August 5, 2005

Start: Crescent City, California

End: Salem, Oregon

Miles traveled: 316 miles

Route Taken: Highway 101 to Route 38 east to Interstate 5 to Salem.

        As much as I was enjoying the beauty, and more importantly the cool temperatures of the coast, I had to turn inland to get to Salem, but I put it off for as long as possible.

        The day began with a bit of a scare. I was riding just outside of Crescent City when a deer jumped in front of me on the highway.

        Usually I leave late enough in the morning to avoid most of the deer that will wander across the roads in search of food or water.

        They generally come out early in the morning and right around sunset, so I avoid riding at those times.

        It was a little after 10 a.m. when I encountered this deer and I wasn’t going very fast so avoiding it wasn’t a real problem. It still shakes you up, though.

I was in Idaho once driving across country in a car and missed a deer by inches, nearly swerving off the road. I pulled into a gas station afterwards and was just trying to calm down when this trucker asked if I was all right.

        He noticed how shaken up I was and I told him what had happened. He then told me a story about hitting a deer when he was a teenager with his pick up truck. He clipped it and the deer was hurt. He stayed with it, giving it water and put a blanket over it. His father came down the street looking for his son at 2 a.m. and told his boy to go home, he would look after the deer.

        In the morning he walked into the kitchen where his mom and dad were and asked his dad what happened to the deer. The father told him he had to shoot the deer because it was suffering. He told me about how he cried when his dad told him.

        I couldn’t believe this stranger was telling me this story in the middle of a gas station and tearing up while doing so.

        The trucker was on my mind as I continued up Highway 101 and I was wondering what he was doing these days when I saw a sign for Pelican Bay Prison.

        Prisons have always fascinated me. I don’t know why. I knew somebody once who was a guard at Corcoran Prison in central California and she gave me a tour one time. This is the prison that houses Charles Manson.

        The tour was incredible. I got to go into a cell and talk to a couple of inmates, it was extremely scary. It just floors me how these guys live like that.

        Pelican Bay is probably the worst prison in the state, housing mostly violent criminals, so it surprised me when I drove up to the entrance and there was no one at the guard shack. I rode onto the grounds and down to a parking lot. I parked the bike and some inmates were out in an exercise yard. They immediately noticed me and started staring at me. There was a fence with razor wire atop of it and we were probably 100 feet apart but I could feel the hatred.

        I was free on a motorcycle and doing what they couldn’t do. I knew that. In some ways I almost felt like I was taunting them. I didn’t mean to, I just wanted to see this prison and think about what it was like to be in there. It was the antithesis of what I was doing.

        It was odd, really. I stared at them much like you would animals at the zoo. I was tempted to talk to them, but didn’t know what I would say, plus I was in enough trouble being on the grounds without permission.

        That became more apparent when a white van pulled up alongside me and three guards got out. They wondered what I was doing on prison grounds and I didn’t really have a good excuse.

        They asked for identification and really put on quite a show for the inmates. One guard was to my right, another to my left and the third directly behind me. I think it is in their nature to expect confrontation and you can’t really blame them. What I was doing was quite out of the ordinary and being out of a routine is not good for them.

        After a couple of minutes they were satisfied I wasn’t an escaped convict and told me to leave.

        The rest of the drive to Salem wasn’t nearly as eventful. The minute I turned inland though the temperature jumped up 30 degrees and it was a tough adjustment. Route 38 is a little two-lane highway that goes mostly through farmland with a couple of towns to break up the monotony.


        Right before one of the towns, Scottsburg, was an elk viewing area. There were about 30 elk visible and I stopped to look at them.

        Once I hit the interstate things got really boring. The concrete and asphalt moves you along quicker, but there is little scenery and even if there is it is tough to enjoy it when you fly by it at 70 mph.

        Tomorrow I head towards Idaho in search of Dugout Dick. He is a guy who is living in a cave on federal land and has been there illegally for the last 40 years.