Pilot story and photos

by Bill Lundquist

GOLD BEACH - Those who gather monthly on Jan Norwood's Hospitality Tours were among the first to experience the new Wild Rivers Coast Coach Tours.

Their recent outing also gave them inside views of some popular Gold Beach businesses.

Touring Wild Rivers Coast

Uniting the Southern Oregon and Northern California coast under the andquot;America's Wild Rivers Coastandquot; banner has been a political and marketing success.

What happens, however, when tourists from other regions travel to a town like Gold Beach and say, andquot;OK, I'm here. Where is this Wild Rivers Coast I've heard so much about?andquot;

Retired physician Dr. Bill Swartz, and Gold Beach businessman Jim Coffee recently started a new business to give tourists a quick overview of the many wonders and activities the Wild Rivers Coast has to offer.

The coaches are luxury in every sense of the word. The deluxe seats, only 17 per bus, provide plenty of comfort and room.

Binoculars, video games, toys, jackets and umbrellas are provided to make the tours family-friendly.

Bottled water is available, snacks are sold on board, and rest room breaks are about an hour apart.

Three half-day tours are available, each costing $34 per adult or $14 per child, 12 and under.

All tours depart the andquot;A-frameandquot; building next to the Cannery Building at the Port of Gold Beach.

The andquot;Coastal Treasuresandquot; tour leaves at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to take visitors through a river valley, old-growth forests, a lighthouse, a working port, and paths to ocean vistas.

The andquot;Pacific Wondersandquot; tour leaves at 8:30 a.m. Thursday through Sunday to show visitors the coast, a rain forest, a secret cove, a lighthouse, a one-of-a-kind museum and a historical home.

The andquot;Rogue Countryandquot; tour leaves at 2 p.m. daily to explore the deep river canyons, still-water pools and wildlife of the Rogue River. Tourists will learn about Indians, settlers, salmon, gold, river travel, floods and more.

For information, call (877) 247-4446 or (541) 247-4446. Groups and special charters are welcome.

Those on Hospitality Tours split into two groups to get one-hour samples of the coach tours.

The shortened afternoon tours took participants through the port to watch salmon fishermen at the mouth of the Rogue, then continued up the Old Coast Highway for a short stroll past ocean vistas to Otter Point. Coffee taught a little history and geology on the way.

He said they would ultimately like to see coach tours operating out of all the towns from Bandon to Klamath.

The immediate business plan is to close down for December, January and February, and then open for the first full year of tours.

Turtle Hunt

Those looking for a place to stay on the Wild Rivers Coast might want to consider Hospitality Tours first stop: the Turtle Rock RV Resort of Julian and Kachina Starr.

The Starrs collect anything to do with turtles at their resort, and offered a prize to whoever spotted the most turtle objects on the tour.

There are no live turtles at the resort of course, but Marjorie Sudduth won the prize by finding 130 turtle items. Kachina said she had no idea she'd collected so many.

The RV and tent campground on Hunter Creek and the Pacific ocean now offers cabins for sale or rent.

Kachina said the resort on the banks of the creek is actually above the flood plain and even the water that used to accumulate on the back of the property has been rerouted with culverts.

She said business has been andquot;incredibleandquot; this year with a 95 percent occupancy rate.

Call (800) 353-9754 or (541) 247-9203 for more information.

Fish Processing

Tour participants got a behind-the-scenes look at Fishermen Direct Seafoods in the Cannery Building at the Port of Gold Beach.

Employee Bruce Perdikis showed how salmon is cold smoked at 105 degrees for 12-18 hours, then cooked at 185 degrees in making jerky.

The flavor comes from a sawdust smoke of oak, hickory and alder pumped into the smoker.

Fishermen Direct also has a blast freezer that, at minus 29 degrees, can freeze fish solid in two hours.

Fish arriving on the boats can be vacuum-packed and in the freezer 20 minutes later.

Perdikis took tour participants back to a second business in the same facility: Nor-Cal Seafoods.

Nor-Cal ships crabs and live fish straight to restaurants. Refrigerated tanks recirculate 48-50 degree salt water.

Dessert, then lunch

Participants took a short drive upriver to the Indian Creek Cafe for lunch.

Before leaving the Cannery Building, however, they whetted their appetites with ice cream samples from Cone Amor. Terry Luzmoor served up various special flavors of Umpqua Ice Cream.

She said children wear blindfolds at birthday parties at Cone Amor and try to guess all the flavors.

One little girl, said Luzmoor, guessed all the flavors, but still ordered vanilla.

A Hole in Five

The tour ended with a round at Drift-In Miniature Golf just across the road from the Cannery Building.

Fortunately for Norwood, the score card was limited to five shots per hole. She never misses, however, in finding interesting places to visit.

Hospitality Tours will take a month off, and offer another free tour in October. Call Norwood at (541) 469-4909 to reserve a spot.