Coos Bay, North Bend and Charleston, a.k.a. Oregon’s Adventure Coast, is filled with interesting and beautiful destinations that inspire visitors from all over the world. But did you know that the region is also full of fascinating people with amazing stories to tell? Our local residents are our best resource to share insider travel tips, local secrets and stories that cannot be found anywhere else. While our big annual events and festivals are on hiatus, we’re spotlighting some of the folks who make Oregon’s Adventure Coast such a special place.
This month, we’re featuring Coos Bay resident and former Women’s Professional Racquetball player and coach, Linda Prefontaine. Linda is the sister of internationally acclaimed track star Steve Prefontaine who helped to inspire the American running craze that began in the mid-1970s. “Pre” fans from all over the world have traveled to Coos Bay to pay tribute to their favorite distance runner whose life was cut short in a car accident in 1975. At the time of his death, Steve Prefontaine held every American distance running record from 2-miles through 10,000 meters.
Linda continues to honor his legacy with Tour de Pre, a special one-of-a-kind experience where fans can explore the Coos Bay area, explore where Pre grew up and see where his brilliant career began while hearing personal stories and anecdotes that only Linda can offer.
Linda was born and spent her childhood in Coos Bay along with her siblings, but left the town in 1973 to finish her degree in Education at the University of Oregon in Eugene where she lived until she moved back to Coos Bay in 2017. Here’s some of the conversation we recently had with her.
OAC: What brought you back to Coos Bay? Linda: I moved back in 2017. Eugene has grown too much for this small town girl. It is a 24⁄7 city now. That isn’t my cup of tea anymore. I think age has a lot to do with that. I’m looking for a simpler and quieter lifestyle. In addition, I started a touring business, called the Tour de Pre that operates from May 1st until the end of September. However, I am not giving tours this summer because of the virus. Even though I moved away I came back regularly because my parents were still alive and living here is Coos Bay.
OAC: Can you tell us about your family, parents (what brought them to Coos Bay?), what it was like to grow up here? Linda: My Father was from Coos Bay. He met my Mom in Germany when he was stationed there during WWII. She was German. They married in 1948 in Germany and came to Coos Bay to start a family. Looking back, Coos Bay was a good place to grow up. Small town, lots of outdoor activities. We could walk to school. Played with the neighborhood kids.
OAC: Tell us about you? Your background? Work? Family? Linda: I graduated from MHS (Marshfield High School), then attended SWOCC (Southwestern Oregon Community College) for 2 years and received my Education degree from the University of Oregon. I played tennis in high school and college. Instead of teaching, I chose to play Women’s Professional Racquetball. I taught racquetball and coached racquetball close to 25 years. For a few years, it was a full-time job but then I felt I needed to get into the business world and became a lumber broker. I wholesaled lumber, worked as a mill salesperson for a sawmill in Noti, and finished my career selling crossarms, and electrical related lumber products for a manufacturer in Eugene.
OAC: What do you think is special about this area? Linda: The best thing going for this area is the ocean, lakes, rivers, dunes. It’s having clean air to breathe.
OAC: What was it like to watch your brother, Steve, on the track and watch him become a world-famous athlete? Linda: It was great to watch him compete. I was a very proud sister. He was exciting and entertaining to watch. He made people, from all walks of life, want to watch him. He made the sport exciting.
OAC: What tips do you have for fans of your brother’s who travel to Coos Bay to honor his legacy? Linda: I teach people about Coos Bay history, about what it was like growing up here, let them run in Steve’s footsteps if they choose and tell them stories, and answer a LOT of questions. If people want to learn more about Steve and visit and run in the places he ran, they can sign up for my Tour de Pre.
OAC: What would you tell a first-time visitor who wanted to get some local tips on the best places in the area to visit? Linda: To visit our beautiful beaches, Shore Acres, Sand Dunes etc. It sort of depends on how much time they are going to spend here.
OAC: What’s your favorite outdoor activity? Linda: I hike, play a little golf, pickleball, I have a SUP (stand up paddleboard) that I’m just getting into. I’m learning how to surf fish.
OAC: What message would you like to give to anyone thinking of visiting in the future? Linda: If we didn’t have a pandemic going on, visiting the coast in late summer and fall are the best months to come here. Perfect temperatures. Not too hot or cold. During normal times, running the PRE MEMORIAL RUN in September would be a bucket list for some. But we are not going to have the run this year because of the virus. Editors note: The Pre Memorial Run is expected to take place in September 2021. More information can be found at prefontainerun.com.
Be sure to read this Travel Oregon article to learn more about Linda and the Tour de Pre. You can also hear Linda speak of her brother in her own words in this video. Please note the tour is currently paused in light of the pandemic, please check the website or contact them to confirm availability.