BMW Riders of Oregon Rally
John Day, Oregon
June 13, 2012 - June 18, 2012
In May, Bill asked me if I might be interested in riding with him and his buddy, Tom, up to John Day, Oregon to take in the annual BMW Riders of Oregon Rally. It was an extremely difficult decision and I wrestled with it for over three seconds before I accepted. I had never been to a BMW rally and I was kind of curious to see what goes on at these events.
Bill said that he'd like to take the scenic routes there and back and maybe even get in a little dirt ........... and that's what we did.
June 13 , 2012
El Dorado Hills, CA to Alturas, CA
Bill and I met at Mel's Diner in Auburn for breakfast. Tom was riding in from Occidental, which is near Bodega Bay, and we were going to meet up with him at the junction of Hwy 20 and Marysville Rd about an hour away from the restaurant. As we enjoyed our breakfast, Bill and I spent about an hour solving the world's problems and talking about our trip.
The weather was perfect, not too hot - not too cold, skies were blue and the forecast was for 7 days of the same, all the way up and back. When we got moving, I was struck by how good it felt to be hitting the road for a long ride. Just to get our trip started off right, we headed west to run by Camp Far West Reservoir which meant riding about 15 miles of gravel roads.
We must have dawdled a little too long over breakfast and we were about 15 minutes late when we arrived at the junction of Hwy 20 and Marysville Rd. As we rode up, we could see that Tom had claimed one of the few shady spots in the parking lot of the gas station where we had agreed to meet. After a brief exchange of greetings and some chit chat, we were off on our adventure.
Almost all of today's ride was pavement and the plan was to make it to Alturas on this first day. As usual, we avoided the main highways as much as possible and stayed on the local roads.
One of our favorite roads north is La Porte Rd between La Porte and Quincy. This road is always in good condition, has lots of twisty pavement, scenic vistas everywhere, and passes through many small towns that represent what northern California means to me. They are all working class towns that once were centers of logging, mining, agriculture or some other worthy endeavor. In our current, "service oriented" economy, the industries that supported these towns have largely disappeared to the third world and most of the areas don't seem that prosperous any more. Somehow, the people seem to be hanging on, and the towns are definitely alive.
We stopped in Greenville, just south of Lake Almanor for lunch. I always eat too much on these trips and I could see no reason for this one to be any different, so I stuffed myself with chili and cornbread. I knew I'd be paying for it the rest of the day, but the short-term reward was just to great.
We continued up the east shore of Lake Almanor .............
then headed east on Hwy 36. In keeping with our philosophy of staying off main highways, we turned north on Eagle Lake Rd, riding around the west side of Eagle Lake.
Up until now, traffic had been light and nothing had slowed us down much. On Eagle Lake Rd, however, we found ourselves behind a line of cars and a couple of RVs. Since there were no opportunities to get around them on the narrow, curvy road, we were forced to putt along and enjoy the ambience of the forest. Eventually they all pulled off the road into various campgrounds and residences and we had the road to ourselves again ....... except for a few cows.
North of Eagle Lake, the roads and the scenery gets less interesting and I didn't see any scene worthy of a photograph. Not that it was boring ...... I enjoy all kinds of roads and views and each road has it's own unique flavor. I've never found a road without redeeming qualities. Of course, I'm not counting freeways as roads - they are all, without exception, featureless, boring, mundane, useless pieces of crap unless one has to make it somewhere in a hurry.
Too soon we entered Alturas and the ride was over for the day. I've stayed at the Best Western several times with good results, so we decided to try it again. Bill and Tom shared a room. I took the single because I had a $50 voucher from Best Western for my past loyal patronage. I mentioned to the clerk that I wanted to be sure to get this stay credited to my rewards account and she asked for my card to get my account number. I told her the number was on my voucher and handed it to her. She entered the number into the computer and asked if I wanted the voucher shredded and I told her to do it.
A couple of hours later, I looked at my receipt and noticed that I had been charged full price for the room and no $50 was credited. I went down to the office to discuss it with the desk clerk. She said she was unaware that I was giving her a voucher, she just thought it was a piece of paper with my account number on it. Hmmm. Could I have been that unclear? The thing speaks for itself, I guess. Since the voucher was shredded, I was screwed in the short term. When I get home next week, I can print off another and use it on my next trip - no harm, no foul. Maybe I should read things before I sign them.
Tom is friendly fellow and enjoys chatting with folks we see along the way. Our motel had a little second story patio and when I came out of my room after getting out of my motorcycle gear, Tom was sitting with some folks having a beer. One of them was a truck driver and the other two were a married couple about my age. I'm not sure what the couple's relationship was to the truck driver, but they seemed to know each other. Bill joined us after a bit, and soon were were all chatting away like we'd been known each other for years. I have to say I enjoyed myself quite a bit. It's good to have someone like Tom around. If I had been by myself, I probably never would have come out of my room.
Since we'd all eaten a late, huge lunch, none of us was hungry enough to worry about dinner. Bill walked across the street to a convenience store and came back with some chips and dip and that's what we had for dinner.
Miles traveled today: 303
Miles traveled total: 303
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June 14 , 2012
Alturas, CA to Burns, OR
Today was going to be a big day. It was over 300 miles to Burns, Oregon, our destination for the day, and about 130 miles of those roads were dirt. We ate breakfast at the motel, packed up everything, and headed east on Hwy 299.
