Quick blast to the Redwoods
We have all heard it. That voice in the back of your head that starts screaming at you in September. “Ride while the weather is good”! The best part of the year to ride ( in bikerbros opinion, late summer / early fall) is quickly coming to an end. So this weekend we took a quick ride from Portland Oregon to the Redwood National Forest in Northern California. The need to ride outweighed many other concerns. Namely, the 17 fires burning Oregon, the Redwood state park being closed to riders and cagers because of a 10K run, and the first major storm of the season to hit the Northwest US. Ride on!
We met the Oregon coast line in a little town called Florence. Riding the 101 this far north, the shoreline is in and out of your vision from highway 101. The coast is truly spectacular with big sand dune beaches and some amazing rock formations visible in the water. Lot’s of hiking/walking and camping options available along this section of coast, but not in the cards for this quick trip.
A favorite along the Oregon coast, Florence is the little brother to Newport. Florence has a small, but charming downtown. We grabbed lunch at Mo’s. Known for good chowder and all things fried (mostly from the sea, go figure), the service is always good and a prerequisite for this trip, quick. We enjoyed the watery views, some good chowder, fried shrimp, an adult grilled cheese and the beauty of a 110 outlet to put a little juice back in some of our hardware. Lot’s of tasty beers to be enjoyed here, but as is our practice on two wheels, we keep the adult beverages for the end of the day, after all the riding is done.
Leaving Florence and heading south on 101, the coastline quickly transitions into dunes. While this looks like something out of the Sahara, it is sandwiched between beautiful pine trees and the Pacific Ocean. This is a very popular area for ATV riding, and lots of places to rent them. On this September Friday afternoon, the beaches were surprisingly quiet, and had a desolate feel about them.
Friday’s riding weather was really what we think of as perfect. Mid 60’s to mid 70’s, with a mixture of partly cloudy and full sun. Riding the coastline was relaxing, in spite of the tight time frames we placed on this trip. A good riding day came to an end in the little town of Gold Beach. We enjoyed some prime rib and beers at Spinners. We give Spinners a solid on our food scale but a little pricey for what they offer. Early to bed on this night as we have big trees to see on Saturday.
We started Saturday morning at Double D cafe in Gold Beach. Very friendly staff taking care of customers, with large portions of good breakfast food, and all the coffee you can handle. Double D is the kind of place we just love. Friendly folks who are happy to share info about their town and the surrounding area, love to know more about you, and figure out how to make all that happen while taking good care of everyone with good food.
Charged with good food and serious amounts of coffee, a stop was immediately required south of Gold Beach to take in the coastline and rock formations directly off the coast. This look really defines the Northwest coast. Plan on some picture opportunities in this section of riding. There is also some opportunities to do a little exploring along the coast here and climb some interesting rock cropping overlooking the coast.
Riding 101 in this area is really scenic. The riding is not dramatic overall, but there a few curvy sections that it’s required to give up the site seeing and really execute pushing your bike around. Overall a good ride that includes some bridges and other interesting small towns, like Brookings and Smith River.
Soon enough you cross over into California and Crescent City. The roads in this area were under construction, and timed lights managing the one lane strategy for both directions of traffic. We knew there would be some delays, and there were. The road quality from entering the state of California, riding through Del Norte Coast Redwoods State park, and the National Park is a mess. The patch work quilt strategy being employed is not one that considers riding on two wheels. There is also some really nice scenery here, both coastal and forest, but the roads will make you pay if your eyes wander too far. Plan a few stops along this section to take it all in, and curse the lack of detail in putting the roads back together before old man winter shows up.
The Redwood experience from a parks standpoint can be confusing. Not that we totally understand it, but here is what we learned. Don’t look for a major gate of entrance to the Redwood National or State Park. The parks layout north to south this way. Del Norte Redwood State Park. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and the Redwood National Park. Essentially, 3 parks ( think 3 groups of massive trees), run by different services. The folks at the National Park were helpful in identifying what was open during our visit, where we could ride easily and where roads became unpaved trails.
Pictures do not capture the true majesty of the forest and the size of these trees. We would recommend a pair of shoes / hikers besides your riding boots if you want to do a little exploring. The effort is worthwhile and there is much to see. An easy walk in riding boots or sandals can be done at the edge of the Northern park, Del Norte in Simpson-Reed Grove. Good parking for biker and you can even putt through some of it from your saddle. Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway in Prairie State Park, we were told is also a great ride. Closed on this visit for a 10K running race, we will see it next time.
We chose to re-ride some of the same roads out, as fires had eliminated some of our preferred choices. We ended up riding to Medford, Oregon. The riding to Medford on Highway 199 has some nice turns at speed. The roads and signs line up well. The road quality immediately improves when you enter Oregon. Nice wooded scenery with some rivers and lakes. By the end of our day, we chose to catch interstate 5 for just a bit between Grant’s Pass and Medford.
Dinner was some serious Italian at Vinny’s in Medford. Quality food and service. Reasonably priced. Best, the Owner, Vinny, took the time to chat us up, asked about our meal, made sure we got our cab (no Uber in Medford). If in Medord, give this one a try.
Crater Lake was intended to be the next stop on this ride. We knew before we left that it was doubtful, due to fires. The smoke smell in the air as we crossed from Grants Pass to Medford made it clear that Crater Lake would have to wait. We made the decision that night to skip the next day and just freeway ride back to Portland, up Interstate 5. The fires and incoming rain forced our hand. Interstate 5 surprised us, as it’s mostly two lanes of scenic views from Medford to Eugene, with some of the best fast turns we have ever ridden coming out of Grants Pass and into Glendale. If you like 70 MPH long sweeping turns, you will enjoy this section of Interstate. The rain caught up with us south of Eugene. Nothing to dramatic, but a little caution with the first rain of the season.
Just under three days, great scenery, and about 800 miles of nice riding. It was a good ride. The bad news, we can still hear that voice in the back of our heads; “riding season is winding down”. Time to get a few more rides in. Ride On!