Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Road trip: Oregon coast

August 23, 2014

Start from the beginning of our Oregon trip.

We made it to Oregon! Next we spent three days exploring the coast before heading inland to Portland.

Day 3: Crescent City to Oregon Dunes (170 miles)

Goodbye California, hello Oregon! If I had to pick one disappointing day of the trip, this would probably be it, though I don't want to speak too badly of it, it just had a lot of amazing days to compete with. I had read all sorts of good things about the southern Oregon coast, particularly the stretch between Brookings and Gold Beach, which includes Samuel H. Boardman State Park. The problem was that I hadn't realized how different the riding is between Route 1 on the California coast and Route 101 on the Oregon coast. Route 1 literally hugs the coast. It's one lane in each direction with lots of sharp curves that freak cars out and scare away most RVs. You could never get off your bike and you'd still have a beautiful view all day long. In contrast, Route 101 is set slightly inland. It's a multi-lane highway with an average speed of at least 60 mph and the only curves are long sweeping ones. If you don't get off your bike, your view mostly consists of a lot of trees. You're rewarded with stunning vistas if you stop at the many turnouts, but this isn't ideal on a bike. Each time we stop, we have to take off our gear and either lock it up or carry it with us. We had a beautiful view at one of the few turnouts we stopped at, but we had a lot of miles to cover and couldn't afford to stop every few miles. The RVs on the other hand seemed to be in RV heaven.

Which brings me to a few thoughts on the differences between the California and Oregon coasts. When we planned the trip, I debated how much time it was worth spending on the Oregon coast, because I didn't know how it differed from the California coast. Overall, we decided we prefer the California coast, but that's largely because we travel by motorcycle. As I said, the California coastal road has tighter turns, with slower speeds and beautiful views. The Oregon road is faster, with long sweeping turns and minimal views. Oregon definitely wins for having the best beaches. California's coast is much craggier, so the beaches are usually small enclaves tucked between rock-faces. These beaches are often difficult to access and sometimes dangerous because of the risk of a sudden large wave. In contrast, Oregon boasts long, wide open beaches. And finally, the two states seemed to have come to different conclusions about how to regulate public vs private access to the coastline. California has protected thousands of acres of land along the coast from any further development. This means the coast is less inhabited. And there aren't many oceanside houses (at least in northern California, I imagine southern California is another story). Oregon declared that all beaches are public, which is a lot of land. But the land beyond the beach is private, and thus usually occupied by private homes. The road is more of a way to access all these communities, than it is a way to see the coastline, which is what it is in California.

None of which is to say that the roads in Oregon aren't fun for motorcycling. Ben liked one stretch so much he drove it twice. I, on the other hand, had clung on tightly the first time and preferred to be left on the side of the road rather than drive it a second time.

Passing through Coos Bay

And if the morning had been a bit disappointing, the evening definitely wasn't. We were set to camp at the Oregon Dunes that night, which was one of the destinations on the trip I was most looking forward to visiting. What can I say, wide open expanses appeal to me. I had carefully chosen among the many available campgrounds — the dunes stretch 40 miles along the coast — to avoid those popular with ATVs. Our campsite turned out to be both private and quiet. We picked up some steak and corn at a local supermarket, where we were amazed at the ginormous shopping carts.

Most campgrounds have hosts, who live at the campground for the summer and help tend to the area. The host at this campground was a retired couple from Texas who come up for the summer in their RV. The husband also rides so he came over with his boxer to chat with us for a while. He was telling us about the riding in Texas, where they sometimes ride 600 miles in a day through west Texas because it's boring and flat and they don't want to spend any more time there than necessary.

Eel Creek Campground in the Oregon Dunes

This camp host was at least the third person on the trip to come over and strike up a conversation with us because of our motorcycle. Earlier that day, a elderly vet had started talking to me about how he used to ride a motorcycle all over the country. He'd just drive with no destination in mind, stopping wherever he pleased. And he would bring along his small dog, who would sit in front of him, without a harness or anything. Throughout the trip, whenever we stopped somewhere, other riders would come up to ask where we were headed and inquire about our bike (which isn't a model you see very often). Before I started riding, I hadn't realized how much of a sub-culture there is around riding that extends far beyond the stereotype of leather, Harleys and bad boys.

