Can You Really Go Home Again? (Part 1)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by ORexpat, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. ORexpat

    ORexpat Oregon Expatriate

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,068
    Location:
    West of Seattle . . .
    This is the first in a short series of stories about coming back home.

    I left eastern Oregon when I joined the Navy in 1975. I came back occasionally to see family, and served two sea tours out of Washington State homeports, but most of my time was on the east coast.


    After 25 years in the Navy and another dozen in the Defense industry, I decided to really retire and return to the Pacific Northwet. I surfed ADV and other motorcycle forums for interesting-looking riding opportunities that would let me see my home country in ways I’d never seen it as a youngster.


    I saw the thread for a spring gathering along the Crooked River south of Prineville, Oregon. I’d not explored the area much as a teenager, and never on a motorcycle. This was to be my first “return home” on a bike.



    The weather West of Seattle was it’s usual; cloudy, foggy, a bit damp but not uncomfortable. Left Casa del Expat, West of Seattle, late, around 0930.

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    I-5 was it’s usual slab self on Thursday morning, but some weak early spring sun was peaking through the firs.


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    The ride up the Columbia River Gorge is always stunning. Leaving the city, you begin to see the power of the river across the lanes of traffic, and the rocky and forested walls of the Gorge crawl closer and closer.


    As many times as I’ve been through the Gorge, I’d never taken old US 30 through the most scenic part of the area—today was the day. Pavement damp from the recent rain, and the falls along the road were roaring full of water on it’s way to the sea.

    Multnomah falls is the best know. Just a quick stop; didn’t even get the good camera out. When you see slightly grainy photos in this thread, or photos taken while riding, I’m using my “LCC,” Little Crappy Camera. If something happens to this one, it’s not a big deal.

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    Multnomah is the most famous falls here, but not the only one by far.


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    If you’ve never been to the Pacific Northwet, it’s hard to comprehend the incredible difference in climate—vegetation, rainfall, forest cover, and all that—in the short transition from the rain-capturing Cascade Mountains to the much more arid steppe climate just a few miles further east.

    In the transition.

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    This sign, taken on the return trip, explains . . .


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    Rather than get rained on in the Cascades, I rode through the Gorge and turned south at The Dalles on US 197. Near Dufur. I may not have escaped the rain entirely . . .


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    Gray skies low, threatening, but not raining like it is a few miles west . . .

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    Riding through the high prairie-like country towards Prineville brought back memories; I’d been through the area often Before Navy. Some things had changed; the roads were better and some of the ranches looked a little more prosperous—others looked like they hadn’t seen paint, new fences or equipment since I’d left.


    Rolling through Prineville, I found that something rare, a gas station with ethanol free gas! Then through town and south on Oregon 27 to the Crooked River gorge and camp.

    Rolled into camp through intermittent light rain showers that highlighted the sweet scent sage and Juniper, a campfire was already hot; “Want a beer?”

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    Damp sage, heady smell of Juniper smoke.
    Eastern Oregon, close to home.
    Rub the three-lobed sage leaf, the best perfume.
    Sap rising in the Junipers smells better than any city on earth.


    Superb welcome from everyone; no way I could capture all the names. Apple Jam, Mustang Shelly, Petroburner, Leenpockets, NotAllWhoRambleAreLost, Pigpen, many others. Great camp, great evening.

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    More to follow . . . .
    #1
  2. ORexpat

    ORexpat Oregon Expatriate

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    3,068
    Location:
    West of Seattle . . .
    Friday morning was Ride Time, but first breakfast and a look around camp.

    Teasel.

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    MapChap lead the ride, South to Bear Creek Road, then east towards Grindstone. S1Marks and OreAdvSgt rounded out the quartet. These guys can ride!!! Gotta tell ya, schooled me properly! Fast riding on skinny, sometimes rough back roads.


    First three taken with the LCC.

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    Rest stop and potty break. Left to right, OreAdvSgt, MadChap, S1Marks.


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    S1 hadn’t started with a full tank, so we vectored into Paulina for fuel. I grew up not 50 miles away as the buzzard flies, but had never been here. Glad to finally see it.

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    Then dodging late spring snowdrifts over the road, it was east to the South Fork of the John Day River to Dayville for a very late lunch.


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    Old guys like me need those potty breaks!


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    Beautiful canyon. Never saw this before either. Shame on me.


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    Dayville Café; fuel for the rest of us just up the street.

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    Now west on US 26, a road I knew well—my commute from home to college 250 miles to the west in Eugene.

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    We all agreed to a stop at the Painted Hills section of the John Day Fossil beds, just west of Mitchell. I’d been to other sections but not this one. Drop dead gorgeous.


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    MadChap and OreAdvSgt live in the Madras vicinity, and headed north from here for more gravel. S1Marks, studly rider he is, went with them.

    The old guy headed due west on US 26 over the Ochocos . . .

