John Day, Oregon

— This is day five of a multi-day loop trip to British Columbia and northern California. —

The continental breakfast at the Best Western on Clarkston was pretty decent, so that constituted my morning meal. I had slept good the night before, and the shining sun gave me a good start to my day. The road south quickly climbed up the amber grass-covered hills out of town, twisting and fun. Once on top the road straightened but the view east over the Snake River was impressive.

I climbed steadily until the pine trees began to line the roadside and the air got slightly cooler. I stopped briefly at an overlook above the canyon below, then continued south on Highway 129. The road began to switch back with tight corners, and soon I had crossed into Oregon and the road became Highway 3. The turns lasted a short time, then the road got straight again, more or less taking a due south heading.

Once the road began to descend from it’s 5,000 foot elevation into grassy ranch land, I emerged into the small town of Enterprise. I turned east and rode the half-dozen miles into the split-personality town of Joseph. Part ranch town, part artist’s sanctuary, Joseph had a high mountain, ranching kind of feel with both local farmers and out of state — and out of country — tourists passing up and down it’s streets. I stopped at The Old Town Cafe for some late-morning eats. The waitress had distractingly beautiful auburn eyes. I overheard her name as ‘Sierra’ — fitting. I could only eat a quarter of the breakfast burrito, which was as tasty as it was massive.

Knowing I was about to travel a rather remote section of my day’s journey, I filled up my gas tank before leaving Joseph. I wanted to travel the road that connected Joseph with Hells Canyon and the small town of Halfway for a long time. The road was rough and without painted lines or curve markers, basically like a paved forest service road. I was on alert for deer and pot holes. It was obvious that a large forest fire had cleared a big section of the area a decade or more prior. Tall, dead snags still emerged above the small trees growing underneath, replanted after the big burn.

My GPS told me I had surpassed 6,000 feet elevation, the highest of the trip so far. After passing a couple of slow SUVs, I wound my way downhill further into the wilderness. This was remote country and a breakdown would be ‘most inconvenient.’ Fortunately my bike remained solid and so did I. Soon I came upon the turn-off for the Hells Canyon Overlook, so I took the three mile detour.

Jim from Colorado
Jim, with his BMW GS 1200, towing a trailer

At the top were three bikes, one of which was a BMW GS1200 Adventure towing a fairly large aluminum trailer. Jim, the pilot, came over to chat. He was riding out of Colorado and was winding his way around the west. We chatted for quite a while, part of which involved consulting his map of Oregon. He was working his way to the the Pacific coast and eagerly listened to my suggested routes, seeking to avoid large urban areas.

I removed the liner from my jacket as it was getting fairly warm, even at that high elevation. Yellow jackets began to take a keen interest in the dead bugs on the front of my bike. After a quick bio break, I suited back up and continued down the river valley to meet Highway 86, where I turned west and rode into Baker City.

I fueled up, then boogied onto Highway 7 to Sumpter and Austin Junction where I caught Highway 26 westward into John Day. I pulled into the Best Western where I have stayed at least once a year for the past four years. I got the last ground floor room they had available, showered, took a short nap, then dressed and walked over to The Outpost for dinner.

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