The journey begins...


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10/9/2007 PM   Welcome to Portland

Riding across the bridge over the Columbian River into Oregon was a bit disappointing.  The gorgeous, wide river was lined with huge smokestacks and the lumber yards of the logging industry.  It seemed like a waste of a great opportunity to welcome visitors into Oregon with a truly beautiful scene, but I suppose the logging industry still produces much more income than tourism and has been around for much longer, so it will remain the southbound visitor’s first impression of the state.  We passed many small farms and ranches offering fresh, organic fruits and vegetables at their own roadside stands.  We were still seeing these individual farms as close as 15 miles from the center of Portland.  We found that riding into Portland was a bit challenging due to a bridge that had been closed for repairs.  Fortunately there were four other large bridges connecting the city, something that we later found was a source of pride for Portland locals.  We planned on staying at the Hawthorne HI Hostel, but found it was completely booked.  Luckily they allowed us to set up our tent in the backyard for $26, which is not a bad deal for inner-city accommodation.  Hawthorne is an artsy, bohemian area of Portland that is known for it’s quaint eateries, coffeehouses, pubs, unique shops, and the famous Bagdad Brew Pub & Theatre.  We took a walk down Hawthorne Boulevard before settling in at Claudia’s Sports Bar and Grill, a relaxed dive bar across the street from the hostel.  There we met and mingled with a few locals.  As the bar closed at midnight, a friendly native Portlander named Amie invited us back to her apartment a couple of blocks away for a few more drinks and conversation.  Her apartment was a great little attic studio with a fantastic view of downtown Portland from her private balcony.  It was nice to meet a female friend in our travels and I hope we can keep in touch.  It was into the morning hours when we finally made it back to the hostel and into bed. 

10/10/2007  Introductions to the Oregon Coast

Our late night out resulted in a late morning start.  After enjoying a quick shower and some free bagels, we geared up for the rain.  Riding into downtown Portland as the rain poured down was not much fun and reminded us why we enjoyed the roads less traveled.  I have to admit that we did not see Portland properly, but I did enjoy the short visit and would really enjoy returning to the city for a closer look. 

Continuing south from Portland, there was much more urban sprawl that we had seen coming from the north.  We took Highway 18 in a not so scenic southwesterly route that linked the Portland suburbs.  The road finally began to get interesting again as we passed the town of Sheridan, about 25 miles from the Pacific coast.  The forest surrounded us and canopied the roadway before opening up the coast, where we turned south onto Highway 101.  Here the trees became large squatty bushes with hardy, strong limbs to fight the brutal coastal winds.  As we paralleled the ocean we were greeted with views of the Pacific’s powerful waves crashing into rocky embankments – threatening to tear away at the land. 

The Oregon Coast is a series of long stretches of sandy beaches interspersed by rugged headlands. There are no large cities on the coast, mainly due to the lack of deep harbors with access to the inland agricultural areas.  Oregon’s beaches were first protected for public in the early 1900’s.  In 1967 the passage of the Oregon Beach Bill maintained the vision of keeping Oregon’s beaches open to the public. The Oregon Beach Bill guaranteed that the public has free and uninterrupted use of the beaches along Oregon’s 363 miles of coastline. Only one other state (Hawaii) guarantees public access from the surf line to the vegetation line.

As we passed through each small town, the roadside became busy with resorts, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions.  Unfortunately we didn’t have the time or energy to explore Depoe Bay’s resident pod of grey whales.  Depoe Bay promotes itself as the “Whale watching Capital of the Oregon Coast”.  It is also a town that is very proud of its huge sea wall, which runs the length of the downtown and provides visitors with a constant view of the ocean.  Waves rushing into the rocks spout water as high as 60 feet into the air and are known as spouting horns. 

Newport is nestled between the Coast Mountains, Pacific Ocean and Yaquina Bay.  It is a bustling tourist town that has been entertaining hoards of vacationers since the early 1900’s – in addition to supporting one of Oregon’s largest commercial fishing fleets.  After a quick stop at Wal-Mart in Newport, the views continued to improve as the towns became sparser.  Just south of Waldport, we found a fantastic campsite at Beachside State Recreation Site with the sounds of the tolling waves crashing right in front of us for the bargain price of $13.   It would be very close to qualifying as the best camp spot we had found so far on the journey.  Unfortunately the air was still quite chilly during the day and quite cold at night, so we were still looking forward to the warmer climates to come. 

10/11/2007  Reuniting with new friends

The weather was clear, but still chilly in the morning as we rolled down Highway 101.  To our west lay the huge blue mass of the Pacific Ocean and to the ease the Siuslaw National Forest.  The highway led us through the forests and a river valley while sand dunes rose up to blocked our view of the sea to our right.  This area of Oregon is popular for their sand dunes and is frequented by families with ATVs and dune buggies. 