West of Cedarville, Hwy 299 crosses Cedar Pass over a range of mountains. As I came down the east side, the perfectly engineered sweepers seduced me into going waaaay to fast. I had been traveling at speeds of around 65 mph until I started down. I was a little surprised when glanced down at the speedometer while accelerating out of one of the curves and noticed that I was traveling at 75+ mph but I didn't think much of it and just kept enjoying myself. All of a sudden, out of the shadows on the left side of the road, a deer bolted across the highway, crossing not 20 feet in front of me - I didn't even have time to back off the throttle before it disappeared over the bank on the right side of the road. My heart leapt to my throat - I had escaped death by milliseconds. I decided that I wanted to live a little longer and backed off the throttle until I was going about 60 mph .... and I kept it there for a long, long time. I guess that you're just as screwed at 60 mph if a deer has your name on it, but it couldn't hurt to slow down a little.
There is absolutely no civilization east of Cedarville until you get to Denio Junction, NV and the only thing there is a small gas station/store/motel. This sign warns the casual traveler that supplies are scarce out there.
Pavement ends close to the Nevada border which is only about 10 miles east of Cedarville. We rode for a while on the well maintained gravel road, but soon, I needed to stop to get rid of my breakfast coffee. It was also a good time to take a little break and see how everyone was doing.
Everyone was doing fine and, after a short comfort break, we continued on.
When we got to Bald Mountain Summit we stopped and I pointed out Yellow Peak Lookout, a couple of miles away. I told Bill and Tom that David and I had ridden up to the lookout last October (see video), and although the ride wasn't "easy", I didn't remember anything that would give any of us any trouble. They were both game, so off I went.
The road turned out to be a little bit tougher than I remembered. The ruts were a little deeper, the loose stuff a little looser, a few more rocks ... just a little bit.
Tom and Bill quickly disappeared from my view in the rear view mirror. The lookout was only a couple of miles away, however, and I figured the worst that could happen would be that someone could tip over. So ... I just kept going until I reached the top. I didn't have to wait long, maybe three or four minutes, before I saw Tom making his way up the final stretch and not too far behind him was Bill.
Tom pulled up beside me, put his head on his handlebars and started exclaiming: "Oh God, Oh God, Oh God". He was breathing heavily and I got a little worried for a second. He finally looked up and said: "That climb was just at the edge of my capabilities, I almost lost it a couple of times." I told him that he had made it, so it must not be beyond his capabilities. He actually looked pretty good to me, and if he hadn't said anything, I would have assumed he had no problems getting up there. Bill, rode up, parked his bike, and walked up like he had just ridden down his driveway.
The view from up there is fantastic. We had traveled over 40 miles from Cedarville and had seen no works of man other than the roads and a few power lines. If you look at a map, you can see that there is virtually nothing to the east until Salt Lake City, nearly 400 miles away. To the south, the nearest civilization is Gerlach, Nevada (Pop 500) over 80 miles away, and to the north there is nothing until Burns, Oregon, over 100 miles away. From the top of this mountain, the world seems to be an empty place.
We stayed up there for some time enjoying the views, checking over the lookout, shooting photos, and relaxing. The trip back down to the road was routine for us all. Tom left first. After a few minutes I started down and Bill followed me. From my vantage point, Tom looked like an old pro - I think he just needs a little more confidence in his abilities.
Once we got back on the main road, riding was a piece of cake. The descent off Bald Mountain Summit was gradual and the road straightened out.
From the lookout we could see some buildings below - from a distance, it looked like some kind of ranch. As we rode by, however, we could see that it was some kind of roadway maintenance facility. There were no people visible, but there were several pieces of road maintenance equipment in the compound and a big pile of gravel.
Less than 10 miles down the road, as we were approaching the Swan Lake Reservoir, I spotted the biggest herd of antelope that I've ever seen - maybe as many as a couple of dozen animals. I stopped my motorcycle as soon as I spotted them, but I think they spotted me first. I whipped out my camera and got the shot below - you can see that the antelope on the left of the photo are looking at me with all senses turned on.
By this time, Tom and Bill had ridden up and, for a little bit, we were at some kind of stalemate - antelope and men watching each other. Soon the antelope started to spook a little and started drifting left across the road. I started inching closer, trying to get some decent photos, but riding and shooting photos was too tough and most of shots turned out to be sky and ground. Actually, we got pretty close to them and I was surprised to see that several of the does had produced triplets. I also ran into a smaller group a little further down the road and two of those does also had triplets.
It occurred to me that I didn't know much about antelope - for example I didn't know how to refer to a female antelope or a young antelope. It turns out that a female is called a doe, a male is called a buck, and a baby is called a fawn - just like deer. My brief research also revealed that 90% of antelope fawns are twins. I don't know why this group is producing so many triplets - maybe mother nature's way of trying to make a population comeback. If you'd like to know more about the Nevada pronghorn antelope, CLICK HERE.
After the antelope encounter, the rest of the ride to Denio seemed pretty routine. About the only thing that comes to mind is that about 5 miles after the antelope, I noticed a man and a woman walking along the road, going the same direction we were. I knew we were were still about 20 miles from the highway and I stopped to see if they were in trouble. It turns out that just ahead was a small lake called Catnip Reservoir and there was a campground there. These folks were just out for a walk.
As we approached the lake, we could see that there were a few people camped out enjoying the facility. As we neared the entrance/exit to the campground, a couple of RVs pulled out in front of us, headed for the highway. Great! I quickly passed the first RV, a fifth wheel rig if I remember. I didn't have to eat much dust to overtake it - I think this driver saw us behind him and drove slowly so we could safely and easily make the pass. The other RV, however, was moving at a good clip, raising a huge cloud of dust behind him. I thought about trying to pass him, but decided I'd have to eat too much dust and the pass would probably be risky - he was moving along about 40 mph. I dropped back out of his dust and followed him all the way to Hwy 140 and pavement.
