Memorial Day Weekend Central Oregon Ride

 

Day One

With minimal planning, three motorcyclists took to the roads south and east from Portland, Oregon. I, being the leader and veteran rider of the group, formed a loose plan to head out toward Prineville to do a loop that was marked as a scenic motorcycle route in an Oregon motorcycle route map I have. All three of us are fair weather riders, the two boys have only been riding for two or three years, and none of us ride on a daily basis. Having done this type of motorcycle trip before I knew how fatiguing it can be, especially riding bikes like mine, an NT650 Honda Hawk GT. My bike has very short legs of a little over 100 miles, and even though I put the stock clip-ons back on it, raising the bars a good 4 inches, I am still leaned forward just enough to add to my fatigue. The boys, Kevin and Juan, ride a Ninja 250, and a Moto Guzzi respectively, Juan’s Guzzi being the most suited bike for the journey. With all this in mind I planned to keep saddle time to less than six hours per day, for our two and half day trip.

Our first day started slow with waking up around ten, after staying up to late playing card games with Juan, whom we hadn’t seen in months. After last minute packing, chain lubing, and steal cut oats we were ready to hit the road by noon. We headed south on 224, a route Kevin and I are pretty familiar with up to Ripplebrook ranger station as this is our back yard ride. Once past Ripplebrook the road became less familiar and the traffic died considerably. I had been this way once before and remembered once section that made my heart beat faster, my anticipation for this section grew the further we went, and luckily my memory served that the section begins just after an uphill and under the swath of power lines slicing through he trees. WEEE, just as I remembered it, super fun curves swooping downhill through forest. I must add that my bike felt great and I was on fire!

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Gas Station at Detroit Lake

Emerging from the trees we reached civilization again at Detroit Lake, where we gas up and look for lunch. At this point we discuss where to go next. I suggest a straight shot to Bend, as I’d like to get there in time for dinner, and we will have to find a place to stay. As soon as we reach the northern limit of Bend I pull over so we can figure out where to stay. A few phone calls to the motels we see in our vicinity with no luck, all booked. After a few more calls, we find one that sounds good and the price is right, by the time we ride over there, about 6 minutes, the one room with two beds is gone. Disappointment in tow we rush back to another place to try to grab a room.

Sitting in line at the reception desk, we managed to grab a room at Bend Inn & Suites. At $179 for the night it was no bargain, but we were glad to have a place to rest for a bit before looking for dinner. Those of you that know me know that eating out is always a challenge for me. I spent at least 20 minutes Googling and looking at menus before I decided we should go to Yumm Cafe. It is cheap, easy, quick, and I know they are allergen safe as I have eaten at one before. Let me tell you brown rice and veggies never tasted so good.

Day Two

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Breakfast at Mothers Cafe Bend

I hardly slept, after finally passing out around midnight, some drunks came back to the motel loud and reving their large truck as they tried and tried to back it into a parking spot. Our paper thin door and window did little to shield us from all this racket. Next, around six in the morning, the kids next door woke up and started bouncing off the walls. I might have snagged five hours of sleep.

Once everyone was up, we quickly packed up and headed to breakfast, again at a place of my choosing. This time, I took a chance on a local place that appeared to be in line with my needs: Mother’s Cafe; which, on their website, appears to be a full service breakfast restaurant, but in person it was a trumped up juice and coffee shop counter service with a breakfast and lunch menu printed on the wall. Unfortunately, their oatmeal is pre-made and I could not get it without the added fake milk, chia seeds, and other junk I don’t need, so I settled for a bowl of quinoa and roasted veggies. By the way, they mix their quiona with rice, a practice I have never seen before and was surprised it was not mentioned on the menu, my restaurant rating dropped a rank due to this. With everyone sufficiently sated, we saddled up to head northeast toward Prineville.

Even with the sun and blue sky over head the morning air remained brisk and chilly at 60 mph. Following Powelle Butte Road to Highway 126, we got our first view of the mountains from the east side, several snow-capped mountains lined the horizon to the west of us. I don’t know if I had ever seen so many all in one view. The landscape had changed dramatically from yesterday’s lush forest, to an open expanse of dry valley floor dotted with agriculture. One of these agricultural fields shared its morning spray with us as the sprinklers washed both lanes with a jet high enough to dapple a semi. As the water evaporated from my jeans (ah hum – yes jeans but I wear knee guards under them, pants are on my list) cooling my legs even more to the crisp morning air requiring a pit stop to put on another layer. With two thermals, a T-shirt, and my lined leather jacket on we continued east on 126.

On the swooping down hill approach to Prineville is a left turn toward an overlook situated on the apex of a large right curve in the road, as I pulled into the left turn lane I thought to myself this seems like an awfully dangerous turn to welcome tourists with, then noticed the crystals of Auto glass covering the end of the lane and stopped before reaching and wait for a large gap. We all three safely made it across while avoiding the glass to enjoy a view of the Ochoco National Forest we were heading into.