Day 4: Oregon Dunes to Yachats (56 miles)

When we pared down our trip itinerary, we added in a few extra days in the places we were already going. We upped our stay in Portland from two days to three and we gave ourselves five days to make it up the coast, rather than three. With 56 miles to cover, day 4 was one of those days that got added in, which gave us lots of time to enjoy ourselves. We started out with a hike along the dunes. I had been envisioning a nice hike to the ocean, but the ocean turned out to be three miles away. So instead, we hiked the John Dellenback Dunes Trail until we saw the ocean, which was good enough.

See a panorama view from the dunes.

These are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America, with some dunes reaching 500 feet above sea level. Says the U.S. Department of Agriculture: "The sand comes from sedimentary rock uplifted 12 million years ago in Oregon’s Coast Range Mountains. Rivers moved the rock downstream, tumbling and grinding it into sand. The present shoreline stabilized about 6,000 years ago. The strong elemental forces of tides, waves and winds have been constantly moving the sand for centuries—up to two and a half miles inland in places!" It was drizzling when we started hiking, which we think actually made it easier, as it made the sand a bit firmer. And we were the only people crazy enough to be out there.

We enjoyed just letting go and running/falling down the dunes (recorded as snapshots in continuous-shooting mode):

After the dunes, we pulled into the very cute oceanside town of Florence for lunch. Then we went in search of the Hobbit Trail, which had been recommended by our friends. The problem was we didn't quite know where it was. This is what we were going off of for directions: "Six miles north of Florence on the left side of 101 just south of the sign for Carl G. Washburne State Park." And: "About two miles from Washburne, you'll find an easy-to-miss parking lot on the east side of the highway, with signs pointing to different trails, including the Hobbit Trail." Left side of the highway is hardly helpful as left is a relative direction. And while the parking lot is on the east side of the road, the sign is on the west side. So we actually pulled into the correct parking lot without realizing, then backtracked to a state park to ask a ranger. As a reward for not knowing where we were going, we got to witness this view:

The ranger gave us clearer directions and we eventually located the Hobbit Trail, so named because of the twisty trees and overhanging canopy that make you feel small like a hobbit? Or something? I'll have to rewatch Lord of Rings to give you any better explanation than that, but it was a easy hike with nice scenery. At a few points you had to limbo under branches blocking the trail.

Hobbit Trail. Same photo here, in brighter colors.

After not too long, the trail deposits you on a secluded beach that was empty when we arrived. We sat and read a bit and enjoyed the scenery. California is beautiful too, but the best spots near San Francisco are usually crowded. The beautiful spots in Oregon were much more deserted.

No other people on Hobbit Trail beach

The Pacific Ocean is cold.

Along the way, we stopped for ice cream in Yachats, which seems to be everyone's favorite coastal Oregon town. Absolutely everyone we asked for Oregon recommendations mentioned Yachats (pronounced YAH-hots). The local ice cream shop carried Tillamook ice cream, made farther up the Oregon coast in the town of Tillamook. I enjoyed black cherry and Ben ate something that was probably equally yummy but more chocolate-y, all of which reminds me that we need to find Tillamook in San Francisco, because it was seriously delicious.

We planned to camp that night at Beachside Recreation Area, which I had also been looking forward to because you can camp right next to the beach (I have a thing for beaches). But when we arrived, we learned the only remaining campsites were not next to the beach, but next to the highway. To make things worse, as we were touring the campground, it started raining. Now we're not idiots. We know it rains a lot in Oregon and we had waterproofed all our stuff. But it had been sunny all day and at that very moment we weren't wearing our rain gear. So we were getting wet and we had to decide whether to camp next to a highway or continue in the rain in search of a better option. We opted to try Tillicum Beach, just a few miles away. And again, most of the remaining campsites were near the highway. Except for one. I saw its potential right away but Ben was skeptical. It was right next to the walkway to the beach and he thought we'd have no privacy. I apparently sounded so sad at the prospect of not getting to camp next to the ocean that I won out, luckily for both us because this is where we got to spend the night.

