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Route Talk With Ken Chichester

Ken Chichester

This month’s Route Talk covers Day 3, from Reedsport to Bandon. Master route planner Ken Chichester gives you the scoop on this beautiful and deceptively challenging day.

Why did you choose to go this way?

There aren’t many highway options when traveling down the Oregon Coast except Highway 101. The route does use almost every available option other than Highway 101 to travel through a number of scenic areas: Cape Arago and Shore Acres State Parks, the Seven Devils area and Bandon Dunes Golf Course.

What planning challenges were involved with this route?

The challenge was getting everyone to the coast to actually see the Pacific Ocean – as Reedsport, North Bend and Coos Bay are all a few miles inland. This challenge is really a safety-related issue of riding on Highway 101, so the route minimizes the number of miles we will actually be using this highway. The lack of available roads other than Highway 101 is especially true between Reedsport and the next town, North Bend/Coos Bay. There is one county roadway that would allow the route to avoid Highway 101 for a few miles, but using that roadway would require at least one left turn across this major highway each time it was used, and sometimes two left turns. So it’s much easier and safer to continue on the main highway, using the adequate shoulder until arriving at the bridge crossing the actual body of water called Coos Bay – where the Coquille River enters the Pacific Ocean.

The first opportunity to leave the main highway at this point poses the first challenge: safely turning left from Highway 101 to ride around Coos Bay, thus avoiding riding across a narrow, long and high bridge. We are working with the Oregon Department of Transportation, through Cycle Oregon’s Traffic Safety Plan incorporated in our permit application, to minimize the safety issues.

In addition to our presence on Highway 101, which enhances overall traffic safety simply by the presence of such a large number of cyclists, we are looking at placing variable-message reader boards at the north and south terminus of the route each day we will be using Highway 101. We are also discussing using contracted flaggers at the left turn from Highway 101 to assist cyclists in crossing the main highway.

The rest of the route, after leaving the community of Coos Bay, is pretty straightforward. We stay away from Highway 101 until just a few miles before the overnight community of Bandon.

Can you provide a brief point-to-point description of this route?

The route leaves Reedsport and travels on Highway 101 for 20 miles, with the first stop of the day at a myrtlewood factory. Just after this first stop, Highway 101 uses the McCullough Bridge to cross Coos Bay, but this bridge is narrow with no shoulder and an elevated sidewalk, and is quite a distance above the water. Instead of using the bridge, Cycle Oregon’s route turns left just before the bridge and uses a county roadway, East Bay Road, to travel on the east side of the two towns and Coos Bay. This route offers better scenery of the bay and bridge, and also has low traffic volume.

When in the Coos Bay area, it seems almost a requirement to visit the actual coast of the Pacific Ocean. The typical road that cars use to get to the ocean is, obviously, not the way Cycle Oregon gets there. Rather than using the state highway that is signed to direct people to the coast, we’ll use a county roadway that incorporates a “little” hill just out of Coos Bay to arrive in Charleston, an unincorporated community with a fishing harbor. From

Charleston, it’s just a few miles to the ocean, passing Sunset Bay, arriving at Shore Acres State Park for lunch. Our lunch site is on a grass field with a spectacular view of the ocean, within sight of the formal gardens of Shore Acres.

Shore Acres State Park is the former grand estate of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis J. Simpson. Simpson built a luxurious summer home on a scenic bluff high above the Pacific Ocean, which was later destroyed by fire in 1921. A fully enclosed observation building was constructed on the site of Simpson’s home, offering magnificent views of towering waves, rugged cliffs and glimpses of migrating whales from December through June.

Shore Acres features lushly planted gardens with plants and flowers from all over the world. Something is in bloom almost every day of the year. In the landscaped area you’ll discover a formal garden, an oriental-style pond and two rose gardens that include an All American Rose Selection display.

After lunch, the route continues down the coast for just over a mile on a dead-end road to arrive at Cape Arago. Located on a 134-acre narrow coastal promontory jutting half a mile into the ocean, Cape Arago State Park offers wild vistas of the pounding sea, as well as of Oregon’s sea stacks. This park is also a good place to view marine mammals such as seals, sea lions and whales.

The route re-traces the road back to Charleston, and then turns south on Seven Devils Road. The 16 miles from Charleston to Bandon Dunes Golf Course offers quite a few big “bumps” in the road (seven, actually…), so we’ll have a rest stop at the South Slough National Estuarine Research Center.

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