Thursday, July 26th, 2012
I had been spending a little time chatting with Kurt about getting together to make a multi-day motorcycle ride. He was all for it. I had been eager to spend some time down on the southen Oregon coast. I also wanted to visit the McKenzie Bridge area again. I figured out a way to get them both in with a four-day ride. I posted it on our group web site to see if anyone else was interested in making the ride with us.
My project with Marv for getting his bike back on the road was close to finished. We got it done and did our test ride on Monday, so we set the calendar for a four-day ride from Thursday, July 26th through Sunday, July 29th. The overnight stops would be Belknap Hot Springs Resort in McKenzie Bridge on Thursday night, Sunset Motel in Bandon on Friday night, and Mar Clair Motel in Tillamook on Saturday night.
Kurt and I both were hoping that Marv would feel up to making the ride with us. I knew he was still pretty sore, but riding is something he has a hard time resisting. He finally committed, so the schedule and reservations were set. No one else from the group was coming, so it was just we three.
I bunked at Marv and MaryLou’s Wednesday night. We met Kurt a few blocks from Marv’s house the next morning, and we were on our way.
Our route out of the city was freeway until the Mount Rainier area. From there it was still a fairly direct route south. The ride to McKenzie Bridge was around 400 miles, and that’s a long day even when we’re all feeling spry. We didn’t want to push Marv too hard on the first day of the ride, so the most direct route seemed the wisest plan. The featured area was not the first part of the ride anyway, so we stuck with a ‘get-out-of-Washington’ route.
I’m not too sure how the rest of the ride to McKenzie Bridge went for Kurt and Marv; I wasn’t with them. I would hear later that they had a pleasant, uneventful first day.
When we got off highway 167 in Puyallup, I was getting a pretty loud grinding from the rear wheel bearing on my ZX-14. I have two rear wheels for that bike so I can optimize the use of tires. I rotate the best one onto the bike for long rides, away from home. We pulled into the parking lot of a McChevron and analyzed the rear wheel until we were all sure I was not going to be able to fix it for this ride. I decided to ride home, swap out my rear wheel, and ride the freeway down to meet back up with them. It would kill the first day of the trip for me, but would allow me to enjoy the rest of the trip.
I was back at home by 11 am. and hoped to be turned around and headed south again by 1 pm. It didn’t work out quite so well. I ran into a problem with my rear brake caliper and, by the time I swapped my gear over to my BMW to use for the trip, it was 2 pm. With such a late dispatch time, I wouldn’t arrive in McKenzie Bridge until around 8 or 9 pm. That was a cause for concern for me because, when the sun goes down, the critters start to move around. I was dreading riding my motorcycle through the forest on winding, twisty river roads at night. Well, I guess I’ll just have to stare the fear down and get it over with. Fortunately for me, God loves a fool. The only animals I saw were two very large elk standing next to the road on highway OR-22 about 20 miles west of Detroit.
I took I-5 all the way to Salem. At one point, about half an hour from leaving home, I thought I was going to lose my face shield. I was in the vicinity of Smokey Point when I raised it to the first detent for better air flow. The left attach-point came loose and it nearly flew off. I held it on with one hand, and made my way to the next exit. I got it reattached in about ten minutes, but all the while I was beginning to think the this trip was doomed for me. I thought about giving up, but it would need to be a lot worse than this to stop me from making this ride. I was, however, beginning to feel just a bit put-upon by fate.
I took one break on the ride south. There, I saw that I had received a text message from Kurt that they had arrived. Good news!
I arrived in Salem just before sunset. I was glad to be getting close to a bed for the night. From Salem I took highway OR-22 east to highway OR-20, and linking to highway OR-126, which would take me south to the lodge where we were staying. All along that route, it was getting darker and darker until around the time I reached Detroit where it was finally pitch black, with tall timber lining the highway. On OR-22 I was keeping hitched to the a car in front of me, hoping that they could strain the deer out of the road for me. I kept catching glimpses of eyes glowing on the sides of the roads; it was surprising there weren’t any animals in my path that night.
