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A tour of the coast with Brookings Mayor Ron Hedenskog

Posted by on September 14th, 2016 at 7:44 pm

Brookings Mayor Ron Hedenskog.

Brookings Mayor Ron Hedenskog.

I’ve seen a lot of elected officials on organized bike rides over the years. Usually they look uncomfortable and their bike doesn’t quite fit: As if it’s obvious they’re doing it mostly for the photo-op.

Brookings Mayor Ron Hedenskog is different.

Today on Cycle Oregon, Mayor Hedenskog joined us for the ride from Gold Beach to Brookings. The last time he did the ride was 1988 — the inaugural edition.

I accompanied him for about 30 miles and got a personal tour of the route. Hedenskog knows the area well. He moved to the coast in 1966, his dad was a commercial fisherman and his father-in-law ran a 400-acre sawmill on the coast in the 1950s — a full decade before the Coast Highway was even built.

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The new, $2 million path from Highway 101 to Harris Beach State Park in Brookings.

The new, $2 million path from Highway 101 to Harris Beach State Park in Brookings.

Rolling interviews are my favorite.

Rolling interviews are my favorite.

For Hedenskog, bicycling isn’t just a hobby. He’s an unabashed advocate and wasn’t afraid to share his frustrations with the Oregon Department of Transportation — the agency responsible for Highway 101.

“ODOT needs to change its preferences. When the road narrows they always take from the bikes and never from the auto lanes. They need to give safety the preference over motor vehicles.”
— Ron Hedenskog, mayor of Brookings

“ODOT needs to change its preferences,” he said. “When the road narrows they always take from the bikeway and never from the auto lanes. They need to give safety the preference over motor vehicles.”

Hedenskog is drafting a letter to ODOT to share his concerns. He’s also working with the mayors of Gold Beach and Port Orford to present a united front to lobby the state for safer bicycling on the Coast Highway.

“Here’s the way I see it,” he said. “We’ve been cut out of our resources with timber and we need something to replace it. And the state is promoting tourism, so let’s get on that bandwagon.”

What about coastal residents who are, how shall we say, not as enthusiastic about biking as the mayor? Hedenskog embraces that fact.

“You’re in redneck country here,” he said candidly. “But to me that means people are fiercely independent, it doesn’t mean they’re insane or anything.”

Like everywhere, he says people are just set in their ways. “They know they want something different, they just don’t want to change,” he said with a chuckle.

Exploring the Natural Bridges Viewpoint in the Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

Exploring the Natural Bridges Viewpoint in the Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

Out on our bikes, Hedenskog was like a professional tour guide, telling us stories about the land around us. He pointed out the state’s only “land glacier” at Hooskanaden Creek — a massive hillside that is so saturated it’s constantly moving toward the ocean.

He also pointed out the big hole in Mack Arch — so big that he’s heard of people flying through it in small airplanes.

As we hiked along the Oregon Coast Trail at the Natural Bridges Viewpoint he told a story from when he was 18: Standing on the cliff with some friends looking at seals in the water, a big black thing came out of the water. “It was an Orca, a killer whale, and it snatched that seal right up.”

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There was also the time he was walking on the beach at Rainbow Rock and found several artifacts that had been used by a native tribe that lived in the area.

Learning about this area from someone like Mayor Hedenskog while taking advantage of the distinct advantages of the bicycle as a tool for exploration and conversation made for a very memorable day.

Rolling into the lunch stop at Harris Beach State Park.

Rolling into the lunch stop at Harris Beach State Park.

After saying goodbye to the mayor at the lunch stop at Harris Beach in Brookings, my riding partner and I continued south to the California border for no other reason because it was only six miles away.

On the return route, we wanted to stay off the highway as much as possible — and we found some wonderful detours.

The official Cycle Oregon route took us on Carpenterville Road — which Mayor Hedenskog told us was the old Coast Highway up until 1966. Today it’s a quiet backroad with big views of the ocean and coastal hills from high atop a ridge. Carpenterville Road led us to the Pistol River where we crossed over a bridge and ended up on Myers Creek Road — another alternative to the highway that was equally rewarding.

The main highway is below and to the left as we ride peacefully on Carpenterville Road.

The main highway is below and to the left as we ride peacefully on Carpenterville Road.

Beats the highway huh?

Beats the highway huh?

Carpenterville Road.

Carpenterville Road.

Riding off the highway gives you an amazing perspective on this gorgeous part of the state.

Riding off the highway gives you an amazing perspective on this gorgeous part of the state.

Now it’s time to rest up for our big day tomorrow when we’ll head for the massive climb up Bear Camp Road (which you might recall from my explorations last month).

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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10 Comments
  • rick September 14, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks! Southwest Oregon is great.

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  • Dan A September 15, 2016 at 7:18 am

    To me, the southern 1/4th of the state is the best part of the entire coast route.

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    • rick September 15, 2016 at 7:50 pm

      No casinos and far less RVs on the southern coast.

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      • B. Carfree September 16, 2016 at 11:40 am

        If you don’t count that casino just across the state line, or the other one just south of Crescent City.

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  • Doug September 15, 2016 at 9:15 am

    My favorite section of the coast is from Newport to Florence.

    I’ll just disagree with your southern 1/4 theory because Bandon to Port Orford is flat, straight and boring. Cape Arago and Sunset Beach are great.

    Gold Beach to Brookings was interesting because of the hilly headlands but the exposures south of Yachats are a lot more awesome.

    I’ve only done Gold Beach to Brookings once, the second chance I got the weather was SO BAD that I took the county bus service from Gold Beach to Brookings. Smartest $4 I ever spent. There were severe winds blowing me to a complete stop in exposed areas.

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    • Dan A September 15, 2016 at 9:50 am

      I had a huge tailwind and sunshine, and traffic was a lot lighter than on the rest of the route. Surely that influenced my opinion.

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  • Mike Sanders September 15, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    As I said on another thread here recently, ODOT needs to sit down with landowners to work out right of way deals so that the OR Coast Trail can be separate from US-101 wherever possible. Using old alignments like Carpenterville Rd. and new trails like the one seen here are a must. The mayor is right. If this is a tourist area, then give them something comfortable and safe to travel on. Applause!

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  • Ray Ogilvie September 15, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Good article but the Coast Highway was built during the 1920 and 30’s not in the 60’s. ( his father-in-law ran a 400-acre sawmill on the coast in the 1950s — a full decade before the Coast Highway was even built)

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    • B. Carfree September 16, 2016 at 11:45 am

      I was wondering about that. There sure are a lot of CCC-built depression-era bridges along the coast for there to have not been any highway, including the little-known Golden Gate just a wee bit south along US 101.

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    • Ron Hedenskog September 17, 2016 at 10:41 am

      The Roosevelt Highway (Hwy 101) was completed and dedicated in the Brookings area in 1933. I was constructed to avoid Thomas Creek and exists today about 3 miles east of new Hwy. 101 which was completed and dedicated in 1964. In 1950 ranchers and loggers traveled over frontier roads to get within the shore area.

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