Southern Oregon: Dreams Come True

Text: Joseph Marek • Photography: Joseph Marek

I still remember looking up one day during fourth-grade recess and seeing the motorcycle go by on the rain-slicked road. Where was this rider heading to, I wondered. The rider looked free and without a care. I had fallen in love with motorcycles, but at the age of 9 the best thing I could do was to buy motorcycle bubble-gum cards. Eventually, I did get to ride on a motorcycle, thanks to a neighbor who owned a Honda CB450.

Fast-forward to a faded 1982 photo showing me next to a 1979 Kawasaki KZ750, with a sleeping bag and a backpack. Wearing logging boots, jeans, a ski jacket, and a bright-red helmet, I was heading from Oregon City, OR, to Bandon on the southern Oregon coast. I was 19 years old and it was my first real motorcycle trip. Paper maps and an adventurous spirit guided me then.

Fun is the One Constant 

It’s been nearly four decades since that first trip, and I wanted to relive that journey. This time, I’m riding a retro-standard Triumph Bonneville T120. Late June is usually a good time for two-wheeled travel in Oregon: Temperatures are comfortable and there isn’t too much rain. After my wife takes a ceremonial “start of my trip” photo, I depart under cloudy skies to Champoeg State Park. It was at this location in the 1840s that European settlers held the first discussions leading to the creation of the Oregon Territory. The territory was established in 1848 and Oregon became a state in 1859.

The soothing rhythm of the Triumph is relaxing as I travel west through the fertile Willamette Valley, with its multiple shades of green, and I soon climb into the Oregon Coast Range. Along Route 18 near the summit of the Coast Range, a light drizzle reminds me of why there is so much green and so many tall trees here. I turn off the highway to see the Drift Creek Covered
Bridge, considered to be the oldest covered bridge in Oregon. The structure was built in 1914 and moved to this location in 2001, board by board. A mixed gravel and paved county road winds its way to Highway 101 on the south side of Lincoln City. Once I’m out of the Coast Range, the rain transitions to small patches of blue sky, and a wide smile spreads across my face.

With the Pacific Ocean on my right, I point the Triumph south and enjoy numerous coastal viewpoints. Whales spout off the breakers at Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint, and I visit Depoe Bay, which, covering 6 acres, is the world’s smallest natural navigable harbor. Birds are abundant here, and at Yaquina Head, just north of Newport, I’m treated to a mother peregrine falcon diving from a high cliff for prey to bring to her two fledglings. What a treat!

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the July/August 2019 back issue.