I being the party leader and navigator was slightly aware that Prineville was our last good sized town before heading into the large loop we had planned. The maps I carried show Paulina as the true last town before heading off onto forest roads and our last chance for gas. Knowing this we didn’t see much need for delay in Prineville and continued on our trip out 380.

Once on 380 all sites and sounds of a town quickly disappeared, within minutes we were facing nothing but rolling hills, low pines and dry looking earth. We eventually reached large sweeping curves that lead down into a valley, these lovely curves lifted spirits and speeds. Once in to this small valley, the landscape turned greener, with bushes and grass lining the small Eagle Creek that mingled back and forth on either side of the highway. At this point we were really out there, going minutes and miles without seeing a house or rarely a driveway. When we did see a driveway it would be marked with signs or gateways proclaiming the name of the ranch. The beautiful landscape and easy relaxed curves of the road allow the mind to wonder, wondering what it would be like to live out here? How quiet it must be, the only noise being this trio of roaring motorcycles racing down the one lazy vain connecting this land to civilization, reminding the handful of residence that it is the holiday weekend that invited these invaders.

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Vista above Prineville looking out toward the Ochoco National Forest

Jolting me from my day dreams, the Post Market and Post Office cuddles the right side of the road with a long gravel shoulder, wrist up to shut the throttle I debate if a stop is warranted.  Reaching the far end of the gravel shoulder is quickly signal and break before turning onto the rocks. We loop back to park in front and swap surprise for the empty landscape we have entered. This cute old fashioned shop offered all sorts of souvenirs, and even home made lunch. At this point I realize that the boys don’t have lunch, I have packed my own being fully aware that these zip codes would have nothing to offer me in calories, so I suggest perhaps they would like to make this the lunch stop. Both agree to press on and they will grab something in Paulina, which is the next blip on the map. I already begin to have my doubts about what Paulina might offer judging by the size of Post and the lack of anything else on this highway, but the boys will eat anything so they have no worries.

Paulina’s main drag sneakily appeared on the right side of the road and dropped down below the level of the Highway. As we slowed on the upper road looking down at the few pale colored buildings that mostly looked like industrial sheds and warehouses I began to realize that Paulina might not have much to offer us. Another road connecting on the right lead us to the business loop of Paulina. As our bikes leaned right, there it stood, the sole business, the Paulina General Store, Post Office and attached Saloon. This quaint western style facade welcomed us with the hopes of lunch. Each of us took a turn looking through the dusty products spaciously placed on the shelves. For our nourishment the store offered, canned good like chili, corn, peas, beans, or soup. It also boasted an entire half isle to potato and tortilla chips, as well as individual packages of cookies. The refrigerated section offered a large store of Bud, Coors, and the like, but also for the discerning drinker it even had one six pack of Angry Orchard and even an IPA. The store did not offer any fresh products what so ever, no milk, no cheese, no fruits or veggies. Everything contained in the store had a very long expiration date. Standing around debating what to do out front of the store I decided to sit and eat my lunch at the picnic table across the street. the boys joined me and Juan pulled out a package of cookies from the night before. We debated about what to do for lunch, either buy some snacks and keep going to try to make it to dinner time, or divert to John Day.

Sitting at that picnic table with the sprinkler watering a patch of green weeds next to us, and three dogs roaming around the table chasing each other and following a young boy around the sense of this place started to sink in. Lazy and relaxed the residents watched us new comers, a man and woman came out of the store to sit on the bench in front, another elderly man peaked out his side door at us. We enjoyed the sun, the quiet and our little respite from speed and wind. We decided to continue to the loop. I knew from mapping that this would be the point that directions became a bit more important and from past experience forest roads might not have the best signage, so I checked my map and written directions.

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Motorcycle Parking at the John Day Fossil Beds Overlook.

We took off east knowing there would be a left turn not far from town that we had to take. I blew past a left turn barely reading the sign, then realized “wait was that it?” stopped, U-turned to go back and re-read the sign. Nothing on the sign said what road it was, only listing three campsites that lay down the road. None of those campsites were listed on my map, or were named anything close to what I had written. So hand signal in the air we U-turned again to keep going east, it must be the next left turn.

