Rides and Destinations: The Oregon Coast Highway
By Joe Berk
What: The Oregon Coast Highway (US 101) running the length of the state along the Pacific coast.
How to Get There: Point your motorcycle west from anywhere in Oregon. When you hit the ocean, turn right or turn left. From California, follow the Pacific Coast Highway (also US 101) north.
Best Kept Secret: It’s even better than California’s Pacific Coast Highway.
Avoid: Not stopping in Tillamook for a cheese omelet and, if possible, riding on the weekends — traffic through the small beach towns can be heavy.
More Info:Oregon Coast Travel
I first encountered the Oregon Coast Highway riding in the Three Flags Classic Tour a few years ago. The Three Flags tour ran north from Mexico, up through the western U.S. into Calgary, Alberta, Canada. That was a stunning ride, and after making it to Calgary the 400 riders lucky enough to participate were free to return home via any route. I rode west across Canada and then south into Washington, meandering through eastern Washington’s plains, picking up the northeastern tip of the Columbia River Gorge. After crossing the Columbia River on the Bridge of the Gods (something every rider needs to do), my ride continued on to Portland. With So Cal as my final destination, I felt the best part of the ride was behind me. Boy, was I ever wrong.
I rolled west out of Portland on US 26 as the sun came up and picked up SR 6, running roughly southwest through forest and mountains that can only be described as eerie. SR 6 was twisty, scenic, lightly shrouded in fog, and … did I mention it was eerie? I expected to run smack into Sasquatch at every bend, a feeling that haunted me until I hit Tillamook, the first coastal town I encountered on US 101, the Oregon Coast Highway.
Yes, that Tillamook. After a brisk morning ride it was the perfect place to stop for breakfast and enjoy (what else?) a Tillamook cheese omelet. A light sprinkling of onions, some extra crispy hash browns, a strong cup of black coffee and life was perfect. I didn’t realize it as I enjoyed that fine breakfast, but it was about to get even more perfect as I pointed the old Triumph Daytona 1200 south for the run down the Oregon Coast Highway.
The Oregon Coast Highway runs north to south, anchored by Brookings at the southern end and Astoria at the north. It’s the stuff of legend. Twisty and tight for much of its length, the road originated as a series of goat and game trails along the shoreline (indeed, in the early days people just rode along the beach). In 1913 the Oregon state legislature designated it as an official part of the state highway system (even though it wasn’t much of a road yet), and intense construction continued until 1936, when the Oregon Coast Highway finally ran the length of the state’s Pacific shoreline.
Most of the Oregon Coast Highway is a two-lane road. As it follows the coast and snakes through more than 30 towns along its length, the Oregon Coast Highway effectively becomes Main Street in each town it passes through. That means traffic and slow going on the weekends. But in each town and between towns, the ride and the scenery are what riding is all about — the feel of each region and town, the people, the cuisine, the bridges, the road and the ocean breezes are as good as it gets.
As a Californian, I love our Pacific Coast Highway, but having ridden both roads, I can tell you without reservation that Oregon’s Coast Highway is a better ride. It needs to be on your list. MC
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