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Sep 7, 2003

The Road Trip - Part 4 - US 101 Oregon Coast

I wonder who made hotel checking-outs at 11am a standard, whoever it was, I guess it had to be a late riser. I mean if early birds had their way, as with the worm they'd rather make it 6am or something. Well 11am suited us fine, not too early, not too late (we could have easily slept for one more hour, that was not actually needed, if not the for the check out time being strictly at 11am) Started from Red Apple at eleven, took US 101 heading south along the Oregon coastline. Alright, we were finally on the famed 101, touted to be one of the most scenic highways in the US. We had driven on 101 along the California coast, including the 17 mile drive some time back, the Oregon coast was supposed to be as beautiful or better than the California one, let's see. The day was a bit cloudy, and there was a slight drizzle when we started from Tillamook. Somebody later told us that we should have gone to Tillamook Cheese Factory that was really famous, although at that time all we had in mind was to get out of Tillamook as quick as possible and do some real driving along the scenic 101.

The section US 101 scenic byway after Tillamook towards South is christened the Three Capes Route. We got off at Cape Kiwanda, a few miles down south, it had a nice beach, a huge rock in the middle of the ocean not far from the beach and a sand hill towards the northern edge filled with 'sand-surfers'. Even for an overcast day Kiwanda was kinda crowded, kite flyers, people riding horses along the beach, sand surfers, kids at play and lazy loungers - there was everyone there. You could drive down to the beach and park on the southern side or drive as far South along the beach as far as your vehicle can take it. It was a long time since we did any drive-in beaches and this seemed to be a good chance, we eased our car down the slope to the beach and veered right towards the sand hill. We might have gone a few meters when we saw a magnificient display of festival lights in our rear view mirror and it turned out that we have somehow become the 'object of affection' of the local sheriff. It was his truck bearing down at us with dazzling display of lights and warning sounds. Hey, what was this? What did we do? We didn't have to wait much longer to find out the answer, there he was, right beside the driver side window, asking N to roll down the window. "I tried to warn you twice, but seemed like you didn't want to hear, your driving license and registration, please," demanded the Sheriff. After taking a look at N's driving license, he joked, "hopefully you are not 'wanted' for anything in Alaska and do drive on the left side of the beach, not the right." and let us go. That was our initiation into "unwritten codes of conduct on US 101 beaches."

From Kiwanda we followed 101 south towards Lincoln City. It appeared that Lincoln City catered more to the tourists than Tillamook with its wider choice of hotels, restaurants and fancy shops along the seafront. One thing I noted about the Oregon coast was that it had more rocks in the sea than any other sea coast I have ever been to. Not just by the beach, you can see rocks, big ones at that jutting out from the ocean bed, quite faraway from land, but the beach itself is not rocky as one'd expect. Driving down to Newport we chanced upon one of Oregon's renowned lighthouses and a historical landmark, the lighthouse at Yaquina Head. The entrance fee is $5 per car and is valid for 3 days. Yaquina Head lighthouse, considered to be one of the most beautiful lighthouses in US was built in 1873. Tourists are allowed to climb upto the top of the lighthouse, one at a time. Yaquina Head Natural Area also encloses Cobble Beach, Quarry Cove Tidal Pools which are outstanding natural habitats for various marine and land organisms and a few trails which takes you up the hills overlooking the lighthouse.

After Newport road curves up along the edge of Siuslaw National Forest and beyond. On the way we took a short break to photograph another light house, Hecata Head. Passing the Central Oregon coast near Reedsport, we saw sand dunes on our right, so this was Dunes, Or. Its a wonder that these sand dunes exist in the middle of nowhere, without any connection to the preceeding or succeeding landscape. Along the road there was a thin curtain of coniferous trees and beyond that you could see the sand dunes, I mean how could you be in a temperate coniferous forest and in a desert at the same time. That was Dunes, Or - a natural paradox. Trees grow on its sides , water runs thru' it, locals make a living out of it renting ATVs to tackle the dunes to the more adventurous tourists. and people adventurous but short of time just pass through, staring hard at the passing scenery from the comfort of their air condioned vehicles and making a note of what to write in their journals, like I did.

We left 101 for Highway 38 which was named Umpqua Scenic Corridor, after the Umpqua river that drains along the Central Oregon basin. There were several spots at the start of this highway called Elk viewing spots, where you could watch herds of Elks roaming at a comfortable distance without any fear of humans. This part of the highway was really scenic and so was Highway 138 we merged onto on our way to I-5, which we hoped to catch at Sutherlin. The area was charecterized by rolling grass lands, interspersed with patches of woods, then fields stretching afar. There were farms all kinds, diary farms, wheat fields, horses, all in all a real rustic stretch of land where you could live forever immersed in sowing seeds, harvesting grain, rearing cows and horses and yet know nothing about the outside world, except for the occasional automobile that passes by raising dust on the highway at the far side of your property.

We got on to I-5 at Southerlin, heading South towards Medford, Or, our stop for the night. The stretch of I-5 from Roseburg to Medford climbs up along the mountains reaching Grants Pass at 2020 ft then weaves down towards Medford. We decided to stop at Medford as we had plans of visiting Crater Lake National Park the next day, which was 80 miles east of Medford. A piece of advice on the hotels in Medford, those along 62E towards Crater Lake are expensive since this is the expected tourist route and tourists seldom venture off their pre-chartered routes. But if you are looking for cheaper but decent accomodation try hotels and inn in or around downtown Medford along I-5. We stayed at Medford Inn at $50 a night on the 1st Ave, it was one of the best hotel rooms we had during this trip, whereas the cheapest accomodation along 62E started at $75. That winded up our last night in last night in Oregon

(Link to all posts of Road Trip)