Rain is a fact of life in Oregon, and the locals welcome it as a treasure. Lawns are lush here, flowers grow in abundance and vegetable gardens burst with bounty. None of this would be possible without the rain. Everything looks clean, fresh and healthy. I’ll take a little rain early in the day in exchange for such beauty.
I grab a quick (free!) breakfast in the lobby of the BEST WESTERN Lincoln Inn as I review my riding plans. There’s so much to do and see between here and Lincoln City that I’ll never get to explore it all.
My motorcycle looks clean (and a little wet), but the rain has faded to a mist as I leave the BEST WESTERN in my rear view. I meander a bit through downtown Astoria before heading south. The well-preserved architecture gives an old-fashioned feel that’s very welcoming. I’m tempted to dawdle and see the Astoria Column, but the reality of climbing 164 steps to the observation deck keeps me on the bike. I’d really like to see the Oregon Film Museum some day. I had no idea that Oregon has had such an illustrious history in cinema, but professional filmmaking has a legacy in the state, starting with The Fisherman’s Bride back in 1908. Maybe I’ll come back for the Astoria International Film Festival in October.
Instead of lingering in Astoria, I ride on. I’ve always been fascinated with Lewis and Clark, and I’ve traced quite a bit of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail on a motorcycle. Oregon is home to the end of the Trail, and to several significant sites along the way. I decided to visit Fort Clatsop, where the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery wintered from December 1805 to March 1806. The National Parks Service has reconstructed the Fort, and Park Rangers in period costume give impromptu lectures and talks about the expedition. There’s a great visitor’s center with informative displays, and a well-stocked gift shop onsite.
After an hour or so at Fort Clatsop, I hop back on the bike. The mist has begun lifting, which means there’s great riding ahead.
Like yesterday, I see a lot of bikes on the road today. And not just motorcycles – there are bicycles everywhere. Oregon has a rabid bicycling community, and I pass several bike tour groups pedaling down the coast. It’s almost tempting me to give up my motorized two-wheeler for a human-powered model. Almost.
I cruise along the coast on US 101, enjoying the ride. I decide to explore Seaside, the oceanfront town at the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail. In 1806, the Corps set up camp and salt-making operation at the location of present-day Seaside. The salt was essential to the Corps’ survival, as they used it to preserve meat.
Seaside has been a popular tourist destination for over a century, with its wide beaches and gorgeous hillside home locations. The BEST WESTERN Ocean Front Resort sits right on the Prom at the Pacific’s edge, with a lovely beach and walking access to Seaside’s many attractions. Riding through town, I see families enjoying indoor miniature golf, video arcades, bumper cars and other fun. Even though a light fog hangs over the beach today, people are playing, running, riding bikes and exploring the area. A statue on the Prom commemorates the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail, depicting the great men and Captain Lewis’ loyal Newfoundland dog, Seaman.There are plenty of live dogs around, too, which makes me miss my pups a little. They would love this town – and that statue.
I’m starting to get a little hungry, but I’m saving my appetite. I stop by one of Seaside’s roadside Espresso huts for a double-shot Americano to tide me over. Oregon rivals Washington in its love for coffee. Tiny little Espresso huts serve freshly roasted and brewed coffee all along US 101. Some look like converted Foto Hut stores, some look like gussied up garden sheds. The common denominator is great coffee, just the thing to fuel a ride along the coast.
Time for lunch. I reach Tilamook County, home to two of my favorite food makers: Tilamook Country Smoker and Tilamook Cheese. Tilamook Country Smoker makes jerky in a factory in Bay City, and they’ve got an outlet store adjacent to the factory. Or, if I may categorize it in other terms: Heaven. I buy a small package of turkey jerky, and a pound of beef jerky (for $9.99!). I’ve got the first course of my lunch, and snacks for the rest of my trip.
The big food attraction is the Tilamook Cheese Factory. The big building in the city of Tilamook is a major tourist attraction, with a bustling parking lot and heavy traffic. Inside the factory, visitors are welcome to take a free self-guided factory tour. It’s very cool to watch the workers inspecting, slicing and packing blocks of cheese, and to see endless conveyor belts of cheese traveling through the factory. Best of all, there’s a sampling line, where you can taste every variety of cheese that Tilamook makes. Or, as I call it today, the second course of lunch. The sampling line leads directly in to a big gift store, where Tilamook products (cheese and ice cream) are sold, along with related gifts and trinkets. If that isn’t enough, there’s also a Tilamook restaurant and ice cream bar. Lactose intolerant travelers need not apply.
Reluctantly, I climb back on the Electra Glide and depart Tilamook. I depart US 101 for US 131, and The Three Capes Scenic Drive. The three capes — Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout and Cape Meares peek out along the coast, and form some of the most magnificent coastal views in the Northwest. Storms and reconstruction have temporarily closed some of the road, but I’m able to ride to Cape Meares to explore the Cape Meares Lighthouse. At just 38 feet high, the Cape Meares Lighthouse is the shortest in Oregon, but it occupies a position on a high bluff above the ocean that belies its diminutive height. The gorgeous location is worth the steep hike back to the parking lot.
The Electra Glide and I make good time on the final push to our stopping point for tonight, the BEST WESTERN PLUS Landmark Inn in Lincoln City. We backtrack on US 131, and pick up US 101 South again. We pass by the Tilamook Air Museum without stopping – it will have to wait for another trip.
Lincoln City is another tourist destination on the Oregon Coast. It has been named one of the 25 best places to retire in the United States, and features cultural and recreational activities year round, with a population of nearly 8,000. After a long day in the saddle, I’m mostly interested in my hotel, and some food.
The BEST WESTERN PLUS Landmark Inn is a lovely place, with a big welcoming front entrance highlighted by a calming water feature out front. Two Harley-Davidsons are parked in front of the hotel when I arrive – a very good sign, by my account. I park, and then enter the cozy lobby to do some paperwork. I notice that the hotel has DVDs available to rent, along with a selection of frozen treats for sale. Nice! Elizabeth at the front desk proves very knowledgeable about local seafood restaurants. She tells me that she tries out all of the local eateries so that she’ll be able to make informed recommendations. I like that. Elizabeth recommends Pier 101 Deluxe Bar and Grill (http://www.pier101deluxebarandgrill.com/), just 2.5 miles north on US 101. The food turns out to be great, and the portions mammoth. My giant bowl of steamed clams that are the best I’ve had on the West Coast, ever (Best on the East Coast: Brown’s Lobster Pound, Seabrook Beach, New Hampshire). My main course is a Washington-caught Red Snapper, cooked in the Vera Cruz style. Delicious. I don’t even have room for dessert, believe it or not.
Back in my room at the BEST WESTERN PLUS Landmark Inn now, I am eager to ride again tomorrow. The weather report looks hopeful – clear skies, warm temperatures and light winds.
Tonight, I’ll dream of clams.
Miles ridden: 170
NEXT UP: DAY THREE: LINCOLN CITY TO BANDON.