We had plenty of privacy and after slicing some onions in the tent, the rain even let up for long enough to eat dinner and sit by our campfire. The next morning, we walked the beach without the storm clouds.

Day 5: Tillicum Beach to Portland (150 miles)

We had been planning to grab some breakfast on the way to Portland. I was texting with our AirBnB host in Portland to coordinate our arrival and mentioned we were near Yachats, to which I received this reply: "Yachats is my favorite town. Hope you're having breakfast at the Green Salmon!" Good enough for us, off to the Green Salmon Diner we went. Ben is still talking about how good his lox sandwich was. And our latte was big enough to caffeinate several giants.

Espresso and lox at the Green Salmon Diner

We detoured along a scenic byway to a lookout with some nice views, which you can see in the photos below. Then we headed inland and didn't see much along the way, except for a bunch of trees. The Willamette Valley (pronounced wil-LAM-it) outside of Portland is famous for its wine, but we arrived too late to do any tastings. We did pop into a coffee shop in McMinnville, where we shared a Mexican hot chocolate and played Uno. By late afternoon, we pulled into our AirBnB place in Portland, more than ready for a real bed, some clean clothes and a break from riding.

Keep reading to follow along as we explore Portland.

- Steph

I tried to include only the very best photos in these posts, but we took many more. I included a few more favorites in the slideshow below.

Panorama view of the Oregon Dunes

Scroll to the right to see the whole thing:

panorama oregon dunes

- Steph

Road trip: California coast

August 19, 2014
For the first part of the trip, we drove straight up the coast, from San Francisco to Portland (read about how we chose our route). It took us five days to cover 750 miles and we camped every night. A few of the highlights: ribs in Cloverdale, redwood-lined highways, hiking the Oregon Dunes and a beautiful campsite on the ocean.

Day 1: San Francisco to Fort Bragg (165 miles)

We wanted to make our way through northern California fairly quickly, so we headed straight up Route 101 until Cloverdale, where we cut over to the coast. This route had two advantages. First, we stopped for the most delicious ribs in Cloverdale. I was imagining a nice large salad for lunch so I wasn't thrilled when Ben spotted a sign for BBQ and quickly turned in. I got over it, though, because these ribs were amazing. So amazing that we're going back there in October for my birthday. The second advantage was that we finally got to drive Route 128 through Anderson Valley. As we were setting off, some other bikers came over, asked about our route and commented: "Enjoy. It's the best stretch of road in California."

Boonville, in Anderson Valley
Route 128 through Anderson Valley

We took a wine and ice cream break in Boonville, which prompted me to vow to eat ice cream every day on the trip (we ate a lot of ice cream, though not quite every day). We picked a winery at random because we hadn't done any advance research. The wine was only mediocre but the conversation was engaging. We learned that Mendocino County banned the cultivation, production and distribution of genetically modified crops, making it the first jurisdiction in the country with such a policy. We also learned that many of the landowners out there are expecting to replace their grapes with marijuana once marijuana is legalized. The X factor for them is how much the price of marijuana will fall once it's legalized. At the moment, those who are growing marijuana are making many many times more per acre than those growing grapes. And finally, we learned a bit about "dry" wines and residual sugar. According to this particular winemaker, wines that are labeled as "dry" in the United States can have up to 1% residual sugar, whereas in Europe the upper limit is either .3% or .4%. Also according to him, at some point, no one's taste buds can taste the residual sugar, but Europeans pick it up at lower levels than Americans do. (I can't verify any of this on the internet, but it was interesting nonetheless.)

We left Boonville and continued on to Fort Bragg, where we ate at North Coast Brewing Company. When we first moved to California, an employee at Whole Foods recommended a wheat beer named Blue Star. We've been drinking it ever since (it has competition lately though from our favorite Oregon beers). At some point, I discovered the brewery was in Fort Bragg and have been waiting for the chance to go. Fort Bragg is a bit far for a weekend getaway so this trip presented the perfect opportunity. We split a pizza and a beer flight (the first of many on this trip). Our sampler included a Red Seal amber sale, an Old Rasputin Russian imperial ale, a Brother Thelonius Belgian-style abbey ale, a PranQster Belgian-style abbey ale and possibly one other. Then we headed to our campsite at Russian Gulch, coincidentally the second campground we ever stayed at in California.

