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Oregon Motorcyclist - Motorcycle Roads in Oregon

"You know more of a road by having traveled it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world." - William Hazlitt

Hwy 34 - Philomath to Hwy 101 at Waldport

Ride Report

Date Reviewed: 2/06

Length: 58 miles

Technical Difficulty: Easy

Location: Connects Philomath (N44° 32' 28.39" and W123° 23' 10.58") to Hwy 101 at Waldport (N44° 25' 37.53" and W124° 04' 1.66").

Connects With: Alsea River Rd, Lobster Valley Rd, Hwy 20, Hwy 101, and Rd 32.

Amenities: Full amenities in both Philomath and Waldport. The food in Alsea received positive rider comments. Getting gas in Alsea might require asking someone to open the pump.

Places Of Interest: Multiple rest areas, boat launches, camp sites, and a fish hatchery.

Review: Hwy 34 may be the most hooligan friendly two lane coast route in Oregon. One three mile section feels more like a go-cart track than a major highway. Clusters of 25 mph turns are interspersed throughout the ride. With a slightly shorter and straighter Hwy 20 nearby, car traffic on Hwy 34 is composed mostly of locals. In short, Hwy 34 delivers lots of curves, great scenery, and minimal car traffic.

Hwy 34 starts in Philomath. This town's odd name comes from two Greek words and means "lover of learning" or "scholar." Looking at the town, one gets the impression of a logging community. It turns out that Philomath College was built in 1867. As the surrounding community became a town, the name logically fit. Philomath College is long since closed and the red brick Benton County Historical Museum is the only remaining college building. Also of interest is Mary's peak, whose peak of 4097 feet is the highest in Oregon's Coast Range. Mary's peak dominates the southwest sky while riding through Philomath.

Leaving Philomath, the initial five miles of Hwy 34 cut southwest through the Willamette Valley. Long straights and ample passing stretches abound. Look for Decker Road between mile posts 53 and 54. Decker Road connects directly to Hwy 99, bypassing both Corvallis and Philomath. While Philomath has a great name, one time through and Decker Road's value becomes apparent.

The road runs into a mountain and gets quite interesting just after mile post 53. As if built on a limited budget, it tightens and follows the landscape's every curve. The resultant three miles of steep climbing through 25 mph corners are to die for. While visibility is limited in areas, it was well worth re-riding three times: once for a feel, again for pictures, and once more with vigor.

Hwy 34 becomes a relaxed sweeping river and valley affair until the town of Alsea. The Alsea region is interesting both for its scenic beauty and history. The Alsean Native Americans who once thrived here had a unique language and considerable wealth. They owned slaves, hunted seals, traded dentalia shells, and boasted a population of about 5,000 in the 18th century. The community of Alsea contains about 1,200 people and the Alsea River on which it sits is noted for Salmon and Steelhead runs.

Shortly after leaving the town of Alsea, Hwy 34 tightens once again while closely following the river. There are multiple 25 mph corners and a vast number of sweepers. Motorcyclists face the pleasant dilemma of deciding whether to ride aggressively or gawk at the beautiful Alsea River. The author solved this problem by zooming through 25 mph corners and relaxing through the sweepers (paranoia about patrol cars played a role in this decision). Should a restroom break be needed, check out the Missouri Bend Recreation Site. In addition to an outhouse, there are picnic tables and an honest to goodness boat skid. This very steep skid is composed of three wooden rails and a cable. All this plus a brief a one lane road that splits to preserve a fir tree.

Shortly after mile post 20, both the river and road relax. Sweepers predominate while sharp mountain sides give way to dreamy coastal valleys. Hwy 34 terminates near the southern end of Waldport after a fantastic series of slow sweeping corners. It's difficult to imagine any rider falling in love with this road.

- TG

Rider Comments:

"At the top of the hill just past the "go-cart track" section, the road to the top of Mary's Peak branches off to the right (as you head toward the coast). This road is the icing on the motorcycle cake of Hwy 34, either as an add-on or a destination road in its own right. The right-left-rights continue unbroken to the end, 9 mi later. Given its proximity to Corvallis, the road can see its share of slow touristas and is occasionally patrolled by the Parks Dept. During the week and early weekends, let your conscience and skill level be your guide. Watch for a well signed 100 foot section of potholed gravel halfway up, which has remained unrepaired since time began. The view from the parking lot toward the Cascades is spectacular, but be aware there is a parking fee, hence the patrols."- John Sharrer, Coburg, Oregon

"Hwy 34 was THE highlight of my Oregon Coast ride in May 2006. The road surface appeared to be repaved from 2005. It doesn't get better than this!" - Jim Fontana, Renton, Washington

"I just went to the coast and back this past weekend via 34. The road is in great shape except for the high twisties just east of Mary's Peak. The road through those wonderful 20 mph turns is rough in some spots but there was no gravel kicked up so it wasn't unsafe, just a tad less smooth than desired. There was very little traffic but as is the case with most rural roads, "slow locals" are the biggest hazard. I saw zero law enforcement officers from Philomath to Waldport. I stopped at Blackberry campground/picnic area and the bathrooms were locked with a sign saying they'd remain so until May 19th. This is an amazing road on two wheels." - Steve W., Sandy, Oregon

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