The Freedom of Two Wheels

Motorcycle road trips in Lane County and beyond

Of the many patches strewn across Billy Scannell’s black leather motorcycle vest, it’s certainly the one saying “Dr. Asshole” that demands immediate explanation.

“The doctor part is because I have a Ph.D. in physics,” Scannell says. “The other part should be self-evident.” Here is a man who could easily be mistaken for one of The Black Widows accosting Clint Eastwood in Every Which Way but Loose.

Scannell does roll with a posse these days, but it’s the Clean and Sober Motorcycle Club. Standing behind the bar at the Jesco Club, a safe space for recovering addicts, Scannell says he’s been off the sauce for six years, and rolling out on his Kawasaki Z1 900 has kept him on the straight and narrow.

One of Scannell’s favorite day trips is down Old McKenzie Highway (Hwy. 242) out to Sisters, Oregon. “The road is nice and windy and you get a couple different drastic scenery changes,” he says. You start out in the valley, climb into forested foothills, “and then at the top you’ve got the lava beds.”

You can also check out the Dee Wright Observatory at the top and the pristine Blue River on the way. Non-stop, Sisters is about a four-hour round-trip.

If you’re a coast freak, and you’ve got a couple more hours to spare, there’s an easy fix for that, too. “Every summer we do the ‘Dallas to Oceanside Motorcycle Ride,’” says Dave Morgan, owner of Cyclepsycho Motorcycle Recycling in Eugene. As many as 150 riders show up for what Morgan says “isn’t an organized event. No fees, no prizes, no rules.”

“You get to Dallas of your own accord,” he explains of the small town outside of Salem. “Then you go north through farm roads” to Willamina, and take a daisy chain of creek roads to the edge of Siuslaw National Forest. From there, Forest Road 85 (aka Country Road 858) takes you through gorgeous Coast Range foliage to U.S. Route 101, and on to victory.

“We get out there, eat a cheeseburger and usually just head home,” Morgan says. The route back is different — after a detour due south to Cape Lookout State Park, you make your way to Hwy. 22 for a shorter, less arduous return.

Morgan and his wife occasionally dispatch all the way to the Canada/Montana border near Glacier National Park. It’s about a three-day ride there, but it’s his favorite regional trip. There are a number of route variations, Morgan says, but all of them minimize interstate highway travel — a seeming taboo for any seasoned biker.

Having run a small business for the last decade, Morgan says he’s not part of a club, but his many clients could easily constitute one. He maintains an eclectic stock of German, Japanese and Italian bikes from different generations and can’t begin to point to a favorite.

“Oh, hell yeah,” Scannell says. “The rat bike is my favorite.” The Kawasaki, of course, has been gutted to kingdom come. “There’s nothing on it that it doesn’t need to go down the street. It doesn’t have any bells and whistles.”

Dave Morgan (left) and Billy Scannell (right).

And for those chopper enthusiasts loyal to Harley Davidson, fear not. Mrs. Scannell is on your team.

When freewheelin’ in Oregon just ain’t enough, Scannell heads for Humboldt County, California, to the Avenue of the Giants. With redwoods towering high overhead, “It’s a nice, open ride,” he says.

The route is simple enough — I-5 south to Grants Pass; U.S. Route 199 west to Crescent City, California; and finally south on our very same 101. If you go as far as Miranda, California, you’ll skim the whole eastern boundary of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Under pleasant road conditions, one can make it there in six hours or so.

Scannell says you don’t have to live in Arizona to ride year-round. You just have to have some intestinal fortitude. “I’ve been through that route late in the year when it’s pissing down rain on me, and a little bit of snow too,” he says. “You’re out there and you just have to feel the weather and be part of it.”

At the first sign of ice, however, Scannell admits, “It’s no time for riding.” Morgan says he fears wet leaves perhaps even more than ice, and in the coming season he’ll stick to stretches where semi-trailers expel leaves from the roadway.

Rain or shine, though, “The great thing about being where we are,” Scannell says, “is that you go west, there’s great rides. You go east, there’s fantastic rides. You go north, south — no matter which way you go, in about an hour you’re in some very different country.”