Sometimes, some time away from the routine does the spirit good. So, I took a one-day, one-author retreat and went to one of my favorite places, the central Oregon coast. I spent a lot of time there as a youth and have some fond memories of the area. Those of you who have already read Suburban Vampire Ragnarok probably know that the Oregon coast figures into the story line, particularly Lincoln City (and the greater Lincoln County area). Much of the action actually takes place in a town called Hibbert’s Corner, which is located in the mountains of the Oregon Coast Range in the easternmost part of Lincoln County. Some of you, I am sure, must be wondering where “Hibbert’s Corner” is, exactly. Perhaps you’ve Google-mapped it without result. There’s a reason for that; Hibbert’s Corner doesn’t exist and never did, except in the dark recesses of my mind. However, just about all the other places mentioned in the book are real — Yachats, Waldport, Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City, the Outlet Mall, and the Siletz and Alsea rivers. The Siletz are a real Native American Nation. Still, I am sure you must have some questions, such as, what was the inspiration for Hibbert’s Corner, and where would it be, if it really existed? Okay, maybe you don’t. Oh well. Indulge me, briefly.
The idea of a declining town in the Oregon Coast Range is not an original one. There are several such towns, some of which no longer exist, some of which are hanging on by a thread, and others of which, if not exactly thriving, are managing to persevere despite the odds. I suppose the nearest community to Hibbert’s Corner, in terms of size, economic condition, and actual physical proximity to the area in which I placed Hibbert’s Corner is Alsea, a small unincorporated community of fewer than 200 people. It was formerly a logging community, as were most Coast Range communities. The decline of the timber industry hit the town hard, as it did with several other towns and small communities in the more rural parts of the state. Alsea, and other such communities, may be set in some of the most beautiful country in the state of Oregon, but these places are economically depressed, with higher rates of poverty than in more developed parts of the state. Alsea can, at least, boast of some great steelhead fishing; not all similar communities have anything to attract outside interest. This is the world in which Hibbert’s Corner exists; can it be much of a stretch to imagine such a town looking for someone to help lift them from their doldrums and restore their fortunes?
So, where would Hibbert’s Corner actually be, if it existed? Well, if you read carefully, there are a few clues as to where I placed the town. The coastal town of Waldport is mentioned, as is the Alsea river, but perhaps the most telling clue is route 34. Route 34 is an actual state route that stretches from Waldport almost to Philomath. I just returned from a trip along that particular route, and let me tell you, I think my choice of locales for Hibbert’s Corner, and its supernatural denizens, was right on mark. The fact is, I did not scout out the area, however, I was certainly familiar with it, even if I hadn’t driven down that particular stretch of road myself, at least not that I recall. Route 34 runs parallel with the Alsea river for much of its distance, as it goes through the Siuslaw National Forest and eventually into Benton County. It is a two-lane road for its entirety. It is not well-traveled; that is to say, there was very little traffic on it as I drove eastbound from Waldport. In fact, I was rather concerned that should I have gotten into an accident, it would be a long time before anyone found me. This is what route 34 looks like, just a bit east of the serendipitously-named Scott Creek. The river would be to the left of the picture. As you can tell, there’s not much traffic. The vibe of this road can be rather creepy, even in the day; I was thinking it was a perfect match for Hibbert’s Corner, and that I had chosen the location well, but then I told myself “forget Hibbert’s Corner, think Silent Hill”. Occasionally you pass by a small farm, campsite, or very small community, but other than that, it is almost entirely rural and heavily wooded. Perfect place for a Sasquatch to hang out, right? In any case, I doubt this road could see much heavy traffic, as in some places, it is less a road and more a luge track (when the signs say “25 MPH”, it MEANS 25 MPH!!!). There are reasons why this place is a “best-kept secret”, and its rural nature, its isolation, and its inability to handle a whole lot of traffic are just some of those reasons. Leave it to the locals, and the Sasquatches, and take a road more traveled — unless you’re into risk-taking, or are a vampire.