Day 11: August 30, 2018
Route: Prospect, Oregon, to McKinleyville, California – The Home Stretch!
The campground at Joseph Stewart State Park was very quiet overnight, the only sound was the slap of a sprinkler in the distance. I woke to the sound of the wind blowing through the trees above my camp site.
Today was the home stretch, a short ride to the California coast and I would be home. I was excited to be finishing the solo portion of my trip, but at the same time a little sad that it would be coming to an end. I set out westbound on Oregon Highway 62 toward Shady Cove.
Just north of Eagle Point, I turned onto Oregon Highway 234 towards Grants Pass. Highway 234 took a straight line through farm lands before passing on the north side of Upper and Lower Table Rocks – two volcanic plateaus standing alone in the Rogue River Valley. At Gold Hill, Highway 234 takes a turn, joins Oregon Highway 99, and begins following the path of the Rogue River in the shadow of Interstate 5, the highway that replaced 99.
I stopped in Grants Pass for a coffee and muffin then continued west on Highway 199 toward California. With little traffic, Highway 199 was fast until I reached the Illinois River Valley. The air began to get smoky near Selma from ongoing fires in the area. Many signs warned of fire fighting vehicles entering the roadway. However, once I reached Cave Junction, the air began to clear.
South of O’Brien, I reached the California border. I didn’t get stopped and hassled at the agricultural inspection station, and it appeared other vehicles were just getting the hand wave treatment as well.
Shortly after entering California, I passed through the Randolph Collier Tunnel. The 1,900-foot-long tunnel, about one mile into California from the border, was the final link in the road that connected the Illinois Valley to the coast. Prior to the tunnel’s construction, traffic had to pass over Oregon Mountain on a narrow windy road described as a “Jeep path” by the tunnel’s namesake. The tunnel and newly constructed Highway 199 cut a mere 3 miles off the path from Oregon to Crescent City, but eliminated 128 turns and 5 switchbacks needed to cross over Oregon Mountain, and allowed the speed of the road to be raised from 25 mph to 60 mph.
After passing through the tunnel I immediately felt a blast of cold coastal air, an odd feeling so far inland. Typically, I don’t encounter the coastal air until Gasquet, 20 miles to the west.
After passing a slow-moving Honda that refused to use the available turnouts, I picked it up to fully enjoy the twists and turns of Highway 199 as it paralleled the Smith River and entered the coastal redwood forests.
As I rode through Hiouchi, I saw a pair of motorcycles with European plates exiting the gas station. Had I seen them sooner, I would have tried to stop and talk to them and find out their story. I continued west into Jedediah Smith State Park and it’s narrow two-lane road winding through groves of ancient coast redwoods – the tallest trees on Earth. As I rode in the shadow of the ancient giants, I saw the two European bikes a few vehicles back. Perhaps I could get them to stop for a bit in Crescent City.
I pulled into the parking lot at the Chevron gas station in Crescent City and waved at the two Euro riders to get them to stop. They simply waved back and continued south on Highway 101. OK … maybe they didn’t understand what I was trying to do. I pulled back onto the highway and followed after them. I pulled up behind them at a stop light and saw the license plates were from Germany, oddly these Germans were riding Triumphs. Seeing that, I HAD to get them to stop – not only because Greg rides a Tiger and would be interested in hearing about them, but because they were Germans on British bikes.
I pulled ahead of them and waved as I pulled into the parking area at Crescent Beach just south of Crescent City. Again they waved back and continued on. Apparently, I need to put up a giant sign that says, “Germans on Tigers. Stop now!” They disappeared up the “Last Chance Grade” section of Highway 101. I got back on the highway and tried to catch up. My new plan was to follow them and wait for them to stop, then stop to talk to them.
The two German Tigers pulled into the vista point overlooking False Klamath Cove. I pulled in behind them. Well, maybe this wasn’t such a good plan. They seemed to have no interest in talking at all. All I could get out of the Germans was that they were from Germany, riding around the USA, and were staying at Fortuna, California, tonight. Well, that was a bust.
I got back on the road and beat feet for home. Redwood National Park was devoid of the usual roadside wildlife – where were the elk?!
I got home a little after 1 p.m. The journey was done, and when all was said and done, I had ridden more solo miles than I did with a partner. It felt like such and accomplishment to me.
I felt ready for the next adventure, whenever it might be.
Distance: 205 miles, 2534 total – 1,396 miles solo.