Coos Bay, Ore., June 17–19—Several days before the 16th annual Lighthouse Run I popped into Highway 101 Harley-Davidson in Coos Bay, Oregon, to meet Karen Pettit. She and her husband Al took over the shop 10 years ago and the store has been buzzing along ever since.
I found her behind the counter with one of her diligent workers stuffing “goody bags” for the run. She was all smiles and seemed ready to take on the world. The Lighthouse Run is one of their biggest events, collecting donations for local charities and giving away a shiny 2016 Harley-Davidson Dyna among other fun prizes like leather jackets and gift certificates for local delights of food, lodging and shopping. I noticed a collection of previous Lighthouse Run shirts up on the wall. Karen explained that each one was unique in design and that they had become collector’s items. I had to agree; they were damn nice-looking shirts. Tickets go on sale in February and sell out fast; this year’s tickets were gone in five weeks.
The Lighthouse Run Poker Run starts at The Mill Casino in Coos Bay and there are 10 stops. All riders are required to make a minimum of five stops with Highway 101 Harley-Davidson being the only required stop to qualify. From The Mill Casino you can travel as far south as Port Orford and as far north as Newport; in between are all the poker stops and it’s one of the most beautiful coastal rides, in my opinion. If you have never ridden the Oregon coast you don’t know what you are missing. In Newport, the farthest north, you will see the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. South of that is my favorite, Heceta Head Lighthouse, with Cape Blanco Lighthouse being the farthest south on the run. On this stretch of coastal highway you will come across many quaint little coastal towns with restaurants, shops, art galleries and other points of interest. My husband Eric and I think Winchester Bay has the best oysters you will ever eat—that is if you are buying them in bulk to toss on the grill. In Newport our favorite place to eat is Nana’s Irish Pub, but there are so many great places to eat along the coast.
Friday afternoon we headed into town to the check in at The Mill. Warm sunshine heated up my leathers nicely as I gazed up at wisps of white clouds in the bluest sky; perfect day for a ride. Of course, this being Oregon, one never rules out rain but rain never deters avid riders when they are ready to explore and have some fun. We arrived at The Mill around 3:00 p.m. Check in was at 5:00 p.m. so I sat in the lobby for a bit to check out the scene while hubby went to pick up bike parts for the one he is building at home, a 1941 Servi-Car, but that is another story.
Riders started rolling into The Mill Casino parking lot early and soon the lobby was full of leather and luggage. The place hummed with excitement and enthusiasm as the line to the front desk got longer. Laughter and camaraderie ensued.
I introduced myself to Don, a concierge for the hotel, and asked how long he’s been toting luggage for this event and he tells me he has been here for the past nine years and enjoys this event a lot. He is a very busy guy indeed as I watch him go from bike to room to bike again, all smiles the whole time. And then I meet two couples that rode in from Reno, Nevada. All the riders were ready to let their hair down and have some fun.
Highway 101 Harley-Davidson knows how to throw a party. They had brew tasting and a no-host bar, an a la cart food court with beef barbecue, pulled pork sandwiches, handmade chips and all the fixings as well as a band called The Essentials that had rhythm ’n’ blues with some funk all rolled into one. The food was just what the riders needed as some had traveled a far distance. Later in the evening was to be a Show-N-Shine and a 50/50 raffle drawing. I saw glimpses of Karen here and there. She seemed to hold her composure through the whole event, admirable considering all that was going on around her.
A louder group of riders took over the lobby lounge area, rearranging benches and tables around the fireplace, making themselves at home. I leaned over the railing and asked where they were from. One big guy yelled “All over!” then chuckled and a few shouted out their cities and states. Washington, Grants Pass, and all of Oregon were well represented. Another guy shouted out, “I’m from the mountains!” I decided to call this group the Fun Group. The security guard walked back by but this time he stopped and warned, “No alcohol in the lobby, guys, only in designated areas.” I do not think that comment deterred them from their fun, however.
Coos Bay has its own hometown brewery called 7 Devils. They have some of the best brews on the coast and also feature an outdoor eating area and a music venue to boot. If you are in the Coos area you need to stop by or visit 7DevilsBrewery.com. They offer some of the tastiest stouts, porters and ales and the food is great, too. This night, Robbie was serving up samples of blonde ale as people bought raffle tickets, danced and tasted brews from local breweries. The 50/50 raffle winner of the night was Jeff Phillips from Crater Lake, and his share was $1,110. We are positive from the smile already on his face that his night was made.
