Highway 101 Lighthouse Run

Dont’ Give Away the Secret: The Lighthouse Run is the Gem of the Pacific Northwest

Story by Rick Tilbury Photography by Vocaleyes Photography Additional Photos by Rick Tilbury

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It starts with a quiet rumble. Two riders riding together steer their way into the parking lot of the Mill Casino. Before they even have a chance to kill their engines a lone rider behind them “CRACKS” his exhaust making his presence known to all. Following are six full-dress Harley-Davidson baggers with passengers, and they as well, are pulling back on their throttles in response to the lone rider’s announcement. It’s a beautiful sound; it’s a beautiful thing. Even though the official start of the 14th Annual Lighthouse Run, sponsored by Highway 101 Harley-Davidson of Coos Bay, Oregon doesn’t start until 5:30 PM in the Salmon Room of the casino, it has already begun in the parking lot.

The riders come from all over the surrounding area. They hail from Oregon and Washington, California, Idaho, and Montana. Approximately 400 riders were in attendance. Even though it is a small Poker Run, it’s a very intimate affair. Old friendships are rekindled, while new ones are formed. How many times have you met someone out on the road, had a 30 minute conversation with them, decided to break bread together, exchanged contact information, and began a life long friendship? It’s a common occurrence at the Lighthouse Run.

Soon the parking lot is turned into a grand spectacle of American made motorcycle muscle. The expectation of having a good time is contagious spreading to all, and it is obvious by the smiles on everyone’s faces. For many this is a “must do run.” They mark it on their calendar and count the days before they can come back and do it again the next year. Since this is a Poker Run, every rider who rides the run collecting the necessary stamps from the individual checkpoints has a chance to win a bright shiny new Harley-Davidson 2014 FLHX Street Glide, Mt. Rushmore Edition. Who wouldn’t like that to happen? Let me get back to the winning of this bike in a minute.

First I’d like you to meet Al and Karen Pettit, owners of Highway 101 Harley-Davidson since 2006. They are gracious and humble people who have proudly and tirelessly carried the torch by hosting the Lighthouse Run. They have a passion for those who ride and are motorcycle enthusiasts themselves. Owning a dealership has its perks, as Al and Karen can hop on any motorcycle they want when they decide to go for a ride. Karen is one of the many Harley-Davidson women who ride their own bikes.

During this year’s run, Highway 101 offered a 15% discount on everything they had in stock during the duration of the run. That’s unheard of, so I purchased a set of Willie G Skull floorboards for my ride. That discount got me to move on something I had intended to buy anyway. Thanks Highway 101!

The weather couldn’t have cooperated any better this year. It was as though the angels in control of such things said, “YES!” The blue skies and bright sunny days made for excellent riding.

And since everyone is about the ride, the various destination lighthouses made for exquisite scenery. A walk along Old Town Bandon, moseying through its restaurants, galleries, and gift shops provided for a memorable day.

To win the motorcycle there were ten respective stops in which a rider could obtain a stamp at the “Poker Stops.” Five of them were the various lighthouses along the Pacific Northwest Coastline, rich with their history and breathtaking in their beauty. Then there was the Reedsport Elk Reserve just off of Hwy 38. Along a three mile viewing area there is a herd of about 100 Roosevelt elk, and they roam freely along a protected pasture, woodland, and wetland areas. Who doesn’t want to see an elk? The only mandatory poker stop out of ten was the Highway 101 dealership. So early in the morning, the riders with their cards to be stamped took off in the direction of their choice, as there was no requirement to the order of getting the necessary stamps to participate in the Poker Run.

For all, riding along U.S Route 101 of the Oregon Coastline is quite an experience. The Pacific Ocean is always nearby, and it is a historic route as well. If you haven’t had a chance to ride this area, the Lighthouse Run provides a great opportunity to do so. Since it is not mandatory that the riders even participate in the poker run, many just took off for the day with a few destinations in mind, with the goal of just experiencing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and having fun.

The Conde B. McCullough Memorial Bridge that spans Coos Bay on the U.S. 101 is one of the eleven bridges along the Oregon Coast Highway that had been designed under the supervision of Conde B. McCullough. In 1936 this bridge was the longest in Oregon. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most beautiful bridges I’ve ever ridden across.

As 5 PM drew close, many of the bikers started to arrive back at the Mill Casino for the rest of the event activities. The Biker’s Dinner in the Salmon started at 5. The food was excellent and many a biker walked into the Salmon Room with a hearty appetite. The presentations for the “Show and Shine” were awarded, along with the special raffle, and the Harley-Davidson Leather Jackets give away. One man and one woman each won a H-D jacket.

But what about the winner of that 14 H-D Street Glide? In order to win the bike a participant had to have a royal flush in 7 cards if they purchased a card at each POKER STOP. They could purchase as many cards as they wanted, so if they wanted to improve their chances, they went for 7 cards. The dealers from the Mill Casino came into the ballroom and dealt out the hands to each biker. There were also winners for the high/low hands.

So in the end no one won the bike. In fact I think the chances of getting a royal flush are 649,739 to 1 and it didn’t happen on this night. However, Al and Karen are itching to give away a motorcycle. They want to do it! So they hinted that next year someone, somehow, was going to ride out of the 15th Annual Lighthouse Run with that bright shiny new Harley-Davidson Motorcycle.

The 14th Annual Lighthouse Run came to an end. Many new friends, as well as old, said goodbye to one another, ride safe, and said they’d be back next year. As a matter of fact, I’m goin’ to be back next year. The accommodations at the Mill Casino were excellent, and very reasonable, as all of the Run’s participants received a discount for attending the run. Next year, since someone is going to be riding away on a new motorcycle, it might as well be YOU.

But don’t give away the secret that the Lighthouse Run is one of the best-kept secrets of the Pacific Northwest.

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