Post, Oregon … finally

I am running out of places in Oregon that I haven’t visited by motorcycle. One of the locations on my to-ride list was Post, Oregon, the geographic center of the state.

Been there, done that, won’t bother doing it again.

Don’t get me wrong, the ride there and away was fine, with some classic eastern Oregon scenery and roads. But, the location — you can’t call it a town — of Post itself is just a general store with a sign, and that’s it.

They do have a gas pump, which I suppose would be convenient if you were running low. Regular unleaded cost $2.96 a gallon, which is amazingly low considering the remote location. I paused long enough to get off the bike a take a picture, then moved on.

My route was Gresham to Prineville via highway 26. I know, boring. But I didn’t really have any other viable routes to take. Once in Prineville I took state route 380 east-south-east to Post, then kept going east to Paulina. When I left home, I stopped at a gas station in Boring to put some air in my tires and got chatted up by a retired school man named Val. He was very familiar with the area and suggested I take a side route south to Burns, then north on US 395. I thanked him for the suggestion and looked for the required road when I got to Suplee. Alas, I never found it.

Even my GPS kept wanting me to go all the way to 395 first, then south to Burns, which would involve riding the same 45 miles of road twice in the same day. That’s not going to happen.

The last dozen miles of 380 before you get to 395 are much more wooded and typical of the Blue Mountains kind of terrain. I came out onto 395 just north of Seneca. I rode up to Canyon City, gassed up, then got to my motel in John Day in the mid afternoon.

I stopped at the Shelton Wayside along highway 19 just south of Fossil for a break, and used the timer on my camera to take a rare self-portrait.

Dinner was at The Outpost next door. That night, some rowdy kids decided to paw-tay the night away in the room next door so it took ear plugs to give me a few hours of sleep. The next morning I left with temps in the mid 30s. I took my usual route home: Kimberly, Spray (where I got gas), Fossil, Antelope, Maupin, Wamic, Government Camp, home. The weather was perfect. I saw two cow elk cross Bakeoven Road between Shaniko and Maupin, and earlier saw a wild turkey on the pavement, but other than that the only other critters I saw were a half dozen dead deer at various places along the route.

Convergence of Two Nations

I recently got divorced and part of that process involved moving out of my house in the suburbs and into an apartment in the city. It also meant storing my two bikes — 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and 2012 Suzuki GSX-R750 — in a storage unit since my apartment complex had no garages available. It’s somewhat of a pain having to drive a half mile just to get to where my bikes are located, as you can imagine. But, at least I still have them.

This past weekend I needed to get some time on two wheels and decided to take my Gixxer for an overnight trip to John Day in central Oregon. The route I take passes through some of the finest geography in the west and courses over some incredible riding roads. I’m leery of giving too many details because I don’t want to get the word out. Before you know it, the route is crawling with motorcycles and the resultant law enforcement like remoras attached to sharks.
The weather was perfect, the road conditions were nearly flawless, and my Gixxer was running like an Olympic athlete. It was a wonderful trip.
I stayed at the Best Western John Day Inn and ran into three grey-haired gentlemen from Canada that were immediately familiar to me. We met in the same place a few years earlier as they were coming down from British Columbia to enjoy the roads in Oregon. Two rode BMW’s and one rode a Yamaha FJR1300. The first time I met them, I was on my filthy and road-weary V-Strom on my way back from a very long trip. This time we chatted about my Gixxer.
It is fascinating that we should meet up in the same location a second time, so many miles (or kilometers) from home. They are really nice guys and I regret not getting their contact information. As I left Sunday morning I jokingly said, “I’ll see you again in a couple of years.” It just may happen.

Ride report June 2012: Day 16

Grangeville, ID to Sandy, OR

Breakfast was at The Outpost a few minutes after they opened at 6 AM. The food is always good there, especially their breakfast.

Eager to get home, I didn’t waste time. I was on the road shortly after 7 AM. I topped off my tank in Dayville, then got on highway 19 through Kimberly and into the tiny town of Spray. I then worked my way to Fossil where I headed west on my favorite road in Oregon, highway 218, to Antelope.

218 is a lot of fun. There is a variety of curves, all banked perfectly, there are very few blind corners and sight lines are far, and the road surface is in fantastic shape. The road can bite you if you’re not on your game, but if you get into the zone it’s a thrill to run it.

I rode through Antelope, Shaniko, over Bakeoven road into Maupin, through Tygh Valley and into Wamic where I gassed up and ate a snack. I then took FS48 west, but had to detour onto FS43 to get to highway 26 as the rest of 48 to highway 35 remained closed, presumably due to late season snow (they don’t plow it).

I was soon up and over the pass at Government Camp and back at home in Sandy by 12:30 pm.

Respite at home

— This is the last day of the first half of a multi-day loop trip to British Columbia and northern California. —

Sleep eluded me for most of the night. I eventually dozed off at around 4 am, only to wake up at 6:00 am in a motel room without power. I looked outside and the electronic sign in front of the motel was inoperable as well. I got dressed for breakfast and noticed none of the signs down main street were working, so it was safe to assume the restaurant a block away was not an option. I ate the granola bar I had in my top case, packed everything up, and headed down the road.

I rode about eight miles into the adjacent town, Mt. Vernon, and saw the “open” sign was lit at a small cafe. I pulled in and parked right in front, between a half dozen pickup trucks covered in farm dirt. When I entered the entire clientele consisted of old white men in western shirts and an even combination of John Deere ball caps and cowboy hats. I sat down and was served by a thin, high strung women in her early 30’s, face covered in pock marks and jaw working overtime. I assumed she was a meth head tweaker. She was friendly, efficient, and equally capable of dishing back the good natured teasing she received from the regulars. I told the waitress that the power was out in John Day and she said that it had been out there as well, only coming back on a few minutes before I arrived.

I was concerned about fuel. I intended to fill up in John Day before I left but the power outage shut down the pumps. I rode another 25 miles into Dayville, the next town down the highway, and whipped into a tiny two-pump gas station and filled up. Just outside of town I turned north onto a secondary road that took me past one of the John Day fossil beds, through the small crossroad community of Kimberly, through the river town of Spray, and eventually into the town of Fossil itself. Without stopping, I veered west onto highway 218, one of my favorite roads in Oregon, and drank up the delicious curves between Fossil and Antelope and Shaniko.

I crossed over the high desert via Bakeoven Road, then dropped down the canyon into the Deschutes River town of Maupin. A dozen miles beyond I stopped in Wamic and fueled up at the same store/gas station I had visited just a few weeks before. I then completed the last leg of the trip by riding up and over Mt. Hood under showery skies, back to home in Sandy.

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.