The Pacific Northwest offers a lot of outdoor recreational activities, several of which lead to tasty meals. One such endeavor is digging for razor clams at Long Beach, Washington. The coastal peninsula in southwest Washington, immediately north of the mouth of the Columbia River — the infamous Columbia Bar, one of the most dangerous waterways in the world — is home to the world’s longest beach. 30 miles of uninterrupted sand is also home to a very large number of razor clams.
Myself and three others booked a cabin in Long Beach for the weekend. They drove a truck with our clam digging gear while I rode my bike and met them there. The route I chose took me through the coast range of northwest Oregon. Leaving my home in Sandy I took the freeway into Portland then turned north on highway 30 to the small town of Scappoose before heading inland on back country roads toward Astoria.
It was raining off and on but I didn’t care. In fact, I enjoyed it. If you’re dressed appropriately riding in the rain is actually somewhat enjoyable. The road from Scappoose runs in a northwest direction and takes me past tiny communities like Birkenfeld, Mist, and Jewell. The latter is home to an elk viewing area, Jewell Meadows. It’s not uncommon to see a very large herd of elk lingering in the fields, usually close to some designated pull-out viewing areas. I only saw a half-dozen elk, laying down about 200 yards away. A sign admonishes viewers to behave themselves.
Earlier, biology beckoned and I pulled over at the Scaponia county park. Presumably the name is a contraction of Scappoose and Vernonia, another small town in the area. It was deserted. There was a break in the rainfall so I had a dry chance to get off the bike and stretch a bit. Up to that point I had been riding through urban areas for well over an hour, which is tiring in its own way. The chance to take a break, and dodge the rain, was a welcome one. Within minutes of getting back on the road the rain began again in earnest. Lemon Pledge furniture polish on my helmet’s face shield makes the rain bead up and run off while shaving cream wiped on the inside prevents fogging.
The road gets narrow and rough past Jewell. It passes through dwindling settlements and soon I had nothing but clear cuts and dense rain forest to keep me company. I took my time and maintained a slow pace because there was a lot of gravel and wet needles on the roadway.
My stomach was growling by the time I emerged back into civilization so I stopped at a Dairy Queen on the south side of Astoria for lunch. There was a moderate breeze and cloudy skies but the rain had stopped and I even saw some brief glimpses of sunlight outside while I ate my chicken strip basket. Knowing that gas was at least ten cents higher per gallon across the river in Washington, I filled up at the Chevron in Astoria before crossing the high and long bridge over the Columbia River.
Once in Washington I picked up a clam digging tag at Ed’s Bait Shop in the port town of Ilwaco, then checked into the Akari Bungalows in Long Beach. Our lodgings were a block off the main drag, right by a main road out onto the beach. A large archway over the road proclaims Long Beach is the “World’s Longest Beach”. I could see the archway from the back window of our bungalow, in between two hotels. Once unpacked we geared up and headed out onto the beach to dig our limit of clams (15 per person).
Saturday was more of the same, although we had to move to two different spots on the beach to get our limit. Dinner was at the Crab Pot on the south side of town, a rich dish of dungeness crab fettucini with a cup of chowder and a Drifter Pale Ale to wash it down.
Although we had dry and very pleasant weather Friday afternoon and all day Saturday, by the time we went to bed Saturday night it was a blowing rain storm outside. My bike rode out the storm parked just outside our front door and weathered it just fine — although it was very dirty from the road grime of the ride on Friday. Sunday morning we packed up and headed to the 42nd Street Cafe in Seaview (highly recommended) and fortunately had cloudy but rainless skies as we went our separate ways — they drove the truck back home via the most efficient route available (highway 30 to Longview, then I-5 home) while I headed back the way I came, the back roads through Jewell and Mist.
My ride home had quite a bit more rain than when I arrived, but I enjoyed it anyway. When I got back to Portland I was feeling somewhat hungry so I pulled over at a Well’s Fargo bank branch and parked under the drive-thru overhang to snack on a Snicker’s and chug a frappucino (motorcyclist’s snack of champions). It got me out of the rain and is a great trick to remember when traveling on weekends. Once finished, I got onto I-405 for the crossing over the Willamette River, then hit I-84 for the ride east toward home.