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Old 05-10-2012, 07:42 PM   #1
Starkmojo OP
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Where the valley rises up to the shifting mountain
Oddometer: 357
My commute as an Adventure.

There are a thousand thousand places like this place; dirt meets asphalt where one road meets another; one road ending and another beginning. There are also a thousand thousand moments like this one- a junction is reached and decisions have to be made. The destination may be the same but the journeys are wildly different. But this was my road, my moment and my journey- the sun hung lazy in the western half of the sky and across the pasture and meadows the road was visible a mile in each direction. To give myself a moment to ponder, the bike is switched off and leaned carefully on the soft shoulder. Helmet off and sunglasses the smell of the spring bloom is vaguely narcotic- a person could stay in this place forever… but sadly this day has a schedule that cannot be broken- I am on my way to work.
Now in Italy all roads may lead to Rome, but here in Klickitat County all roads lead to The Dalles Bridge one way or another; for me this is a good thing as that is exactly where work is for me these days. The paths are clear- either the Centerville Hwy and its twisting tarmac to Lyle and thence The Bridge, or Euker Road to Dalles Mountain- up over the great camel hump in front of me and winding down the other side. There are other less obvious choices- one could I suppose take a left on Centerville Highway and head to The Maryhill Bridge and slab down 84- but what would be the fun in that? Or one could take O’Brian Rd straight up the face of Dalles Mountain. O’Brian is little more than a graveled stream bed with a two signs, one at each end saying “primitive road- no warning signs next two and a half miles” having taken that road in a friend’s 4wd truck I am aware that it is a long hard two and one half miles.
Although tempting on my recently Adventured-TDM, in my mind it is clear that while the bike may be up to the challenge the rider is not; although I may have a hundred thousand miles on two wheels they are primarily paved miles- on gravel and dirt I have exactly four miles. My learning curve is set back a good ninety-nine thousand nine hundred miles and the seasoned rider has become the novice. This thought makes the tarmac tempting- while my modifications have changed the bike we essentially know one another well on pavement, whereas after the last short hop on dirt (the aforementioned four miles) we are still essentially in first date status: we are unsure off each other, that unsure feeling translating to hesitancy and a bit of wandering across the road. The date vibes are good- she handles the dirt better than I had hoped but there are a lot of new skills to be learned- how to sit to keep the bike stable, to handle the think gravel that causes the bike to bog and front wheel to wander and navigating the washed out sections where the talcum like dirt offers little purchase. Although stubborn enough to persist in continuing my education in dirt, I am old enough not to be stupid. So mounting up the bike points left past O’Brian Rd whose initial ease taunts me, trying to lull me in. But the thing is once you know a road you can see past that first curve to the meat of the matter. A few more miles I turn Right and quickly leave the pavement behind for Dallas Mountain. Ahead one last challenge awaits- my nemesis who I have named Archie.
More on that later.

Starkmojo screwed with this post 05-10-2012 at 09:48 PM
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Old 05-10-2012, 07:54 PM   #2
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Joined: Apr 2011
Location: Wonga Park Australia
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Beautifully written
Na na na na na na - na na na na Don't you know about the bird?
Well everybody's heard about the bird, Bird bird bird, bird is the word
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Old 05-10-2012, 08:08 PM   #3
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Joined: Feb 2005
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Very nice.
The highway's a storyteller...No time to write it down.
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Old 05-11-2012, 02:53 AM   #4
Starkmojo OP
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Where the valley rises up to the shifting mountain
Oddometer: 357
Some background: The Bike

She is named Eloh Nvnohi Soquili, which is Cherokee for “Earth Road Horse” because I couldn’t find a word for pony in the Cherokee language data base page. Mostly she is called “Eloh” for short or any number of other lesser words of Germanic origin when I find that the gas tank must once again be removed to do some trivial task

My motorcycle experience had been predominantly with seventies-vintage Honda twins and SOHCs- air-cooled beasts designed in the 60’s and cutting edge in the seventies. The bike of my youth had been a CB550 with a gigantic Vetter fairing that looked like the nose of Flash Gordon a rocket ship. At the time (circa 1992) an old biker down the street had a 74 CB750 that I desired greatly- the bigger engine seemed so much more powerful than mine, and it had a stock large metal flake tank that glowed in the sunset. My 78 K model was black with Gold stripes named “Kallista” which means “for the fairest”. The word was said to have been inscribed on an apple by Eris the Goddess of Discord and thrown between Hera, Aphrodite and Athena- the resulting squabble ending in the Trojan War. Like her name sake the 550 lead me into plenty of trouble in my youth, although she always had just enough oomph to get me out of it in the end, but just barely. More times than there is counting for a sudden realization of danger would start with an expletive yelled through clenched teeth against the wind to be followed by a quick downshift and full opening of the throttle to escape near disaster- one time so close the oncoming car bruised my leg and took out a turn signal. I live in deathly feat that my son will follow in my footsteps because it simple truth to say that surviving my twenties is proof of divine intervention not skill or wisdom.

