No Gas, part 2
Highway 101

By: Mac Musick
April 23rd, 2008

 

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 daughter.

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 Highway 101.

This is right near Leggit CA and the famous drive through tree. In "part 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 hanging around.

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 was going?

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.

Turn right. 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."  

Mac Musick,
Durango CO