After about 35 miles of pavement ................
we pulled into Denio Junction, the only civilization for many miles in any direction. There really isn't much here other than the building in the photo below - the only other building is a 7-unit motel. We pulled up to their ancient pump that didn't accept credit cards and filled up, one at a time. We apparently got there just in time. I had to go inside to pay for my fuel in advance and get the pump turned on. When I walked back out to the pump, there were four or five Harleys lined up behind us - they must have ridden up while I was inside.
After fueling up, we parked our bikes, then went inside and ordered up lunch. We told the clerk/cook that we'd be outside sitting at the tables in the shade of their awning - she told us she'd bring the food out to us when it was ready.
Funny fellows, these Harley riders. They looked and acted like a rough bunch at first, but after they fueled up, ordered lunch, and were also sitting around outside waiting for their food, they turned out to be just a bunch of old guys out on a ride - pretty much like us except they were sticking to the paved roads. A couple of the guys seemed interested in our BMW GSs and we had a pretty good conversation with them. The rest of them were pretty quiet and didn't say much.
I had one of the best burgers I'd had in a while with a huge batch of great french fries - all for about $7.
After an hour or so everyone was rested up, had a full belly, a full tank of fuel and was ready to ride. The Harley guys took off first, headed south towards Winnemucca. We headed north towards Burns .
About 60 miles north of Denio is Steens Mountain. Before this write up, I thought it was the Steens Mountains and that it was a mountain range. It turns out that Steens Mountain is a single mountain.
Access to the top of the mountain is provided by Steens Loop, a 60 mile loop of gravel/dirt roads. We turned off the highway from the south end and headed east towards the mountain 30 miles away. The road is a wide, well maintained gravel road and it didn't take long before we were at the campground at base of the mountain. Much to our surprise and disappointment this is what we ran into.
I came this way in 2006 on one of my first adventure rides. It was in the fall and I was able to get all the way to the top of the mountain. It was quite a ride. The southern leg of Steens Loop gets real interesting past the campground - the well maintained gravel ends and the road narrows. Although not "difficult", the road has some challenges - it climbs steeply, has some pretty good switchbacks, and the road surface is unpredictable. The views are tremendous. At the top of the mountain, the elevation is nearly 10,000 feet and the view off the nearly vertical east side is stunning. I was looking forward to showing it to Bill and Tom.
This sign and gate were really very irritating and I was pissed off. Not so much that the road was closed - we could see snow at the higher elevations as we approached the mountain, and I had the thought that we might not be able to get all the way to the top. What pissed me off was that we'd had to ride 25 miles of gravel roads to find out it was closed. Why in the hell couldn't they have put a sign at the entrance to Steens Loop warning people the road was closed at the campground? That would save the unwary traveler, who wished to drive the entire loop, a couple of hours of time and 50 miles of wear and tear on their vehicle - not to mention $10 in fuel. I found that I had cell phone service so I called the number on the sign and left a message suggesting they put a sign at the entrance to Steens Loop. I left my name and phone number in case they wanted to talk to me about it, but I have yet to hear from them.
By the time we were back on pavement, I had cooled down a lot. I had enjoyed the ride in both directions - there was plenty of scenery and interesting country to see and the roads presented an opportunity to practice some of my off-road riding techniques. Tom and Bill didn't seem too unhappy either. Still ............ I had really been looking forward to getting to the top of the mountain.
The remaining 60 miles into Burns was a pleasant ride, but pretty routine. I was a little surprised about 20 miles south of Burns, when we found ourselves riding a ribbon of asphalt across middle of a huge lake - I didn't remember such a thing in 2006. My theory is that in the fall the water levels are much lower and out of sight of the highway. A map check reveals that the body of water on the east is called Malheur Lake and on the west side is Mud Lake. It looked, however, like a single body of water being split only by the highway.
We checked into the local Best Western and were pleasantly surprised that they had a room for three people. Basically, it was their standard double queen setup with an additional bedroom for a third queen. The additional room had its own air conditioner and TV and was quite spacious. The price was right, too. Their standard room with double queen beds went for about $100, this room for three was $134, a nice savings. Since I'm a loud snorer, I was exiled to the extra bedroom.
After getting settled in our room, we walked over to the nearby Apple Peddler Restaurant and ate too much food, again. Even though I'd eaten a huge burger and fries around noon time, I was plenty hungry. As we ate our dinner, we discussed possible routes to John Day. When we got back to our room, we broke out the maps and my laptop and created a GPS route to guide us on the roads we had chosen at dinner.
Miles traveled today: 310
Miles traveled total: 613
Click Here to see more photos from today
June 15, 2012
Burns, OR to John Day, OR
We avoided Hwy 395 by taking the Hines Logging Rd and NF-47 north before heading east on CR-63 to Hwy 395. On NF-47 we picked up about 5 miles of gravel roads which is always a welcome change.
One thing we all noticed on this ride, in addition to the usual fantastic forest scenes, was GREEN. There were lots of little meadows with grass that was so GREEN that it almost hurt to look at it - I've never seen anything so GREEN. Tom mentioned that people who think Ireland is GREEN should see some of these meadows - they might change their mind.
We came out on Hwy 395 near the top of Canyon Creek Summit, about 15 miles south of John Day. The ride down the hill was great. The sweeping curves and the forest scenes purged every thought out of my mind as the physical sensations of speed, wind, engine noise, engine power, tire traction, and oneness with my motorcycle washed over me. Hard to explain, but whatever it is, it puts me at peace with the universe.
Bill and Tom knew exactly where the fairgrounds were located and Bill led us in. We got checked in without any hassle and Tom made a beeline to a camping area he and Bill had used in previous year. It was still open and we claimed our areas. This is the view from my tent.
