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Day Three – Lincoln City, Oregon to Bandon, Oregon

I’m up early this morning. I pore over my map while I eat my hot breakfast at the hotel. I really like Lincoln City, and this hotel. I could see the ocean from my balcony, and I slept with the balcony door open so that I could enjoy the sea breeze and the sounds of the surf. I slept very well, and I’m raring to go. I’ve got a lot to see today.

First up, I ride back into town to see the town’s namesake. Lincoln City was born in 1965, when the towns of Cutler City, Taft, Nelscott, Delake, and Oceanlake merged and incorporated. At about the same time, sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876 – 1973) was looking for a home for “Abraham Lincoln on Horseback,” a big bronze that depicted youthful Abe astride a steed, reading a book (Lincoln’s reading – not the horse). The statue now sits on the corner of NW 22nd Street and Quay in Lincoln City, outside of the Lincoln City Community Center.

The fact that Lincoln is reading seems entirely appropriate for the Oregon Coast. I pass numerous libraries on my ride today, along with multiple used book stores. Nice.

Lincoln City also has one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever seen. Not because of its architecture or location – it’s an ordinary-looking modern structure on a busy street. But it houses the Lincoln City Hall, the Lincoln City Library and the Culinary Center of Lincoln City. Think of the possibilities.

One odd fact about Lincoln City: The D River that runs through town is the shortest river in the world, according to the state of Oregon. It connects Devil’s Lake with the Pacific Ocean, some 120 feet away. I don’t know if it actually qualifies as a river, or if it is actually the shortest – but the D River certainly has the shortest name of any river in the world.

I reluctantly ride away from Lincoln City. The weather is perfect today, and the road is calling.

I trek down US 101 South, darting inland now, hugging the coast then. Oregon has done a great job of spending its tax dollars on roads. Most of the surfaces are smooth and nicely cambered, perfect for motorcycle riding. I stop at a particularly nice spot, Depoe Bay, and snap a few photos of the coastline. A placard informs me that this is a great vantage point from which to spot gray whales during their migration. Several local businesses advertise whale-watching decks, and whale-watching tours.

I continue down the coastline, and follow a sign that points toward Yaquina Head. Yesterday, I saw the shortest lighthouse in Oregon at Cape Meares; today, I get a chance to see the tallest, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. The 93-foot tall working lighthouse is open to the public, and an interpretive center nearby provides information about the structure and the beautiful natural setting that it occupies. A crowd has already lined up for the opportunity to climb to the lighthouse’s peak, so I content myself with taking some pictures and admiring the tower from the outside. After all, it’s almost lunchtime.

I jump back on US 101, and continue my journey south. A few miles down from Yaquina Head is the charming town of Newport. I park my bike down on Newport’s Historic Bayfront, the city’s original tourist district. The area hosts numerous restaurants, seafood processors, gift shops and galleries, all jumbled together in charming fashion. I stroll for a while, poking my nose into the storefronts and looking at menus.

I decide to go to the original Mo’s. Mo’s is a six-restaurant chain with locations along the Oregon Coast. They specialize in seafood, and are famous for their clam chowder. That’s what I order, along with a shrimp sandwich. All I can tell you is – Mo’s is rightfully famous.

Full of chowder and shrimp, I continue down US 101. Newport merits a return visit. I only get a chance to explore the Bayfront, but Newport has four other districts: Agate Beach, Nye Beach, the Deco District and South Beach. I’d probably stay at the Newport Beach Inn, which would be a great base of operations to explore this cool town.

Just south of Florence, the landscape of the Oregon Coast changes dramatically. I’ve just entered the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The National Park Service administers beach access; the beaches themselves are Oregon State Parks. The coastline, formerly rocky and craggy, is now dominated by enormous sand dunes, some as tall as 500 feet. I follow a toyhauler into the park – they seem to know where they’re going, with their big RV full of sand rails and ATVs. Within the park, there are legal trails and areas for off-road vehicles to play and explore. Environmentalists may decry this use of the beach, but it looks like a lot of fun to me, and it is in a very controlled area. I also see some big dune buggies hauling a dozen or so tourists in seats high above the sand. I don’t know if I’d go that route.