Day 2: Fort Bragg to Crescent City (217 miles)

At 217 miles, our second day was one of the longest driving days on our trip, but we were pleasantly surprised by how manageable and even enjoyable it was. In the northernmost part of California, Route 1 no longer hugs the coast, instead it meets up with 101 inland, before 101 heads back to the coast at Eureka. But for an inland, highway stretch, this was a pretty great one, with lots of wide open vistas. The best part is that for 31 miles you can escape 101 and follow the Avenue of the Giants through groves of giant redwood trees. We had done this drive in a car and had been eagerly awaiting the chance to do it again on a motorcycle, which made the trees feel even more impressive.

There were also hundreds of other bikes on the road because of a big Harley rally occurring in Piercy. A bunch of people asked us if that's where we were headed, but big biker rallies aren't for us, plus we ride a Triumph, not a Harley. One side effect of having so many bikers on the road, though, was that everyone stopped acknowledging each other. Normally when two bikes pass each other, the drivers wave, left hand down in an open palm or V. It's a cool custom. If you've never noticed it, watch for it next time you see two motorcyclists pass each other coming from opposite directions. But with so many bikes on the road, everyone dropped the wave. We waved as normal for the first part of the day but gave it up because a) no one was waving back and b) it's kind of annoying to wave every two seconds.

On our first California road trip, as newbies to the state, we paid to picnic at a state park, even though we were camping at a different state park that evening. Now we know all the rules, including that your camping fee gets you free entrance to all other state parks the day of and after your reservation. That means that we enjoy stopping at state parks if we want to take a break, because they're usually pretty and have picnic tables and restrooms. This time we stopped at Richardson Grove State Park for a nice lunch of bread, cheese and nuts (we highly recommend this cinnamon swirl bread, it's 100% whole wheat and amazingly fluffy). We followed that up with a coffee and second lunch in Eureka. We almost bought some fresh salmon for dinner but didn't want all our stuff to smell like fish, so we shelved that idea for a later day and continued to a campground at Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, just south of the Oregon border. When we arrived, the ranger warned us that a baby bear was wandering the camgpround. We weren't to touch or approach him because if he didn't learn to stay away from people they'd have to kill him. They believe his mother was killed on the highway not long after he was born so he's been on his own.

Ben washes laundry in our new Scrubba.
For dinner, we made our favorite camping meal: pasta with onion and sausage. And Ben tried to do laundry with our Scrubba. (You can see how that turned out here. Hint: not as well as hoped.) We also made a campfire, which turned into a bit of a tradition on this trip. Our first campfire together dates to our first camping trip on Cape Cod, but we often skip the fire in favor of cooking on our Pocket Rocket because Ben doesn't enjoy the lingering smoke smell on all our belongings. I requested a fire on this night because we weren't carrying effective bug spray. And now that Ben has realized that fire has magical bug-repelling powers, he's 100% on board. I think we made a fire nearly every night we camped. (Mosquitos take an unnatural liking to Ben so keeping them at bay is a herculean task).

Assorted thoughts

Overall, we were both amazed at how well everything worked out on this trip, starting with the fact that we actually fit everything on the bike. I was skeptical that 2.5 weeks worth of stuff would fit on one little motorcycle (by cruiser standards, our bike is small). I would estimate that we have less space than we would if we were each carrying a hiking backpack. So when I packed up everything the night before and had space to spare, I was certain that we'd end up in Oregon with no toothpaste, no underwear and no way to cook anything. Turns out we did have everything. We've just gotten very good at only bringing the essentials, plus every trip we make a few space-saving upgrades. This time, we brought a Scrubba to wash our clothes, which let us cut back on how much we needed to bring. We also bought motorcycle pants, which meant we left our jeans and rain pants at home. And Ben replaced his heavy fleece with a much lighter North Face jacket.

