Portland, Oregon to Westport, California

Riding the Avenue of the Giants

April 27, 2018
4 Days
1261 Miles

Day 1: Portland to Ashland

I left Portland early Monday morning on the BMW R1200R, traveling light and heading east on Route 26. It got chilly as the highway gained altitude over the pass but it was warm when I left so I hadn’t bothered with my heated liner. I chose to be a bit chilly instead of stopping to put it on at this point since I was on the move.

A little patchy snow on the shoulders but the road itself was dry and the sun was out. Riding down the east side of the mountain, through Government Camp and descending into Warm Springs, the temperature warmed up quickly and being on the motorcycle was a lot more comfortable. I get a bit awestruck riding east in Oregon, from the forests and hills to where the landscape opens up and the sky gets bigger. No other way to describe it but dramatic.

I rode Highway 97 to Bend and stopped for a quick cup of coffee at Spoken Moto. Too busy inside for me so I sat outside and enjoyed some warm sun with my coffee before getting back on the road. Spoken was neat and worth the stop. I was glad I finally got to visit, can’t really go wrong with motorcycles and coffee.

Caffeinated, I continued south from Bend surrounded by a little light traffic until eventually exiting west to Route 422. This rural road took me through farmland near Klamath Agency. No other people or vehicles, just a few low-flying buzzards, not a popular route apparently. The route took me around the north end of Klamath Lake until reaching Dead Indian Memorial Road. This twisty and hilly road that descended into Ashland was a fun ride but leftover sand and grit from the winter meant caution in the apexes. With no open fuel stations on this stretch, I rolled into Ashland on fumes, only a few miles indicated range left as I pulled into the gas station across from the hotel.

I was pretty beat when I got to the hotel, between not having ridden for a full day in quite a while, riding the twisty mountain roads aggressively and the stress of nursing a nearly empty fuel tank for that last leg. In the hotel that night I made some changes the next day’s planned route on my GPS to shorten it up a bit.

I didn’t see much of Ashland itself but this was a riding trip and the end of the day was time to eat, plan and rest before getting back on the bike early the next morning. This was the kind of trip for living in bike gear and seeking out interesting roads, my emphasis was on the ‘sport’ part of ‘motorcycle sport-touring’.

Day 2: Ashland to Westport

Another early morning, I bailed out of Ashland for Westport, California. I had fueled at the station across the previous night in order to start off with a full tank, ready to go.

My modified route for Tuesday took me southwest on 199 across the California border to Crescent City and then south on Highway 101 from there. Amazing views of ocean but I was fighting a strong headwind most of the way south.

There were some slowdowns with road construction and populated areas but it was good riding overall. Everywhere 101 passes through a town the speed limit drops to between 30 and 45mph for a few miles and you hit some local traffic, Eureka being the worst of it.

The highway started taking me into foggy patches every time it curved towards the coast and it would clear up again when it curved back into the forests or up over a hill. The fog was different here than what I was used to. Back home when it get’s foggy it just sort of appears out of nowhere, on the California coast I could actually see it rolling off the water and over the road, more like the mist from dry ice than the fog I was used to. I actually pulled off to watch it roll in for a bit.

I continued south until the junction with Highway 1 at Leggett. Riding Highway 1 into Westport was a bit sketchy, especially with being tired from a windy day’s ride. The pavement was rough with a loose surface in the apexes, gravel on the road and fog limiting visibility in spots. There had been some recent slides and flooding along the route so there was some slick mud and debris remaining.

Westport was a great place to stay the night and fairly remote with a population of 60, actually it was a great place to stay because it was small and remote. No TV and spotty internet meant I had no choice but to be unwired for the evening. I got some fantastic takeout from the deli counter at the Westport Community Store before going for a walk and shooting some pictures from the cliffs overlooking the ocean. I only chatted with a few folks during my stay in Westport but everyone was very friendly and curious what I thought of their town. It seemed they didn’t get many visitors this early in the year and I was a bit of an oddity traveling there solo on a motorcycle.

Apparently in the early fall you can see migrating whales from the bluffs. No whales this time of year but still an epic view of the sea churning and crashing over the rocks.

I turned in early and got a good night’s sleep at the Westport Inn before heading north in the morning to see the redwoods.

Day 3: Westport to Charleston

Leaving Westport fed, caffeinated and well rested, I found riding the same rough stretch of Highway 1 back to Leggett was much more enjoyable than the day before. Hitting the challenging roads first thing and rested is always better than at the end of a long day.

Much of the day’s ride was backtracking on 101 until Crescent City but I’d be taking a detour off the 101 to ride the Avenue of the Giants.

It’s not a technical or fast road but 31 miles of leisurely curves through stands of ancient redwood trees. Only a 45mph speed limit for most of it, slow enough to see the scenery, with plenty of turn outs to stop and take pictures of gargantuan redwoods. Riding there early on a weekday meant I had the road almost entirely to myself.

Photos don’t do it justice, the forest here is incredible. I had seen big old growth on the Olympic Peninsula but that didn’t compare to the scale of the redwoods. The forest floor is mostly clear of undergrowth due to the age of the forest so it’s just gigantic trees everywhere you look, so big they don’t look real.

After spending some time gawking at the trees I got back on the 101 and continued my burn north, crossing the state line into Oregon , passing through waterfront towns and riding further up the coast. I stopped at the Face Rock Creamery in Bandon for some cheese, making sure to pick up some “Super Slayer” garlic and pepper cheddar.

Exiting the 101 I took Seven Devils Road into Charleston. It’s only around a 12 mile ride but it hits that sweet spot between being curvy and interesting but not too technical, long sweepers with no traffic. Seven Devils is one of those roads you can choose to take it easy on but if you push a little bit harder, brake later and drive hard out of the corners it’s a really rewarding ride.

Day 4: Charleston to Portland

The last day of my trip and I was on a mission to get home, not a day of stopping for photos or seeing the sights. I had a serious craving for a bagel from Bernsteins back in Portland and they close at 1:30pm, I had to get my move on.

I headed north on 101 in the rain and coastal mist before turning east via Highway 38 at Reedsport. I had decided on 38 because it looked like the quickest route from 101 to I5 on the map but it ended up being a fantastic riding road and I am hoping to get a chance to ride it again. This section of Highway 38 is a winding two-lane highway that hugs the Umpqua River for a good portion of it’s route. Smooth pavement and no traffic. Not a single car behind me the entire way and only a few passing the other direction on this 40 mile stretch.

When I arrived at the junction where Highway 38 meets the interstate I broke my rule of avoiding the slab and took the entrance to I5. A two hour grind riding north to get home in time for lunch.

Avenue of the Giants, California
Avenue of the Giants, California

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