Day One: Home to John Day, Oregon

Departure was on a Monday. 8 am, I pulled out of my home under sunny skies and 55 degrees. Perfect riding weather as far as I was concerned. The destination of the first day would be John Day, Oregon. I made it as far as Maupin on the Deschutes River before it got hot enough to change into my warm weather gear. I grabbed a snack (Reses peanut butter cups and a vanilla frappucino — Food of the Riding Gods) and continued on my way.

I got to Fossil at 11:00 AM and had lunch at the Big Timber Cafe. As I was getting on my bike to leave, a guy in a Ford Focus pulled up and asked me several questions about my bike. He had a Suzuki SV650 and was thinking about switching to the V-Strom. He seemed really short to me so I asked him how tall he was. He said he was 5′ 3″. I mentioned that even with lower modifications, the V-Strom would probably be too tall of a bike for him, but it was worth checking out.

Not 5 seconds after he pulled away, a guy on a DL1000 pulled in and parked next to me. His name was John and he was from Ephrata, Washington. We chatted for probably 15 minutes about our bikes and trips and so forth, then he asked where I was headed. I mentioned one leg of my trip would be near his home town. He was very helpful in pointing out how thick traffic would be on one leg and suggested an alternate route. We said our goodbyes and he went inside for lunch while I rolled on toward John Day.

The heat continued to rise as well as the humidity. I had to stop several times to drink water — and pour some on my t-shirt under my Aerostich — in an attempt to cool off. I got into John Day at 2:00 PM and checked into my motel. At the Best Western, they gave me the same room I had on my previous trip through John Day back in May. Fortunately this time it didn’t smell like a tavern like it did earlier.

Dinner was in the lounge of The Outpost next door. The same gal was working that night. The service could be classified as ‘indifferent’. The pizza was undercooked as well. Breakfast in the main restaurant the next morning was great, however.

Ride report: Oregon Wheat Country

It was a quick 24-hour overnight trip to my Dad’s in Hermiston, so instead of getting there in 3 hours via I-84, I spent 6 hours riding there via a very circuitious route that looked more like a sine wave than a travel itinerary.

When I left Sandy Saturday morning it was sprinkling lightly but was already 60 degrees outside so the ride was pleasant despite the precipitation. There were very few cars on the road and I made it up and over Government Camp without too much frustration.

My route took me on forest service road 48 from White River past Rock Creek Reservoir and into Wamic. By this point the sun was shining amidst occasional puffy clouds. Just east of Tygh Valley, OregonFrom Tygh Valley I headed east on 216, and pulled into the White River Falls State Park on the suggestion of a buddy. I’m glad I did. The falls are incredible and worth a visit. There’s a trail down to the river but I stayed up top.Just east of Tygh Valley, Oregon

It was getting warm enough that I stripped off my cold-weather pants and put on my cooler warm-weather riding pants. From this point on, I was riding unfamiliar roads. I crossed the Deschutes River at Sherars Bridge and climbed up some tasty curves to the plains on top. Heading north I got into Grass Valley. My breakfast had worn off and I was feeling a bit peckish so I stopped at a small convenience store for a snack. There was an older gentleman there with a steel-blue ’06 V-Strom, and we chatted for a few minutes. I also chatted with the guy working there for a few minutes before heading north to Wasco.

Once I got to Wasco, I turned southeast and headed past the giant windmills to Condon. By the time I got there it was lunch time so I pulled into the Twist and Shake drive-in and enjoyed a bacon swiss mushroom burger and a Pepsi. There was a Fourth of July celebration going on in the park a block away and I could hear music on their loudspeaker. I got gas at a local station and continued east on 206 toward Heppner.

Once at Heppner, I turned north on 74 into Lexington, then into Hermiston. I arrived at 2PM to warm and windy weather. I had a great visit with my Dad, including a wonderful meal of ribs and fried shrimp at Hale’s downtown Hermiston. The wind blew all night.

We awoke to sunny skies and a warm west wind. After breakfast, I mounted back up and began backtracing my steps to Heppner and Condon. I gassed up again at the same station in Condon, but chose a different eatery for lunch, a small cafe on the main drag. They were still serving breakfast so of course I had to partake of their biscuits and ‘ugliest gravy in Oregon’ with a side of bacon and a fried egg on top. Two cups of coffee washed it down.

This time, I headed south to Fossil, then westward over some of the tastiest curves in the state back to Antelope and Shaniko. I followed Bakeoven road, the middle half of which is gravel and tar, down into Maupin, then back up the other side of the Deschutes River canyon toward Tygh Valley and Wamic. The rest of the route home was identical to the reverse journey the day before. Traffic coming down off the mountain was typically thick for the Sunday of a holiday weekend.

The trip was 529 miles in 24 hours and covered some absolutely gorgeous wheat country between Heppner and Condon, and arguably the finest curves in the state between Fossil and Shaniko.

Trip report: North Powder cabin, day one

I was invited to attend an annual guys/father-son weekend at a remote cabin outside North Powder, Oregon. My buddy Mike and I were planning to ride there and back on our bikes (he rides a 2005 Suzuki Boulevard M50), but he came down with a creeping crud that didn’t want to go away, so he trailered his bike and I rode the originally planned route.

Departure was Thursday morning, May 29. It was raining, of course. My route took me over Mt. Hood via Government Camp, down highway 26 to Bear Springs, where I headed east on highway 216 toward Maupin. A cow elk crossed in front of me but there was enough distance for me to easily slow down in time. The sun came out so I stopped in Maupin and took a refreshment break.

Instead of heading south on 197, I headed south east on Bakeoven Rd. and am glad I did. I had seen it on the map but had never taken it. After getting a report that the road was in good shape from the lady working at the store in Maupin, I took it. The road climbs steeply with narrow turns until arriving at the top of the plateau, at which point it opens up. The clouds came back and by the time I got to Shaniko I had rain drops on my face shield once again.

Rolling through Shaniko and Antelope, I continued east toward Fossil, my intended lunch stop. Passing through the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds, the clouds had descended to ground level reducing visibility and began to dump copious amounts of rain. Although I had to slow down because of the reduced visibility, I was comfortable in my Aerostich and actually kind of enjoyed the experience. Because of an exceptionally wet winter and spring, the hills and grasslands were green and lush instead of brown and dry. The scenery and weather combined into something more like the Scottish highlands than eastern Oregon.

I arrived at the cafe in Fossil on 1st and Main wet and hungry but otherwise very content with the ride so far. My usual BLT and coffee was good as usual. The rain had stopped long enough for me to gas up and get back on the road.

My arrival in John Day occurred at 2:40, just ten minutes later than my arrival a year earlier. Yes, I left home at the usual 8:30, but after filling up my tank in Sandy, I didn’t actually leave town until 8:43. Let’s see, I left 13 minutes later than usual and arrived only 10 minutes later. How’s that for precise riding!

I checked into the Best Western, unpacked, and took a nap. By 4:30 my stomach was rumbling so I showered then headed next door to The Outpost for some beer and a personal Mexican pizza which was considerably better than the indifferent service I received from the waitress. Her surprisingly deep voice was disconcerting.