A Passage to Pacific City

Marv and I decided to make an August three-day trip to Pacific City on the Oregon coast. It’s a town we visit two or three times a year, not because it’s a particularly interesting town, because it’s not. It’s a boring, small town. It is, however, right in the middle of really nice motorcycling roads. It also has a good place to eat fresh seafood, and a great place to have breakfast.

Our friend Keith was available to make the trip with us. The plan was for Keith to meet us at Marv’s house at 08:00. Somehow, the directions were misunderstood but, after some back and forth phone calls, we were able to meet him in the parking lot of the Safeway near his house.

By 09:00 we were in the thick of the morning commute traffic on I-405 through Bellevue. Although I was feeling sorry for the poor people making their way to work, I wasn’t going to let it bring me down. I was on a critical mission to get beyond the traffic, south of the city, and into the nice two-lane back roads we know so well.

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We’ve made the ride to Pacific City many times, but usually in the shoulder seasons. The roads on the west side of the Cascades are usually snow-free, so the coast is accessible to us through the winter, although the rain usually makes multi-day rides a wet proposition. Getting consecutive dry days between November and March is a rare event; getting them on days that people are free to ride is even rarer. The routes to Pacific City, and other destinations we favor on the coast, are routes we know well. It’s a little less common for us to go there in the middle of the summer. This time of the year, with the mountain passes open, we typically head to eastern Oregon or eastern Washington. Since this is an unusually hot summer, we decided we’d stay west of the Cascades in the cooler coastal weather.

I had a nice route planned that would land us in Pacific City just before dinner time. As we crossed the bridge across the Columbia in Longview, I realized we were going to need to shorten our route a bit. The early morning confusion about where we would meet Keith would have us arriving late in Pacific City. Across the Columbia, we took a nice long break at Hudson-Parcher County Park. It gave us time to re-hydrate and relax. I also used the time to trim a few of the planned roads from the end of the route. I consoled myself by considering them for the return trip.

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As we got back on our bikes and were ready to exit the park, an old man driving a parks department truck pulled up. He was about to charge us a day-use fee. Helmet on, sitting on my bike ready to leave, I realized he wanted to talk to us.

“Hi!” I said to the old guy sitting behind the wheel.

“You know there’s a fee for day-use of the park. You guys have been here for half an hour. I was expecting someone to come over and pay.” He had driven the parks department pickup truck the 75 feet from the building to where we had parked, and were about to leave.

“We’ve only been here for about 20 minutes.”

“Well you’ve been here for 20 minutes, and there’s a fee.”

“We’re just leaving.” And so we did.

The rest of the afternoon I had Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” in my head.

“They took all the trees

Put ’em in a tree museum

And they charged the people

A dollar and a half just to see ’em.”

We wound our way south on some nice roads west of Portland before taking the revised version of our route west to Pacific City on the coast. Keith got settled in the campground where he had made arrangements to overnight, and then met us at the motel for the short walk to the Sportsman’s Pub for dinner and conversation.

Our plan for Wednesday was to dip south and make a large loop around western Oregon. To do that, we would need to take a section of Highway 101, which can be busy with packs of cars trapped behind RVs. I reasoned it would be better to do that section first thing in the morning when the traffic is a little lighter. It paid off, sort-of.

After riding the Siletz Highway south to Siletz, we then worked our way around Devil’s Lake to the south side of Lincoln City. When we reconnected with Highway 101, we stopped for breakfast at Vivian’s and Bill’s Restaurant and Barbecue, where they offered good food and homemade berry preserves.

Marv wanted to repair the zipper-pull on his suit, and I lent him some two-part epoxy. While waiting for our breakfast to be brought out, he proceeded with the repair but, after we checked the cure time and found it to be five or six hours, he had to undo the repairs he had done, and clean everything off. He decided to run to the auto parts store to get some fast-curing epoxy to do the repairs, despite my suggestion that he could effect the repairs after we returned to the motel that evening, using the material I had, and letting it cure overnight.

Keith decided that, while Marv was getting his epoxy from the auto parts store, he could use the time to get replacement batteries for his GoPro microphone. I waited at the restaurant for them to return. Marv soon returned, and he and I sat astride our bikes while we waited for Keith to return. When we saw Keith zoom by the restaurant and on down the highway, we followed him. Then we saw him turn around and double back and, wondering if he saw we were with him, we then doubled back as well. We followed him to a shop he thought might sell the sort of batteries he needed. That shop then directed him to a store a few blocks away. Figuring “In for a penny…” We made the trip over to the second store where Keith was able to get the batteries he needed.

Back on the road south, we followed Highway 101 south to Reedsport, where we finally turned east to follow the Smith River.

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That section of road had a little bit of everything – sections that were smooth and wide with sweeping curves, and sections that needed pot-hole maintenance. On the east end of the road it broke out into a very nice twisty road through a clear-cut section of forest.

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As a result of the time spent in Lincoln City after breakfast, I altered the route as I had done the previous day, and cut out some planned sections of nice roads. We cut across north to Dallas where we took a break for dinner at a small independent Mexican fast-food restaurant, gassed our bikes, and headed out to make the final leg of the trip back to Pacific City.

We got back to the motel just before dusk, and Marv had time to repair his zipper pull with the stronger, two-part epoxy agent I had, instead of the 5-minute epoxy he purchased in Lincoln City. Keith headed out to his campground. On his way back to the campground, he encountered two young deer in the road and, although making his way at 10 mph, he assisted an opossum committing hari-kari as it scurried beneath Keith’s bike. In spite of the shortened route, we had been on some really great roads.

The next morning we wanted to eat breakfast at a place we’d discovered last fall on a ride we made to Pacific City with Chris. The Grateful Bread restaurant has very good food, and a clever Grateful Dead theme. I wanted to get a tofu scramble called “Ripple.” Instead of ordering it by name I just hummed a few bars, and the waitress knew what I wanted. With her being a Grateful Dead fan, I considered her a kindred spirit, and gave her a generous tip. Marv and Keith seemed to enjoy what they had too, although I don’t think the potatoes were to Marv’s taste.

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We spent the rest of the morning working our way north on Highway 53, Miami River Road, and then through Mist and Clatskanie. While we were taking a break at the side of the road, Keith mentioned that he should get to a Kinko’s, FedEx, or other mobile office-type store where he could get a couple of items for work taken care of. He needed access to a fax and a printer. We figured the best bet for that would be in Longview. Making an on-line search, we found a UPS store. Keith was able to take care of his required activities while Marv and I waited in the strip-mall parking lot. Curiosity and boredom getting the better of us, I followed Marv into an adjacent head shop. The retail clerk was very friendly, and the shop had the pleasant aroma of jasmine incense. The shop was full of marijuana paraphernalia, but they didn’t sell the product. As we were leaving, the clerk gave us the business card for a shop where it was available for those so-inclined to partake.

Curiosity sated, we met Keith in the parking lot where he was finishing his business. We decided to use the interstate to get home, because we had a long way to go, and the time we had spent in Longview had taken most of the enthusiasm for continuing on backroads out of me. Marv agreed, so the three of us headed home doing the I-5 boogie. It was a good trip. I hadn’t seen Keith for two years or so, and it was good to have an opportunity to ride with him again. After a short stop at Marv’s for ice cream, I trekked home.

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