Ride to Maryhill Museum Art Festival

I had plans to go fishing last Saturday, but those plans fell through so I decided to take a ride on Shoot to Thrill instead. But where to go? I remembered my very artistic and talented sister was one of the exhibitors at the Maryhill Museum Arts Festival, near the junction of SR14 and Highway 97 in Washington, overlooking the majestic Columbia River.

The weather was perfect for a ride, too. The sun was shining, there wasn’t a lot of wind, and it wasn’t going to be uncomfortably hot.

It didn’t take long before I was up and over Government Camp and veering off onto Highway 35 northbound. I took NF44 east past Camp Baldwin and began to smell the smoke from a wildfire. I couldn’t see where it was coming from until I went through the small town of Dufur and got onto Highway 197 north. Just as I was descending into The Dalles, I could see the source of the smoke from a wildfire on the southwest side of town.

I stopped at the Chevron for a snack and struck up a conversation with Dylan, one of the attendants, while he was taking his break. We talked about bikes, cops, and a few other topics before I got back on the bike and crossed the Columbia. I got onto SR14 and headed 17 miles east to the Maryhill Museum.

Several exhibitor tents were set up on the lawns in front of the museum. Most sold artwork or crafts, including my sister, Tami (www.tamlencreations.com). My arrival was a total surprise, she had no idea I was coming. Although we tried to talk, she had numerous customers so my visit was mostly symbolic.

I headed back to The Dalles where I filled up my gas tank (and said hi to Dylan once again), then headed south on 197 back into Oregon. This time, instead of heading back home on NF44 through Dufur, I kept going south to Tygh Valley where I headed west toward Wamic. There were lawn mower races going on at the Pub-N-Grub and I slowed down as I rode past the dusty event.

Soon I was zipping past Rock Creek Reservoir and getting sideways on the wonderful road between Wamic and Highway 35. Before long I was up and over Government Camp once again and back home in plenty of time for dinner.

Here is the route I took there and back.

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.

Snow in June?

We left the house Friday afternoon and rode back into town before crossing the swollen Columbia River via the I-205 bridge and catching SR14 eastbound. My wife, Corina, hadn’t been on my bike since last summer and our planned overnight trip to my sister’s house outside Goldendale, Washington was a great way to get back into it.

The sun was shining and it was forecasted to be the warmest day of the year so far after what has been an unusually wet and cold Spring. We stopped at a gas station/market in North Bonneville for a snack break, then continued to Lyle where we turned north onto highway 142. Riding through the small community of Klickitat, we continued up out of the river valley and onto the breezy plain west of Goldendale.

We stopped at the 76 station in Goldendale for fuel and were joined by 10 guys on BMW and KTM adventure bikes. Fueled, we continued east on Bickelton Highway another 30 minutes before arriving at my sister’s house.

The next morning, after a relaxing but far too short visit, we backtracked to Goldendale before heading south on 97 for ten miles, then SR14 west to Dallesport where we crossed back over the mighty Columbia. The water was roiling and turbulent in the spillway under The Dallesport Dam, letting out a massive volume of water every second.

We rode south on 197 into the tiny town of Tygh Valley before heading west toward another tiny town, Wamic. The only store and gas station in town was abuzz with locals celebrating the store’s 25th anniversary as well as a large group of off-road motorcyclists. They were fueling up during a large rally organized out of Hood River.

Rolling through town, we cut off into the woods at Rock Creek Reservoir. Our destination was an unmarked campsight used during deer hunting. The rough gravel road was rutted and washed out in several places and interspersed with many large mud puddles. After a little slipping and sliding, we made it to the campsite. Off the bike, we explored the trees surrounding the camp, looking for a cross we mounted to memorialize Corina’s father who had passed away two years prior. We were pleased to see the cross was still there, no worse off despite the passage of both time and weather.

We mounted up and headed back up the gnarly road and made our way back to the highway westbound. Our intention was to ride NF48 to where it linked up with Highway 35 next to White River. About a mile shy of the junction we came to a large patch of snow across the road.

There were tire tracks and ruts crossing it and the snow didn’t look overly deep, so Corina dismounted and let me ride forward. Within 30 feet into the snow the bike stopped. The snow was nearly 2 feet deep and the bike high-centered on the skid plate, reducing weight and therefore traction on the rear tire.

We rocked the bike side to side to create more space, then dug at the snow with sticks and our hands. The temperature was easily into the 70’s and combined with the elevation we were both sweating and breathing hard, seemingly without progress despite the intense effort.