It didn't take too long for us to get our tents set up and we had plenty of time before lunch to do a little walking around the area. There were plenty of people and motorcycles around the area but everyone seemed to keeping pretty much to themselves or their own little groups and we didn't talk to anyone.
There were a few vendor booths sprinkled around the area and we spotted the booth of Black Dog Cycleworks. Bill purchased an aftermarket bash plate from them last year after banging up the underside of his GS on some rocky terrain, so we wandered over to take a look. He wanted to tell them how much he liked their product and he also wanted to share with them a small installation problem he encountered.
This is a very small company and their entire staff - the owner and a helper - was present at the booth. While Bill talked to the owner, I spotted some waterproof bags that looked like something I could use for hauling my camping gear and started talking to the other fellow. I wound up buying the bags - the price was right and they shipped it to my home for free. Black Dog Cycleworks - check it out, they make some great products. Bill later reported that Black Dog had changed the design of their bash plate a little to address his installation problem, and they would get him the new part for free.
By now it was getting to be lunch time and we headed for a nearby hamburger stand. I think we all ordered the standard motorcyclist lunch, cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke. I, of course, am always watching my weight and made sure my drink was a Diet Coke to cancel out the fries. When our food was ready, we sat on some bleachers in the shade to enjoy our food and visit.
After lunch, Bill and I stopped at a BMW Riders of Oregon booth and asked about nearby riding possibilities. The guy pulled out some maps and suggested some likely rides. We each took one of the complimentary maps and headed for our bikes. Tom decided to sit this one out and stay in camp to check things out - the 120 miles of dirt we rode the day before had taken its toll, and he wanted to rest up.
This afternoon was a scouting mission. We rode south on Hwy 395 to the little settlement of Seneca, then headed east on NF-16. We didn't have to get far to see some likely roads to explore tomorrow. As we started to climb the grade about 10 miles out of John Day, we rounded a sharp, 25 mph switchback and I spotted a gravel road heading up a little valley - I put that road on my mental list. As we neared the summit, I spotted a couple more roads - one was signed Swick Old Growth Interpretive Trail and the other pointed to Dry Soda Lookout. I added them to my list.
Once we got on NF-16, there were so many dirt roads that I quit making mental notes - not enough storage. We found ourselves riding down a valley floor with lots of grassland on either side - more green. All of a sudden we were surprised by a herd of cattle coming toward us. They were taking up the entire roadway and moving right along. I could see a guy on quad with some dogs following behind them and I assumed they were driving these cows to another pasture. There was nothing we could do but stop and wait for them to pass. Just as they reached us, the quad worked his way through the cows. He stopped briefly and told us that the cows had got away from him and he was trying to turn them around. We waited as he and his dogs raced ahead of the cattle and eventually turned them around. As he passed us again, he asked us if we would mind waiting until he drove them up the road a bit and into another pasture - we were happy to wait. It probably didn't take more than 15 minutes or so before we again had a clear road ahead of us. Clear, except for a lot of messy cow shit.
While we waited, I took some photos of the lush grasslands that covered this valley floor.
We stopped a couple of more times for photo ops as we rode down NF-16. This was a very pleasant ride and neither was in a hurry. I don't think we saw another vehicle on this road. You can see from the photo below how worried we were that another car might come along.
We came to an intersection and decided to do a map check. We were at County Hwy 62 which led to a little town called Prairie City which sits on the main highway leading back to John Day. This looked like a good place to start heading back to camp, so we turned left.
We were less than 10 miles from Prairie City when Bill spotted a nice looking little dirt road heading up a little canyon to our right. We still had plenty of time - it was only about 3:00 PM - so we decided to do a little more exploring. What a great little road! We followed it for about 5 miles before we came to a sign that said Hwy 26 was 25 miles ahead. At that point, we decided we better turn around and head for Prairie City. We were getting low on fuel and, although we could have made it 25 miles, we couldn't have made it too much further. We had no idea if it would come out near a fueling opportunity, so we decided to play it safe.
We fueled up at Prairie City then headed back to camp which was only about 13 miles away.
Once back at camp we found that Tom had been busy shopping. He had purchased an evening's supply of beer and snack food. He knew I wasn't a drinker so he even bought me a couple of jugs of Gatorade. We sat around for a while and refreshed ourselves in the shaded patio area that Tom had constructed from a canopy he had carried all the way from home. Very nice - Thanks Tom!
Dinner was included as part of the rally entry. Since there were about 500 people to be fed, we decided to wait until the first wave was finished. We eventually made our way over to the mess hall, stood in line for a brief time, got our food - funny, but I can't remember what we ate - and sat down to eat in huge building that looked like it had enough tables to feed the whole group at one time. Again, everyone was pretty much sticking to their own groups and I don't remember any meaningful conversations with any strangers other than the occasional comment.
After dinner, we went back to our camp area, sat around for a while enjoying each other's company for a bit, then retired to our tents. Another great day in the record books.
Miles traveled today: 186
Miles traveled total: 799
Click Here to see more photos from today
June 16, 2012
Day trip out of John Day, OR
The BMW Riders of Oregon provide complimentary coffee in the morning, but breakfast had a price of $7. Breakfast looked and smelled great. The heaping platters of ham and sausages caught my eye and the aroma made my mouth water. There was a pretty good line early, so we opted to take the free coffee and wait for the crowd to thin a little before eating breakfast. We took our coffee back to Tom's patio and relaxed a little as we puttered around getting our bikes ready for the day's ride. BIG MISTAKE. When we finally made our way back to the breakfast line, all the ham and sausage was gone - all that was left was french toast. The price, however, went down to $4, so I guess that's the positive thing. Also, the french toast was pretty good and nobody complained much.