Highway OR-22 is the main route from Salem to Bend. There were a few cars on it that night. After I turned off OR-22 and made my way south, I was all alone. There were no cars in front or behind me. I passed three or four on the 30-or-so miles I had left to cover. It’s spooky out in the forest alone at night. The road is a twisty, winding two-lane along a river. I was thinking about what kind of animals would be eating me when they found me in the morning. At every curve I rounded, I was expecting to find a deer, a rock, a raccoon, or a rut that would toss me, conscious-but-disabled, over the embankment. Then I would watch helplessly as animals came out of the trees to feed on me.
I had posted a short article on our group’s web site about how military aviators are trained to keep their eyes roaming, rather than focusing on anything for more than a second, as that is the best way to see if anything moves. I was putting that information to good use, but I was getting tired of swinging my eyes. It takes a lot of discipline to maintain it, and was I longing to just close my eyes and go to sleep.
Well, I made it! Kurt was sitting in the lobby of the lodge, and Marv was up in the room sleeping. Kurt came out to visit me while I grabbed my gear and secured the bike for the night. I suppose I vented a good deal of anxiety in the first few minutes. It was a long day. I didn’t dally around, but went up to the room, showered and went to bed.
Friday, July 27th, 2012
Marv and I were splitting a room, and I had kept him up till about 11pm, bending his ear about my travails of the day, and my trying to recover from the bad wheel bearing. We slept in a little too long, and Kurt was patiently waiting for us.
The grounds and building at Belknap Lodge were pretty nice. It’s built on natural hot springs. They have a pool, and a hot tub. I liked it. The flower gardens were very nice, and it was picturesque; it’s next to rapids on the McKenzie river. Kurt and Marv seemed happy with it too. They have a foot bridge that goes across to some trails. I was thinking I’d be back to this place sometime.
We had kickstands up at around 9:45 am. We were a little later than we would have liked, but none of us is fanatical about the schedule. We gassed up and went on to ride down Aufderheide National Scenic Byway.
It’s a spectacular motorcycling road. We rode most of the way to Westfir before we took a break. We stretched, grabbed a few snap-shots, and got back on the road.
Kurt wanted to see what my BMW was like, so I rode his FJR for the next twenty miles, while he rode my K1300. We swapped back at the covered bridge in Westfir. After a few more photos, we continued to Oakridge for breakfast.
The next stretch of road is what we in our group call a transit road. We were taking a busier, straighter road to get from one area to another, saving our time for the better motorcycling roads. Our next featured section of road was to be from Lorain, a small town a little west of Cottage Grove.
My planned route would have us foray into the national forest development roads, before exiting the rugged country for a highway ride to Bandon. As it turned out, my planned route didn’t come off as I had anticipated, and it worked out just fine. It’s hard to tell from reference materials, (maps, Google-earth, street view, etc.), when determining if the roads you are considering are paved or gravel. Our motorcycles are not designed for gravel, and we wanted to avoid it if we could. Where we ended up riding was on a great road, with a good mix of twisty, well-paved, and more-technical features. None of it was bad. The majority of the road is under forest canopy. We saw only a couple of cars in the late afternoon, but otherwise we had the road to ourselves. It was a good route we had stumbled upon. The first ten miles or so were part of my plan, but the rest was ad-lib.
The road seemed to be getting more remote as we continued on. We stopped at a spot that had a gravel road over which would reconnect with the route I had planned. We wanted to find our way back to a main road so we could get further along toward Bandon. We didn’t want to arrive at the motel after dark, and if we continued to wander around in the forest all afternoon, we would end up having a very long day. The name of the road we were contemplating was Scare Ridge. It wasn’t a dirt road. It was mud. As it happened, a couple of people were driving by as we were getting serious about which way to go. They were coming from the direction we were heading. I asked them if the road was paved all the way through. They told me it was paved all the way through and it comes out of the forest at Reedsport. Now, we had direction!
We came back into civilization about 15 miles from Highway 101 in Reedsport. We came across the Smith River Pub as the road fed into a semi-rural Reedsport suburb.
