Day 16: Canyonville, OR to Port Orford, OR

Saturday 9/24

At only 747 ft, the morning in Canyonville was far more pleasant than the frigid handful we’d previously risen to.* A storm was in the forecast, but for now the sun was still a rising king.

The first part of the day’s ride was on pavement and it was one of the nicest back roads I’d ever ridden. Here’s my disclaimer: My first dozen years as a motorcyclist was pavement-only so I have to admit that there’s always a sort of “homecoming” when I go from dirt to pavement, especially if the dirt has been very, very bad to me. Given this sometimes-distorted favoritism, I might give a paved road more credit than it’s worth, but this one was the real deal. It’s called Cow Creek Road and if you do a search on it, you’ll find some very positive things written by street riders about this scenic byway.

This photo doesn’t showcase the awesome landscape, but it does show how the road is free of leaves, cow pies, potholes and tar snakes. It’ll surprise you to learn that the phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” originally referred to pavement, not people (four of the Twelve Apostles were amateur roadracers**).

The railroad track running along Cow Creek is still in use. All that medicinal herb has got to get shipped somehow, someway… CHOO CHOO!

Nearby was a good spot for Simon to take a break. If I weren’t travelling by bike I would’ve picked the wild berries that seemed to be everywhere. As it was, I had already exploded a small packet of grape jelly in my bag and there was no way the wild berries would offer any more resistance in their naked form.

Not sure what type of caterpillar this is, but a large one would make a good cleaning tool.

We got off Cow Creek Road and started heading up into the mountain. There was a mix of tight-n-twisty single-lane paved and dirt roads.

We came across the washed out stretched encountered by another ADVrider. I climbed down into the ravine to verify that it was impassable, and it certainly was.

Nice place to hang out if you’re a troll, though.

The road leading up to the washout was getting overgrown so it had probably served its purpose as a logging road and wouldn’t be repaired. We backtracked and found another way to continue west.

The afternoon started to take on a pre-winter pall. We stopped to throw on extra layers and take stock of the clouds coming in. We were protected from the wind while in the trees, but we could definitely feel how active it was on the exposed ridge lines.

We rode the unchanging logging road for hours. Unlike the desert, where you can at least focus on a distant mountain and feel some sense of accomplishment as the faraway point grows larger, all you get in the forest are trees in your face. You’re trapped in the small intestine of roads: turn after turn after turn after turn with nothing to see but endless polyps in the form of trees. In the words of the dead president who gave rise to the greatest Halloween/bank robbery mask: “A tree is a tree — how many more do you need to look at?” How many more, indeed.

We took a snack break during which the usual begging took place. We pulled out the maps and tried to figure out where we were at and how much longer we’d have to wind our way through the Logging Road Purgatory.

It wasn’t too long after this break that we finally dropped out onto the pavement. Wayne gave a celebratory fist pump. I rescinded the wish I had been harboring for the past hour in which all of the Oregon forests were burnt to a crisp so I could have a view.

The pavement leg into Port Orford went quickly.

We found a tidy RV park and paid for a night’s stay. But before pitching our tent, we had to go put the frosting on the cake…

…photo shoot on the beach!

We wanted to celebrate with a Mexican dinner and margaritas, but the town’s only Mexican restaurant didn’t serve booze. The alternative: We got the Mexican dinner to-go and picked up a four-pack of Bartles & Jaymes “Margarita Flavored Malt Cooler” at the local market. It was a poor substitute for the real thing, but at least we had something alcoholic — it was our first taste of booze since we started the trip.

So the first phase of the WAT (West America Trails — our version of the TAT) was done. It felt great to reach Port Orford in honor of John-Mark (Wayne piloted the very bike John-Mark had planned to ride).

Up next: Getting home on the back roads.

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* Admittedly, San Diegans wring their hands nervously when it drops into the 50s. When it drops into the 40s the 911 switchboard gets jammed.

** You won’t find this info in Wikipedia; I’ll see if I can add it myself.

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Day 16 overview: 133 miles

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