Corina got behind the bike and pushed while I worked the throttle and pushed with both my legs. After a great amount of effort and straining, the bike inched forward about 4 feet before getting stuck again. We had at least another fifty feet of snow drift to cross and we began to wonder of it would be possible. We could see another snow drift just like this one waiting for us 100 yards ahead.

With more digging, pushing, heaving, grunting, and groaning, the bike moved slowly forward. We made it through and parked the bike on bare pavement, then took a break to catch our breath. After a brief respite, we rode on to the next drift. Approaching it, our hearts sank. We could see that this drift was even deeper and had no tire tracks through it. Whoever had driven their four-wheel drive vehicle through the first drift had turned around and gone back before attempting to cross the next. Within a mile of a snow-free highway 35, we knew we had to go back across the snow drift that took us an hour to cross the first time.

Corina got off and walked while I slowly rolled ahead to the snow drift. I hoped that the rut we worked so hard to cross would be easier to traverse. With a lump in my throat, I gave the bike some gas and entered the snow drift. Halfway across the bike stopped. I killed the engine, then began rocking the bike side to side. The rut was deep enough that the bike was being pinched on the sides, effectively reducing the weight on the back tire and therefore reducing traction. I wondered if attempting to ride across a section without ruts would have been more effective, but the bike probably would have just sunk into the deep snow and stopped.

As Corina approached the back of the drift, my effort to clear lateral space around the bike and my pushing forward with my legs while working the throttle was just effective enough to help me inch forward. With a loud “Whoo hoo!” I got purchase on the widened rut we dug out on our way through the first time and emerged triumphantly onto bare pavement.

Stopping, I put the bike on it’s side stand and located a small stick to scrape off the snow embedded into every cavity on the bike’s underside. Corina caught up to me and we smiled, still out of breath. We chugged some water, then noticed three off-road bikes from the rally group riding up the road toward us. We waved them to a stop and warned them of the struggle we had just gone through. Even though their tall bikes with aggressive knobby tires would have no doubt had better luck crossing the snow, they decided caution was the better approach and turned around and headed back the way they came.

The guys said they would try to ride NF43 and connect with Highway 26. Corina and I discussed that route, but I had run into snow on that route in previous years so we decided we would ride all the way back to Wamic, gas up the bike and grab a snack, then backtrack to Tygh Valley where we would continue south on 197 to highway 216. It was a longer way home but we knew that the entire route would be plowed and snow free.

I had just switched from a set of Bridgestone Battle Wing 90/10 tires over to a more 75/25 oriented tire, the Shinko 705. Considering the depth of the snow and the mud and gravel I had ridden so far, the Shinko’s had done a decent job. They also perform great on the pavement, cornering very capably.

Back in Wamic, the gas station/store was hopping with off-road rally riders and anniversary celebrants. We struck up a conversation with Sam Cobb, the owner of a small tavern in Tygh Valley, who was present to celebrate the store’s anniversary. Fed and fueled, we said our goodbyes, then worked our way back home.

The original route should have been about 160 miles and lasted only four hours. Instead, we rode well over 250 miles and got home four hours later than intended. It was an adventure and we pulled through it together, no worse for the experience. Having a folding shovel on board would have been helpful, but using the most important tool of all – our brains – would have been far more effective. Even if you can see the other side of a snow drift, it can easily be too deep for a motorcycle to cross. Mud puddles are the same way; you can’t tell how deep they are just by looking at them.

The funny thing is, when I woke up the next morning, I felt like getting back on the bike and heading right back up into the mountains for another go.

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.

Bike camping trip: Bonney Crossing

In the style of adventure riders, I went on my first bike camping trip this Labor Day weekend. It was just a single overnight trip to a dry campground on the east side of Mt. Hood, but it was my first off the bike. I’ve gone backpacking countless times in my life, carrying everything I needed on my back. The only difference here is I carried it on my bike instead.

I chose the campground for three reasons. I know where it is and how to get to it, it has a year-round creek running through it, and it was unlikely to be crowded on the holiday weekend. On this particular trip, I intended to videotape the experience, using both my Canon GL2 camera and an Oregon Scientific chip-based ‘action cam’. It worked great and I captured several segments of the trip, but I left the fastening strap for the action cam wrapped around it and ended up covering its internal microphone. I had great footage but no sound on all but one of my segments.

So the video effort will have to wait until another time.

It would be just a single night and I was taking minimal food so no cooking equipment was necessary. I was able to get everything into my bike’s Givi V46 top case and E21 side cases plus a small waterproof duffel strapped to the seat. If I had taken my E41 side cases I wouldn’t have needed the duffel.

