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After an intemperate Moses wandered nearly 40 years in the wilderness, subsisting on manna and water, beating down conspiracy and idolatry, God led him up a mountain to see The Promised Land. Then God, who earlier had ordered the stoning of a man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath, wouldn't let Moses enter. In other words, don't cross Jehovah. So after visiting the 101 Camp on the Big Nestucca for the first time recently, I realized God had mellowed since the Old Testament unfolded, and I, despite a score sinning in the wilderness of mediocre taverns, had been allowed entry to Canaan. And the Lord spake: 101 Camp is a uniquely great place to drink on the Oregon Coast. At milepost 82 on 101, south of Beaver, near the confluence of the Big Nestucca River and Sailing Creek, is The Promised Tavern. From the road, Camp 101 appears ordinary, even dingy. But once I walked in and discovered the secrets of this holy place, my tavern life was spiritually reborn. I received the Commandments. Operating as an eatery since 1928, 101 Camp is a long and narrow building owned and operated by a charming non-corporate family who run the place like a home. There's great food (try the homemade pizzas, burgers and free soup on Wednesdays) and even finer ambiance. In the center, a massive wood stove heats the joint in winter, and you can drink any number of quality (or swill) beers sitting on a couch or chairs hewed from old growth logs. There are Mafia red booths, a counter with stools, loggers, fishermen, a Marilyn Monroe obsession, a pool table, a CD jukebox loaded with twang, a beaver pelt on the wall, and actual antique windows that shine through a beautiful grayness when it rains. For live entertainment, 101 Camp's piano occasionally gets tickled by a local virtuoso and Rock and Roll bands play every few months. Inside, 101 Camp rated heavenly. But after I exited the back and surveyed the "back yard," I finally understood the concept of deliverance--and not James Dickey's 'squeal like a pig' kind. This is good ground to drink from and I'm not talking about water. There is world class fishing behind 101 Camp and anglers often phone to see if the salmon are biting. One kid even hooked a 17-pound steelhead on a trout pole. Fishermen land their boats, and then come to the bar and drink. There are picnic tables set under alders and Sitka spruces and a fire pit near the river. In the fall, the management stages an event known as a 'pumpkin race,' which features contestants marking up pumpkins, throwing them into the Big Nestucca River and then waiting to learn which one floated the fastest to the Riverside, a lounge down river in Cloverdale. The winner can earn up to $200! No wonder 101 Camp serves each meal adorned with a tiny American flag. The world's greatest democracy can't hold a simple presidential election yet it does have a democratic place like this where the scourge of the drinking class--work--doesn't get in the way of homemade fun. At Camp 101, it gets even better. It is written in the book of Numbers that Moses' spies reported Canaan as a land flowing with milk and honey, (also wine). This holds true for 101 Camp but spies would also find beer and hard liquor too. The latter is a basic selection of booze, maddeningly hidden from customers, but it burns all the same. What takes 101 Camp to the divine level though, is a resort license from Oregon's Liquor Control Commission, only one of five in the state, which allows a patron to drink alcohol anywhere on the grounds of the establishment. I say that again--anywhere on the grounds. So you can legally drink a double Jack Daniels with a Hamm's chaser while fishing for Chinook near an open bonfire as your steak is lovingly tended a few feet away by a sober, professional cook and you can use a two-way radio to order another drink and watch your girlfriend shake her hips and pierced stomach to Shania Twain. Geographically, you are next to the Big Nestucca River. Really, you crossed over Jordan.
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