A WEEK OF GUIDEBOOKS WITH A PLUS
Road Trip California-Oregon Hotel Guide
We recently took a road trip in Oregon with a start in northern California. I will be sharing some other aspects of that trip with you in the future, but since this week at A Traveler’s Library, I’m reviewing a some very special guidebooks, I thought that It might be fun to do a little Oregon hotel guide. Very little. Just 3 hotels in Oregon and 3 in California.
If you’re looking for luxury digs, you’ll need to go elsewhere. We were exploring moderate-priced stays on this trip (budget but not couch surfing). Research included Trip Advisor and Yelp. You always have to weigh what reviewers say on these sites, but by throwing out the most obvious shills and the chronic complainers we found both these sites to be helpful .
The Road Trip
Our road trip started in the San Francisco Bay area and took us up Route 5 to the Portland region, along the Columbia River Gorge, down the 101 Pacific Coast Scenic Byway back into California’s Rt. 101 and Rt. 1. I will include three Oregon and three California stays in my little road trip in Oregon Hotel Guide.
Location: Gresham is on the northeastern side of Oregon and provides easy access to the Columbia River Gorge. We made this our base for two nights, while we spent a day exploring the Gorge. Because it is not a trendy area, the hotel rates are much lower than in Portland itself or some of Portland’s tonier suburbs. This motel is within walking distance of a couple of shopping centers, Starbucks, several restaurants, etc. Although we did not take advantage, the motel is 1/10 of a mile from the light rail station to go into Portland.
Amenities: We have generally found Best Western to be a reliable brand. Each hotel is owned privately rather than run by one large centralized company (although the booking is handled from one place). That means that design is not cookie-cutter, but each hotel must meet certain standards. When you walk into the lovely lobby of the Pony Soldier in Gresham with its glass wall facing the swimming pool atrium, you get the feel of a very nice hotel rather than a motel.
- The Pony Soldier had free WiFi plus a computer for guest use located in the beautiful lobby area.
- There is a small exercise room and a small sauna. You must retrieve a key from the front desk rather than using a room key, which can be slightly inconvenient.
- Pets are welcome with a charge of $20 per night. You need to call directly to any BW you’re staying at because the pet policies vary.
- There is a guest laundry, with a charge of $2 per load of wash and another $2 for a drier load.
- Breakfast is included, and I considered it slightly above average for motel breakfasts, including hard boiled eggs, yogurt, fresh fruit with a good assortment of bagels and bread.
- The restaurant across the parking lot called Heidi’s is not affiliated with the Best Western. We tried it and we don’t recommend it.
We were delighted by the beautiful modern decor of the huge room. A king sized bed (same price as two queens) had a built in shelf as a headboard. Plenty of storage space in the room, a comfortable chair, a desk with multiple outlets for electronics, and of course a flat screen TV, a microwave and a fridge. The bed was comfortable, the bathroom cleanly designed with wide counter space around the sink and nice big towels.
Total cost including tax for two nights was $222.72. Best Western has frequent specials on their book website, so it pays to check there. This summer and fall they are running a terrific 20% off deal for Internet bookings. They also offer a very good AAA rate. I would give this a road trip Oregon Hotel Guide rating of 4 1/2 stars.
Northern to mid- Coast
When we left Gresham, we drove along the Columbia River to the west of Portland and crossed into Washington to visit the Washington Lewis and Clark State Park, then back through Astoria Oregon to the Lewis and Clark National Park. Because a friend had raved about the tiny fishing village of Garibaldi, we bypassed the popular (and expensive) towns of Seaside and Cannon Beach.
Garibaldi, Oregon: Harbour View Motel and RV Park for a one-night stay.
Location: Garibaldi may be a little father down the coast than you want to drive in one day because there are so many fascinating viewpoints and other things to do along the way. We consoled ourselves that we had spent two days tracking Lewis and Clark and would spend another two days exploring the mid-coast region, as we bypassed much along the northern part of the coast. The Harbour View sits right out on the edge of the bay, surrounded by fishing boat piers. Unfortunately, you don’t really have a view of the bay because the RVs are parked between the motel and the water on one side, and on the other side, a road divides the motel from the fishing boats crowding the basin.
Amenities: Harbour View is constructed in the typical old-fashioned one-story long line of rooms, except that rooms are back to back with parking at the door of each. Since it is a very small town, you can find it easily and can walk all over town for your morning exercise. The owners provide plenty of activities for people who stay there, like clamming, crab bakes, Saturday S’mores parties. This is definitely the place for fishermen, as fishing boats packed with visitors take off every morning.
- Wifi is free.
- Small fridge and microwave.
- Dogs are welcome, at a charge of $25 a night.
- All rooms are non-smoking.
Rooms: The rooms are very attractive, with seaside decor touches. A table and dining chairs in the front room and another table in the back beside the small refrigerator, plus a folding chair to use outdoors. A partial wall separates the bedroom from the sink, closet and eating area in the back half. The shower and toilet part of the bathroom have a door. Beds and bedding and towels all were just dandy. Everything is spotless, and they include lots of little extras like a corkscrew, and a cloth for cleaning up spills. However, there are not enough electric outlets.
We dealt with the male half of the couple who owns the motel and he helpfully suggested dinner and breakfast places. He was very friendly and helpful. The desk is not manned all night in this mom and pop operation, but that was not a problem, and he did give us an emergency phone number.
Rates: We paid $75.21 for one night.