My gear included a Eureka Backcountry single person tent. It’s 3′ wide, 8′ long, and 3′ tall at the peak. It sets up easily, has reasonable coverage for straight-down precipitation with its rain fly, and I can sit up in it when inside. I also took an insulated air mattress from Big Agness. It’s 27″ wide and 72″ long and when inflated keeps me a cosey and comfortable insulated 3″ above the ground. I found it to be very comfortable, and it makes Thermarest pads feel like you’re sleeping on a Kleenex. My Mountain Gear polarguard 3D sleeping bag is so small and light it compresses into a package the size of a volleyball, but by the middle of the night the outside temp dropped low enough that I found the sleeping bag’s insulative powers were inadequate. I estimate the temp dropped to the mid 30’s.

I refer to the campground as Bonney Crossing, although there’s indication on the maps and area signs that the actual Bonney Crossing campground is farther down the road. Regardless, this spot has actual picnic tables and at one point had a pit toilet, so it probably has a name of some kind. It is located off of Threemile Road, due north of Rock Creek Reservoir, on the eastern foothills of Mt. Hood. The road there is paved except for the last mile, which is rough and rocky dirt road. My V-Strom handled it fine. I know of a guy that traveled the road on his cruiser, but I’m not sure how he did it. A passenger car would have a difficult time of it, especially if there was rain.

I made it to camp around 5:00 PM, just an hour and a half ride from my home in Sandy. There was one other campsite occupied about 100 yards away, a young couple with four young and rambunctious boys. Although we never introduced ourselves, they seemed like nice people. I was worried the campground would be full of rowdy rednecks wanting to party all night. If that had been the case I would have turned around and found another location.

It didn’t take me long to get my tent set up, my pad inflated (manually; I still need to find a nozzle that lets me use the 12v air compressor I store in my tank bag), and my sleeping bag rolled out. Soon I was dining on cold orange chinese chicken, rice, and wontons. Without having to cook, the dinner selection was pretty good. I washed it down with some 7-Up and The Macallan. My entertainment until sunset was a book written in the late 70’s by a wildlife biologist helping to find locations for parks in Alaska.

The trip over had been uneventful other than some strong winds. The wind continued to blow until well after sunset. The temperature began to drop with the sun, and by 8:30 PM I was in my sleeping bag waiting for sleep to arrive. I never sleep very good the first night in the woods, so my expectations for deep slumber were low.

At about 2:00 AM I got up to relieve myself. The wind was absent and the stars were out in massive numbers, visible upward between the pines and oak. It was noticeably colder, however, and despite wearing insulated underwear, wool socks, and a sweater, I never quite warmed up inside my inadequate sleeping bag.

The rising sun was just beginning to hit my tent broadside when I arose at 6:45 AM. I bundled up and emerged, doing some mild calisthenics to get my blood flowing and my body temperature up. I chugged an orange juice and began breaking camp. The family camped nearby was beginning to stir just as I started my bike and headed out.

I backtracked east to the tiny community of Wamic in search of breakfast. My initial idea was to grab a snack and a coffee at the small general store and ride straight home, but the store was closed. I settled for the somewhat skanky Pub and Grub restaurant. It was 8:00 AM on a Sunday morning and I was the only customer there. That should tell you something. My meal of eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and toast (plus coffee, oh yeah, coffee) wasn’t half bad, however, nor was the service. It was good to warm up both on the outside and on the inside. Other customers began to arrive by the time I was donning my helmet to head west toward home.

Heading back the way I came on FS48, I could see a bank of clouds hovering over the Cascades. It wasn’t long before the sun disappeared and I was under cloud cover. The air was chilly and the breeze was up, misty rain began to fall by the time I reached highway 35. When I crested the pass at Government Camp, it was 33 degrees and raining heavily. My hands were cold and I had a shiver despite being bundled up in my riding gear. I pressed on.

The clouds never went away but the rain let up as I descended the foothills and got back to Sandy. I passed numerous cops that were patrolling the stretch of highway 26 between Mt. Hood and Sandy quite heavily as they had been for the past several weeks. When I got home, I had been gone a mere 18 hours, but had learned a few things for the next time I intend to camp off of my bike. I’ll take more sleeping bag than I think I need. When I go on longer trips I can camp every other night and stay in motels in between to save money. I don’t need to take any cooking tools if I don’t want to, and I shouldn’t expect to get much sleep when in the woods.