We had to ride a stretch of 101, which was quite busy through Coos bay, but it wasn’t really too bad. We arrived in Bandon near 4:30 . We stayed at Sunset Motel. Marv and I had a room right on the beach.
Kurt was in the new building across the road, but it still had a view. We made a reservation at the nearby restaurant, which is pretty good, and then just relaxed in front of our room and watched the sun go down. There was no green flash from the sun as it disappeared; if there was, I missed it.
Saturday, July 28th, 2012
We had a plan to have kickstands up at 8:30 on Saturday morning for a circuitous route up to Tillamook.
I spent Friday night getting a route put together. I took references from Marv’s maps and my benchmark maps. I knew it would be a rough guide for us to follow, rather than a precision point-to-point route. We had been taking a lot of extended breaks so, when the time started running out, we switched to more direct routes.
We rode on some very appealing roads east of Bandon over to Myrtle Point before turning North. We came across a parade there that was just starting to form up. They had a lot of antique vehicles getting prepared for their big day.
The next leg of the route was another back-roads section that graveled out on us after about five or six miles. I had a contingency plan for it this time. We went back to take highway OR-42S north and west a bit before getting on a secondary route to take us around Coos Bay.
I put together a very clever route around Coos Bay, with which I was quite pleased. We caught highway OR-36 north of Coos Bay, and headed east to Junction City. This was a road I had grabbed from Marv’s map. It was a fun ride. We stopped midway at a trail head. It was a comfortable and quiet place to sit for a while.
We took an extended break in Junction City, and then went north to find our way onto highway OR-34 west to Waldport. I had put together an interesting route to get to Alsea but, after our extended break in Junction City, I knew we would not have time for any of the alternate routes I had put together. We bee-lined for highway OR-34 to get back to the west.
We had a great ride west on highway 34. It varies from fantastic to very good. We gassed up in Waldport, and then headed north on highway 101. It was a little traffic-heavy in Lincoln but, beyond that, it was a pleasant ride. I’ll keep my alternate routes around the cities for another ride.
We got to Tillamook around 18:30. The Mar Clair motel is in a good location as pertains to restaurants. We had good pizza a block from the motel. The music at the pizza place was somewhat unpleasant, but it was good pizza. The Mar Clair has no A/C, so we had our windows open. The proximity of the hotel to the highway meant we could hear the traffic. It didn’t matter much, because there was very little traffic and, after putting together Sunday’s route, I slept very well.
Sunday, July 28th, 2012
It was the last leg. There wouldn’t be any new roads for any of us for the last part of the trip. We had been in contact with Randy a couple of times, and we were considering trying to coordinate meeting him for breakfast at our usual breakfast stop, Camp 18. When I got up in the morning, I had an email from him that he had already set out for home.
We left Tillamook on Highway 101, north. We turned onto Miami River road, and wound along on that beautiful stretch of road to the junction with highway OR-53. We rode that one north to the junction with highway US-26. It was just a few miles along US-26 to arrive at our Breakfast stop, Camp 18. It’s part Timber museum, and part restaurant.
We looked around at the exhibits after breakfast, and then set out for home. We crossed the mighty Columbia at Longview, and continued on two-lanes back roads up to a junction with highway US-12 near the Porter Bridge where we stopped for an extended break. The saloon was closed, so we rested outside for a while. Kurt was trying to get a traffic report so he could decide whether he wanted to chance the interstate for a quick shot home. Neither Marv nor I were in any particular hurry, but we were still eager to get home. Kurt decided to turn east and take the freeway; Marv and I decided to continue up the Kitsap peninsula and catch the Kingston–Edmonds ferry home. It would take more time, but the roads would be better.
Marv and I ended up doing an extended route through Tahuya and around the peninsula. I think I should have short-cut some of it out to save us some time but, in retrospect, it was still nice to ride.
We caught the 6 pm ferry from Kingston and, after the crossing, we split-up on I-5.
This was a fun ride. The scenery was grand, and the roads were a blast. If you had told me on June 2nd that Marv would be on a 1370-mile, four day trip on that ZX-14 before the end of July, I would have thought you were crazy.
Here are my tracks. Click on the map to go to the Garmin player page.