We also benefited from two new gadgets: headsets and a USB charger. Our old headsets had never been great — we couldn't listen to music on them and only Ben could initiate conversations, but at least we could communicate to each other, which was the primary purpose. But a few months before our trip, our headsets started to fizzle out. Even when shouting, the other person could maybe pick up a few words. We replaced them with brand new Sena SMH-10 headsets, with about three times the battery life and the ability to pair with our phones. We also mounted a USB charger and a phone holder on the bike, which meant that we could keep our phones fully charged, while also using them for music and navigation. Ben could even ask Siri for directions when we realized we didn't know where to go. We could also use the USB charger to charge the GoPro remote, which has a terrible battery life. And if we had brought the right cable, we would have been able to charge the GoPro.

Keep reading to follow along as we travel up the Oregon coast.

- Steph

The story behind our trip to Oregon

August 18, 2014

Back in June, we spent two and a half weeks touring around Oregon on a motorcycle. It was our first long motorcycle trip in a year and one that we spent more than a year planning. Before I recount our adventures, let me share a bit of the backstory. One of the best parts of living in San Francisco is having the entire West Coast to explore — Tahoe, Bryce Canyon, Zion, San Diego, the redwood forests and on and on. And the list of places we wanted to explore always included the Pacific Northwest, which seemed like a logical destination for a summertime motorcycle adventure. So we started planning this trip nearly two years ago, thinking we'd set off in June 2013.

Originally we dreamed we'd make it to Alaska, all 3,000 miles (and magically ship the motorcycle home, or something). Then we got a little more realistic and envisioned a trip through British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. We even had a map for what that would look like — we'd go up to coast to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, drive west to Banff and head home via Spokane, just 2,700 miles roundtrip. OK, still a little ambitious if we actually wanted to spend any time in these places. So Washington and British Columbia were out. At some point, we decided to go to southern California last June, pushing this trip back and giving us a whole year to debate our route through Oregon. A month before we left, our route looked like this — a 2,000 mile loop around the state, including often-overlooked eastern Oregon.

One of the highlights of that route would have been Hell's Canyon, an 8,000-foot-deep canyon carved out by the Snake River on the Oregon-Idaho border. Motorcyclists from all over the world come to ride this road, which is the deepest motorcycle road in North America (it's 2,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon). But for the day or two we would have spent exploring this beautiful road, we would have had to spend 5 days driving through dessert on straight, boring roads. We hewed and hawed and made about 15 million spreadsheets to figure out whether it was worth it (15 million is only a slight exaggeration, I count at least 5). Eventually, eastern Oregon was out too.

Two factors ultimately swayed us. First, I calculated our average driving distance on a few past trips. On our first-ever California motorcycle trip to Monterey and Big Sur, we covered only 75 miles per day and that remains one of our favorite trips to date, in part because we had plenty of time to get off the bike and enjoy our surroundings. Then I calculated that for our San Diego-Joshua Tree-Los Angeles trip, we rode 130 miles per day. We wouldn't have planned that trip any differently given the existing constraints, but we both agreed that ideally we would have spent a little less time driving. We consulted our spreadsheets and discovered that our eastern Oregon itinerary involved driving 125 miles per day, roughly the same as our LA trip, while sticking to the western part of the state cut that down to 93 miles per day, which seemed a lot more manageable. The second factor was that Ben was starting a new job (he now works at this awesome company, for anyone who likes sustainable, delicious food) and he didn't want to return from vacation exhausted from driving too much.

In the end, we settled on a trip that looked like this: A drive up the California and Oregon coast to Portland, a few days of urban exploring in Portland, a few days of hiking, sailing, camping and general outdoor adventuring around the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood and a leisurely route home through Bend and Crater Lake. And it turned out to be absolutely perfect.

Now that you know the backstory, our actual triplog starts here. We hope you enjoy following along.

- Steph

Sunfish on Cape Cod

August 1, 2014
Steph's grandparents have a house on Lewis Bay in Cape Cod, MA. We visited them this summer, and rented a Sunfish.

- Ben