While not as glamorous as the 750 she took me all over the west coast in the years before I settled down. From California to Canada she sipped gas and got me home even under duress; even when one set of points burned out in the middle of nowhere she puttered home on two of her four cylinders, racing down each hill to barely make it up the next. Starting in Forks we made it all the way home to Olympia- although from that point until the demise of the Kettering ignition I always carried a spare set of points and condensers after that.

Shortly after Kallista was sold, I met my future-former wife, and a year after we met she was pregnant and motorcycling seemed pretty un-useful to a man with a wife, a dog and a baby. I needed something more practical so I bought a VW bus... fast forward 15 years and the wife is an ex, the son is over half grown and the Dog has passed on to the great squirrel chasing grounds in the sky- Goodnight Annie. I had just been recently (and rather unceremoniously) re-exed by a woman who moved out while I was at work, taking all of her furniture (mine had just been sold to make way for hers… go figure.) one of my best friends pointed out after she left that she had chosen to use her middle name which was the same as an invasive non-native weed… but anyway. At my fortieth birthday some friends came over on motorcycles and my passion with them renewed; the sound and swift lines of them all. It got me thinking seriously about getting one- plenty of times I had drunkenly perused craigslist on the computer in Beullahland and dreamed of riding- but like many ideas that seem good when drunk, the cold light of day would highlight the flaws of what seemed so enthralling the night before.

This time was different though- the contemplation occurred when sober, and involved some math and budgeting. Pretty soon I was looking at Honda CB 750s across the Portland Metro area- and in general they were a sorry lot. Rusting from decades outside, chopped, cropped or poorly cafed-out and left to rot… and selling at prices close to what they would have been when new. One day after much searching I saw an advertisement In Battleground for a CB 750. He wanted too much, it came with ape hanger and plastic panniers with all the charm of trash cans but one it had one line “previously senior owned and immaculately maintained.” The fairing could be fixed, but I had no desire to start my second motorcycle life with an engine teardown.

Going to look with cash in hand- Battleground is a long way from Portland, I threw a leg over for the first time in a decade and a half and kicked the bike over and it caught on the first kick and began to rumble like a gas-powered clock. I took it around the block a couple times tenderly- the fairing was a Vetter knock-off and so heavy it caused the bike to dive forward every time the brakes were engaged- likewise the extended bars made cornering a pretty inexact science. The seller told me that the “Previous and Original” owner had ridden only in summer, and mostly to work twenty eight miles each way in a straight line. The tires were ancient and cracking but showed no wear on the sides. I wanted one more stock than this and mentioned my thoughts aloud- mostly to try and talk him down. When he said hang on and wait and then returned from the garage with three boxes in varying degrees of desiccation, each box was full of parts- each part was bagged in Ziplocs, and on each Ziploc there was tape where in shaky writing was the exact identification of each part- I looked through them “front right turn signal” “rear left turn signal”, while in other boxes were reams of paperwork- including the installation guide for the fairing, and the last box was labeled “repair parts” and contained several sets of plugs, points, condensers and all the original cables for the stock controls- all labeled of course, I paid full asking price.

My friend Jim went with me to pick up the bike and he drove it home as my endorsement had long since lapsed- he said it had all the charm of a refrigerator on the road- partly due to the ungainly ape hangers and partly due to the 20 year old rock hard continental tires. With the parts and the fairing manual the bike went from redneck Goldwing to bone stock (minus the OG 4-4 exhaust which costs more than the bike now and to be honest I was never fond of anyway. They weigh a ton and sit so high up that the more than one passenger has found the soles of their shoes melted at the end of a ride.). The Continentals were replaced with modern rounded Avon’s and she now could crape the center stand around corners on either side. Then the café-ing began. I modified her to my tastes but always keeping in mind the collectability of the original- the Brilliant Orange metal flake paint job stayed and all the parts cafed out over the years were boxed away. The Orange grew on me, and she became known as the flying Pumpkin. There is a secret that I now pass on to all the young single men now that married life has left me in no need of such knowledge- chicks dig shiny orange metal flake bikes. Everywhere I went with my crew of primer black café cronies women would be drawn to that tank. They would touch as it glowed in the sun or sparkled when rain-wet under street lights outside of Old Town Bars. So should you been thinking of spraying truck bed liner all over your 70s primary colored bar hopper, I urge you to think again.