Saturday morning started off with sunshine on our faces and grey clouds in the distance but all were willing and ready to ride. Alan Pettit likes to lead a band of bikes to the Umpqua River Lighthouse in Winchester Bay as a starting point although it is a “ride as you will” run. This is just something Alan does for the riders who like to make this their starting point. The eager pack of card-carrying bikers met at the north end of the casino parking lot and from there go to the north end of town through the traffic lights with a police escort. We then headed up and over the historic McCullough Bridge and on to the lighthouse. The experience was exciting as we hit some rain, then thunder and lightning, and then hail before we pulled off on the side of the road with some other bikers who don’t really like to get hit in the face with hail. The storm passed quickly and we all hopped back onto our bikes and rode on. It was still a little misty when we arrived at the lighthouse. I spotted Alan and he stated that in all his years of running this event, this was the first time it has rained, but many were laughing and smiling despite the little weather glitch. I had to smile to think that the folks who rode south never hit any rain. Oregon; gotta love it. We left the lighthouse and headed into Winchester Bay for some breakfast and to dry out a bit at Bedrock’s Pizzeria and Chowder House & Grill where two mallard ducks had taken up residence in a parking spot outside the restaurant. Passersby took snapshots and smiled.
After breakfast we headed to Reedsport to check out the annual Chainsaw Carving Festival and stumbled upon a Corvette Show-N-Shine. Like I said, there is so much going on along the coast this time of year. Hard to believe that minutes before there was a storm but now the sun was shining brightly once again with not a cloud in the sky.
Eric and I had been to every place on the run list except Loon Lake and so we headed out there after Reedsport to see what it was like. The road had a few twists and turns and the scenery was great with so many shades of green. Many of the bikers were lounging in the sun at Loon Lake Lodge, taking in the peace and views, which looks like a future camping trip for us. This was the fifth stop on the run and our poker card stampers were Lee and Beth, who were having too much fun. Lee introduced himself as Julio Iglesias, but Beth corrected him with, “No… I thought you were Juan Valdez!” followed by the laughter that I heard so much of on this run. They mentioned another run coming up called the Coastline Express Poker Run (coastlineexpress.org) and said it was a good one as well.
Then we were off to The Mill for dinner and more fun with a comedy show featuring comedian Ron Stubbs, also known as the Rock Star of Hypnotism, called Hypnotic Mayhem. The tables were filling up fast when we got there and grabbed two seats just in time. The buffet dinner line was long but all went smoothly—beef teriyaki and rice, barbecue pork ribs so delicious the meat just fell from the bone and of course mashed potatoes, gravy, and green, pasta and fruit salads. The tables were set with black and orange tablecloths and lilies in vases adorned each one. A delightful chocolate and orange mousse dessert with Highway 101 Harley candy designs finished off the incredible meal. Everyone was having a great time and went wild when Karen and Al, along with some of their helpers, started tossing out fun prizes across the room. Throughout the evening more raffle prizes were given out and the comedy show was hilarious. It isn’t every day you get to see big biker guys get hypnotized and dance like rock stars on stage. Ron Stubbs definitely puts on an act you don’t want to miss. The whole room was in stitches by the end of the show.
The prizes carried on with excitement building up to the winning of the 2016 Dyna. There were Iron Butt trophies given out to those who hit all 10 poker run spots, the Mini Iron Butt Trophies for those who visited four assigned spots. This year there were 67 Iron Butt winners, two of whom sat at our dinner table, Matt and Jackie from San Jose. Riders came from as far as Minnesota, Texas, Idaho, Nevada, Washington and California and, of course, all over Oregon.
Highway 101 Harley-Davidson selects the first highest three hands and the three lowest hands of the poker winners as potential winners of the Dyna. On stage were six bags with one key in each bag from the hands selected. Each person goes up and, one by one, picks a bag, highest hand to lowest. Only one bag has the correct key that starts the new 2016 Dyna. It was a very exciting moment when the winner was… drum roll… Keddy Haines. The crowd went crazy as the room filled with streamers, cheers and flashing cameras! Another year of fun and merriment and another long year of waiting for those who want to win that new bike. A big shout out to Highway 101 Harley-Davidson, Al and Karen Pettit, their crew as well as The Mill Casino staff. A fun event, indeed!