Friday, June 16, 2006

The PCH - Chapter 10

Monday, July 12, 2004. Bandon, Oregon. It is foggy and chilly. We are a long way from the 110 degree temperatures of Phoenix, Arizona. I am initially disappointed because I was hoping to get some good photos of the Coquille River lighthouse. I get over it quickly and enjoy the soft quiet blanket of fog as it cuddles this sleepy little town.

We have been on the road for 3 days and most of that has been in motion. During those three days, we survived diesel fuel and road rash. We aren't very far from Portland; we know we can make it there some time today. We have the luxury of time today and my intention is to roll around in it like a dog in its own feces.

Bandon has a great breakfast stop. Breakfast on the road is still my favorite meal of the day precisely because of places like the one we eat at today. It is some little diner with a railroad theme - it may even have been called the Train Station, but I can't recall. I'm not certain the town even has railroad tracks, but this place is full of railroad items and railroad pictures. The place is great. I order the standard fare while watching the steam rise from my coffee cup. I find warmth and comfort in that steam - comfort from the cold, damp Oregon air.

As an unusual twist of fate, two of Smitty's friends are in Bandon today staying at a bed and breakfast. Paul and his wife are staying right up the road from the Bandon Boatworks, the restaurant where we had dinner the night before. By the time we finish breakfast and load up, it is pushing 10:00a.m. We are due at their bed and breakfast at 10:00. The drive is short as this is a small town. When we arrive at this quaint little home turned into B&B, the fog is still thick but you can start to see the glow of the sun deep in its belly.

Smitty's friends welcome us into the house and we sit in the living room area and chat for about an hour discussing our ride and our various adventures. Paul rides too and he is eating it all up. I secretly enjoy how jealous he is. I know this trip is something special.

The plan is hatched. Smitty and I are going to head over to tour the Coquille River lighthouse while they Paul and his wife get ready for the day. They will meet us in an hour on Highway 1 headed north out of town. We are headed to a local state park with them.

As we leave the bed & breakfast, the fog starts to lift and I grab this shot from the deck on the side of the house:

The scanner doesn't do this picture the appropriate justice. The view from that B&B was amazing.

The lighthouse appeared to be just a stone's throw away. The route to get to it was deceptively long due to the fact that access to the other side of the Coquille River was limited to a single bridge. After crossing the bridge and entering Bullards Beach State Park, it is still necessary to wind your way around through the park back to the sea. The park is bizarre. It is strewn with trees that have been shattered by the wind and the ocean forces. The trees still standing are squatty and completely devoid of trees on the side facing the Pacific. In spite of the severe treatment from the sea, they survive with all the scars to show for their trouble.

The picture I shared in the prior post was in color - this one is in black and white from nearly the same point. The Coquille River Lighthouse was built low and solid like a linebacker. I imagine that it had to be like this to combat the forces that twisted and made partially barren those trees.

Inside, there isn't a whole lot of room. It is a small, compact building with an old wooden floor and masonry walls. This little space has been converted into a little gift shop and for a small "donation" they will let you climb the tower up to the top of the lighthouse. I can't pass that up.

The stairs to the top consist of a tight spiral of steel with virtually no room. This was not designed for someone 6'2". I make the best of it and finally reach the top. The view from the top is worth the climb and the jeopardy faced by my skull. You can see the field full of tortured trees we passed through on the way in and you can see up the mouth of the Coquille to where the river meets the sea. The rocky jetty this thing sits on stretches out to the west and I note that the end of the jetty looks odd. When I return to the lower level of the lighthouse, I learn that the end of the jetty looks different because it is comprised substantially from a shipwreck that happened many, many years ago. It couldn't be moved, so they made it part of the landscape.

Our work here is done and we need to meet Smitty's friends.

We are headed for Shore Acres State Park and Cape Arago State Park. The fog lifts further and the views are amazing. The light film of fog make the seascape like a dream. We watch over sea lions basking on the rocks. I'm not sure what they were basking in as there wasn't much sun, but bask they did nonetheless. I have more pictures, but they don't even begin to show how beautiful these parks were/are.

