September Loop, Oregon Coast Style

September 18, 2023

· Original photos

September remains one of my favorite times of year to ride. It brings the crisp fall air and changing colors of leaves onto the scene, but it’s still usually warm enough for short sleeves. There is no better time of year to extend a weekend to four days and ride around the beautiful Pacific Northwest. That’s exactly what my riding buddy Greg and I did this year.

Day 1: Seattle WA to Waldport OR - 402 miles

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We met on Friday morning in Seattle for breakfast and to figure out which direction we’d ride. Like all my favorite rides, this one didn’t have a pre-planned route. Over coffee, we discussed wanting to get to Eastern Oregon eventually, but there were many routes that could eventually get there. We decided the weather was nice enough for a ride along the Pacific, so we left the Peloton Cafe and headed for the coast.

It was a beautiful ride down!

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I misjudged the length of ride and made it worse by booking a hotel in Waldport, rather than Newport. Turns out Waldport is even further south. We decided to stop for dinner at The Salmonberry in Wheeler, Oregon. I suspect it’s good place normally, but that night the regular chefs were gone. The tacos were okay, but the service was horrible: we waited over an hour for our food. It was getting dark, and I don’t love riding in the dark.

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After crawling through the coastal towns, we made it into Waldport ready for cocktails and some hot appetizers at the hotel’s bar. Sadly, the bar was closed for renovation, but the very nice clerk grabbed us a couple of beers and mini muffins on the house, and we crashed. Sometimes any cold beer and carbs hit the spot and they were much appreciated.

Day 2: Waldport OR to Redmond OR - 205 miles

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We started out in some chilly drizzle and had breakfast at the amazing Hilltop Cafe-Bistro. After a perfect breakfast, we broke east over State Route 34 toward Corvallis. But rather than stay on the route - which was beautiful to begin with - Greg decided to explore a road that his nav app was telling him looked good for motorcycling. That lead to a second road that we decided to take, and I’ll let the curves tell the rest of the story:

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When we rolled into Alsea, the small town at the end of the twisties, we were in awe at how amazing the roads were. Scenic, twisty, varying between one and two lanes. Absolutely perfect riding.

Continuing east, we found ourselves in Lebanon, Oregon for lunch at the Growler Cafe. I had what might be the best sandwich I have ever eaten there, and it was bizarre: a Blackberry Bacon Grilled Cheese. It was a suggestion from the waitress. You should go to Lebanon just for the sandwich.

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Smoke was now in the air from a wildfire, and it got thicker until we pulled into Sisters, Oregon for coffee. In these photos you can really see why it was wise to take a break, hydrate, and plan to get away from the smoke or indoors soon.

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That evening’s stop turned out to be the kitschy SCP Hotel in Redmond, Oregon. Very nice little place with a great restaurant attached. Still smokey, but that was okay as we had a good meal inside and called it a day.

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Day 3: Redmond OR to Leavenworth WA - 297 miles

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We woke up to clear skies with almost no smoke and decided to ride north to Leavenworth for a fine German dinner. The route [mostly] goes up Highway 97, which is scenic unto itself. But the moto nav app has a twisty road setting, and we let it guide us off into some incredible country with pine trees, beautiful geography, and almost no other vehicles on the roads. Another bit of motorcycling heaven…

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This route also afforded us a run up Yakima Canyon Road, which is one of Washington’s legendary motorcycle routes. After that, Blewitt Pass took us into the Cascade Mountains. It felt like one great ride after another.

Day 4: Leavenworth to Seattle / San Juan Islands - 155 miles

Short day just to get home to families. We were up early, and the mountain air was great to ride through. Climbing up the east side of Stevens Pass is always beautiful (though it got chilly, down to 44º). Greg headed back to Seattle, and I broke north to the islands.

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Much like the September loop back in 2016, this was a blast. Nearly every mile was scenic, and traffic was minimal. We explored some new roads, some of which we are destined to ride again. These September loops are worth making an annual tradition!