We had an amazing motorcycle trip planned for Labor Day weekend that involved riding from Seattle to Abbottsford, British Columbia, over to the Okanogan Valley for a day of wine tastings around Penticton, and then a loop down through Winthrop and over the North Cascades pass to return home.
Unfortunately by Labor Day the West Coast was burning—there were forest fires everywhere, including throughout British Columbia and specifically where we were planning to ride. After extensive ideation and soul searching we finally came to terms with the fact that we needed to abort the trip.
Thankfully we were just far enough out that we could cancel our hotel stays without losing our deposits. However, we were not far enough out that I felt confident we could throw together an alternative trip without incurring a great deal of expense.
We started brainstorming some of the places high on our bucket list—San Diego, Denver, Denali, Yellowstone—but brief research into flights and hotels made it pretty clear pretty quick that we were going to be stuck with inflated costs given our late booking and the holiday weekend timing.
I was discouraged, but we decided to switch gears and go back to the road trip idea and think through where we could drive during a three-day weekend that would take us somewhere new and somewhere not impacted by fires. That narrowed down our window significantly, and we landed on a loop drive down part of the Oregon coast, cutting in at the Willamette Valley and continuing through Eugene, down through Crater Lake National Park, and up through Bend and Mt. Hood.
Brian had racked up enough hotel points through his work travel to cover our overnight stays, so our only expenses were food, fuel, and a national park pass—pretty amazing given the last-minute change!
The first leg of our trip took us from Seattle to Eugene. I love this drive and wanted to highlight a few of the stops we made along the way.
Our first stop had been on Brian’s list– visiting the remains of the Peter Iredale, which wrecked in 1906. It was amazing to see the pictures of the ship over time as it continues to deteriorate.
We were there early and nearly had the beach to ourselves to explore!
We walked around after exploring the remains, skipping between a few raindrops, enjoying the sand, and hoping the weather would improve as we headed down the coast.
The weather did improve somewhat by the time we got to our second destination– Cannon Beach!
I wasn’t sure I was actually going to get to walk it or see the Haystack in person once Brian saw all of the traffic and people. We drove around downtown for a time and finally gave up, heading south. All of the residential neighborhoods along the beach had ‘no parking’ signs, which I could understand because the place was overrun with people, and we weren’t sure where we would park.
I was able to google a tip on the fly that said if you didn’t mind a walk, there was a large public parking lot quite a ways south of the town and the Haystack called Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site. We headed there and sure enough, found ample parking! From there we set off on a 2-mile roundtrip walk to the Haystack.
Near the Haystack there were tons of tide pools sporting a variety of sea life, including starfish and sea anemones in bright purples and greens. There were also a few people sitting out with information about the wildlife if you wanted to learn more.
I decided to stick my feet in the Pacific Ocean–it was COLD!!
Just as we were finishing at the Haystack the wind and rain began to pick up so we sped up the pace and returned to our car.
The shower didn’t last long and a little way up the road we pulled off at an overlook to enjoy the coastal view. Brian found several of his favorite tsunami warning signs!
After Cannon Beach, we veered inland and headed south for Tillamook Creamery about an hour away. One of the first times we went to Portland I saw the creamery recommended on some tourism site and given you are allowed to sample all of their various cheeses, I was in!
As it turned out, so was every other person in the state (or so it seemed). The place was absolutely teeming with people and we almost didn’t stay–but we decided since we were there and had by some miracle found a parking spot that we would check it out.
If you are there and it’s busy, don’t waste your time. If you luck out and the number of people is reasonable, you might find the educational tour interesting. When you walk in you can head upstairs to learn more about the company, how it sources its milk and other products, and then view how it makes its various cheeses and more. In theory, once you’ve completed that loop, you can taste many of the cheese you just witnessed in the making.
There were so many people there we couldn’t successfully complete the tour, and one look at the people gorging themselves on free samples turned us both off of the tasting experience.
We thought perhaps instead we would head down to the foodhall and purchase a locally made treat. However, once we were back overhead we looked down to see even more people standing in lines waiting for food.
Where did all of these people come from?!? Had the rain from Cannon Beach driven everyone to Tillamook?
We decided to forgo the rest of the visit and move on–Brian promised me he would stop at a grocery store and I could buy all the Tillamook products I wanted so long as he didn’t get run over by anymore people. I would not put this stop high on your list.
We continued south not far from the coast and then cut in east to head toward the Willamette Valley— 150 miles of Oregon wine country.
Our first stop was called Coria Estates and it was a lovely, unassuming winery perched on a hill with beautiful views of the surround vineyards.
The weather was beautiful so we decided to sit outside and share a tasting along with some meat, cheese and olives. It was relaxing, the food and wine were delicious, and we had a fun friend who joined us for our visit!
Our second stop was at Willamette Valley Vineyards, also a beautiful winery but with a more polished feel. We decided to share a tasting in the estate room, which was very posh and led into a dining room filled with white table cloths.
The wines here were also good but the atmosphere was less conducive to our trip and more so to people wanting to have a nice evening out. The menu looked amazing, and I’m sure the dining service was great.
We finished our first day on the road in Eugene, meeting a gentleman who Brian works with and his friend for dinner and drinks at Sweet Cheeks Winery and Marche Restaurant. They were both within a short walking distance of our hotel so we were able to check in, freshen up, and walk over to join them for the evening. Both were wonderful–I recommend both!
All of the hulabaloo getting our roadtrip underway seemed worth it as we wrapped up day one. I can’t wait to revisit and see more of the Oregon Coast!