After spending some time driving around the parks and viewing this amazing coastline, we say goodbye to our friends and hit the road. We aren't in a hurry, but I need to satisfy Jane's obsession with petrol. I am very low on fuel and nervous about making it to the nearest pump which is likely in Coos Bay or North Bend.

We have time today so I insist on stopping a lot. There are roses to smell. One of the early stops is Sea Lion Caves. Smitty says that he has no interest, but I pay his $7.50 fee, tell him to shut the hell up and we go in. We wind our way through the building and out to a pathway that lead over to an "outbuilding." The outbuilding covered what appeared to be two elevator doors. We are the first one's in line waiting for those doors to open. While waiting, an older couple sneaks up along side, past everyone else. When the doors open, they slide in first in spite of the fact they were last to arrive. My sense of justice will not tolerate this, so I take action. They end up in the back corner of the elevator where I lean firmly up against them during the entire 200 foot drop down to sea level. When the doors open, I don't move until EVERYONE else on the elevator is off. Only then do I release these rude bastards from their trap. I smile smugly as I step into a cave smelling of sea lion shit.

There are hundreds if not thousands of sea lions hanging out in this natural cave. Thank god someone installed an elevator so that we could all traipse our lazy asses down there to disturb them. It was cool. Smitty was glad we went.

Then we hit the road. We pretty much hit every lighthouse between Sea Lion Caves and Lincoln City Oregon. I was in tourist heaven; I think Smitty was in Flamingo Hell. He took it in stride and did his thing while I snapped photos and toured these relics. I feel the history of these places in an instinctive, visceral way that I can't explain.

I am a corn-fed boy from Iowa but the sea is somehow in my DNA. That's all I have to say about this. The pictures say the rest.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The PCH - Chapter 9

Smitty wasn't dead, but FLMNG2 looked like it had been mauled by a bear. We sat on the side of the road shaking while recapping over and over in our minds what had just happened. We voiced what we could but the conversation was interspersed with expletives.

The fairing was skinned up pretty badly. Smitty's leather bag had been sent skidding and was also in rough shape. The saddlebags had deep gouges on both sides as the result of the bike actually sliding at some point on both sides (I think). The factor that I feared the worst was that the metal engine guard on one side of FLMNG2 was actually broken. We weren't certain whether it was going to run. We waited and wondered.

I wanted to just stay put for a little while until the adrenaline rush was well behind us, but Smitty wanted to put this spot in the road behind us. I wasn't going to argue with a man that had nearly splattered all over the road 15 minutes earlier, so I started preparations to get moving again.

We put his belongings back together as best we could, he put the key in and I'll be damned if FLMNG2 didn't fire right up as if nothing happened. Mounted, helmeted and gloved we left that S-curve from hell and headed north...toward Oregon.

The rest of that day was a blur. We rode for what seemed an eternity, passing through Fort Bragg, Eureka and Crescent City before crossing into Oregon. I remember bits and pieces of that portion of the trip, but only glimpses. The accident had seriously shaken us both up and it wasn't yet behind us even though Point Arena was almost 300 miles away.

We stopped for petrol in Brookings (mostly to satisfy Jungle Jane's petrol obsession). This was our first foray into an Oregon gas station. When you cross the Oregon border, you immediately become to stupid to pump your own gas. An attendant would actually come out to the pump, take the nozzle off the pump and hand it to me. Then I would pump the gas while he stood there. When I finished pumping the gas, he would take it from me and put it back on the pump. Bizarre.

I understand they do this to keep those jobs available. Next thing you know, they will have a person standing out by the ATM machine punching the buttons for me.

Anyway, the day wore on and on and on. It was getting late and we needed to find a place to stop. We never thought we would make it as far as Bandon when we set out from Guernville this morning, but here we are in Brookings, only 83 miles away. We decide that Bandon must be nicer than Brookings, so we head on.