When it was time to sell her a young man who looked oddly like I did at 22 came with his dad and drove around the block. The son was all about looks but the dad was an old wrench and wanted to know specifics. I told him about the things I had fixed and the things that needed fixing- in ending I said “look I am a father too- I wouldn’t bullshit you to get an extra hundred bucks. That bike is as safe as it can be and I would not hesitate to ride it to Hell or the North Pole right now if I had the time.” He looked me square in the eye for a good thirty seconds while his son was fawning over the box of parts then pulled out twenty two hundred dollar bills and gave them to me.

The Flying Pumpkin Departed when I lost my income at the same time gaining a wife and her three children and with a future fourth child along the way. At the time I needed the money and consoled myself with the fact that I still had a CB500 twin that I could ride- but the twin was little and while fun to ride around town it would leave my knees and ass screaming after an hours’ ride. As part of a deal with my son, now 16, it would soon be his so I could not count on it for much longer. In all the time of my singleness and easy-come easy go relationships there had been this re-occurring dream: a white house in the country in summer- the grass tall and brown the garden verdant with tomatoes. The light golden dusty and warm in my mouth I would walk up to the open door and hear a child’s laughter inside. Curious I would walk through the house towards the sound and find a girl of three or four in the kitchen- she never looked like me or my child with her dark complexion and curly brown hair, but she knew me and would cry out “you’re home” and fly off the counter to hug me. Many times I had this dream but as forty became forty one then forty-two I finally despaired and turned my back to that future. It was not until decided that some dreams are simply that and nothing more that I met my now-wife, and shortly after starting to date I got a picture message- it was a plastic wand with a purple line on it, ever so faint but clearly there- and the dream passed over into the waking world without a sound. The girl in my dreams always had a name but I cannot recall it now- now the child of my dreams is Bridget and she waits for me to get home from work each week.

I began to dream of a different bike- one that would be able to do all the things that the Pumpkin could not- like drive on dirt roads. Love the 750 as I did she was as agile as a pig on skates without pavement and my few short hops on dirt had always been at idling speeds for fear of scratching that brilliant paint. The new bike would also be taller, have a more comfortable seat and be able to haul all the miscellany of my existence. Even before my new family had formed I often found myself unable to ride because along the way I would have to pick up more groceries than could be fit in a messenger bag. The one thing I wanted to stay with was air cooling- between the CBs and VWs I had come to love the simplicity of the system- a simplicity bought with frequent oil changes, careful valve adjustments and a sharp eye for any signs of overheating. On a water cooled vehicle overheating can surely blow your head- on an air-cooled motor over heating usually means a burnt bearing if you’re lucky and a thrown connecting rod poking through the casing if you’re not.

Talking to friends and looking at my new (much smaller) checkbook I figured that a BMW R80GS would be in my price range. Sadly I was mistaken. Every GS even mildly outside my price range was beat down, drug out and over a hundred thousand miles. I had “X” and that was it… so with X went looking again. I read about dual sport bikes and their origins, of all the great dual sport bikes not sold in the US- Africa Twins and Tenere 660s. I read about Vstroms which were still outside my price range but seemed a possibility. Then in one article there was a reference “much like the TDM that came before them…” and I thought to myself “what the hell is a TDM”?

TDMs are a series of bikes by Yamaha that are sold all around the world- except of course in the US. In our love of chrome show-boats, 150MPH plus racers and Bismarck-sized GS1200s, there is no room for a bike that is simple quick and comfortable to ride. For two years in 1992 and 1993 Yamaha had tried to educate the Americans but to no avail- when the TDM returned it would be as the bloated Tenere 1100, competing with the BMW GS series. The original TDM was designed to deal with the sometimes less than stellar roads of the European countryside; they came with three things essential to my plans: high ground clearance, extended shock travel and a splash guard on the engine. Displacing a modest 850 ccs it would be the biggest motor-wise of my life if I could find one. Many people turn them into what one writer called “a poor man’s GS”. As a poor man, armed with that realization the research ended and the search began.