The road got more exciting with HUGE high speed sweeper pulled us in the the next one and the next one. Before I knew it we have gone quit a few miles and had not seen another left turn. Finally I pull over again and check maps, try to get GPS without luck. Kevin receives a blip on his phone and says we are between Suplee and Izee, quite a ways past that left turn we needed to take. Conferring with the troops we decided to press on as the road was quite enjoyable. So our next destination would be John Day, which again we would find by following our next left turn, just after Izee on the map. Of course since we blew through Suplee with out any notice I figured that Izee might be just as well hidden and would just keep an eye for any let turn. Slowing down and every intersection to check if it was paved or not, we continued on. What a great road this was, lots of curves, hils, trees and fields, just about something for everyone. Stopping one more time to reach agreement on direction after passing a road on the right we all agreed that the left bend in the road at that intersection must have been out left turn. We were correct, and reached Highway 395 without any other missed turns.

Leaning through the curves south of Canyon City, I began to remember the area from a previous trip through here and anticipated reaching town and a nice break. Having not gotten much sleep, I felt tired, sore, and very ready for a break. We did one pass through the town to check out our food options, again not much, but at least there were choices. The boys decided on the Squeeze-In Restaurant & Deck mostly for the deck, which we made ourselves at home on, taking our boots off and piling our gear on the next table. Our waitress was friendly and talkative, eager to please and looking forward to her own vacation which would start at the end of her shift. I assembled a salad with refried beans from other items on the menu, knowing I’d be taking a chance on who knows what might be in the beans, and expecting iceberg lettuce. While it was by no means the best salad and beans I had ever eaten it sure did hit the spot and was a good start to recharging my batteries.

At this point we debated long about what to do next. We had intended to head home this day, but we were still five hours from home and it was already after four in the afternoon, I knew I was to tired to try to press all the way home. Being in the middle of nowhere, we carefully checked for places to stay on various different routes, with no luck. This lunch stop turned into almost two hours of eating, chatting and debating what to do. Not wanting to find ourselves stranded with no place to stay we decided to head back through Prineville to Redmond on a more direct route and get a hotel there.

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All three bikes at the John Day Fossil Beds Overlook.

As we began to suit up and head out Juan and I agreed to swap bikes for a bit to give my aching shoulders a rest, provided I could reach the ground on his bike, which I did on toes due to the wider girth of the seat and engine. We agreed to stop again in Dayville and check in with each other. Always wanting to check out other bikes this swap helped me over come fatigue. I have owned my bike almost the entire time I have been riding and have only regularly ridden a couple of other bikes. I test road plenty, but you don’t really get to know a bike very well with an around the block test ride, so I am always open to learning a new bike on real roads.  At first I couldn’t seem to get the hulk moving, ease the clutch, died, ease, died. What the heck! Juan said that it needs to warm up, that it doesn’t like being cold and requires a more lengthy warm up time to get it going. I was surprised that after riding it for hours it would have cooled this fast. So I put the kickstand down and waited longer. Try this again and of course this time she popped down in to first gear when my toe pressed, where as before I was in second and not first. Juan later told me that he had been having clutch issues and tightened the cable and all was better. The first thing I noticed sitting on the bike reving the engine was the way the momentum of the engine moved the bike. I felt like there was a mythological beast spinning around in it’s cage under my seat.  As I eased the clutch this time and the bike began to move the engine again swayed under me. Juan had mentioned something about counter balancing the engine, but that it was only balanced at higher RPMs, but to actually feel it like this was very strange. True as he’d said, the engine wobble mellowed out as we hit higher speeds and then I started to settle in and learn this bikes handling.

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Bug Guts

Moving from my Hawk to the Moto Guzzi eased my body a little bit, though I still felt a bit of burning on the front of my shoulders from reaching forward for the bars. The Guzzi offered a more upright seating position with pegs further from the seat, thus my ankles could relax giving my knees less bend as well. Sitting on the bike, the suspension was quite a bit stiffer than that of my Hawk, and I think my 125lbs hardly compressed it at all, leading to stiffer feeling, which didn’t give me confidence in corners. As for the power of this V7, I was surprisingly unimpressed, it was there when I wrenched on it, but didn’t have the same aggressive pull I’m used to that heats my blood and pumps adrenaline. It also required quite a bit more input on the bars to make it lean, I found myself consciously counter steering to make turns. I felt like I had to press twice as much to get a deeper lean angle.  We road through the town of Dayville, and as we slowed, the beast under my seat became restless, it actually started to make the bike swerve. I found it rather disturbing, but hey I guess all bike have their quirks, and I sure won’t forget that feeling of the lower weight of the bike pulling around below me. While it was fun to swap bikes, and a much needed posture break, I didn’t feel like I would be replacing my Hawk with A V7 Classic anytime um…..ever. We pulled off at a vista just past Dayville to take in the view and exchange experience on each others bikes.

