Sometimes when I'm on
a long motorcycle trip I approach a crossroads and
decide to go right or left on a whim.
Last June 6th, I left
Durango with three weeks to ride and only two
predetermined destinations. First was Yosemite National
Park and the second stop was Santa Rosa CA to visit my
I left Santa Rosa on
June 12th and headed right out to Highway 1 on the coast
and then north. After reaching the northern end of Highway 1,
also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, I was back on
This is right near
Leggit CA and the famous drive through tree. In
one" of my ride tale I mentioned the couple from
Phoenix who I enjoyed a cup of coffee with before they
were to ride through the Redwood tree on their Goldwing.
I'd been there, done that and had miles to go before I
slept so I said goodbye and headed north on 101.
My aim for the day
was to get to Bandon Oregon and a state park I know
about. When I got past Crescent City CA not far from the
Oregon border I changed my mind and took a right turn on
to Highway 199 and was headed for Grants Pass OR with my
ultimate goal on this side trip to see Crater Lake. I
had lived in Oregon for many years yet never took the
time to see this famous lake with its landmark lodge.
Highway 199 is a nice
ride that starts out with a tremendous stretch through
Redwood forests. About an hour east, near the spot on
the road called Obrien, (you can't miss Obrien because
of the black and white 1952 Plymouth with the red bubble
on the top parked in front of the Obrien general store)
but maybe four miles before you get to the store you
will find Spark Plugs Motorcycle Camp. What a great
little place. I pulled in and shot the breeze with
"Spark Plug" the owner and a couple of other bikers
I inquired about the hippie community of Takilma of which I have been vaguely aware since the
late 60s and supposed it was somewhere in that area. To
my surprise I was within 5 miles so had to check it out.
What a trip back in time. Being an old hippie myself I
was surprised to see people living like it was 1967.
(Would take far to long to describe.) By the time I got
to Grants Pass I had ridden about 400 miles through
magnificent forests and along the Pacific Ocean and I
was pleasantly tired. Now I was inland. Next sight to
see, Crater Lake.
I woke up in Grants
Pass to a sunny day and headed for the lake. What can I
say? I love scenery and Crater Lake is a gift from
nature. Truly beautiful. The lodge at the lake was built
by the WPA sometime in the 1930s. Like the lodge at Mt.
Hood or the Lodge at Yellowstone it really gives me
pleasure to see the craftsmen ethic and style of
construction that includes lots of timbers and stone.
After a great
hamburger in the lodge at Crater Lake I decided that
rather than back track I would make a big circle to
Klamath Falls OR and then over the mountains to Ashland
OR and to the historic gold mining town of Jacksonville.
Years before my daughter and I had stayed at the
Jacksonville Hotel and eaten in the Bistro in the
basement. I was tired enough after about 300 miles but
the cost to stay at the hotel would have busted my
budget. I had a fantastic dinner at the Bistro and got
directions from a local to a campground 29 miles away.
Perfect. In my travels I can usually find a place to
camp by asking the locals in whatever restaurant I have
dinner. About every third day I will stay in a cheap
hotel for the "luxury" of a bed and a shower.
By this time I have
been on the road for two weeks and pretty much stopped
caring what day of the week it was. I had no time limit
and a credit card for gas food and lodging so what
difference did it make what day it was or even where I
After weighing the
choice between continuing north on I-5 to Salem OR or
going back to the coast highway 101 I chose to back
track on 199 to 101 and head for Bandon OR. Again I
stopped in at Spark Plugs for a refreshment. By the way
at the camp there is a place to cook your own food and a
canoe full of ice and refreshments. There is also a band
stand where anyone might perform if they feel like it.
Cost to stay at Spark Plugs is $10/night. You must ride
in on a bike to stay there. No cars permitted. I hope it
is still there the next time I ride 199.
Finally after a 500
mile side trip I rolled in to Bandon OR late in the
afternoon. Had some great clam chowder and asked the
waitress about a place to camp. She sent me north over
the bridge to Smith State campground but it was full --
no campsites. As luck would have it there was a funky
trailer campground where for $5 I could pitch my tent
and shower in the a.m. Not too bad considering.
Following day I
decided to visit my younger brother in Salem OR. The
drive north to Lincoln City was nice. Highway 18 heads
inland to McMinnville. There is a cut-off you can take
to get to Salem. Three miles east of highway 101 on 18
is the little community of Otis home to the famous Otis
Cafe. I have been there many times and cannot pass the
place without stopping in for the wonderful black bread
they make fresh everyday. Are you getting the picture?
I ride to eat.
While enjoying my black bread pudding
desert I thought to myself about going inland and
visiting my brother. I was in such a groove on the ride
that I couldn't make myself give that up. This makes
sense to anyone who rides long distances. You get into
it and want to keep riding. A stop at my brothers would
have probably taken two days and I'd be back on I-5
which I wanted to avoid as long as possible.
Right back to 101. By the time I rode another 115 miles
to Astoria I was jonesing for seafood and knowing the
Ships Inn Restaurant to be best place on the Columbia
river to eat (hee hee), I stopped in for the halibut and
chips. I think I could write a book about great places
to chow when you are on the road.
From Astoria you can
go to Portland or cross the Columbia River bridge into
Washington. Even though I lived in Portland for many
years and have friends there with whom I could spend the
night I chose to stay on 101 north. Looking back that
was not the best decision I could have made. Somehow
while looking for a place to camp on the Washington side
of the Columbia I got lost in Long Beach and rode for
about 15 miles before I figured out I'd made a mistake
and had to turn around and go back to 101. The weather
was turning crappy. My next best shot was to find a
motel in South Bend. It was cold a drizzly and my luck
had changed, the only motel was sold out leaving me no
choice but to ride in the rain to Raymond. I did finally
find a flea bag motel. To think I could have spent the
night in Portland with my good friends, but no, my urge
to avoid I-5 was stronger than my need for comfort.
When I left Raymond
the next morning the sun was out but the forecast was
for rain in the afternoon. At that point I abandoned my
idea of taking Highway 101 all the way around the
Olympic Penninsula. My new on the spot plan was to go
visit the college I attended in 1971 to 1973. I got a BA
degree in Environmental Design from The Evergreen State
College in June 73. I met my wife Sara at Evergreen in
October of 1971. So a trip to TESC was an easy choice to
make and worth the short side trip. There was no one
there I hoped to see, so I took a short walk around
campus and ducked my head into a couple of the buildings.
Many good memories from the two years I attended there.
At Shelton WA,
Highway 101 splits to form the loop which goes around
the Olympic Peninsula. I have never ridden a bike around
"The Loop" but have driven it several times. When I was
going to college at TESC I worked for the U.S. Forest
Service at several different towns around the Peninsula
including Lake Quinalt, Forks and Sequim. It is
beautiful country and the ride would be amazing but I
was weary of bad weather and ready now to visit a
brother who lives on Vashon Island near Seattle. This
turned out to be an excellent choice. Taking 101 north
from Shelton I rode along the Hood Canal to Belfair. The
ride along the canal was beautiful and brought back
memories of my youth and the many summer days we had as
kids stayed at a friend's cabin on the Canal. At Belfair
I figured out the route to get to the ferry that goes
from the small town of Southport to Vashon Island.
Well Seattle marked
the half way point of my ride. The next part of this
tale will be about the ride to Yellowstone with some
great surprises along the way... it is fun to recall the
adventure and if you got this far in my story you are
either completely bored or fascinated by motorcycle
travel. "It is not the destination, it is the ride and
the food along the road."