We were driving Route 101 south along the Oregon coast. A light rain was falling on the windshield of the rented car.
It is an area where the only radio station you can get is National Public Radio.
We'd spent the first night in a Portland hotel of fading grandeur. The neighborhood had been decimated by freeway construction.
"Where are we staying tonight?" I asked Christina the Lawyer. As usual, she had made all the travel arrangements.
"You're going to love this place," she said. There was no further elaboration.
"Where, exactly, are we staying tonight?" I asked again.
"It's about a three-hour drive south from Portland in a town called Yachats, Oregon," she said. "Our place is right on the beach." I began to get suspicious.
"Please tell me more," I said.
Christina looked out the car window.
"It's called Ziggurat," she said. "It's very unusual." I couldn't believe it. Christina had booked us into another of her quaint bed and breakfast places. My stomach tightened. I can't stand bed and breakfast places. Christina, however, is fascinated by either the quaintness or the adventure of them. I'm not sure which.
She would rather move right into that gloomy old house on the hill than stay down below at the Bates Motel. My choice, given my inferiority complex, would always be Trump Plaza or its equivalent.
I still remember some of the astonishing bed and breakfast places she has led me to. There was the one where the owners insisted on sitting down to breakfast with us and prying into every detail of our personal lives.
There was another bed and breakfast place where we were assigned to the military room, a shrine filled with medals and photographs of a deceased relative who had fought in World War I.
After that experience, I made Christina promise never to book us into one again. I thought she understood.
Now, here we were, heading for a place called Ziggurat. It would be another fine mess.
Ziggurat turned out to be a magnificent isolated house on the beach. It was a four-story pyramid with decks all over the house with direct ocean views. It was only three years old.
The name, Ziggurat, I learned later, stems from a Sumerian word given by the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians to their temples. It means terraced pyramid.
When we left Sky Harbor Airport, the temperature was moving toward 110 degrees. Here on the Oregon beach it was 56 and breezy.
Dr. Irv Tebor, the proprietor, greeted us at the front door. He's a thousand miles from your ordinary bed and breakfast operator.
Tebor is the former dean of the social work school at the University of Michigan and at the University of West Virginia. He taught for three years in Trondheim, Norway, and did another stint at the Chinese University in Hong Kong. He also taught at San Diego State and the University of Nevada-Reno and worked for two years as a United Nations educational adviser in Indonesia.
In addition, Tebor got his master's at the University of Chicago, his doctorate at the University of Oregon and played shortstop for Wilmington in the old Interstate League when it was a Philadelphia Phillies chain.
He is looking forward to going back for his fiftieth-year high school reunion this October in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey.
With his wide-ranging interests, he's as close to a Renaissance man as you're going to find. He reminds me of the old baseball scholar, Moe Berg.
We were led to the fourth floor, which was to be ours for the stay. There were two decks overlooking the ocean. Inside, the quarters were fine with a great bed with down pillows, bookcases crammed with readable books and the best reading lights that are currently made.
Once we were left alone, the only sound we could hear was the wind and the ocean waves.
The next morning we took an hour-
long walk along the beach.
I asked Tebor if he could get more radio stations than the single one I got on the car radio.
He told me about the dish he had installed to bring television to Ziggurat.
"They put through three audio lines for me," Tebor said. "I get WQXR, the classical station out of New York City; WFMT, the classical station out of Chicago, and KSKA, the public radio station out of Anchorage, Alaska." We went into the kitchen where Tebor's wife, Mary Lou, was preparing breakfast in a setting that would dazzle James Beard or Julia Child.
There was one final test and Tebor passed with flying colors.
"You two will eat breakfast alone in a room where you can look out on the ocean," he said.
We left shortly after breakfast.
Heading for the beach at Bandon, I said to Christina: "If we go back in March, Irv says we can see the whales passing by."