I think it’s fair to say that we put off the camping thing for the first week of our Zartusacan. It’s not that we didn’t want to or didn’t intend to camp instead of paying for motels and hotels every night, but rather that we haven’t done it for years and were somewhat dreading the amount of effort / faffage it involves.
But, now in the second week of our road trip it was definitely time to just get on with it, so while at our motel in Florence (read the last post here), we did a bit of research and made a note of a handful of sites that looked okay and were in the area we wanted to be in. Most of them were State Park sites, which seem to offer basic but standard facilities – and allowed you to turn up without a reservation. So without a definite place to stay, we loaded up the bikes and continued on our journey south along the Pacific coast.
Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, OR
After about 50 miles winding along the 101 as it hugged the coast we came across a town called North Bend. There was a massive ship being loaded up with logs, you could really smell the freshly cut wood. Definitely the main industry we’ve noticed in Oregon. We stopped at the Pancake Mill here for a late breakfast/early lunch, one for your list if you’re ever this way.
Lighthouse and driftwood in Bullards Beach State Park.
A bit later we saw a sign to a lighthouse so we followed it. You know, just because. Called Coquille River Lighthouse, close to Bandon on the Bullards Beach State Park. But it wasn’t the lighthouse that stole the show when we reached the end of the road, but rather the beach itself, which was absolutely piled high with driftwood. It was stunning – all that dead wood washed up on the shore, I wonder where it all came from.
A photo of me taking a photo of driftwood. Of course.
So to the camping. We pulled into the first campground on our list, Harris Beach State Park, and found that there were vacancies but that the registration booth wasn’t manned. Instead you choose a pitch and use one of the envelopes and booking forms to pay your money. I think I did it right – not all the boxes on the form made sense to me but I tried! No idea if they check every day but we paid our dues; $20 dollars for the night. We chose B44 and set up camp, which including having to make a repair to our tent as the elastic one set of poles had gone. It was pretty clear we hadn’t done the camping thing for years, but we managed to get everything set up without arguing and before it was dark. Success!
Our campsite at Harris Beach State Park.
Once we were set up we changed and went to walk the trails around the site, which overlooks the sandy beach and various rocks in the sea. We spotted a walking trail to Brookings, the nearest town, so rather than get back on the bikes we walked into town for dinner, except the trail actually meant walking along the 101 for a bit – they have a funny idea of walking trails here. But it did lead to a nice Mexican restaurant in which we filled our bellies before walking back and watching the sunset over the sea before we slept on our new sleeping mats in the peaceful setting.
Harris Beach, Oregon.
Burlington Campground, Humbolts State Park, CA
We had an “okay” sleep in the tent and woke up to brilliant sunshine – so far apart from a few spots of rain a few days back we’ve been very lucky with the weather. It seemed to take forever to pack the tent away and load up the bikes, I’m sure we’ll get faster with practice.
Once packed up and on the road we picked up Highway 101 again (no surprises there – it’s a very long road) and headed south. Just after Brookings we went through the State line; Oregon into California (I like the sign that said “Oregon already misses you”). There was an agricultural inspection point just over the border, we had to drive through a big metal shed but we got waved through. Later we found out they were looking for people bringing fruit into California, because they’re worried about insects from other states damaging their crops. We don’t get that between counties back home…
Watch out for sneaker waves!
We had a brief stop at a Visitor Centre (Center) in the Redwood State Park, where we learnt about the tsunami risk to the Pacific coast and all about sneaker waves. Apparently every now and again you can get a random strong and powerful wave even when the sea is calm that can knock you over and take you out to sea as it withdraws. Four people have died on that particular beach thanks to sneaker waves in the last few years, which really surprised me. Here we also had a fun conversation with a guy who came over to chat about the bikes – we are very interesting people it seems and attract lots of attention as we ride around, from “wow nice bikes” to long conversations about air freight and costs and Lincolnshire and place recommendations. This particular gentleman, retired, commented that he used to have an RV and drive it all over the country. What stood out to me was the fact he mentioned he had “all the mod cons – including a washer and dryer”!! Now THAT is camping in style!
A bit of a find in Trinidad. Don’t judge a book by the cover.
More 101, with lunch at a café in Trinidad which looked a little odd from the outside but served awesome (and huge) sandwiches, and then we turned off onto the Avenue of the Giants. This 31 miles scenic road is the old 101, winds through the forest and between the old Redwood trees. We stopped for a short walk in amongst the trees, and to take some photos. It really is an awesome place – these trees are so big and so old, and there is plenty of other wildlife too.
Avenue of the Giants.
Our camping ground for the night was right on the Avenue of the Giants, inside Humbolts State Park – the Burlington. A bit more expensive than the previous night at 35 dollars for our tent, but still reasonable. Unlike the previous night, this time we were in bear country, and so we had a bear safe on our pitch. This is a wooden box with a door and latch (that requires thumbs to open it) in which you should put any food or things smelling like food – toothpaste and sun cream, for example. We opened ours to find an empty jar of honey… I think Pooh Bear must have persuaded Christopher Robin to help him out!
Our campsite in the Avenue of the Giants.
While we were setting up camp – much quicker this time – another biking couple arrived at the site and came over to say hi. They are seasoned motorcycle tourers, one on a Can-Am Spyder, the other on a GS, and invited us out for dinner in a local café so we could talk all things adventure. We headed to Miranda for soup and salad and chatted all things bikes and tours and road trips and holidays and everything else. They were so kind; we now have a couple of paper maps of the area, some more places to add to our itinerary, and even the offer of a place to stay should we need it. The conversations we’re having like these are definitely one of my favourite things about the trip so far – I thought I’d find it a bit difficult but it’s nice to meet people who are interested in what we are doing and also find out what other people have done and are up to.
We arrived back at the campground after dark, which meant a very careful ride along the Avenue of the Giants and around the site to find our tent. The roads here are potentially much more hazardous in the twilight and just after dark, as animals come out from their hiding places to find food. We didn’t spot anything other than a bat, but we did hear lots of animal noises in the night including some loud roars! Who knows who or what was around us!