By all indications, summer will burst with celebrations. The Fourth of July is nigh, and the fuse is lit. Pyrotechnicians everywhere, professional and amateur, will look to the skies and watch their money go up in colorful smoke.

But while I, too, will "ahh" and "ooh," I prefer to initially wade into summer with a bit less whoop-de-do. I like to take a close-up look at little things, to revel in faint sounds rather than thunderous booms, and make sure my focus zooms. I look forward to wallowing and wiggling my toes in everything mentally marshy and subdued.

This time around, I summoned summer by wheeling and dealing into Wheeler - wheeling in the sense of driving, and dealing in the sense of contending with all the little setbacks and switchbacks on the way.

Seeking the delight of a miniature getaway is not always easy, and this one did not exactly get going with a bang. In fact, it kind of sputtered and fizzled.

I'd thought of guiding my wife on what would be a romantic, rambling ride through some of Oregon's beautiful wine country in the northern Willamette Valley. But what I'd recalled as seemingly endless, gently rolling green hills dappled in sunlight turned out to be seemingly endless, flatly stretching asphalt daubed in gray. It was attractive, I guess, if your aesthetic sense happens to gravitate toward a profusion of tacky signs and chain stores.

In all fairness, bad weather influenced my mood and the tone of the drive near McMinnville. I'm sure the spectacular vineyards hidden in my memory are still nestled somewhere near that place in reality, too.

Fortunately, the quaint charm of this corner of the state did began to resurface near Forest Grove, and soon the phenomenal trees of the Tillamook greeted us along the pleasantly meandering Oregon Highway 6. I did not let the commercial craze elsewhere, nor even a cup of subpar coffee, discourage me again as we finally wound our way to Wheeler and its sister towns.

We walked on the beach in Manzanita, where even on a gray day the world felt a little brighter. Back down the road a short stretch, an innkeeper greeted us warmly. We had discovered this hideaway last year and found ourselves delighted to return.

The crab festival had just ended in Wheeler, and crabbiness also scuttled away as we surveyed the irrepressible charm of Nehalem Bay.

Sure, occasional would-be setbacks continued to flare. Having taken our time to reach this destination, we found the cool thrift and antique stores in the area already shuttered for the night. The restaurant I had in mind for dinner was closed, and the substitute place offered a fare that was ... well, only fair. A rather large eight-legged critter took advantage of our slightly open window in the middle of the night and, startling us awake by tiptoeing across us, sent us into a creepy-crawly, spider searching, flashlight flinching frenzy - to no avail.

But we re-laxed. And the next morning, sipping coffee beside a picture glass window furnished with binoculars, we beheld a magnificent blue heron.

Quietly it lilted and sauntered and fished amid the reeds fringing the bay, where light and shadow danced in the mist.

Seen up close, that bird - and feathered cousins bobbing, swooping, collecting twigs and perching on flower baskets - presented a display as spectacular as any fireworks. And in the end, wheeling and dealing into Wheeler was not an ordeal. It was a celebration, and something quite ideal.

When looking closely at birds sends his heart aflutter, Brad Bolchunos says he is tempted to describe their songs as "a real sweet tweet." But he does not want to sound like a complete cuckoo.


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