By 8:10, we roll into Bandon. This is one of the cutest damn towns I have ever seen. Smitty and I are on the alert looking for a motel when we spot a sign for the Gorman Hotel. It turns out that it is right on the beach and the price is right, so we take the room. As I am checking in, I mention to the innkeeper that we are starving. We haven't eaten since breakfast. She says that there is a really good restaurant nearby and offers to call and make a reservation. She dials them up and finds out that they close at 8:30 - but they will stay open just for us. We unpack the bikes and literally throw them into the room and run for the restaurant.

We wound our way around Bandon and took a road along the jetty until we found the place and when we pulled in, the owner met us at the door and said, "I hear you boys have been on the road all day; let's get you something to eat!" He was probably mid-fifities and had on a colorful Hawaiian style shirt. Genuine hospitality oozed from him. I hate arriving at a restaurant when they are trying to close, but he made us feel like we were long lost friends.

This is what we see when we look out the window of the Bandon Boatworks:

I don't know if it was because I hadn't eaten since breakfast or whether it was the warm greeting or whether this really was some of the best food that I have ever eaten, but this meal was incredible. They started us off with a basket of cranberry bread. Nearby, they grow these things in giant cranberry bogs - this bread was made with fresh cranberries and it was fantastic.

Bandon has a nice little harbor and I understand that they do some fishing out of there. I ordered salmon and it was delicious. It could very well have been swimming right nearby yesterday. Throw in a couple of locally brewed micro-brew beers and this was very nearly the perfect meal. We are the last diners in the restaurant and by the time we leave, heavy fog is rolling in off the Pacific. It's cold. It's damp. It's slightly spooky. I love it.

We ride the two or three miles back to our motel and actually have a chance to see it for the first time. This room is so nice and so clean, I almost feel guilty about bringing my dirty, hard ridden ass into the place. After a quick shower, I grab the remote and relax in front of the television.

Smitty is still upset from the accident earlier that day and decides to take a walk up the beach. Some time, shortly after he leaves the room, I talk to my wife on the phone and then drift off for the duration.

Tomorrow we are going to go visit this lighthouse - the Coquille River Lighthouse. This lighthouse went into operation in 1896 and they now offer tours for a small donation. I love this shit.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Hot Dam

Welcome to Hoover Dam. This dam was, at times, called Boulder Dam because everyone was pissed off at Herbert Hoover. They got over it and the dam thing was renamed for the dam president that was instrumental in constructing the dam concrete monstrosity.

This dam thing is: 726.4 feet high, 1,244 feet across at the top, 660 feet thick at the base and 45 feet thick at the top. I rode FLMNG1 across that 45 foot wide top - I wish someone could have been there to take my picture on the dam, but I was alone.

If you haven't been here, you should go soon. They are building a dam by-pass bridge right now and you may never have another opportunity to drive across this dam man-made wonder. That is exactly what made me want to plant my dam ass on the dam motorcycle seat for 6 dam hours. It was dam well worth it.

It was more than 90 degrees on May 2, 2006 when I arrived at the dam. But down in the dam tunnels it was dam cool. I spent the $11.00 to take the dam tour and the cool temperatures made it well worth the dam time.

Look at the size of those dam generators. Each of those dam things can light up a dam city bigger than Cedar Rapids (about 100,000 homes - Cedar Rapids only has 130,000 dam people!). Although somewhere the math gets fuzzy because there are 17 of these dam things and the total service estimated is about 750,000. Just like the dam government - they can't get anything straight. It probably serves half of what they estimate and then they just claim that they owe electricity to the rest of the dam people - that's how our dam governmen works!


This is the dam spillway returning the dam water to the Colorado River.

This dam river is so over used and exploited by people in California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada that it probably doesn't even make it to the dam Sea of Cortez any more.

According to this link Colorado-River it doesn't make it to the dam sea anymore. That's a dam shame.