The searching began on crazedlist for the whole west coast, ebay, cycle trader and every other outlet I could think of to no avail- they were either too much or too far away to be practical. My wife was at term- going to the grocery store involved a plan to get home if she went into labor. Then one day I was thumbing through another long string of TDMs to much, too beat and/or too far away when a listing came up in Hillsboro. I knew it was my bike. The rest was just details. The test ride was good, no oil leaks of issues noted, and on Christmas day I handed over the cash and headed home.

Purchased as a bone stock 1993 TDM 850 for a bargain basement price from a man who found he did not like street riding, she had spent her life as freeway cruiser owned by a man who (I was told) worked at the Yamaha dealership. The bike as observed backed up the seller’s claim: all the parts were stock, the bike was immaculate and the paint was clear enough to shave in the reflection created. However her life was about to change- off went the sticky rounded road tires for deeply grooved dual sports first. This, along with a new set of front fork seals were taken care of at Motofactory PDX with great speed: I dropped the bike off on Monday and Wednesday they called and asked me to get my bike from their crowded garage. Next came the garish huge turn signals replaced with sleeker ones that hung tight her curves and the antenna mirrors replaced with a single bar end. I might need a dual sport but café culture was in my heart and I could not help but let it show. When it came time to attach the luggage racks I mounted the license plate sideways as half tribute half ironic salute to my past. The luggage racks came with no instructions in English and the panniers came from a fellow inmate at a great price. That along with a seat recover at New Church designs to raise the seat back up to its original height and I was ready to go.

Sometimes as this process progressed there were regrets- it was like teaching an Arabian to pull a hack. With the original tires and free of the racks, with her corbin saddle bringing the center of gravity lower she moved like water on pavement- flowing effortlessly around any curve, lifting her front wheel at the slightest invitation. I never found out how fast she could go, but it was well over a hundred I am sure. My biggest learning curve to that point was not over steering her in the twisting roads beyond the city. A CB 750 corners by literally trying to throw the bike at the ground- you push the bar away and down to get the lean needed to make the line. The TDM you caress the bar and move your hip forward and the inside knee down and the bike does the rest. It was still the same after all the changes but the new tires were only rated to 90, and the cases to 80, and the new seat although sorely needed by my knees made cornering a little slower.

All regrets passed on my first long ride. Six hours of riding was painless, the panniers held all my needs and the tires navigated the dirt better than the rider- the Arabian had found her Moorish roots and gone mustang. She would go where I lead without question or hesitation. The only sadness now is that there are no more mods to do and only maintenance. Now I have to get to work on the 1971 VW bus sitting in parts in the garage I suppose…

Starkmojo screwed with this post 05-11-2012 at 03:14 AM Reason: More Pictures!
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Old 05-11-2012, 08:29 AM   #5
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Joined: May 2010
Location: Sydney, Australia
Oddometer: 103
incredible prose, damm. if you're ever in Sydney I owe you a couple of beers
funny stuff goes here.
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Old 05-11-2012, 11:45 AM   #6
Starkmojo OP
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Where the valley rises up to the shifting mountain
Oddometer: 357
More background the: the lay of the land.

I will warn you I am digressing here- but it is a digression with a point. Descarte said that to know a thing one must know it in all its forms and stages- so to know this ride one must know both the bike and the rider. The next entry will get back to the scooting on dirt. If it bothers you skip this part or look just look at the pictures.

Mt Adams across the Centerville basin from the Crest of Dalles Mt Rd.

The land of my commute is just beyond the mountains from Portland; where the heat and dry and wind make trees grower first further apart then only in protected gullies. It is a place of sky and sun and wind- and more wind. The winds blow down Mt Adams from the north, or howl east and west down the Gorge flowing over the first set of hills and across the plains that rest between the mountain and the river. Washington may be The Evergreen State but the predominant color here is brown- the grass is brown ten months of the year, bending to the will of the almost ever-present wind. The place I stay during the work week sits in view of the forests of the Klickitat River, and beyond on the slopes of Mt Adams- but sits in a grassland that reminds me more of Lander Wyoming than Olympia Washington. The hills roll like a giant brown sea crashing into the Cascades to the north- but going on to the east as far as the Rocky Mountains, passing through towns that are struggling like Centerville or dead like Bickleton where the road names allude to a thriving past: School House Rd, Grange Hall Rd all leading to empty structures that lean now the direction of the wind. Above the Valley where Swale creek runs before joining the Klickitat, then the Columbia and finally one hundred some miles west the Pacific giant windmills turn the savior of the prairie; their income provides the means to keep many marginal ranches alive preventing the necessity of subdivision and rural exurbination of the land.

