Driving South Through Washington on Interstate 5, Seeking Highway 101

I mentioned in another post that generally I think of Oregon as that state I drive through when going back and forth to California.

Oh sure, I’ve had a few Oregon getaways over the years that did not include California as the final destination. A few weekends to Portland and a couple of days down the coast as far as Lincoln City.

This time Washington became that state I had to drive through to get to Oregon!

The Drive from British Columbia to the Oregon Coast

Generally, I think of Washington and Oregon as about 300 miles each. It takes about 600 miles to get to California. What can I say? I’m hooked on California!

Usually my travel plans fall along the lines of fly by the seat of my pants. When I’m tired of driving I look for a hotel/motel to stop for the night. That was sort of my plan this time too, but then I got nervous. September is usually a beautiful month in BC, Washington, and Oregon. People are still traveling in September. In fact, I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who specifically made September travel plans cause the kids would be back in school. I’m traveling with dogs. Not all hotels are thrilled about a couple of big hairy four legged friends. I played it safe this time and booked all my accommodations in advance.

First stop would be Seaside, Oregon. Motel 6 gets the nod because it fits my budget and allows dogs to stay for free. I did look at another motel in Seaside, and emailed to ask a question. No response, so I booked the Motel 6. Seaside is about a 5-hour drive from my home in BC. That would be non-stop driving I assume.

Hitting the US/Canada Border

I checked on my horses before heading to the border crossing. The farm is about a 5-minute drive from the Canada/US border and it was a few minutes after 9am when I got to the crossing. There were 5 cars in front of me, all in the same line. It looked to me like there were two other border guards open so I went to the next line and right up to the US Customs fellow. He actually asked me a lot of questions like where I work and what my job is. Also asked what hotels I’d booked. Then he asked me a couple of times if I was planning on meeting up with anyone. The answer is no, I don’t know anyone in Oregon, but it was kind of weird. Like so what if I’m meeting up with someone. I’m sure lots of Canadians have friends and relatives who live in the states. Before my aunt and uncle passed away they lived in Del Mar, California and I frequently visited them.

After a few minutes he sent me on my way.

It’s easy to drive south in the states to Oregon or California. The border crossing nearest my house connects to I-5. Stay on it long enough and you’ll get as far as the Mexico border south of San Diego, California.

Stocking Up

First stop was the PetSmart in Bellingham, about 30 miles into Washington, to buy dog food and treats. Oddly enough the border guard didn’t ask me about dog food, but once before it was confiscated because it was just loose in the dog bowls and I couldn’t prove the ingredients. Apparently, the US has a problem with lamb coming down from Canada. Anyway, there’s no problem bringing dog food back into Canada that is bought in the US so that was my plan.

Next stop was Trader Joe’s in Bellingham but I’ve never been even though I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about the snacks they carry. I bought some granola bars for the trip that were OK but nothing special. I really wanted to buy Cowboy Bark and I got some! Yee haw! Right beside it on the shelf – Pumpkin Spice Granola Bark. OMG! Loved it. I’m not sure if this is seasonal or available year-round, but either way I’m just thankful it was on the shelf next to the Cowboy Bark and I grabbed it.

Driving South Through Washington on Interstate 5, Seeking Highway 101

Keep Driving South on Interstate 5

The drive south I quickly remembered why I don’t really like driving to Seattle. There’s so much traffic and most of it is 3 or 4 lanes of traffic, lot of cars moving and near misses all the way to the other side of Tacoma. At Olympia I saw a sign for Highway 101 and headed that way because the coastal route is more scenic. Couldn’t find it. All it did was take me to 101 Northbound, the direction I’d come from. I returned to I-5 and continued south. I really wanted to get to 101 so I could cross the long bridge across the Columbia River to Astoria, Oregon. All I could see were the mile posts on Interstate 5 counting down closer to 0. Portland was about 30 miles away when I saw a sign saying get to Oregon via Longview. In fact, my GPS was telling me to exit at Longview and go that way.

Oregon is in Sight! Or at least the Sign Post is…

After a few minutes I came to a bridge to cross the Columbia into Oregon. But, this isn’t right. The bridge I want to cross into Astoria is about 4 miles long, and clearly, I am on the wrong bridge. And worse, traffic is a complete standstill. I know nothing about this bridge because I’m not from the area. Is it a drawbridge or swing bridge and we’re waiting for a high boat to clear? There’s no traffic coming the other way. Eventually a few cars ahead of me pull U-turns and head back towards Longview. I grab my map and see that I’m definitely in the wrong spot. The bridge will take me to Oregon and a route to Astoria and then Seaside. Seems like I’m committed now as soon as the boat goes through and the bridge is open to traffic.

And then a police car goes by, sirens on and lights flashing.

Probably not a drawbridge.

I join the U-turn group and head back to the highway at Longview and go west, my GPS protesting the entire time. Finally, the GPS relaxes and accepts I’m heading to Highway 101. This was a very scenic route. I think it was Highway 4 to 401 and then out to Highway 101. GPS only gave me trouble once and tried to steer me to a ferry that would also take me over to Oregon.

Highway 101!

As I neared the coast, I spot that long bridge, and then I spot a rest area. Time to get my dogs outside to stretch their legs and go potty, and take some pictures.

First thing I discover – the Astoria Bridge is too long to fit all in one photo!

Here’s a close up of one section:

Driving South Through Washington on Interstate 5, Seeking Highway 101

And here’s a close up of the final section where you can see Astoria on the other side of the Columbia River. Oregon – so close!

Driving South Through Washington on Interstate 5, Seeking Highway 101

Next stop: Seaside, Oregon!


  1. Nice. Love the second picture of the bridge. I guess the border control has to be diligent even though l would think it was the other way around, people trying to come into Canada???.

    1. It’s one thing for the border guards to be diligent and then there are times they take it too far. Being this close to the border, it often hits the news when one of the guards -either Canadian or American – is doing something bad. One time a sniffer dog coming back into Canada refused to jump into the back of our truck and the handler was pretty annoyed. There was nothing there. It was just the dog’s refusal to hop in for a sniff that annoyed the guard.

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