Leaving the national forest area behind, North Bend and Coos Bay were dominated by the logging industry and their mills as the highway turned inland.  This was largest metro area on the south coast of Oregon, representing a population of 25,000 and for us, not a place to stick around and explore.

We reached the sea again in Bandon as the weather began to turn to rain again.  Bandon-by-the-sea is a small, charming coastal town with a renovated Old Town area is just off Highway 101, right next to the boat harbor.   Bandon is Oregon's unofficial Cranberry Capital, and has over 900 acres of cranberry bogs to back up the claim.  The Beach Loop winds along the coast with close-up views of many huge rocks separated from the land and surrounded by the powerful forces of the pacific.  The most impressive of these is known as Face Rock, which entertains a local legend that claims it is the face of an Indian maiden that was frozen into stone by an evil spirit. 

Riding a few miles out of town and over a hill, we recognized two cyclists on the road as the same two Australian travelers we had met in the hostel in Victoria while visiting Vancouver Island – Travis and Fiona.  After stopping for a chat, we agreed to camp together at a state park about 20 miles further along the highway.  We set off to purchase provisions and set up camp ahead of their arrival.  As we made our way toward the town, we noticed a lone motorcyclist parked in an abandoned truck stop area and we stopped to make sure he was okay.  He was just taking a break and we hung around for a conversation.  He was a New Zealander who had ridden north from Argentina on a DR650 Suzuki.  It was great to hear his stories and advice for the ride ahead.  We spoke for so long that the bicyclist caught up with us!  We bypassed them again before passing the Cape Blanco Lighthouse, the oldest and most westerly lighthouse in Oregon. 

The scenery from Port Orford to Humbug Mountain State Park was spectacular – high cliffs providing panoramic seascapes and secluded beaches free from development.  The campground was nestled in the valley of the mountain along a small river leading to the sea.  Travis and Fiona arrived shortly thereafter and we all shared a big pot of hamburger helper around the fire.  It was a chilly night with intermittent rain, but our new friends made it exceptional!

 10/12/2007   Hitching a Ride

We all decided that we deserved a day’s rest, so we agreed to spend a second night together in at Humbug Mountain.  Fiona and I guarded ourselves with bear spray before walking to the highway to hitch a ride into town for groceries.  This was my first experience hitchhiking anywhere – what seems to be relatively common on the west coast would be met with looks of horror and trepidation in the southeast.  It took a while for someone bold enough to stop and pick us up and when a car finally did stop, the solo male driver displayed all the traits that smart female hitchhikers should avoid – a bearded face with a baseball cap and sunglasses.  Of course we accepted the ride with him anyway and found him to be a very friendly schoolteacher and sport coach that was on his way to attend his son’s football game.  After taking us 6 miles up the highway to Port Orford, he bid us farewell and good luck. 

Port Orford is a town that is very proud of its small, unhurried, quiet atmosphere.  It is filled with friendly, quirky artists and has no stop lights to create traffic jams.   Not only is it the most westerly city in the continental U.S., it is also the oldest platted town site on the Oregon coast.  We picked up plenty of goodies for the next several meals together and walked to the library to use the Internet before trying to get a ride back to the campground.  While standing alongside the road, Fiona recognized two young female bicyclists she had previously met on her travels and invited them to join us at camp that night.  We were able to secure a ride to camp by approaching an older gentleman in the grocery store parking lot - which ended with pamphlets instructing us on how to accept Jesus Christ as our savior before we die.  After a late lunch, the four of us walked along a trail to the ocean – a lovely beach with a dangerous undercurrent!  Deciding it was too early for good photos, we returned to the camp.  While Darren and Travis collaborated on the maintenance of Fiona’s bike, the ladies found a place in the sun to catch up on our journals.  After another visit to the beach, we made a huge pot of spaghetti.   As the other bicyclists arrived, we enjoyed a second evening of exchanging travel stories and advice around the campfire.  After spending some time with these cycling travelers, I can imagine picking up a bicycle to travel in the future – they have really inspired me.

10/13/2007   Gold Beach and Brookings

After a sausage and egg breakfast, we all packed up and continued our journeys.  Hopefully we will be lucky enough to meet up with Travis and Fiona again on the road or later in Darwin.  We continued along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) through a temperate rainforest area with impressive views along coastal cliffs.  Rolling down from the high cliffs into the town of Gold Beach, I was stuck by the sight of an ancient, sinking ship – nearly submerged – in the port.  Later I discovered the ship to be The Mary D. Hume.  It was built in 1881 in this very same port and served 91 years in commercial sea service before sailing under her own power to retire back to this port in 1978.

Brookings and its neighboring town, Harbor lies at the junction of the Chetco River and the Pacific Ocean.  It boasts the warmest average temperature on the Oregon coast and lies only 6 miles from the California border.  This area has become very popular among retirees and the real estate market is very competitive.  We stopped briefly in Brookings to use the Internet before entering California. 


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