While my love of this valley and the hills beyond has grown it was not always so; my childhood was spent in Schenectady (meaning “Place of the Pine Plains” or the northern end of the Pine Barrens that stretch north from central New jersey to the Adirondacks) playing in the woods around my Grandparents farm. At seven we moved to the ‘burbs of Boston where our house backed a cemetery where my brother and I ran wild for years. Things were not well at home and the trees and silent stones offered peace and solace. At 16 it was off to college in the woods of Maine then the Green Mountain state. On a whim at 21 my application went off to and was accepted at Evergreen College in Olympia, where I stayed until moving to Portland; all my life there has been foliage over my head, trunks to break the wind and roots buried deep in the earth, along with the smell of damp, loam and green. My early forays into the dry lands were disconcerting, to the point some wondered if my sheltered life had lead to agoraphobia. But the dry lands are not far from the woods of the “wetside” as we call it and it has been my attempt to find the beauty in every place my travels take me, and if one can find beauty in the shattered industrial remains of downtown Schenectady, finding it in Centerville is really not that hard.

The road from this place to The Dalles runs across Swale Creek- once a rail line went up the narrow canyon connecting the Plateau to the Gorge, the wheat farms and sawmills to the market beyond- these days the wheat has been mostly replaced with cattle and windmills, the logs are not milled but shipped raw overseas carried by truck to the horizontal forests of Olympia to be milled thousands of miles away as we turn from an industrial nation to a raw material provider for others. What we did to Cuba and the Philippines the Chinese now do to us. At one time there was an Aluminum mill in Goldendale that provided good jobs- this despite the fact that there is no Bauxite to be found nearby. Instead the location was chosen because the John Day Dam had excess capacity and the power was cheap. When the power ceased to be cheap the mill was closed and now the only good jobs besides working at the dam are tearing the mill down to nothing. Everyone I have met out here gets money from somewhere else unless they have been here their whole lives; a spouse that works in the city, a retirement from a job in Portland.

Swale Creek canyon

makeshift alter to the ghost of the Railroad

A few ranch houses seem to do well but many sit foreclosed and more abandoned. The woody glens and protected hillsides have many homes with missing windows, the lack of glass making them stare back at the viewer like the eyes of the recently dead. Each abandoned house is epitaph for families whose hard work and love came to naught- how much must one suffer to simply leave a house with the furniture still inside, food on the shelves and clothes in the closet? They are the dark reminder that there is no guarantee on the American Dream- hard work does not always lead to prosperity, but rather it is more often luck and outside influences that make the secure futures Americans dream of having. To embrace this place my mind has had to accept the sadness the stories of misfortune and failure that litter the landscape in empty building and rusting farm equipment. It is that part of our story that is not in the history books in school or the glamorous documentaries on The History Channel; it is the story of people who left everything behind out of the direst need and moved on, who gave up on a place but went and tried again.

In my own family the story is repeated- in my great-great-great-great grandmother who survived the trail of tears and the loss of her own family to marry a farmer trying to escape the coming storm of the Civil War by moving his family to Arkansas, who would yet see his sons engulfed in that war two decades later. The sons returned from a lost war to marry and have children who struggled again in the post-war west, through the ups and downs of the nineteenth and twentieth century’s as share croppers, cattle wranglers and school teachers trying always to build better life for their children.
So it has been my story; whatever setbacks befall me I have always gotten up and kept going. Despite a less-than-ideal first marriage, a tumultuous six year engagement and a period of revolving relationships throughout my thirties; the disappearing invasive, the professor who found me to un-intellectual, the artist for whom my simple mind lacked the necessary obliqueness she craved, even to the end when I declare to my empty house “This is where my life will be spent. When the time comes they can cremate and scatter my ashes under the apple tree” enough of that hope that defines us as a people remained that when the time came to make a choice with the woman with three kids- do I meet the kids and make it official that we are dating, or do I demure and fade from her world and back to a life of bars, bikes and strip clubs followed by solitary mornings staring at my newly laid wood floors from the comfort of my hot tub? Enough of that hope was there that I picked up the phone and made a date for Valentine’s Day. After lunch and coffee we talked in my car about what it meant that we were now “going out”. I would meet her kids; we wouldn’t date other people that the relationship had potential to become something more serious. We agreed and made out in my Subaru… oh so very Portland.

