Baja to British Columbia: 1,500 Miles on Interstate 5

We get hit by rocks, visit volcanoes, and perform a burnout or two from behind the wheel of a 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8

By Keith Buglewicz | Photos By Keith Buglewicz | April 05, 2013

Entering Oregon

After pausing to for a photo of the Challenger at the Oregon border, I realized how much I had fallen in love with the big orange Dodge. I was eager to hit the road again at each stop, not because I had a tight schedule to keep, but because the car was just so damn good. The seats couldn't be more comfortable without being literally soporific, and the relationship to the controls--steering wheel, shifter, and pedals--was ideal. On the twisty sections of Interstate 5 through the Shasta range, the big car was planted and controlled; it was only traffic and my lack of familiarity with the road that prevented more full-throttle runs. And that throttle...oh, my. A tickle of the gas pedal unleashed the muscle car under the comfortable cruiser, the thrust as habit-forming as anything you might find in Weed, but much more stimulating. But the capper was fuel economy; although I was hardly delicate with the throttle, the Challenger was averaging in the 22 to 24 mpg range, far better than I had anticipated.
That mileage held as I closed in on my destination for the day: Grants Pass, Oregon. The Interstate crossed and briefly paralleled the Rogue River as I drew near the town of the same name, and paused briefly at Valley of the Rogue State Park to get closer to the water. The Rogue is a favorite destination for river rafters and whitewater seekers, and Grants Pass is as familiar to enthusiasts of these natural attractions as Magic Mountain is to rollercoaster lovers.
At last I made it to my destination, a Comfort Inn between the north and south lanes of the Redwood Highway in Grants Pass. It's possible that my expectations were too high after my previous night's stay in Sacramento, but "disappointment" doesn't quite cover it here. The room smelled, literally, and when I mentioned it to the woman working the counter, I was informed that they all smelled that way. Exactly what the smell was, I couldn't tell you--an odd mix of must and chemistry gone awry--but short breaths were the order of the day. I dropped my bags and quickly headed out, partly to minimize my time in the room and partly to get the car washed and myself something to eat. I cruised around town for a bit first and passed under a town sign suggesting, "It's the Climate" as the reason to stay in Grants Pass. But it's obviously the Rogue River that's the star. Plenty of parks nestle along its banks, allowing even a 4,000-pound Dodge Challenger to get up close. The tranquil burble of the river, quacking of ducks, croaking frogs and chirping birds made me feel downright guilty when the car's V-8 barked to life; I made sure to keep the revs low as I departed the riverside. But there were still the problems of a dirty car and my empty stomach to deal with. The first part was easy--a quick Google search found me a carwash that was still open--but what to get for dinner was still an open question. I turned to Yelp, a questionable source in the best of times, and browsing ratings quickly turned up Musashi Sushi Bar, off the main drag of 7th Street. Japanese sounded like a good break--none of the dozen or so burger joints nearby sounded appetizing--so I dropped in and was pleasantly surprised. The Japanese host greeted me with a friendly "irasshaimase!" and an invitation to sit at the sushi bar. A quick glance at the menu, and I decided to play it mostly safe with a teriyaki and tempura combo. But I couldn't resist the beautiful dark red tuna before me, and the thick slabs I ordered sashimi-style were the best I'd had in years. If you find yourself passing through this little town, treat yourself. By the time I finished it was already dark and obvious that there was no hope of nightlife in Grants Pass. I made my way to my room where either the odor had dissipated, or I had simply become acclimated. Either way, I hardly noticed it and quickly fell asleep.
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The open road. It beckons some of us, compels others, and maybe even scares off a few. But for most, one of the great joys of owning a car is enjoying it on a road trip, whether it's blasting down an Interstate, exploring the wilderness, or driving to your favorite annual hoedown. We love road trips, and we love telling you all about them in words and pictures, so come ride along with us as we hit the road and discover what's out there.
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