Motorcycling from fields to forests

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Linn County offers some of the best back-roads motorcycle rides in Oregon, here in the heart of the Willamette Valley. We’ve got it all – rural roads that wind through the fields that make Linn County the Grass Seed Capital of the World, beautiful scenery along the Santiam Highway from Sweet Home to the county line near Sisters, and more spectacular vistas along the Quartzville Road scenic byway, running east to Highway 22. In the farmlands, you can see bald eagles, swans, huge flocks of Canada geese and other birds that winter in the area until spring, and there will likely be plenty of green grass as far as the eye can see, particularly during the growing season.

Here are a few particularly great runs that will give you an interesting ride and an eyeful of scenery:

Quartzville Road/Forest Service Road 11 – Follow Quartzville Road from Highway 20 (or North River Road) at the east end of Foster Lake and follow first the Middle Fork of the Santiam River to Green Peter Dam, skirt the reservoir, and run parallel to Quartzville Creek until you veer right onto Forest Road 11 just east of Yellowbottom Recreation Site. From then on it’s a straight shot to Highway 22, other than twists and turns and Cascade mountain vistas to keep things interesting. 54 miles. Estimated time: 90 minutes

Highway 20 from Quartzville Road east to Highway 126 Junction (or vice versa) – Highway 20 is one of the most scenic and interesting rides in Oregon – sweeping curves and picturesque straightaways, with lots of spots to pull off and enjoy the South Santiam River. Plus, there’s that clear mountain air. It’s like riding through a lush, tree-lined cathedral all the way to the junction with 126, where you can decide if you want to continue another 10 miles to Hoodoo and the Santiam Pass, which is where Linn County ends, or whether you’d rather go south on 126 to Clear Lake and the waterfalls, just a few miles down the road. Highway 20 can have cracks and bumps, and there are occasional rockfalls, so keep your eyes open. 50 miles. Estimated time: 1 hour

Brownsville to Highway 20 through Mountain Home – There are a couple miles of dirt on this 12 1/2-mile route and some tight turns, but otherwise it’s a great rural run through fields and forests. From Brownsville, take Northern Drive east for three miles, then turn left on Mountain Home Drive, turning left at the intersection and on to Sodaville. Turn right at Main Street and proceed on to Highway 20. Approximately 10 miles. Estimated time: 15 minutes

Northern Drive, Brownsville to Highway 228 – This six-mile route runs along the Calapooia River, through lush farmland and scenic vistas. From Main Street in Brownsville, turn right on Kirk Avenue, then, after a mile, right onto Northern Drive. Sweeping curves make this an easy, relaxing ride. Estimated time: 10 minutes

Gap Road from I-5 to Brownsville – An easy but beautiful 12- or 14-mile ride (depending on which route you take) with some really excellent corners, this is a particularly great way to enter or leave Linn County, from or to, the Eugene area. From the south, take Exit 209 and ride west on Diamond Hill Drive to Gap Road, then follow Gap Road north to Brownsville. To extend the run (and make it a little more exciting), exit on 209 and turn left on North Coburg Road just west of the freeway. Take Coburg Road two miles south, then turn left on Priceboro Road, which turns into Gap Road as it turns north. Estimated time: 20 minutes

Highway 228, Halsey to Sweet Home – Love to ride through farm country? Here’s a relaxing, scenic 21-mile route that runs past one of the county’s historic covered bridges. Start at the corner of Highways 99 and 228 in Halsey and head east, through Brownsville, Crawfordsville and on to Holley. If you continue on to Sweet Home, you’ll wind up at the junction of Highways 20 and 228, but you might opt for a more scenic, interesting run by turning at Holley Christian Church, just past the Calapooia River, onto Old Holley Road, which takes you onto 10th Avenue in Sweet Home. Follow 10th down the hill and turn left at the bottom to get to Main Street (Highway 20). Estimated time: 30 minutes

Foster Lake to Downtown Albany – This is a beautiful ride, there are stores along the way if you want to stop and stretch your legs. You can start or end at any of these locations, depending on where you live. The Point restaurant, on the shores of Foster Lake, is a popular stopping place for cyclists and a good place to start or end this ride. Head west on Highway 20 and turn left after several miles on Highway 228, on the west end of Sweet Home. In Brownsville, turn left onto Washburn Street, which becomes Gap Road and then runs into Diamond Hill Drive. After nearly 16 miles, turn left on North 7th Street and then take the third right onto Territorial Street. Then take the second right onto North 3rd Street, which becomes Peoria Road. Follow Peoria for just over 19 miles and then turn right on to SE White Oak Road and then turn right onto Highway 34 for a quarter of a mile. Take the first left onto Riverside Drive SW, which becomes Queen Avenue SW. Follow Queen to Pacific Boulevard (Highway 99E) and turn left, then right, onto 10th Avenue SW. Turn left onto Highway 20 (Lyon Street) and you’re in Downtown Albany, where there are plenty of great places to stop, shop, eat and hang out. Estimated time: 1 hour 35 minutes; Distance: 65.36 miles

Brownsville to Downtown Lebanon – This 15-mile ride, which takes a little under half an hour, includes some great country roads. Start west from East Park Street in Brownsville, jog right on Main, left on Stanard, and right again on Main, which becomes Brownsville Road. Proceed about five miles to Sand Ridge Road, which involves a slight right. Go another two miles and turn left on Denny School Road for half a mile, then right onto West Oak Street, which takes you into downtown Lebanon. Lots of great eateries and other activities along Main Street (Highway 20).

Downtown Albany to Waterloo Park (scenic route) – Take Ellsworth Street SW to Highway 20 (9th Avenue SW) and take the ramp on the left onto the highway heading east. In just under a mile, turn right on Geary Street and follow it for just over a mile to Grand Prairie Road SE, where you turn left at the light. Proceed 3½ miles, then turn right on Spicer Drive SE, following Spicer for just over five miles to Highway 20. Turn right and follow Highway 20 for 8.8 miles to Waterloo Drive, just past the Pineway Golf Course, where you will turn left. Proceed through the village of Waterloo to the park, which will be on your right. Estimate distance: 21 miles. Estimated Time: 36 minutes.