Since we’d lost so much time with the blowout, we left the city of Eugene on Interstate 5. It was a strange feeling running south on a ribbon of concrete that could have taken me all the way to within a few miles of my childhood home in San Diego. But we veered off at Highway 58, making good time till we came up behind a pack of extremely slow Harleys who would not let anybody pass.
One of the advantages of riding a dual sport bike is the ability to take roads that bikes designed purely for pavement wouldn’t dare. Oregon is blessed with scenic Forest Service roads; most are dirt or were paved so long ago that they might as well be dirt. Forest Service 21 led us through a scenic wonderland of beautiful reservoirs, streams cascading down steep rock faces, and mountains. Many, many mountains.
The big BMW was in its element, rocketing down the straight sections, pulling power slides around the gravel switchbacks, and taking ruts in stride. By standing on the footpegs with knees flexed I was able to ride in comfort. Not so Barley, who was rattling around inside the hack like the ball in a can of spray paint. I tried to justify the pace with the thought that we had a bit of catching up to do, but I could feel the Hairy Eyeball searing into the side of my helmet after just a few miles. At twenty-five miles Barley was openly glaring at me, but still I pressed on. Finally, after seventy-four miles of fantastic dirt roads, we turned onto pavement and Barley’s mood improved. A short time later we entered Crater Lake National Park.
There were no tent camping sites available, said the ranger. The primitive campground to the east had been closed, and the privately-run campground to the west catered to RVs. Major bummer; we would just have time to take a lap before setting off in search of a place to stay for the night.
Our first view of the lake came at a scenic overview almost immediately after we reached the crest of the crater. Having seen the destructive power of Mount St Helens, I was completely in awe of the power it must have taken to blow a hole six to nine miles in diameter and more than a thousand feet deep in the top of the ancient volcano upon which we stood!
We rode around the crater, my dog and I, stopping for photos, snacks and water here and there, but the lack of campsites meant we couldn’t linger. I felt we had a good shot at reaching the redwoods in northern California if we hustled, so we headed out the south entrance and turned toward Grants Pass, Oregon on Highway 62. Again, we ran into a group of Harleys doing 35 in a 55 zone. They seemed oblivious to our presence behind them so after giving them several minutes to remember their road manners I began picking them off one by one, generally passing as we exited corners. They seemed to be particularly fearful of curves.
We made good time once we passed the rolling roadblock, but by late afternoon it was brutally hot and I began to think reaching the coastline was not realistic. When the ambient temperature exceeded Barley’s body temp, I called it quits. There was a nice hotel on the banks of the Rogue River in the town of Shady Cove. We refueled, got a room, unpacked, showered, walked across the road to get dinner, walked back to our room and ate a leisurely meal. A few minutes later the group of cruisers we had passed south of Crater Lake showed up and checked into the room next door. One of them nodded at me as I covered the rig with a small tarp. “You scoot right along in that thing,” he said.
I took it as a compliment.
We awoke to a few raindrops early the next morning. Standing next to my bike I looked up at the sky and lamented aloud that it wasn’t even enough rain to wash the bugs off. In the adjacent parking spot the Harley rider from the night before was shocked by my comment. He had been diligently wiping every raindrop off his chromed beast lest they leave water spots behind. “What we have here,” he sighed, “is a different philosophy of riding.”
A fundamental truth, that.
Back on the road. We reached Grants Pass, Oregon by seven o’clock and shared breakfast at McDonald’s. (Barley loves their hash browns.) By nine we passed through a tunnel and found ourselves in California. An hour and a half later we reached the Jedediah Smith Grove of coastal redwoods. The plan was to set up our tent and spend a leisurely afternoon playing among the giant trees. We pulled up to the campground entrance. A sign on the ranger’s kiosk read: NIGHTLY BEAR INCURSIONS.
It was a very nice park, with the scenic Smith River meandering through a grove of magnificent coastal redwoods. It would have been an awesome place to spend the night, but Barley quickly picked up bear scent and I knew, given his prior offenses, that he would become Cujo that night should we elect to stay.
So we pressed on, reaching the Pacific Ocean at Crescent City, California by noon. We pulled over and took a stroll on the broad sandy beach, me tossing and Barley joyfully retrieving his favorite ball. He showed no interest in the ocean, but expressed his delight of the beach by rolling happily in the sand.
North to Oregon and a series of small towns spaced along the shoreline every twenty-five miles or so. Some were all about overstated tourism with shoulder to shoulder national franchises, but others were delightful assortments of small independent businesses framed by fantastic scenery.
In mid-afternoon we pulled onto the broad quay of a fishing town and found a small group of BMWs parked near a tiny seafood diner. Nearby a huge crane lifted a fishing boat out of the water and placed it carefully on a trailer. A truck pulled the boat to a cluster of others. Lacking a protected harbor, the town’s fishing fleet was launched – and recovered – daily by crane.
“Is that Barley?” asked a booming voice. It was Randy, a fellow adventure rider I knew from the Web, and a few others bound for the rally. He fussed over my dog for a few minutes then turned to me. “And who the hell are you?”
Everybody knows my dog. I’m just the driver…
We sat on the seawall getting acquainted, chatting about road conditions and our respective bikes, sharing the excitement of the upcoming rally. I asked if they knew of any decent campgrounds in the area.
“We’re right down the road at Humbug State Park,” came the reply. “There’s plenty of room; why don’t you join us?”
Humbug was a very nice campground tucked right off the highway. It was treed, walking distance to the beach, had plenty of firewood and immaculate facilities with hot showers. Bottles of local beers appeared from topcases. We sat around a warming fire trading brews and snacks far into the night. Randy turned out to be a sucker for Barley’s big brown eyes, and shared most of his food with the dog. By ten o’clock we all turned in for the night.