Tom commented that breakfast wasn't sitting too well on his stomach and he didn't feel up to par. He told us that he was going to opt out of today's riding and hang around camp again.
Bill wanted to stop at the Black Dog Cycleworks booth on the way out. Apparently he had agreed to film a short testimonial video about how much he liked his Black Dog Cycleworks bash plate. It didn't take long, Bill's testimonial must have been a wrap in one take. A few minutes after we pulled up to the booth we were rolling out of the fair grounds.
I told Bill that I wanted to check out the couple of roads on my mental list and he told me to lead the way. We again headed south on Hwy 395 and, at the 25 mph switch back, there was my first road. This time I could read the sign - it said "Fall Mountain LO". That was an added bonus, I always enjoy checking out a fire lookout. The access roads are usually pretty interesting, and once there, the views are ALWAYS out of this world. This one was no different.
Panoramic View - use the SCROLL BAR to SCROLL --------------------->
There were two ways back to Hwy 395. The access road to the lookout was only about 2 miles long and it branched off a series of forest service roads that ran west of Hwy 395 and south from the switchback to Canyon Creek Summit. We took the north fork of these roads into the lookout and the south fork out. That was a little plus - usually the trip to a lookout is via the same road, out and back.
Once back on Hwy 395 it was only a couple of miles to the next road on my mental list - the Swick Old Growth Interpretive Trail. This one turned out to be a bust. Immediately off the highway, there was a small exhibit looking place, but it didn't look interesting and we rode right by it. The road was plain old dirt. There were signs of logging activity everywhere and we assumed it was just a logging road going nowhere. We followed it for a couple of miles, then turned around and headed for the highway again.
Less than 1/2 mile further up the highway was the last road on my mental list - the road to Dry Soda LO. Two lookouts in one day is quite a treat and I was looking forward to another great little road. Since we started out at the summit on Hwy 395, we didn't have to climb much. The road meandered along the ridge tops and high little valleys for about 8 miles before we came upon the lookout. Bill pointed out that he thought we were looking at NF-16 in the valley below which was the road we had ridden yesterday - I agreed.
From the ground, the views were concealed by the trees and not quite as spectacular as I expected. I guess that's why this lookout tower was so tall. Still, if you looked between the trees, you could see some pretty decent views.
After leaving the lookout, we rode back down to Hwy 395 and headed south to take NF-16 east. Since my mental list was exhausted, we decided we'd just head up the first dirt road that looked interesting. We hadn't gone too far when I saw an unsigned dirt road on the right. My first impulse was to ride right by, but I glanced down at my GPS and it looked like the dirt road wandered around a for a bit then came back to the highway about 5 miles down the road. I pulled over to discuss it with Bill and he agreed that we should check it out. It turns out the GPS led us astray. I didn't see any side roads, so I just kept following the main road. After a couple of miles, it became obvious this road was heading south and was never going to bend back to the highway. We stopped and I studied the GPS map. It looked like I had missed a turnoff. We turned around and went back to look for the turnoff but there was NOTHING and we wound up right where we started. GPSs DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING!!
Somewhere in here, Bill pulled over and pointed out a structure he thought was Dry Soda Lookout on the mountains to our left. Although it was too far away to be absolutely sure, I think he was right. Why can't I ever remember to bring my binoculars?
The next dirt road we saw was a sign that said "Strawberry Wilderness 10" - we decided to check it out. It was a well maintained gravel road following a small creek upstream into the mountains. It almost seems redundant to say that the scenery was great. I need to greatly expand my vocabulary to find other ways of describing the scenery - saying good, great, fantastic, stunning, peaceful, blah, blah, is very repetitive, and that, the scenery isn't.
The road soon began to climb and we encountered a sign that said there were a couple of lakes ahead. This was an added bonus since the sign at the highway made no mention of lakes.
As we started getting within a few miles of the lakes, we started to see some snow alongside the road. We stopped at the first sizeable drift and played around a little. I decided to stage a photo by riding my bike out onto the drift - what a mistake. The snow was several feet deep and very soft. My front wheel sank into the snow and almost immediately stopped my forward progress. My back wheel was just into the snow when I bogged down. As I applied power to move forward, my rear wheel spun, slide sideways, and wedged itself right behind an immovable rock, locking me in place. I couldn't move an inch, either forward or backward. To top it off, there was another large rock on my left that prevented me from getting the kickstand down so I could get off the bike. Bill moved the rock so I could put the kickstand down and we pondered the situation for a minute. The rock directly behind the rear wheel was not moving, so we lifted the rear of the bike and moved it from behind the rock. Thanks, Bill. I'm thankful there is no photographic evidence of my folly - I don't feel too bright about that move. Bill took a photo, but I begged him to destroy it.
Not too much up the road, snow began to make things more interesting. At first there was snow on one part of the road, a little further up and it generally covered the road with a few muddy spots in between, a little further and it covered the road except for some muddy wheel tracks,
a little further and the wheel tracks were icy, and finally, at an elevation of about 7,500 feet, the road was completely covered with feet of snow and we were forced to turn around.
We decided to take a little break here to rest up and eat our lunch of power bars. As we were enjoying the snowy mountains, a Honda Passport drove up and three people (two men and a woman) stepped out. One of them said: "Are you guys going to let that stop you?", and we all laughed. These folks were looking to hike up to one of the lakes and it looked like they were foiled, too. It turns out that they were also motorcycle riders and we had a good conversation about the local roads before they turned around and headed back down the hill.
