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Route Talk With Ken Chichester

Ken Chichester

This month’s Route Talk covers two days: our layover day in Bandon, and Day 5 from Bandon to Powers. Master route planner Ken Chichester explains why you definitely should not miss the layover ride, as well as what to expect as we say goodbye to the coast on Day 5.

DAY 4: LAYOVER DAY – BANDON

Why did you choose this route?

For a layover day option ride from Bandon, there are three choices. We used the available roads north of Bandon to arrive in town the day before. We’ll ride the one available road heading east that’s safe for bicycles when we leave Bandon the next day. That leaves a route south of Bandon – a loop ride to Port Orford and back that has quite a bit to offer.

What planning challenges were involved with this route?

Because the options for a loop route in this area are so limited, there weren’t many planning challenges. There is a road leading east from Langlois that looked attractive on the map, but exploration showed that the road turns to gravel, and part of the road is actually privately owned. Once that potential route was discounted, the only other question was how to limit the amount of time spent riding on Highway 101. Those who choose to ride on this day will be off the main highway for nearly five miles at the beginning of the ride, and a little over five miles at the end of the ride.

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

The route leaves Bandon traveling south on Beach Loop Drive, which provides wonderful views of the ocean, with small state parks and viewpoints along the road. Riders will then turn onto Highway 101, continuing on the state highway to Port Orford for lunch, and then returning on the main highway until nearly back to Bandon. The traffic volume on Highway 101 should be moderate, requiring cyclists to pay attention when passing other cyclists and, when not passing, riding on the shoulder as far to the right as practical.

Fifteen miles from the start is the unincorporated community of Langlois (according to old-timers it is pronounced “Langless”), where we’ll pause at the community library for a rest stop. On this section of the coast, cranberry bogs are abundant. Cranberries have been grown commercially on the West Coast for a century, and Oregon now ranks fourth among the states in cranberry production – tops among Western states. Most are “wet-picked,” meaning growers flood their bogs with water and then use mechanical harvesters to loosen the floating berries from the vines.

After leaving Langlois, riders will pass Denmark (yes, a community did exist here, founded by Danes) and the Sixes River before arriving at the Cape Blanco Highway turnoff. For another spectacular view of the ocean, the five-mile ride to the end of the road at the Cape Blanco State Park and lighthouse is well worth the effort. Cape Blanco is the most southern of Oregon’s lighthouses, and is the westernmost point in Oregon. It was the first lighthouse in the state outfitted with a first-order Fresnel lens, in 1870. Two of the lighthouse keepers were James Langlois and James Hughes, stationed at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse for their entire careers, which lasted 42 years for Langlois and at least 33 years for Hughes.

Hughes was the second son of Patrick and Jane Hughes, whose 2,000-acre ranch bordered the lighthouse station property. The ranch is now part of Cape Blanco State Park, and the Hughes’ home, a two-story Victorian built in 1898 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, remains standing and is open to the public for tours. This home is down a short road about a mile before reaching the lighthouse access road.

After returning to Highway 101 from Cape Blanco, a four-mile ride leads to Port Orford, the oldest town on the Oregon coast and the most westerly in the 48 contiguous states. Rather than going directly to the lunch location by staying on Highway 101, the route takes a short detour, going straight onto the street with the large hand-painted “viewpoint” on the pavement, for a view of the harbor. The natural harbor at the north end of Port Orford Bay has one of only two ” dolly docks” in the U.S. and six in the world, where boats are lifted in and out of the water by cranes and parked on large, custom-made trailers on the dock.

Lunch is at the Battle Rock Wayfinding Point Park, with an ocean view and access to the beach. The park is named for a battle between the first landing party of white settlers and a local band of natives in 1851, which was the beginning of the settlement of Port Orford.

For those who might want to spin up a pretty steep hill for about a mile, a visit to the Port Orford Heads State Park is available. The park houses a Coast Guard lifeboat station and free museum with a wood lifeboat on display. (Watch for the sign, and take 9th Street from Highway 101 to get to the park.)

The return to Bandon is again on Highway 101, with another rest stop in Langlois at the Blanco School grounds. Prior to arriving in Bandon, the route leaves the highway, traveling on county roads to return to the overnight camp.

DAY 5: BANDON TO POWERS

Why did you choose this route?

The second reason for the week’s route is the Glendale to Powers Bike Route – so we needed to get to Powers. The most direct route to Powers from Bandon is by using state highways, but the primary highway from Bandon is heavily traveled, with many curves and no shoulders. A secondary county road parallels the main road on the other side of the Coquille River, leading to another state highway just north of Coquille.

After arriving in Coquille, a series of county roadways are used to avoid the heavily traveled state highway to arrive in Myrtle Point. From Myrtle Point, the only road available to get to Powers is a state highway.

What planning challenges were involved with this route?

The use of North Bank Lane to avoid Highway 42S was obvious, and using Highway 42 to arrive in Coquille is the only option. The challenge for this day was finding the best way to get to Myrtle Point on county roadways (avoiding the state highway) from Coquille, without road signage, or with confusing signage. We believe we’ve selected the best roads from among the array of choices.

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

To avoid the busy highway leading to Coquille, the route travels north on Highway 101 across the Coquille River, and leaves the state highway near the Bandon Dunes Golf Course entrance. This road, North Bank Lane, follows the Coquille River through farmland to its end at Highway 42. We need to travel on the state highway (with wide shoulders) for four miles before arriving at Coquille’s Sturdivant Park for a rest stop.

After leaving the city park, the route travels through farmland in the Coquille Valley through the small community of Arago and then to Myrtle Point for lunch. After lunch, the only roads available leading to Powers are state highways. The highway leaving Myrtle Point can be busy, but has good shoulders for the 2.5 miles before turning onto the Powers Highway.

The state highway leading to Powers has low traffic volume, and continues to follow the Coquille River. We have one stop at the Coquille Myrtle Grove State Park before finishing at Powers County Park. This state park is in a myrtle grove and has a sandy beach along the Coquille River. From this last stop of the day, it is only seven miles to Powers.

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