August 19 2011 by Jason Fogelson
I jump out of bed at the BEST WESTERN Inn at Face Rock, get dressed and get packed up. I've got an appointment to ride this morning. "Bandon Bill" Clark has promised to take me to a place that every biker must visit.
I make time for a hot breakfast of eggs, sausage, biscuit and gravy in the breakfast room at Bandon Bill's Grill on the hotel grounds. I remember the great meal I had in the dining room here last night - I wonder if I could extend my stay, just one more night? No - I've got places to go, promises to keep. You know the story.
I check out of the hotel, bidding Anthony farewell. Bill is outside warming up his Harley-Davidson Softail. It's a 2002 Heritage, and it's seen a lot of the world.
I saddle up on the Electra Glide, and thumb the bike to life. Man, that sounds good. I follow Bill out of the parking lot, and we head on down the road. We link back up with US 101 South, and soon we're snaking down the pavement. Bill rides confidently, and he's a born leader. I fall in formation, and keep pace as we hum along. The weather is perfect. The wind has cleared the cloud cover, the sun is shining and the temperature is delightful - not too warm, not too cool. A great day to ride.
About 25 miles down the road, we leave the highway and ride west toward the ocean. We've arrived at Cape Blanco State Park, home to the Hughes House and the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. Bill claims that we are now at the westernmost point in the contiguous United States. The internet disagrees, claiming that distinction for Cape Alava, Washington -- but I don't. It's the spirit of the adventure that counts. I love the fact that Bandon Bill took a morning out of his life to take me to the westernmost point in the contiguous US, and I will never forget the ride. I even have pictures of Bill and me together to prove it.
I retrace my steps as far as Reedsport, about 50 miles up US 101, then stop for lunch at a little espresso/sandwich hut called "Back to the Best." The coffee is great, and the smoked salmon sandwich is out of this world. Sometimes the little places can surprise you.
From Reedsport, I head inland on Route 38, the Umpqua Highway along the Umpqua River. A few miles up the road, I see a sign that promises "Elk Viewing Area." Sure enough, a herd of elk lounges in a field beside the road, snacking on grass and generally enjoying themselves. They are a small group, maybe three dozen elk in total, but they are no more than 100 yards from the low fences that keep people out of the clearing. The elk are magnificent animals, with big racks of antlers and a quiet confidence that radiates across the distance. I'm so glad I'm on this road today.
The Umpqua River is not mighty, but it is beautiful. The Umpqua Highway winds along with the river from Reedsport through small towns like Scottsburg, Green Acres and Elkton. It's a lovely stretch of road, perfect for a nice, relaxed motorcycle cruise.
At Elkton, the river turns south, and the highway splits off to the east through Sunnydale and ending at the town of Drain. I pick up Route 99 in Drain, and resume my trip northward. Route 99 merges with the dreaded Interstate 5 for a stretch, and I endure the superslab in order to get to Eugene.
Eugene is the home of the University of Oregon. The U of O is a major academic institution, and the school has a rich tradition of athletic achievement as well. Their team name is "The Ducks," which does not inspire much fear. The campus is big, hosting over 23,000 students. The school has been around since 1872, and boasts a wide variety of architecture and topography. I cruise around the impressive buildings, thankful that I'm visiting during the sleepy summer session and not contending with the full student body.
I ride around Eugene for a while, exploring its neighborhoods and business areas. Could it be that the famous Oregon rain keeps things clean? Eugene is a sparkling city, with lush gardens, plenty of green space and well-kept public spaces. Many single family houses from the Victorian era through the early Arts & Crafts period have survived, and people seem to take pride in the quaint architecture. Arts & Crafts was a movement that emphasized the connection with nature and with craftsmanship, and the style really meshes well with Eugene's geography and natural setting. On a clear day like today, this town is enchanting.
The road beckons. I've still got a few miles to cover on Route 99. I settle into a groove, and soon I'm in Corvallis, my stop for the night. There's the sign for the BEST WESTERN Grand Manor Inn. I turn into the parking lot, admiring the hotel's columned portico. Vince at the front desk handles my check in with aplomb. The only wrinkle comes when Vince offers me a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. They're all gone! Two giggling young women sit at the lobby computer, their lips suspiciously smeared with chocolate and their chins dusted with cookie crumbs. Harumph! Vince promises to bake another batch. In the meantime, he recommends a nearby restaurant, El Sol de Mexico, for dinner when I ask for a recommendation within walking distance.
I put my luggage in my room, a convenient ground floor suite, take off my riding gear and head out for dinner. El Sol de Mexico features Jalisco-style Mexican food at two locations in Corvalis. As a Californian, I'm skeptical about Mexican food when it's served this far north of the border. But I'm happy to report that El Sol de Mexico does a great job with a traditional menu. And, best of all for me tonight, it's a short walk from the BEST WESTERN Grand Manor Inn, so I treat myself to a Mexican beer with my meal.
It was a long hot ride today, with so much to see. Add a beer to the mix, and I'm ready for sleep. I return to the BEST WESTERN, and Vince is true to his word -- there's a batch of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies waiting at the front desk. I limit myself to two cookies, and then go to my room. I'm asleep in minutes. A suite as spacious and nicely furnished as this might be wasted on me - I'm barely awake long enough to explore it.
Tomorrow is a shorter ride. Tomorrow I enter wine country.
NEXT UP: DAY FIVE: CORVALLIS TO FOREST GROVE.