After we finished our power bars, we made our way back to the highway and continued east. The sign on the next road of interest said there was a river ford 10 miles away - I think it was the Malheur River Ford. I saw this road yesterday and added it to my mental list, but since my memory capacity is so limited, it had fallen off.
We never did find the ford. After we had gone more than the 10 miles with no sign of a river, we stopped to make a decision about what we wanted to do. As we were conversing, a rancher rode up on a quad and stopped to chit chat a bit. We asked him about the ford and he told us that we'd missed the turn a couple miles back.
After the rancher continued on to mend his fences, we decided to hell with it and just beat it back to the highway. This hadn't been the most pleasant ride - the gravel was very thick, making for a lot of squirrely riding. On curves, the gravel was 6" deep in places as gravity and centrifugal force moved it around. On the straightaways it was hazardous to stray out of the wheel tracks, and even there, it was a couple of inches thick.
It was starting to get late, so we decided to head back for camp. As luck would have it, Bill pulled over with a flat tire as we neared Prairie City. At first I thought he was going to turn up NF-2635 to do some exploring, but instead of heading up the gravel road, he parked in the wide paved area the intersection presented. He said that his TPM (Tire Pressure Monitoring) system was telling him that his rear tire was losing air. Check out the size of that nail.
I might mention here that I consider tubeless tires and string plugs to be a couple of the most important advancements in modern technology.
When I bought my GS, I specifically opted out of having the TPM system installed. I'm thinking now that I was penny wise and pound foolish. It seems much more desirable to notice air leaking, than to suddenly discover you have a flat tire on your hands - it could conceivably save one's life. Oh well, I've been riding for over 50 years without one and I'll just have to make do.
When we got back to camp, we relaxed some with Tom before heading over for dinner. Again, we waited until the crowd thinned down a little. In addition to dinner, the BMW Riders of Oregon was going to be giving away lots of door prizes and announce the winners of some raffles - nobody skipped dinner tonight.
When we got in the hall, the place was packed and seats were few. We wandered around with our plates of food, looking for three seats together. Eventually we spotted a place. Unfortunately, the fellow across the table from me was one of those guys. He started off asking me what kind of bike I was riding. When I told him, he went on a rant about everything that was wrong with it. He started off by saying: "I hope you know that you will soon be spending hundreds of dollars to replace your fuel strip." I stayed polite and tried to interject some reason into the conversation by pointing out that only a very small percentage of bikes were having this problem. No Luck! He persisted in his rants, moving from one topic to another. Tom, wolfed down his food, made a lame excuse, and left the table. Bill wasn't far behind. Since I seemed to be the center of his attention, it was a little harder for me to make a graceful exit. When I finally made up my excuse and rose to leave, he had the balls to tell me that I was going to miss out on getting a prize if I left. At this point I would have gladly forfeited any prize just to escape, which is what I did.
I found Bill sitting some distance away and sat beside him. As we discussed the bozo and our escapes from him, the bozo walked by and gave us a look. I guess we're not going to be buddies. Bill and I stayed for an hour or so and watched the prize giveaways. I was interested to see that the prize for the "oldest rider" to the event was handed out to an 87 year old.
We then walked back to our camp area and sat around relaxing, talking and making what preparations we could for departing in the morning. Too soon it started getting late, and we retired to our tents.
Miles traveled today: 149
Miles traveled total: 948
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June 17 , 2012
John Day, OR to Burney, CA
As soon as we woke up and got some coffee, we broke camp and headed south. Tom wanted to be home by tomorrow night so we decided to take a more direct route home rather than do more exploring.
This would be the fourth time Bill and I had ridden up the north side of Canyon Creek Summit and by now, we were getting to know the road pretty well. Bill was leading the way and set a brisk, but reasonable pace. We stopped in Burns for breakfast and it was good to have 75 miles behind us before the day got a good start.
We decided to head directly down Hwy 395 and Tom led the way. After we turned south at Riley, Tom slowed up and was making some kind of hand gesture. I thought he was wanting me to take the lead, so I passed him. After another 10 miles or so, I began to wonder if that's actually what he wanted and pulled over. Nope! He was wondering if we should have stopped at Riley for fuel. Bill and I both thought we had plenty of fuel so we kept going. As we continued down the road, the fairly strong headwinds made me think that maybe we had made a mistake - we didn't have so much fuel that we could afford to have our mileage drop too much. Tom must have been thinking the same things as he kept our speeds down to around 60 mph.
When we made the decision to bypass fuel at Riley, we already had about 90 miles on our tanks. The signs at Riley said that Lakeview was 113 miles away. Ordinarily, this would be pushing our range, but I have traveled this section of road many times in the past 40 years and I was pretty sure there were a couple of places to get fuel between Riley and Lakeview. As we passed Wagontire, one of the places I remembered, we saw that it was abandoned and it appeared as if nobody had lived there for many years - this wasn't a good sign.
The countryside out here is a desert - Nevada has nothing over southeastern Oregon for long, straight roads with very little visual stimulation. That, combined with our sedate speeds, had me feeling a little drowsy after an hour or so. Thankfully, Tom was feeling the same way and pulled into a rest area - a very welcome break for me.
Already in the rest area were three bikes that we had seen at the rally in John Day. One of the bikes was an old BMW with a sidecar. It was being ridden by Ozzie Auer, the owner of Ozzie's BMW of Chico - with him in the sidecar was his wife. Ozzie is kind of a legendary fellow and not exactly a spring chicken. Bill thinks that he's in his 80s. His wife, of course is about the same age. I don't know why I didn't take a photo of them with their sidecar rig.
Ozzie's BMW is a small dealership and is known for outstanding customer service. I know several people from the Sacramento area who are happy to travel the 100 miles to Chico to get their bikes serviced. Bill is one of those guys.
