Grants Pass, Oregon Shamrock Tour®: Land of the Rogue  

Text: Bryan Harley • Photography: Bryan Harley, Angelyne Harley

He stands guard over the north entrance to the city nigh 20 feet tall, hardened arms and sinewy muscles, a mighty club gripped tightly in his left hand. He’s the Grants Pass Caveman statue, a novelty of both civic-minded businessmen and mascot of the local high school. The Caveman was birthed by a group of businessmen in 1922 who were looking for ways to promote tourism in Josephine County. One of the major natural attractions in the county is the nearby Oregon Caves, and though no Neanderthals were discovered there, the name has stuck for almost 100 years.

The concrete arches of the Caveman Bridge span the Rogue River like twin rainbows. The waterway starts high in the Cascade Mountains near Crater Lake and stretches all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The tributary runs through the heart of our small city in southern Oregon and is its lifeblood, from the tourists it brings in, to the drinking water it provides. The bridge, built in 1927, is an architectural icon of Grants Pass. It’s known as a “mini McCullough” because it was designed by bridge engineer Conde McCullough who also built the bulk of the famous art deco bridges along the Oregon coast. A weathered green sign sits next to the entrance of the one-way bridge, white letters announcing to visitors the bridge is a gateway to the Redwood Empire, Oregon Caves, and the Golden Gate Bridge, the last destination a curious claim considering the Golden Gate is 400 miles away. But the city is a gateway to some fine riding through rugged land that was formed by tectonic plates clashing and volcanic upheavals. The forests are thick, the mountains majestic, and waterways are abundant. Seeing how much of the landscape remains unchanged, perchance picking a caveman as mascot for these parts was indeed appropriate. 

In the spirit of the Hudson Bay trappers and gold prospectors who first traveled to this area during the westward expansion, we charted four courses through both the familiar and unknown, the Shamrock Tour® providing the perfect opportunity to explore a handful of roads we’d never ridden. There’d be no need for a covered wagon, though, as a 2018 Indian Springfield served as our trusty steed, its mighty 1,811cc Thunder Stroke 111 with enough ponies that it probably could have pulled a cover wagon. The Springfield runs the same cast aluminum frame and swingarm as Indian’s touring motorcycles, the only difference being a scant less trail. It doesn’t have the heft of a front fairing weighing down its fork, either, and many claim it’s the most agile of all the big Indians. Four-day trips on the roads of southern Oregon would be the perfect proving grounds for this lofty claim. 

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the November/December 2018 back issue.