Travel Tips & Adventures

Real People. Real Travel.

Travel in Oregon – Long and Winding Roads

Our travels in Oregon took us on two windy roads that would be a challenge for anyone – even an Indy 500 racer!

Take, for instance -

McKenzie Pass Scenic Byway – and Truck StopIf you decide, during the two to three months a year it is open, to take Oregon Route 242 from Eugene to Bend, be prepared! It is white knuckle the whole way.

Restricted to vehicles shorter than 35 feet in length, even for a regular-sized car, the road is a major challenge.

You know those signs with the lower speed limits posted with squiggles showing how the road will wind around? Well, Route 242 must have more of those signs than almost any road I’ve ever been on.

Curves on Oregon Rt. 242

Curves on Oregon Rt. 242

However, a novice truck driver decided that he’d like to use Rt. 242 coming from Sisters, Oregon on the east. Too late, he discovered that his full-length semi would never make it on the road, so he tried to turn around. Only his truck wound up jack-knifed in the road, blocking all traffic in both directions.

Truck Stop on Rt 242

"Truck Stop" on Rt 242

When we happened on the blockage coming from the west, we settled in for a long wait and did wait – nearly an hour. And we wondered why there was a sudden rush of traffic a few miles back coming from the east. Obviously, the drivers had turned around to take the long way around to get to their destinations.

And, before we hit the “truck stop,” we had a drive through some of the eeriest landscape you’ll ever see. Volcanic rubble stretching for miles serves as a foreground for mountains, some which have snow on their mountaintops all year long.

Take a break and stop at…

Dee Wright Observatory

With dead pine dotting the landscape, take a few minutes to walk the short trail to the Dee Wright Observatory. From the vantage point it provides, the Observatory gives a 360-degree view of the whole panorama with two of the Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood and other mountains.

Dee Wright Observatory - formed from volcanic rock

Dee Wright Observatory - formed from volcanic rock

It can be windy and cold taking the path, but the view gives you a totally unusual view of a very strange and unusual landscape.

Mountain view from Dee Wright Observatory

Mountain view from Dee Wright Observatory

There are some rustic rest stops in the small parking lot, but no services. Before you take Rt. 242, make sure your tank is full and you have water and supplies.

And, once you’ve visited Bend and decide to head over to points west in Oregon, you might want to take the…

Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway

Yes, there really is a road called the above. Signs for miles proclaim that. Indeed, once you have taken this road, you may need to take motion sickness medicine. The road has numerous curves that wind back and forth dizzyingly. There are almost no shoulders for most of the route. Fortunately, some of the route has been repaved, so it is smooth.

Unlike Rt. 242 that is not paved during winter months and is closed, “Over the River and Through the Woods” – Route 20 – is used year-round. And it is tough because people are coming at you on the two-lane road very quickly around numerous blind curves.

Watch out for falling rocks – we saw some on the edge of the road. Signs warn you of them, and, yes, there are sheer faces where rocks could choose the moment you drive through to cascade down the slope.

Why drive on these roads? Well, there aren’t that many ways over the mountains.

Make sure you are ready for these challenges. I was not even the driver and I was exhausted after the drives!!

Tomorrow…Come back to learn about our Friday Favorite in Eugene.

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