They were just finishing up their break, so we didn't talk much before they headed down the road. We stayed for a while and finished off the jugs of Gatorade that Tom provided. It was just what the doctor ordered and I felt alert and refreshed when we hit the road again.
Valley Falls, at the junction of Hwy 395 and Hwy 31 was the next place to get fuel (I thought). I've stopped here many times in my travels and last June, when Bill and I rode through here on our way to Washington, it was open. I was fairly confident we could get fuel there ..... but not certain.
Thankfully, it WAS open. This place, however, is a far cry from what I remember in years past. About 10 years ago, my grandson, Kyle and I rode my Goldwing to Montana and stopped here on our way home. There was a nice little store with a small lunch counter run by a really nice little old lady. The place was in good repair and looked prosperous. Not nowadays. The exterior of the place looked a little run down and inside, the store didn't look that great, either. The lunch counter area had been torn out and was in a state of arrested construction. The counter was no longer there, either - a cash register sat on a table in a corner. The guy that was running the place was complaining about how hard it was to make a living out there. He complained mostly about Oregon's law that outlaws self-service fueling. He said that when several people showed up, the people inside would loot his store when he had to go out to pump gas. The only way around it was to hire another person and the place didn't pull in enough money to pay another person. I won't be counting on this place to be open next time I'm through here. The lesson here is "Don't pass up an opportunity to get fuel." I'm pretty sure, however, that I could have made it 23 miles further to Lakeview, but Tom wasn't so sure.
When we got to Alturas, we headed west on Hwy 299 to position ourselves for a ride through Lassen Park tomorrow. Although it isn't the quickest way home for Tom, it is quick enough, and much more interesting. The plan was to make Burney by nightfall. We had been making pretty good time so far, and making Burney seemed easy enough.
As we rode through the McArthur and Fall River Mills, I thought of my Uncle Willie, better know as the "Buttmeister", Bill Mayer. In the 1970s through the early 1980s he had a small shop in Fall River Mills where he built and sold a motorcycle seat he designed. His "Day Long Saddle" is a world renowned motorcycle seat and is still popular, now being sold under the Russell banner.
In 1986 I purchased a new Goldwing and decided I needed one of his seats. I called him to make arrangements to get one made. He told me that he had just sold the brand to a fellow named Russell but to come on up and he'd see that I was well taken care of. We set a date and Linda and I rode up to Fall River Mills. We spent the night at his house and the next day he took us down to Russell's shop. We got measured up and the seat was built and installed while we watched. After a little test ride around Fall River Mills, we stayed another night with Willie (Bill) and his wife before heading back home the next day. That seat changed the way Linda and I traveled. Instead of having to stop every 100 miles, we were truly able to travel "all day" on his saddle. When I sold that Gold Wing in 2004, the seat still looked like new. Linda and I now have a Honda ST1300 - when we purchased it, the first thing we did was have Russell build us another "Day Long Saddle". I think of Uncle Willie every time we go for a ride.
Anyway ....... Uncle Willie was an "Adventure Rider" before the term was invented. I remember family reunions in Montana that he attended and the stories he told of riding his BMW up from California without his tires touching asphalt. Quite a fellow, my Uncle Willie - RIP.
We rolled into Burney about 4:30 PM. Here we found another great motel deal in a three person room. This one had a queen size bed in the main room with two twin beds in an adjoining bedroom. Tom announced that he wanted one of the twin beds, Bill and I flipped a coin for the queen. My luck was holding and I slept in the queen. All this for $33 each including tax and license.
There was a great restaurant across the street and we all ate too much again. As we ate, Bill and Tom talked about a previous ride through this area and riding a dirt road from Lassen Park to Burney. Before we left the restaurant, we decided that road would be on our route home.
After dinner it was back to the motel, sitting around outside in the pleasant evening air, visiting with my buddies, contemplating some new road, playing with my Android - man, life is good.
Miles traveled today: 353
Miles traveled total: 1301
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June 18 , 2012
Burney, CA to El Dorado Hills, CA
This morning we got up and made a beeline for the restaurant. I don't remember the name of the restaurant and Google Mapping isn't that helpful - it says there is a Subway at that location. Whatever it's called, I can recommend it - it's across the street from the Burney Motel. As we walked up, I saw two signs - one advertised "ham and eggs"' for $5.95 and another advertised "The works breakfast" for $6.95. The waitress told us that "The works breakfast" consisted of two eggs, four sausages, four bacons, potatoes, and toast. Tom and I went for it, but Bill was trying to eat healthy and ordered the "ham and eggs". A hearty breakfast is a good way to start a busy day ... that's my motto.
Tamarack Rd is the dirt road leading from Burney to the north side of Lassen Park. Since Bill had ridden it before, he led the way, heading west out of town on Hwy 299 for a couple of miles before turning south on Tamarack Rd. It didn't take too long to realize that this might turn into an interesting ride. For starters, it wasn't the typical, well-graded, forest service road. It was in pretty good shape, but the surface was more dirt than gravel. The second clue came when in the first few miles, we encountered a couple of logging trucks and then a water truck wetting down the road. I wasn't that thrilled with the idea of finding a logging truck around every corner, but those two were the last we saw.
We hadn't programmed anything into our GPSs since the road showed up on our AAA map, and once we hit Lassen Park, we all knew several ways home. After we'd traveled about 20 miles, however, it started to become obvious that we'd either made a wrong turn somewhere or missed a turn. It wasn't obvious where we were when we consulted out maps, so for grins I asked the GPS to take us to the north gate of Lassen Park. It showed us the way, all right, but said we were still 20 miles away. The AAA map indicated that the entire dirt road route from Burney to Lassen was about 25 miles - we had definitely missed a turn and were well west of where we thought we were. We decided that we had no alternative but to trust the GPS. Since I had the easiest GPS screen to read, I led the way. It was a real leap of faith to follow the route the GPS laid out - we took some mighty minor looking roads that looked like they were leading nowhere.
