THE PAN AM CLASSIC RALLY 2017 – EUREKA TO SEATTLE
The Eureka Inn was a lovely old hotel where people such as Churchill, Kennedy and Bogart had stayed as well as other famous people. The dining room was wonderfully dated with horseshoe shaped seating around the tables lining either side of the room, clad in pinky/mauve material. There were two pool tables in the bar and after dinner, teams were formed and a pool competition ensued. It was soon obvious that Steve had had a misspent youth as he was very handy with the cue and potted everything in his path, which ensured his teams victory!
From Eureka we headed for Galice at Rogue River, travelling through Six Rivers National Forest and then Klamath National Forest. We passed great clumps of wild sweet peas and then turned off for a 28 mile regularity stage on a rough road, the edges of which had fallen away in parts. We passed a ‘No Illegal Dumping’ sign full of gunshot marks and then we were up in the hills again, in a deep sided valley with pine covered hillsides and the wide Klamath River to our right, full of massive rocks. We saw the odd car but the road was otherwise deserted. We passed signs announcing the Karuk Tribe and then the Yurock Tribe and then found ourselves on Bigfoot Highway!
A 46 mile regularity took us along a narrow track weaving its way into the hills and we drove through the remote Salmon River Community made up of old wooden huts, with old cars and machinery dotted round the gardens.
We arrived in Etna, a charming old style town with large old wooden houses with veranda’s lining the street. We were still trying to find a garage for Alastair to see if they could weld a bracket for Alastair’s exhaust pipe but it was a Saturday afternoon and the one mechanic we found was going home in 10 minutes.
At 2.30pm it was 96F and we drove through a valley where very long irrigation hoses on large wheels, slowly rolled themselves across the field, spraying as they went.
At Port Jones, we visited a tyre shop which was also a gun shop. The owner was repairing guns and cabinets full of guns were all open around the room, which he left open and unattended when he came to change our tyre! This was the fourth tyre we had replaced due to wear and tear. Alastair again tried to find a garage to weld a bracket for his exhaust but with no luck.
We continued on seeing signs to Rough and Ready Creek, Eight Dollar Mountain, Gold Canyon Drive and to a Tiger Reservation. We drove over the River Illinois several times and then under oak trees dripping in Spanish moss like green candy floss and then on into the pine forests. In Selma we saw a Medical Marijuana Dispensary which sold a wide selection of products including chocolate chip cookies, fudge brownies, cheese crackers and baseball hats! I hear the effects were mind blowing!
We stayed at the Morrison Rogue River Lodge that night, a wonderfully peaceful refuge with log cabin accommodation. There were arranged activities such as white water rafting, fishing, games, sports and walking. A hand-rung bell announced dinner and we all gathered on the front terrace of the main cabin. Rogue River ran along the end of the garden and the cliffs rose high on the other side. An idyllic setting for dinner.
It was 227 miles to Florence the next day and we meandered our way along small roads, some gravel, through Skull Creek and then hillsides denuded of all trees, either logged or burnt. We entered Douglas County and passed huge sawmills and logging yards in Rosenburg before entering Oregon and crossing massive wide rivers.
Alastair and Rachel were the first to reach the coast at Florence. They went shopping and bought beach mats and towels and set off for the beach, only to be met by a solid fog bank. They sent out a WhatsApp message “At the beach in Florence – Fog lights and anorak required’!
John in the Mustang went off to Eugene, about an hour away, to get some new front tyres. He reported that both tyres were ruined due to ‘lousy alignment’ at the factory! So nothing to do with your over exuberant cornering on dirt then John?!
The Best Western Hotel had a great view of the fog bank that evening and we had a delicious dinner while looking out over the inland waterway.
The following day we travelled up the coast towards Seaside, with mile after mile of sandy beaches to our left. We wondered why no one was swimming in the sea and later found out why. We stopped to paddle in the Pacific and to feel the sand beneath our feet but found the water was icy! What a shame! We climbed up into the hills at the back of the beach and down again. The sun was out but it was a moderate 60F at 9.30am as we entered Washbone State Park and started the first regularity of the day on a gravel track which took us through pine forests and passed clumps of foxgloves as we wound our way back and forth along fur cone littered tracks.
After several regularities we again found the coast road which was lined with holiday homes, RV and camping sites, and still the gorgeous sandy beaches continued.
We drove through rural Oregon, past old barns, farms and close boarded houses, forests and logged out slopes and the once again found ourselves near the coast again, with inland dunes coming right up to the pine forests. At Tillamook there was a narrow spit of land with a large area of inland sea and at the north end of this sat Garibaldi where the Hook Line n’Sinker served a delicious piece of cod with chips! Over the road Alastair and Rachel were sampling the oysters which looked equally delicious! Garibaldi was a quaint and unspoilt jewel in Oregon’s crown! It had a port, lumber yard, cannery and historic railway as well as antique shops and glass blowing workshops.
The Best Western at Seaside was situated just behind a lovely sandy beach and one could walk for miles along it. There were no car repairs that night as all the cars were running Ok and with only one day to go we just crossed our fingers that everything would go smoothly on the last day.
Finns Fish House was our dinner venue and once again the portions were huge but delicious! Walking back to the hotel we passed bonfires on the beach and groups of people enjoying the evening.
We had only 188 miles to Seattle the next day – our last day! For the first time there were no regularity sections so the cars started leaving the hotel car park at 8.30am. The route took us into the hills and then down to Astoria and over the huge Astoria-Megler Bridge which spans the Columbia River and into Washington State on the far side.
We then climbed into the hills again and drove two gravel sections of 6.5 miles and 8 miles, through pine forests where large machines were felling and loading pine trees and then down to the flat grasslands, over rivers and enormous mud flats. We drove alongside the inland waterways lined with close boarded houses, many of which were on stilts along the waters edge.
The Bremerton Ferry sailed at 1.45pm and the next one at 3.00pm. The Mustang got there first at just after 1pm while Alastair made it with minutes to spare. Luckily they didn’t start loading until 1.50pm and when Alastair arrived he was told that the boat was full. He dutifully bought a ticket for the next sailing at 3pm and then charged off down the ramp and skidded to halt behind the last car on the ferry and there was not much any of the deck hands could do about it. They were won over by the Black Baboon (the Tatra’s nickname) and Rachel’s dazzling smile so all was well!
Is was a short drive to the Mayflower Park Hotel and John and Fiona were waiting to meet everyone with a glass of champagne to mark the end of an amazing and epic 30 day journey from Savannah to Seattle. There was vigourous hand shaking and back slapping and photos taken and much reflection on an incredible 6,336 mile journey with beautiful scenery, a challenging route and relief that they had driven and navigated their old cars all that way!
We all assembled for prize giving and a sumptuous meal at the hotel’s Andaluca Restaurant. Each participant received a trophy and memorable plaque and Karl and Steve were declared the winners in their Rover which was a great achievement as it is the first rally they have ever been on and they now have their sights set on the Peking Paris Rally in 2019.
What a journey it has been and what a great drive. Friendships have been forged over the past 30 days and there have been tough times as well as great times. We have all had the most memorable of trips and I am sure we are all looking forward to many more! Thank you to everyone for being such great participants and hope to see you on another adventure soon.