Circumnavigate your local volcano

Sunday is a good day, and for many reasons beyond the traditional. It can be a day of rest, reflection, and recreation. If you ride a motorcycle, it can be all three. Zooming along back country roads can give your tired and weary mind rest from the tribulations and stress of a long work-week. You can reflect on your place in the world and regain perspective as you spend hours alone with just your thoughts and the road and the beautiful scenery passing by. And of course riding a motorcycle is a recreational thrill that can’t fully be explained to those that have never done it.

Sunday was a good day for me. I left my house in Sandy at 9AM, gassed up at the local Chevron, and headed east on Highway 26. When I got to Brightwood I left the highway and hit the Barlow Trail Road. It’s a residential road that parallels the Sandy River, with excellent road quality and wonderful 35-40 mph turns (which I take at 65 mph, thank you very much). After several miles it T’s into Lolo Pass Road, so I headed left and went north up to Lolo Pass. At the top, I pulled over for a bio break, then got onto FS18 and headed back down the other side of the pass.

The views of Mt. Hood from FS18 are amazing and for those Portlanders that are bored with the usual view of the mountain from Highway 26 it’s a must-drive. It looks like a completely different mountain from the northern and eastern flanks and I remember thinking to myself it would look very fitting in Switzerland.

The road surface, although gravel, is in great shape and has very few potholes and almost no washboarding. The only downside is the frequent views of high power transmission lines that parallel the road. Eventually I got back onto pavement onto Lost Lake Road. Turning left would take me to the lake and the state’s busiest forest service campground. I turned right and headed down into the orchards of the Hood River Valley and the small, bucolic hamlet of Parkdale.

Originally I had intended to ride into Hood River and catch Interstate 84 east to The Dalles before heading south again on Highway 197, but the idea of riding on an Interstate Freeway just seemed contrary to the day. I relied on my Zumo GPS to guide me to Highway 35 and headed south past several campgrounds named after Robin Hood locations and characters along the rushing Hood River. After a few miles I turned left and headed east on the now familiar FS44 toward Dufur.

This road isn’t as curvy as FS48, it’s parallel brethren to the south, but is plenty of fun nonetheless. It’s a 30 mile ride east to the small farm town of Dufur, passing through pine trees and oak before emerging into golden wheat and grass fields. My stomach was beginning to growl but I wasn’t in the mood for a sit-down meal at the diner there, so I passed by the small town and continued south on Highway 197 into Tygh Valley.

When riding through small towns or any stretch of road with a slow speed limit I often stand up on my pegs to give my posterior a rest. This also helps stretch my shoulders and back and allows me to ride even further without having to stop for a formal break. Eventually I need to shut the bike off and rest so I pulled into the Wamic store and stood in the shade while eating a snack of Mounds candy bars and drinking a Frappuccino. The little store was busy but oddly I didn’t see any other bikes passing through the tiny town.

Snack consumed, I mounted my noble steed and headed west back toward home on FS48. This road passes by Rock Creek Reservoir amidst oak and pine trees before getting into heavier timber. The road surface is in great shape considering its location and I was able to maintain a fast but safe pace. As I regained elevation the air became cooler. I had opened the air vents on my jacket and switched to my warm-weather gloves back in Wamic and was tempted to stop at the junction with Highway 35 at White River to switch back into my colder-weather gloves, but I knew that once I got over the pass at Government Camp and descended back down toward home it would warm up again, so I hung a left and headed south on 35 without stopping.

The water coming down the mountain in the White River was thin, sparse, and the color of coffee with cream. The mountain itself was nearly devoid of snow, with only the high glaciers and snow fields — all now receding according to climatologists — showing white. When Highway 35 merged with 26 the traffic got thick in a hurry. Everyone was coming home from recreating east of the Cascades and I had to dodge several travel trailers and motor homes as well as diesel pickups spitting out obnoxious exhaust.

Having experienced this route from Government Camp down the hill into Rhododendron many times before on busy summer weekends, I knew that getting into a hurry would do one of two things: earn me a speeding ticket or get me into a probably life-threatening accident. So I maintained my pace with the traffic and accepted the fact that I would be riding below the speed limit all the way until the road split into 4 lanes in Rhododendron. In Brightwood I spotted a motorcycle cop parked under the shade of a large maple tree, radar gun pointed right at me. I ride between 6-8 miles over the speed limit and he didn’t even blink at my speed. He did have to drop his radar gun to wave back at me, though. I wave at motorcycle cops as if they’re just another guy on two wheels and not someone that can cost me several hundreds of dollars in fines.

By the time I got home I had ridden 190 miles in four hours. I had circumnavigated Mt. Hood, the local volcano and the tallest mountain in Oregon. It’s a great loop for a motorcyclist and I feel thankful it’s so close to home.

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