Once back on my bike I felt the familiar aggressive power band, the easy, quick, dive in to leans, and my smooth suspension and felt ready to take one what lay ahead. Luckily I swapped back to my bike just in time, oh the next section of roads hit me like a dream. No more fatigue, I was primed to take these bends full lean, which I did leaving the boys behind, gapping them on every turn. We rode into a canyon of high red and brown cliffs with a stream next to the road. This short section of cliffs and curves was followed by a small valley of fields which lead us into forested area where the shaded temperatures reminded me that I’d like to get to a hotel sooner than later. Heading through Ochoco National Forest on Highway 26 this was the first and only time we entered the National Forest that the bulk of our trip was supposed to explore. The traffic on this stretch increased and pushed on passing only when there was a passing lane, but for the most part traffic was moving very quickly and passing didn’t seem important. However, we did catch up with a truck towing a trailer that slowed a long line of cars. Once we reached a long straight with the dotted line I quickly passed leaving enough space for the boys to pass as well. We found ourselves with a tail; onc of the other cars decided they needed to keep up with us. Being the lead rider, it didn’t press on me as much as on Juan, who was in the back, I did; however, notice it and picked up the pace a bit to give us more space. We had experienced this a couple times before but only for short stretches, either previous time we pulled off at a vista or lost them in curves. This guy wouldn’t give up. When we finally reached Prineville I pulled off at the first motel I saw and we all agreed that car behind us was annoying, and we were glad to be off the road and at a motel, which hopefully had a room for us.

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Juan Stretching

Luckily they had a room and it was cheaper than the night before. The room was quite spacious and even had a table in it. The Motel also had a hot tub and pool which Juan eagerly wanted to partake of. After booking the room we decided to go looking for swim wear. The receptionist at the motel suggested a store that was two buildings down from us, we hopped on our bikes and went straight there, unfortunately they were already closed. Upon realizing where we were and the likely look of some things in this town being closed by 7pm on a Sunday night we zipped over to Rite-Aid one of the few stores still open, and bought boxers for three and a T-shirt for me. We had hoped to soak before dinner but again afraid dinner might not be available in a couple of hours we headed to dinner straight away. I suggested a Mexican place, since I could at least get rice and beans there. We went to Mazatlan Mexican, a large fully decorated abode which boasts fabulous archways and over the top Mexican style interior and deep booths easily seating three plus motorcycle gear. To my surprise, they actually had vegetables on the menu. Even better, they had an entire vegetarian section! I ordered the veggie burrito in a bowl rather than wrapped, no gluten this way, and even though it was drenched in oil and salt I felt like I had struck gold. The portion sizes were ginormous, Kevin and I could have easily split one burrito since we both struggled to conquer more than half of what lay on our plates. Ah, nothing like greasy Mexican to pacify the weary traveler.

As we sat talking munching chips we realized how many hours we had ridden that day, almost 10 hours. Juan conceded that this must have been why he dropped his bike in the parking lot out back before coming into the restaurant. I watched it in slow motion, he was swinging around to park in the perpendicular spot next to the one Kevin and I were in, and pulled a little bit to much front break, started to lean to the right, and almost had it, there was a pause when I thought he saved it, and then he gave out and over he and his bike went. Kevin and I ran over helping get his bike up. His bike appeared to be ok, though he wasn’t sure about the bars being straight anymore. Most likely a bruise on his leg, and a war story to tell from our trip. Clearly we needed to stop in Prineville and we were all glad we hadn’t continued on to Redmond.

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Honda Hawk and Ninja 250 in front of the Ochoco National Forest Sign

Back to the motel for a dip in the hot tub, which I felt wasn’t hot enough, but sat in it with the guys for a few minutes with the jets on the soles of my feet. I need to get some inserts for my Motorcycle boots, they don’t have much padding. I quickly went back to the room for a nice HOT shower and promptly passed out.

 

Day Three

When the sun started streaming through the cracks in our curtains, I was up and ready for another day, I had slept much better this night with ear plugs in and a much quieter motel. Made some oatmeal for Kevin and I, the last of my food stores for the trip, Juan helped himself to the provided breakfast downstairs. We unanimously agreed to ride straight back to Portland. A boring and chilled ride up highway 26 toward Mount Hood, where we encountered the worst of the Memorial Day traffic for the trip. At our last gas stop, Juan decided he was going to just keep going all the way to Seattle rather than stay over another night. Another hour of stop and go traffic and we waved goodbye just before Kevin and I exited the highway toward home.

After all the riding I could feel all the sore areas of my body and decided it was the ideal time to go sit on the (just received) lowered Triumph Tiger XCX they had at Latus Motorcycles. Long story short, yea, OK, I need a bike that is more suited to trips like this one and the Tiger felt pretty good. Perhaps someday this artist’s salary will get me onto a new bike.

Each time I have taken my Hawk on a road trip I am reminded that it is not built for this type of riding. It is best suited to city commutes and twisty roads close to home. The short legs of only about 120 miles, they cramped position and lack of cargo space all ad up to not being good at road trips. So let the shopping begin. Of course I will never sell my Hawk the love runs to deep.