It was high noon when I reached the north side of the Astoria Bridge. The old girl was getting a make-over and smelled of paint and turpentine. A flock of supervisory seagulls drifted above. I crossed the Columbia and spiraled down to street level Astoria then pointed my front tire towards Tillamook.
It was still a week before the national rally in John Day, but I had a full agenda ahead of me prior to, then following that event involving Grand Tour checkpoints and other towns riding a large, crooked, counter clockwise circle covering Oregon’s four corners. Astoria was corner 1 and there were barely any bugs on my windshield or whisker shadow on my face.
This was the 4th summer with the Vintage and the ride kept getting better and better. Leaning into and powering out of the coastal corners, it was clear what this machine was made for. Sometimes entering a small patch of fog that hadn’t yet or wouldn’t ever burn off, I’d feel a power surge when the motor smiled and breathed in that slightly moist air. The ocean on my right stretched out as far as the eye could reach. Beyond that were sea-faring tales that I couldn’t imagine. Ahead of me, the road was unwinding like a story told in real time.
The next few days, my wheels kept on turning. Past the Holsteins and Jerseys of Tillamook, the tourists of Lincoln City, and the dunes near Reedsport. There, I turned and rode east over the coast range on OR38. A beautiful and meandering road following the Umpqua River past one blink burgs with names like Murphys Camp and Green Acres. Ordinary people calmly and smoothly going about their business – like the water flow next to them.
Nearing the I-5 corridor it was getting quite congested, and hot too. The Vintage was running like a champ, but I could tell it wanted some more elbow room. I quickly checked off a Grand Tour site in Sutherlin then looked for a back road outta town. Barely showing on a map was Flournoy Valley Road turning into Reston Road, then meeting up nicely with OR42 at another one of those tiny settlements –Tenmile. We headed west again back over the coast range ending up at Bandon Beach just in time for the sunset.
A cup of hot coffee the next morning was enough to get me warmed up and down the road to Brookings for breakfast –Corner 2. It wasn’t long before I was across the border and catching whiffs more and more frequently of the Eucalyptus groves of Del Norte County.
I passed through some redwoods and swung back up into Oregon on 199 along the Smith River. Rafters, fly fisherman, and bathers all enjoying the summer sun, as was I, weaving and watching it go by from above.
Summer in southern Oregon can get real hot real fast, but I avoided it by climbing quickly from the Rogue River valley where the temps cooled just as fast, and nearing Crater Lake, snow was still alongside the road. Continuing east then north on OR97 I saw an unassuming line on the map referred to as the Silver Lake Hwy cutting across to OR31 not far from Summer Lake – another checkpoint. A very peaceful, seemingly deserted road, it’s elevated above marshland filled with cattails, lillypads, grasses and some ponderosa pine trees. Cranes, eagles and pelicans were above. This part of the state is always full of surprises.
OR140 out of Lakeview the road climbed again, almost imperceptibly except for passing a ski area at Buzzards Gap about 6100 feet. The Vintage never questioned and was with me however and wherever I wanted to go. I Dipped down into Humbolt county Nevada before going north again on OR201 to Fields – Corner number 3. OK, not technically a corner, McDermitt would have been truer..but I had a rally to get to!
From there it was north to the rally to enjoy the two days of festivities. Sunday morning I packed up again, turned north and crossing the John Day River, I was on my way. By early afternoon I was watching the Wallowa mountains diminishing in my mirror as I rode north on OR 3 out of Enterprise, heading toward corner 4 and beyond.
There’s a bridge over the Grand Ronde River, just north of the border where OR 3 turns to WA129. A pull- off and a small café sits lazily on its bank. It’s at the bottom of a 15 mile set of sweepers and hairpins. North or south, up or down, it’s an exhilarating road and there is always a set or two of bikers there with grins and stories.
Later, I’m following the Clearwater River right into Clarkston when it disappears into the Snake without fanfare. Just as the next day, only hours from home now, the Snake itself merges with the Columbia and loses its maiden name forever…