So the Oregon leg of our trip is finally ending, and that is of course a mixed bag. We need to make our way across this big ‘ol country so we can see the northeast before things get cold. At the same time, Oregon has so much more to see.
We are already nixing Washington, and we’ve only scratched the surface of Oregon, but Yellowstone is calling and there is already snow falling in parts of it. So we’ll leave Bend in the morning and head for Idaho, staying off the interstate and poking around to see some of the roads less traveled while we continue towards Yellowstone.
Since our last post Kate and I have visited Coos Bay, then inland past Eugene to the Belknap Springs resort, hiked O’Leary Mountain, and spent four days in and around Bend.
Kate has most of the pictures from Coos Bay and they aren’t uploaded yet, but I can say we both really liked the town. The heatwave finally worked to our favor since the coast is usually cold and foggy, but we had days in the low 70’s to wander around town and even look at a few properties just for fun.
I like the quiet of the town but since COVID is going on and their main import is tourists, it’s hard to know how quiet things really are. We were downtown on Sunday and it was so eerily quiet that we felt like we were in a zombie apocalypse movie for awhile.
There is plenty to do though, and there are more restaurants than bars which is a good indicator of the type of tourists they are looking for, and we found several natural food places for Kate to explore, then went to Chuck’s Seafood out on the peninsula.
It’s right next to where the charter boats dock and has insanely low prices on really fresh fish, so we grabbed some salmon fillets, smoked salmon, and an oyster stick just to try (looks like a giant Slim Jim but tastes like fish and oysters). The guy behind us says he drives three hours a few times each month to get their fresh oysters, which were $5.65/dozen the day we went.
After spending a few days and enjoying the hospitality of our local host Gary, we went up the coast and turned inland, but not before picking his brain about the area. Gary is a retired school teacher and has a huge heart, a wandering spirit, and a knack for building and refinishing wood furniture. He let us in on some of the town’s history, the lumber industry drying up because of spotted owl habitat, and that being the reason there is so much real estate available.
We talked philosophy and humanity well into the night, and Kate and I borrowed his Triumph Tiger 800 to get a chance to ride a motorcycle that leans again. Gary really made us feel at home and it was kind of hard not to stay an extra day.
The road called us up to Reedsport, where we turned onto Hwy 38 to avoid fires that sprang up north of there. It was serene, with the river changing from rapids to a wide reservoir and back. The small towns had their historic vibe for the most park, and we stopped in Elkton so Kate could snack and we could stretch our legs.
I-5 took us to Eugene where we picked up Hwy 126 and spent the night at Belknap Springs. Tent camping was $33, and Kate was unimpressed by the filtered, tepid springs there. In hindsight it would have been better to stay for free at the Terwilliger Hot Springs, since free wifi and coffee were the only real upshots to staying at Belknap.
The next day we drove to O’Leary Mountain were we got stopped by a massive slide that took out several hundred feet of roadway on NF-1993.
We spent 50min backtracking so we could use the western approach to the trailhead.
The area was beautiful and we didn’t see another soul. Once back down on the highway we took the Santium Pass into Sisters, through Tumalo and on to Bend where my friend Ned had a room for us.
It was definitely a good choice to visit Ned since his place is amazing, his hospitality even more so, and he even let me borrow his pick up truck, which I promptly killed while driving it on a dirt road.
Fortunately it only turned out to be a switch that turns the fuel off if you have an impact (in case of roll over or accident), and hitting some washboard on the dirt road popped the switch. I was a bit mad though, because while I was searching for the problem I found the switch, but didn’t see the reset button on top of it. Checking the connector, I assumed it was good and continued searching elsewhere (motorcycles have a similar switch for when they tip over, but they automatically reset if you flip the key off an back on).
We were able to explore some lava fields and see the casts left from trees that were burned by the lava ten thousand years ago, then rotted away, leaving their impression in the landscape. The lava tube caves nearby were closed due to COVID sadly, so that will be one of many excuses to visit the area again.
We also explored Bend, which is home to so many microbreweries I don’t know how they keep the hipsters from flooding this town. Maybe they haven’t? We also explored Redmond, to the north, since it was the only place that had homes in our price range. The area is a bit of a desert, though everyone seemed to have a green lawn and there were plenty of pine trees to keep things green. It was still obvious that things were arid because Rabbit Bush grew like weeds and they are a common desert plant in the west.
We’re planning and plotting our course out of Oregon, through Idaho, and on to Yellowstone as you read this, so keep checking back for updates or just sign up to our mailing list to get a weekly email with links to any new posts. Here are a few more pictures to keep you busy in the meantime.