Dense stands of old-growth conifers line ribbons of smooth asphalt that climb from the crashing waves and rolling fog of the Pacific Ocean to the desolate lava fields and craggy peaks of the Cascade Range. Despite 30-degree temperature swings, the weather is perfect. Welcome to Oregon.
Early on a July Sunday morning, four travelers on three motorcycles roll out of Oregon’s capital city of Salem. Over the next four days, we will delve deep into the state’s vastly divergent landscapes to discover all that Oregon has to offer. Florian leads the way on a 1978 Honda Gold Wing. Right on his tail, I’m riding a bright red vintage BMW R 65, and bringing up the rear are long-time RoadRUNNER readers Mel and Patti Cearley on a big shiny Honda VTX. All three bikes belong to Mel, who’s kind enough to let us borrow them.
From Salem, we slowly wind south along Hwy 223 through the small town of Dallas and the rolling, thickly forested hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the state’s most populous region. At Highway 20, we turn west toward the Central Oregon Coastal Range and the Pacific Coast. Brilliant blue skies and warm temperatures mark summer in Oregon—the famous rain comes mostly in the colder months.
As we descend into the town of Newport, we’re greeted with stunning views of Yaquina Bay and its namesake bridge, the second to last in a series built in the ‘20s and ‘30s to carry U.S. Route 101.
In Newport, we feast on fish sandwiches and clam chowder at Mo’s before following the coastline north. On our left, the turquoise and sapphire waters of the Pacific crash against the rocky brown coastline carving endless variations of shapes into the hard rock. Seagulls float on the stiff breeze coming off the water. The air is cool with a sharpness that instantly makes us feel a little more alive. It’s breathtaking. Long sweepers trace the boundary between land and sea while, around each bend, a new vista threatens to tear our eyes from the road. At Lincoln Beach, we turn around to take it all in again, this time from the seaward side.
Continuing south past Newport along 101, we reach Waldport. From there, we follow the Alsea River inland. The route closely mimics the river’s twists and turns and makes for an invigorating afternoon ride. We work our way northwest to the city of Corvallis, home of Oregon State University. From there, we turn almost due north back to Salem. Tomorrow we head east—and up.