We stopped a few times to confer, but there really was no choice but to go where it said. And ........ it seemed we were generally heading in the right direction.
We continued on and ran into a couple of sections that were downright challenging. One section had water bars that were extremely high, with a deep "V" shape ditch on the far side and very, very steep sides. The first one I topped, I thought my front wheel was going to auger in and I was going to be eating dirt. A little throttle kept that from happening but made my landing pretty exciting anyway. I was glad I had a beefed up skid plate when it hit the ground as the suspension bottomed out. After that, I approached water bars very carefully and looked for areas on the uphill side of the road that offered less of a challenge.
After about 10 miles of this, we came out on Jack's Backbone Rd, aka Forest Route 32N16. There was a sign indicating that Hwy 44 was 9 miles away and my GPS said the north gate of Lassen Park was another 5 miles south on Hwy 44. Jack's Backbone Rd is a wide, well maintained, high speed gravel road and it took only 15 minutes before we were back on asphalt.
When Tom rode up, he indicated he was bushed and that he wanted to stop at a store that was just inside the park - he was ready for something cold to drink. I was also ready for something cold .... and ready for something to eat - it was now getting close to noon. We had been riding for over 3 hours and had covered only 35 miles - 10 of that in the last 15 minutes or so.
At the park entrance, my Golden Age Passport paid for itself again. As I was waiting for Tom and Bill to get through the gate, I got off my bike and took a photo of Manzanita Lake just inside the park. I'll let the photo speak for itself.
After Tom made his way through the park entrance, he made directly for the store and rode past me as I was taking the photo. Bill wasn't too far behind. I hurried to keep from being forgotten - I thought maybe they didn't see me pull over and assumed I was already on my to the store. This was a little problem, because I had no idea where the store was. Thankfully I was able to fall in line before they disappeared and I followed them down a side road about a mile to the store. I had no idea there was a store there.
As we drank Gatorade and ate power bars, Tom talked about our little off-road adventure. He said he thought the roads were a little less technical than our ride to Yellow Peak Lookout, but that it was much longer and more difficult for that reason. The simple fact is that he made it without incident so he IS a competent rider in my book. There were plenty of opportunities on that road for a rider without skills to get in real trouble. If you read this Tom, know that I'd ride with you anywhere! Bill, I've already ridden with you anywhere ..... and I will again.
After our little adventure, the ride through Lassen Park seemed pretty tame. The views, however, are something that every Californian should see - I've been through the park at least a dozen times and am always a little in awe as I look around. Our riding buddy David, likes to say that if you took Lassen Park and set it down in Kansas or Iowa, it would be considered one of most beautiful places on earth and be visited by millions of people every year. In California, however, with all its other scenic wonders, nobody thinks it's that special and visitation is low. According to the National Park Service, Lassen National Park ranked 147th in attendance in 2011.
At the south entrance to the park we pulled into the parking lot and stopped for a brief break and to say our good byes. Tom was planning to veer off on Hwy 32 towards Chico then make his way home to Occidental.
As we were talking, a Triumph sports tourer and a Harley trike rode into the parking lot and parked a short distance away. The trike was a unique looking machine and Tom wandered over to chat up the couple. These folks were from Scotland and were on a countrywide tour of the United States. They had arrived in New York several months ago and were planning to spend another couple of months checking out our country. They tried to explain how it was cheaper to have their bikes shipped over here and back than it was to rent bikes here - it has something to do with getting insurance. Apparently the insurance companies in Scotland won't insure an American bike and the insurance companies in the US won't insure a foreign citizen. Sounds strange to me - maybe I've got it wrong. I sure wouldn't discount a story about ridiculous laws or insurance company policies that don't make sense - both groups seem to have a corner on stupidity and illogical rules.
After leaving the park, the three of us rode together for a while with Tom riding sweep. When we got to Hwy 32, he veered off and we all waved at each other. Bill and I continued south, down the west side of Lake Almanor and on to Quincy. This time, instead of taking La Porte Rd south, we continued on Hwy 70 to Graeagle then cut across to Hwy 49 on Gold Lake Road. The mountains in this are second to none and would be proud to be standing alongside the Tetons.
The stretch of Hwy 49 from Graeagle through Downieville has to be one of the best motorcycle roads in the world. It has dozens of twisties and lots of fantastic scenery as it follows the North Yuba River down the canyon. When the the river veers west to fill up Bullards Bar Reservoir, Hwy 49 climbs out of the canyon and becomes a little less spectacular, but remains a scenic ride all the way to Nevada City.
By now were are on familiar roads and getting close to home. When we hit Nevada City, the ride was over for me - I was ready to be home. I can't figure out why the last 50 miles or so of a ride is always so tedious for me ......... but the last stretch is always a chore. We motored on until we got to Auburn and it was time for Bill to peel off for home. He pulled into a parking lot, we bumped fists, told each other we'd be in touch, and headed for home. I think Bill felt just like I did and was ready to be home - I don't think we even shut off our engines.
About 45 minutes later I pulled into my driveway, shed my gloves, helmet, camel bak, and coat and went to the front door. I rang the doorbell so I wouldn't startle Linda (and maybe get shot) by barging into the house unannounced. When she opened the door, I wondered again if my favorite part of a long ride isn't getting home - it was sure good to see her.
Miles traveled today: 299
Miles traveled total: 1600
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