To my mind a man is defined by what he does when he is scared- when fortune has not favored him and he finds himself at the edge with an abyss on either side. On one side for me was the abyss of my bachelor life, while on the other the huge unknown- a relationship with a woman I had just met, more relationships with her kids and her ex as we all got to know one another. At the time I did not even consider her huge extended family- who all lived in Portland. After standing on that edge as long possible looking ahead as far as my mind could see in all directions it became clear that love may not be the answer, but it is the question worth asking. After the asking the right choice was easy. Love is that way; loving someone is hard sometimes- but to choose between love and no love is not so much.

In my time on the east coast I met many a trust fund college student, and many were lost between an endless stream of vacations and travels. Their parents had been rich and their parents before them. At the time it confused me; my mind could not grasp how someone could be sad while jetting between the Bahamas and Nepal to scale a mountain while I was working as a dishwasher and splitting my own wood to keep it together when the student grants ran out. Now it is clear to me; if you have never failed, then you cannot know what success feels like. Just like food tastes better when one is hungry, heat when one has been cold a person must experience loss to understand success. . In coming to terms with my own well of hope beyond reason I have also come to see the beauty in the ghosts of those who tried and failed- the empty buildings and abandoned rail yards are the tracks of people who one hopes went on to find success and happiness down the road. Wherever those people and their descendants are they would not be the same without their failures behind them acting as a foundation to keep them humble and grateful. And after a long and windy winter I was grateful to be out to enjoy the spring bloom on the Mountain.

Starkmojo screwed with this post 05-11-2012 at 11:48 AM Reason: formating issues.
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Old 05-12-2012, 03:23 AM   #7
Starkmojo OP
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Where the valley rises up to the shifting mountain
Oddometer: 357
A few words about Archie...

Archie is my name or him- he may or may not have a name at all, but it is my habit to name things; bikes, routes places and so on; besides a nemesis should have a name right? Despite his role as predator and his assertion that my part in his world was as prey does not diminish my fondness for him. Archie is one of the two Great Pyrenees dogs that guard the flock of sheep on Euker Rd- he is the larger of the two, the more aggressive and the fastest. More than once he had chased my car for nearly a mile as fast as one can safely navigate the soft twisting gravel. In his mind the entire length of Euker Rd is his domain from the end of the pavement to the hairpin ending where it merges into Dallas Mt Rd is absolute- anything unknown on that road is a potential threat to his flock and must be chased off or killed.

Archie is the “real deal” Great Pyrenees- not the foppish yuppie leash walkers that you see in cities sitting outside trendy brunch locals on Sunday, with their perfect white fir carefully groomed until it glows under black light, rather he is stained tan with mud and dirt, born in the field beside the sheep he is bred to guard, rarely will he ever see the inside of a vehicle much less a house. He has a powerful stench that acts as a warning to all the would-be predators, the smell of a life among ungulates, washed only in the winter rains and accented with whatever is out there to roll in. Even to the human nose he can be detected before sight allows. No doubt he lives a harsh and sometimes brutal life- his size and weight alone guarantee arthritis at an early age; a fact compounded with the unsheltered life of a ranch dog. The truth is though in the eye of a dog he is living the life; doing what he was born to do all day every day. I have seen him chasing rabbits and digging in the fields, doing everything with a power and zest that can only come from a satisfied mind. When your dog runs in his sleep, muffled barking and tail wagging he is dreaming that he has a life like Archie.

By his size and stance I would estimate him at well over a hundred pounds and he can launch from a standstill to twenty five miles an hour; a sumo wrestler who suddenly becomes a track star. Chasing me off in my car has become his pastime. Gleefully he waits around corners and behind fencerows for my arrival and chases me until my brake lights fade into the distance while he barks so powerfully it echoes in my car over the stereo. Many times while driving he has come so close to my car I have been afraid for him, but now as a neophyte dirt rider my fear is of him; he can run faster than my novitiate skills allow. While he has always seemed cheerful in his pursuit, the possibility he might happily sink his teeth into my leg crossed my mind planning my weeklong excursion.