I ride further into the park, and find a quiet parking area. I dismount the bike, and hike into the dunes in search of the beach. After hiking farther than I expect, up and down several rows of sand dunes for about 15 minutes, I finally reach the wind-swept beach. It is totally worth the climb. The beach is wide, dramatic and gorgeous. The wind blows heavily, and the temperature is brisk, about 10 degrees cooler on the ocean side of the dunes than on the land side. I stand and admire the powerful Pacific Ocean for a few minutes, drawing on its energy to inspire the climb back across the dunes.

Back on the bike, I marvel at the park, which stretches about 40 miles along the Oregon Coast, from Florence to Coos Bay.

After Coos Bay, I pass one of the most famous landmarks on the Oregon Coast, Bandon Dunes Golf Course. Bandon Dunes is a private course, consistently rated as the number one or number two golf course in the United States, trading back and forth with Monterey, California’s Pebble Beach. Golfers come from all over the world to play the famous links.

Quite nearby, I reach my destination for the night. This Bandon hotel really is an Inn, a collection of cottages with more suites than rooms. The beautiful layout is set against the backdrop of a unique 9-hole public golf course, Old Bandon Golf Links. I’m no golfer, but even I can see that there’s something different about this place. It is wilder, and more in harmony with nature -- more akin to the traditional Scottish course than the perfectly manicured American course. Golfers can choose to play the course with hickory golf clubs and authentic gutta percha balls, recreating the experience of golf in its Golden Age. It almost makes me want to take up the clubs.

My room is a lovely suite with a balcony that overlooks the final hole of Bandon Crossings. Framed period photographs from the early days of the town of Bandon decorate the walls of the tastefully decorated room. The gentle hush of the golf course, the voices of the birds and the sound of the surf mingle in the air. I open all of the windows, and let the world in.

Dinner tonight is at Bandon Bill’s Grill, right on the grounds of the hotel. I usually eat alone on these trips, spending more time interacting with my Kindle than with other people. Tonight, I’ve been invited to join the Inn at Face Rock’s principal owner, “Bandon Bill” Clark, and Marc Dryden, the Managing Partner, for dinner. Front Office Manager Anthony Muirhead also joined us, along with Pete Bauer, a member of Bandon’s Chamber of Commerce. The food was fantastic, as was the company. Bandon Bill is a great raconteur, and he’s a fanatic motorcyclist. He has ridden over 240,000 miles, from Alaska to Argentina, and counts friends in every corner of the Western Hemisphere from his journeys. Bill has a saying (actually, Bill has lots of sayings): “May your meal never be better than the company you keep.” In other words, a great meal is only great if it is shared with great friends. Amen, Bill. This was a great meal. Fresh seafood – really fresh, direct from the docks – prepared on a wood fire grill, delicious sides an impeccable service. It doesn’t hurt that I was dining with the restaurant’s owner, but I could tell from restaurant manager Denise’s enthusiasm that everyone gets treated like family at Bandon Bill’s.

Anthony turns out to be a Bandon area native, and was very informative about life in the area. Pete is also an interesting guy. He was the gymnastics coach at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and also managed the golf instruction program there. When he retired to pursue his artistic passion of wood carving, Pete and his wife Candace chose Bandon. Pete can comb the beaches for driftwood to use in his artwork, and getting quality local wood is easy in the area. Pete also caddies part time at Bandon Dunes, and his wife busks in Old Town Bandon, playing the harp. Pete claims to be retired, but I don’t believe it.

Pete and Marc inform me that Bandon is more of a golf destination than I had imagined. Four of the top 15 golf courses in the United States are in the area, which is quite amazing. Since the timber mills have moved out, tourism has taken over as the primary industry in Bandon, eclipsing even fishing as employment. There are dozens of fine restaurants, art galleries and gift stores, as well as activities for the whole family.

Bandon Bill informs me that he has a special side trip planned for me tomorrow. I’m scheduled to depart the Oregon Coast and head north – but Bill wants to ride south with me first, and take me to someplace that every biker must see. I can’t wait.

First, off to sleep in my luxurious suite. I’ll drift off to sleep listening to the waves, a dreaming of tomorrow.

Miles ridden: 185

NEXT UP: DAY FOUR: BANDON TO CORVALLIS

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