff, director of the Lincoln City Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Temperatures in Lincoln City remained in the mid-60s, and conditions were overcast and foggy.
Pfaff said the hot valley temperatures triggered a jumpstart in the coast’s busy summer season, which usually lasts between mid-August and Labor Day from families cramming in a last-minute vacation.
With the tourism industry experiencing setbacks during the recession, a busy week for coastal hotels and restaurants was a financial relief.
“It’s been a tough year, for everybody,” Pfaff said.
Pfaff said local Lincoln City residents are accustomed to the influx of summer visitors.
“It might be tough to turn left, but hey…” she joked.
Roland and Sandy Camara of West Salem sought relief at the coast for a day, just long enough to escape the triple-digit temperatures.
“We want to hang around until the temperature gets back to 80 degrees,” Roland Camara said.
For the past two days, the self-described “semi-retired” couple have stayed indoors with both of their air-conditioning units blasting on high.
When they saw that today was predicted to the hottest day of the heat wave, they set off.
By lunchtime, the two stopped at Tiki’s at 51st, a café and bar in Lincoln City’s historic Taft district.
“The only place to have hot coffee is on the coast,” Sandy Camara said.
Even at 2 p.m., a long line snaked around the entrance of Mo’s Restaurant in Lincoln City.
Manager Bob Scull said the restaurant was serving between 300 gallons to 400 gallons of its signature clam chowder a day — ladled out at a piping hot 165 degrees.
“The heat doesn’t stop ’em from eating it,” Scull said. “They’re coming up like gangbusters.”
Stacia Fry, 20, of Independence summed it up this way: “When you go to the beach, you kind of have to go to Mo’s and get the chowder.”