DOWNSIDE: Despite the fact that when we checked in this looked like a real find, I would not stay here again. A lumber mill stands right beside the motel (on the side where our room was) and it operated noisy trucks until 3:00 a.m. and started up again at 6:00 a.m. When we went out for breakfast, I asked if the operation is seasonal and was told that it is not. You can’t predict when it will be operating. That means that the road trip Oregon Hotel Guide rating is, sadly. 2.5 stars. (4 for the room, but 1 for the sleepless night).
Bandon, Oregon: Table Rock Motel, a two-night stay
Location: We chose to stay at Bandon because there are so many things that we wanted to do packed into this section of coast. It proved to be a good location for sidetrips, but besides that, a gem of a little town on its own. In fact, I’m determined to go back and spend a couple of weeks in Bandon.
The top amenity of Table Rock Motel is LOCATION. The motel sits on top of the cliff overlooking Bandon’s enormous sea rocks–Table Rock, Middle Rock and Elephant Rock. A public cliff walk and stairs down to the beach are practically outside your door.
Amenities: On the other hand, the units we stayed in are very old, quirky looking, and in disrepair, although they are clean. If you look at the website, notice that the same owners rent out units in newer apartments. I sneaked a peak at the new apartments, and they are nicely done. The catch is the old units have a view (or at least a partial view) and the units in the newer 2-story building have no view and cost more.
- Good cable TV reception
- Free wi-fi (The router was attached to our kitchen window with a DO NOT UNPLUG sign. At one point we had to do the plug and replug routine because it stopped working, but otherwise, we certainly couldn’t complain about having a strong signal!)
- Fully equipped kitchen
- A bucket and squeegee stands outside the office so you can clean the salt spray from your car windows.
- Dog friendly at $25 a night.
Note: Ask at desk for a space heater if your bedroom is cold–but also ask for an adapter plug because the outlets are the old kind that do not accommodate a three-prong plug. There is a baseboard heater in the living room which worked quite well, but a wall heater in the bedroom looked inoperative.
Owners and staff are extremely friendly and eager to please.
Rooms: Despite my complaints here, we were comfortable and appreciated having the kitchenette. Furniture looks like thrift-shop purchases with various styles jumbled together. The spotlessly clean linens on the beds were the same jumble–some adorned with tiny flowers, or edged with lace. The room we stayed in was more like a small apartment with a kitchen at one end of the living room, a dining table in front of the window with a beach view. The kitchen included a refrigerator (in working order but with no handle on the door); a full-sized aging electric stove and oven; a small microwave; dishes, glassware, silverware, pots and pans. The bedroom had two double beds and barely room to walk around. A huge dresser took up a lot of space, but there was no real closet for hanging clothes–just rods beside one of the beds.
Rates: We were upgraded from Rm 11(queen bed, partial view) to Rm 9 (queen and double beds and full view) at the lower rate. We paid $235.40 for the two nights. I’m still debating whether the price was worth it because of the fantastic location, despite the tackiness and need for some repairs. My road trip Oregon hotel guide rating hovers around 3 stars, although Bandon itself is a 5 star.
If you are driving up from California, you may find these recommendations helpful.
On Rte. 5, we stopped at Reddington at the Thunderbird Lodge. This was, without a doubt, the best find budget-wise of the trip.
If you are an aficionado of the old-style motels, like those found along Rte. 66, the Thunderbird fits the bill. But going from the historic-look of the exterior to the re-done interior can be a pleasant shock. Modern black and white and chrome dresses up the interior, which is equipped with flat screen T.V., access to WiFi and comfortable beds. The bargain basement rates are reflected only in the tiny slivers of soap and cheap shampoo. In downtown Reddington, the motel could not be more convenient. And since we paid only $77.28, we didn’t mind skipping the offered free breakfast and going elsewhere. (The breakfast was an all-carb processed food Continental Bkfst and we needed something a bit healthier.) The road trip Oregon Hotel Guide rating is a solid 4 stars.
On Rte. 1: Going back down the coast, we took a nostalgic detour from the 101 to California’s famous Route 1 at Ferndale. We had stayed there on a 25th anniversary trip, in a Victorian mansion B & B.
This time we opted for one of the few modern places in town, the Redwood Suites. It is operated by the same people who own the gorgeous Victorian Inn on the main street. The Redwood is just one block off the (only) main street of Ferndale, which is lined with Victorian buildings. The Redwood is clean and comfortable and your standard mid-class motel. We paid $121 for the privilege of not climbing flights of stairs in one of the more historic buildings.
By the way, visitors at the Redwood get a 2-for-1 breakfast deal at the Victorian Inn, but we will never regret going instead to Poppa Joe’s, a hang-out for retired Portuguese dairy farmers. (I linked to Yelp here, because predictably, Poppa Joe’s does not have a website). Now there’s a place with character (not to mention giant pancakes). Both the hotel and the breakfast rate 4.5 stars.
And one more stop. Rather than drive all the way into the Bay area, which has budget-shocking high room rates, even for cheap chains like Super Eight and Quality Inn, since our plane did not leave until early afternoon, we decided to stay further out of town. You really have to get north of Sonoma to save any money, and I started looking around Santa Rosa. I found the Best Western Inn, this one in a town I had never heard of, Rohnert Park. Just a few blocks off Rt. 101, it was convenient. Although we were a bit concerned about facing rush hour traffic (and Monday at that) getting into the Oakland airport in the morning, it only took an hour and a half, and the delay from a regular one hour trip was due to highway construction rather than traffic piling up. Turned out to be a good gamble, and the Best Western Inn at Rohnert Park was a peaceful and comfortable stay for $85.50, using AAA rate plus the Internet discount. The motel is located in the midst of shopping and dining possibilties, so it could not be more convenient. Highly recommended. 4.5 stars.
(All rates here reflect a September stay and include taxes.)