The light is long and low on the horizon as the bike chugged up the road towards the immaculate house where Archie’s owner lives- a well know local celebrity, Chilean of Spanish heritage and one of the few men in North America who can wear a beret without looking like a failed artist. Long, lean and well past sixty, we had met when his sheep blocked the road a week before. We exchanged pleasantries while his hands wrangled the lambs who had slipped through the fenced off fields of winter wheat. He knew where I was staying and how long I had been there- not really unusual considering that while Centerville may be large in area not that many people actually live in it; the houses sit on what would be considered palatial acreages west of the Cascades- twenty at the least, and several hundred to over a thousand in many cases. He asks how my landlords are doing because he (of course) knows them too, and when I remarked on his fine Border Collies (my landlord told he was very proud of his and they were widely considered the best sheep dogs in town) he asked if I wanted to buy one… no no I assured him I have a border collie at home and one is quite enough in the city. He nodded and smiled as the last lambs were chased from the fields and into the pens for shearing.

Many Native American Legends take place in the time when men and animals were as one; in western religion they call this time the Garden of Eden. In both worldviews mankind is forced to depart. If the apple is not an apple (and most researchers agree it was more likely a pomegranate), but rather a thing that separated us from the natural world- excluded our species forever from the sense of place Archie so clearly engenders, what was that fruit symbolizing in the mind of the writer? What was that event like- was it explosive and instantaneous like an earthquake or more likely an ebbing tide- we changed and the rest of the world slipped away from us until now we can only watch it from a distance. Archie and may have been mere meters or even feet apart at times, yet we were always separated by that gulf; he will never leave his world or even want to, while my time here may be fleeting yet it will be followed by new place after place until I am too old to keep the bike upright any longer. I will know many places somewhat, while my nemesis knows every inch of his world. One is no better than another, and they are interdependent- Archie’s world was made by men- his very DNA selected over eons to create the being who is so perfect in his place- it is the very restlessness of people that made him what he is.

Today though the sheep are gone to greener pastures I suppose, and Archie has no doubt gone with him. A lone collie barks at me once before hiding in a ditch. While many times the collies had joined in the chase it was clear he had no stomach for it without Archie in the lead. I went up and past kicked up some dust and spun the rear wheel at the hairpin merge and onto Dallas Mt Rd and beyond Archie’s domain. During the entire week of two-wheeled back road commuting Archie never crossed my path, and mostly I am grateful for it. Part of me though always thrills to see him- he is so clownishly content in his existence and at peace with the world that it always makes me smile, even when he is trying to bight the rubber off my tires.

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Old 05-15-2012, 03:33 AM   #8
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Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Where the valley rises up to the shifting mountain
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Maybe this is beyond a day trip report... it just sorta keeps coming though.

The Long Decline.

The crest of the hill is the lip of the Columbia River Gorge, and on a clear day it seems one could reach up and touch the sky- the river rolls down to the ocean, the hills roll to the river and the land on either side looks like one piece of cloth torn in two- which it is. Long ago before man or even salmon knew this place the cascades were torn apart and water from the interior basin flowed down hill to the ocean. Later the mountains we now know would rise above the chasm to dominate the skyline, but the Gorge came first. Time would soften the edges, bring the seeds, grasses, flowers, trees and eventually the salmonids that define so much of Northwest culture; but once this was a land of barren rocks and behemoth sturgeon and sometimes if you squint in just the right light you can see that world still.

If there is one common thread among all the vistas of the west it is the rawness of them; as the Atlantic plate pushes an entire continent against the Pacific plate the earth itself is folded and pushed skyward. At twenty one my first inkling of this new world came to me as I drove Canadian Highway 1 towards Calgary in a rusty diesel rabbit with all my worldly possessions- some clothes, some books, two guitars and maybe five hundred Canadian stuffed under the spare tire. My entire life until then had been spent in the east, although I kept going further afield in series irate restless moves. A week behind me I had left a good woman weeping in a cabin in the Vermont woods- a year and a half before that I had left another good woman similarly. It has oft been my thought that much of my later ill-luck in love has been some sort lesson for what I have done to others- as though the world itself wanted me to feel what I had done. The anger of my youth could not be contained in love, or in the gentle wooded hills and stone fencerows of New England, and so at twenty one I headed west to a place I did not know except from the words of others and some pictures. At the time I told my mother I would be back in a few years, but even then I knew it was a lie. Coming into Calgary off the plains with the Front Range Mountains glowing in colors only Maxfield Parrish would dare use something shifted in my head; I was no longer running away from the east but I was headed towards the west. In the time since then my journey has never ceased, even in my long years in Portland it has been my goal to better know all the parts of this place that is now my home.

