Saturday, April 11, 2015

Port Orford, Our Gem on the Oregon Coast

Odometer  48102 miles
Trip Meter  199 miles

Wednesday April 8, 2015

More than a little excitement this morning.  Nearing the end of our 26 day 3,500 mile oddesy from Ajo, Arizona east to Dallas, Texas, then north and west back to Oregon.

We slept in till 8:30 today and got off to a normal (late) start at 10:30 this morning on the last leg of our trek "home" to our summer place on the Oregon coast at Port Orford.

We have two main choices of routes we can take to get from here to Port Orford.  One route is up the freeway to Winston, south of Roseburg, where we could head west to Bandon on the coast and then 25 miles south to Port Orford.

The other route is to jump off I-5 at Grants Pass and head west on US highway 199 which dips south into California along the Smith River reaching the coast at the small town of Smith River, CA where we follow US 101 "The Coast Highway" north to Brookings,OR and eventually to the towns of Gold Beach and Port Orford.

This morning we choose the coastal route.  We pack up and check tire pressures in a light misting rain.  Back out and hook up the car, check lights and auxilliary brakes, before getting onto I-5 heading north.

We have made this trip so many times that the bus seems to know the way.  The scenery,however, will never become boring.  While working the last 27 years of our careers, Joan and I often escaped over this route to weekends and RV vacations along the southern Oregon coast.

There is one mountain pass to climb on the way from the Rogue Valley over the Coast Range to the Pacific Ocean. Oregon Mountain pass is only 2100 feet high thanks in part to a 575 foot long tunnel near the summit.  The tunnel is high, wide and well lighted.  The Tunnel shortened the road by 3 miles and eliminated 128 turns and 3 switchbacks.  This morning it looked like a light snow had fallen overnight, but the temperature had climbed into the 50s as we stopped at the rest area for lunch.  One encouragement, the skies to the west were showing patches of blue sky and sun.

US 199 is designated a NationalScenic Byway by the Department of Transportation- and it really deserves this accolade.

If you are driving a big rig this route to the coast is not for the faint of heart.  The road surface is very good, however there are many places where there is virtually no shoulder and the edge of the road will drop off down a steep embankment or off into the river below.

Rock outcroppings and Redwood trees can narrow your lane to just 12 feet- no more. This one spot in the road is just north of Patrick's Creek and it is etched in my mind.  Twice before I have had "encounters" in this narrows.  Several years ago I was on the outside lane heading east back to Medford, when I met a semi coming west who was a little over the line on my side.  The guardrail kept me from giving him any more of my lane. At a complete stop we had to "dance" our mirrors past one another, before either of us could continue.  There are only two sections of several hundred feet that are like this, and heavy truck traffic is light- so the risk reward still favors the reward side of the equation.

Smith River gorge near Hiouchi, CaliforniaThe Smith river is only 25 miles long.  It starts and ends in Del Norte county.  It is the largest river system in California that flows freely along its entire course.  The river's rocky streambed tends to keep the water free of suspended silt or organic material.  This accounts for the crystal clear and icy blue color.

Redwoods along California Highway 197

US 199 also know as "The Redwood Highway" has the advantage of passing through one of California's premier Redwood groves.  As we pass through the small town of Hiouchi ( hi-ooch-ee) Hwy 199 enters the Jedediah Smith Redwoods National and State Park.  The park is cooperatively managed by both the US Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

About a mile south of Hiouchi, we come to a junction in the road.  Hwy 199 continues southwest toward the coastal town of Crescent city, however we turn west on highway 197 to stay on the banks of the Smith River.  This "shortcut" will take us to highway 101 about 13 miles north of Crescent city and 5 miles from the Oregon border.  We make a quick stop  at the All Star Liquor Store in Smith River, CA to augment our supplies.  The liquor tax in California on a gallon of spirits is $3.30/ gal whereas over the state line in Oregon the tax is $23.73/ gal- a difference of $20.43 per gallon, or about $4.08 per bottle higher.  We are legally able to import up to 4 liters per trip and our needs are much smaller than that, so we usually take advanatage of this stop on our way into Oregon.

Welcome to Oregon Sign near Brookings, OR

All stocked up, we drive north on Highway 101 four miles to the Oregon border.  We are now a little more than 50 miles from Port Orford.  The towns on the south coast tend to be about 25 miles apart.  The first town we come to in Oregon is Brookings which has a population of  6,400 and makes it the biggest city in Curry County.  25 miles north of Brookings is the city of Gold Beach.  Gold Beach with a population of 2,300 is next largest.  25 miles north of Gold Beach is the city of Port Orford.  Port Orford with its population of 1,192 is still the 3rd largest town in Curry County.

The Pacific Ocean near the Southern Oregon border

Watching the blue Pacific crashing on the rocks to my left as we cruise up 101 is so distracting that I have to mentally force myself break my attention away from the scenery to scan my gauges and keep and eye on our towed vehicle (toad).  I have said it before, and today it is so true; our front windshield becomes a huge HD TV showing the most breath-taking scenery- it's mesmerizing.

Jeff hauls groceries from the motorhome to house
At 4 in the afternoon we arrive at our destination, and begin the process of opeing up our house for the summer and transferring the food and clothing from one living space to the other.  We had called to have the water meter turned back on by the city, but we arrived a day earlier than predicted, so for several hours we were without water in the house.  One of the things I wanted to do before we filled the water heater again, was to lift it up and put the drip pan under it.  Lucky me, Mike Hewitt and Dick Wold just happen to be cruising by and stopped to say hello.  With their help- it's now done.

Joan loads food from motorhome onto pantry shelves of our summer home

We will take it easy and move a little at a time over the next several days, then we'll clean up the motorhome and put it into storage for a few months.  We are lucky to have lots of space to park it, but we are having to save-up before we can build it a garage.
Horst and Alice, our wonderful neighbors, invited us over to their house for cocktails and a chance to catch up with all the local news- we jumped at the chance to quit working and have some fun!   As we were leaving Horst presented us with a large kettle of lentil soup!  This soup is excellent- we are happy not to have to cook for the next couple days- Thank you Horst and Alice!

After dinner and working on the blog, I was happy to fall into bed and fall sound asleep listening to the waves crash on the ocean beach.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

1 comment:

  1. Great article. We live in Roseburg and will be traveling to Brookings in our new (used) Class A, 36ft. in a couple of weeks. The choice is go west to Bandon and down the 101 or go south on I-5 and exit at Grants Pass. I am not a good passenger.... I recall the road via Grants Pass is very wind-y but it is beautiful. I think we will take the Bandon route. Glad you're having fun.. stay safe! Mary Hamel