Dallas Mtn road is a ribbon of dirt winding through the grassy hills above the Columbia River, or “The River” in local Parlance. Other rivers here are named when identified; the Klickitat, Deschutes, John Day, White Salmon, but the Columbia is just The River. Shifting down to first for the steep descent I can see the river two thousand feet below, and the cliffs of Oregon and the farms beyond. Mostly though I see the road- it has all of my attention. Late rains washed the gravel down leaving the natal earth red and exposed, embedded rocks poking up from soil to create an uneven ride. Downhill on a motorcycle is harder than going up- it negates some of the engine braking and means a hard hand on the front brake can cause the bike to trip. Seeing the first section of this new surface my stomach tightens and my feet set into the pegs. The practice lap has ended and dirt road school has begun, and this is indeed my first rodeo, and the bull looks angry. Two days later this same spot will seem easy, but in that moment it looked as though the road was headed straight down a cliff.

One does not get from Suburban upstate New York to Central Washington without more than a few first Rodeos, and experience has taught me to feel the fear then get focused. Accepting the anxiety and rush of adrenalin my mind grows clearer and everything but the here and now fades away- all my concerns recede backward on the horizon of my mind until they are specs in the distance. This is it; the moment if to discover if the months of part-time wrenching has built a bike that can navigate this place have worked, and whether I can parlay my years of dirt road driving and miles of tarmac riding into a new skill. All my senses elevate- with the constant chatter of my mind finally silenced everything seems clearer; I feel my vision widen across the periphery checking for loose cattle or spooked mulies, looking far ahead for lights or dust trails from approaching cars to close up to see the lay of the road 2 seconds ahead. Finally I hit a groove and feel as though the bike has become an extension of my will; the slide around corners feels natural and predictable and when the grade slacks off I start playing with counter steering around corners, the results are still uneven but not terrifying. After half a day in the saddle I finally crack a smile.

Twenty minutes later the dirt turns back to pavement and the trip is almost done- the sun is low along the lip of the gorge as I zip across The River to work, rocks still spitting out of my tires and bouncing off behind me in the single bar end mirror. Slowly the hamster wheel of my mind starts spinning- of the long night ahead; this was to be my week- twelve hour nights followed by dirt riding during the day. At that point my plan was to just take the same road every day- learn that road until I had it down. After forty-three years I should have known better; my appetite for new roads and places brought me to this point and it was bound to take me further. By the end of the week I was shuffling through the pages of the Washington Gazetteer and pumping locals for different ways between my weekly abode and work, but at that moment crossing The Dalles Bridge all that I could think was not only had the bike worked but I had learned to enjoy the ride, so different than my urban sprints at home or the long two-lane blacktop rambles of my youth but no less enjoyable. In the end they all lead to the same place- the feeling of being in the moment, at one with the road and machine. The Zen archer says at some moment the target, the arrow and the archer become one; motorcycling the archer rides the arrow and the target becomes less important that the arc of the journey. It is not always like this- but some days it is beautiful.
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Old 05-15-2012, 04:25 AM   #9
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Nice ride and fantastic story...

Waiting and waiting for the rest...
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Old 05-15-2012, 10:58 AM   #10
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It takes awhile to come up with 1200 words.... doing my best
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Old 05-15-2012, 05:24 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by LoFlow View Post
Very nice.

Thanks for the cases!
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Old 05-31-2014, 08:48 PM   #12
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Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Where the valley rises up to the shifting mountain
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A new day, a new page, a new bike. The TDM was sold for a house downpayment, but after months the loan fell through. Speaking with my CU they were apologetic, the FHA simply wouldn't play ball with me. My loan officer said " look I can loan you money for anything except a house." Anything? I asked. Months of driving my suburban was killing me. I call it "The Crummy" and it drinks gas like a sailor goes through rum on shore leave.

" Anything " she said.

" A motorcycle?"

Yes, as long as it's less than thirty grand, she said.

Well then I replied... I may be calling you.

The local yamaha dealer had a 2013 leftover sleeping on the floor. He wants to get a 14 but needs to sell the 13 first. We talked... Several times. I looked at other bikes but kept coming back to this one. Now loan approval in hand I rode it and today we made the deal. Costs less than I am feeding the Burban every month to get to work.

New day, new page, new stories await.
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Old 06-01-2014, 06:32 AM   #13
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Location: foot of Olympus
Oddometer: 780
Enjoying your tale. Seems to be one of resurrections. Or resumptions. That old 750 may have had a Buck Rogers nose cone but you've gone full space age with this new ride. On a good day we could see Adams and Hood from the high fields or the Blues above Pendleton. Reading your descriptions calls up heat waves, basalt, June grass and all the creeks, streams and rivers running to The River.
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