    And back to camp; with the late lunch and a powerbar, the best dinner was wine with a single malt dessert!

    I’d almost forgotten what the night sky looked like without city light pollution . . . (apologies for the graininess; even my good camera has too small a sensor to do long exposures at night very well).

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    Two more days to talk about later . . . .
    #2
  3. MadChap

    MadChap Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Out of Prison
    Fun to know the background story. Looking forward to seeing the rest of your pics. Thanks for riding along. Great fun!!

    Tim
    #3
  4. JaxObsessed

    JaxObsessed Endeavor to persevere.

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    From Alabama to Newfoundland, it's all Appalachian
    Excellent! :thumb
    I was hoping you would do some reports!
    #4
  5. H14

    H14 Live, Laugh, Love.

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    Dan's got new friends now.:cry
    #5
  6. CaptnSlo

    CaptnSlo Derelicte

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    1,545
    Location:
    VA
    Nice write-up and photos.
    Looking forward to reading more.
    #6
  7. MortimerSickle

    MortimerSickle Semi-Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2005
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    14,225
    Location:
    Rainville, Orygun, where moss is a road hazard.
    Cool pics, good write-up. :thumb



    Pleased to meet you, and hope to ride with you again. :ricky
    #7
  8. OreAdvSgt

    OreAdvSgt n00b

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2013
    Oddometer:
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    Central Oregon
    It was a pleasure riding with you Dan, I hope to see you at some other rides in the future. Oh and the pics and ride report are great, thanks for sharing.:clap

    Chris (OredvSgt)
    #8
  9. ORexpat

    ORexpat Oregon Expatriate

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    West of Seattle . . .
    I enjoyed the ride on Friday--was a hoot, if a bit faster than I'm used to! :lol3
    #9
  10. ORexpat

    ORexpat Oregon Expatriate

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,068
    Location:
    West of Seattle . . .

    Thanks for leading on the route to the Paulina area. Nice weather and excellent company.
    #10
  11. ORexpat

    ORexpat Oregon Expatriate

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    3,068
    Location:
    West of Seattle . . .
    Thanks! Was a pleasure eating your dust . . . :rofl:rofl

    It's good to ride with folks better/faster than you are--helps the skill level!
    #11
  12. ORexpat

    ORexpat Oregon Expatriate

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    West of Seattle . . .

    It was great meeting new folks. Gotta tell you, these desert rats can RIDE!! Friday's backroads ride was a blast, with some of the tow-track ranch roads (small ruts, a bit rocky, definitely less traveled than the roads to Laurel Fork through the Sinks of Gandy) taken at 40-60 mph. A good push for the skills.

    Now Saturday's ride, when I get those photos, was a bit more challenging . . . :rofl:rofl:rofl
    #12
  13. Squishy

    Squishy Elastically-kinematic.

    Joined:
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    PNW
    Great write up Dan, nice to meet you, nice bike you ride...maybe when i'm a grown up, i'll ride something like that! :D
    #13
  14. ORexpat

    ORexpat Oregon Expatriate

    Joined:
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    Location:
    West of Seattle . . .
    Hah! I just wish I could ride half as well as y'all! You guys rock! :clap

    I also noticed that y'all drink; at least I was able to contribute to that . . . :freaky
    #14
  15. Nick650

    Nick650 Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    536
    Location:
    Harrisonburg, Virginia
    Great write-up and a lot of your pictures are incredibie. I always look forward to anything you post Dan. If retirement gets boring you would make a great motorcycle touring editor. :thumb
    #15
  16. ORexpat

    ORexpat Oregon Expatriate

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2007
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    West of Seattle . . .
    Ha! Thanks, but I could only wish . . . . .
    #16
  17. ORexpat

    ORexpat Oregon Expatriate

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    West of Seattle . . .
    Saturday.

    There are huge areas in Oregon that I’d not seen, apparently choosing to mis-spend my youth figuring out how to get away from the small town where I’d grown up. Today was to get me to more of those places.

    Dawn was cold and frosty. Not hard frozen, but frost on some of the grass near my tent.

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    Juniper berries

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    RockyRoad and I pored over a map, plotting courses and waypoints like Ancient Mariners embarking on voyages to the unknown . . .


    Or maybe we just said “Heck I’ve never been to Christmas Valley, let’s ride south . . . “ So that’s what we did. RockyRoad, Easy-Z, S1Marks, and MortimerSickle. Although after the ride down Oregon 27 over miles of gravel, I think S1Marks should change his name to "90ongravel" or something like that . . . .

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    Out of the trees, into the desert, then back into the trees, and back into the desert . . . this part of central Oregon is absolutely amazing. We turned west on US 20 for a few minutes (and I could catch my breath from trying to keep up with another group of amazing riders. I was later to find out just how good they are).

    I hadn’t been able to see the Cascades when I rode to the Crooked River on Thursday, and yesterday we were heading east, away from them and into the Ochoco’s. Cresting a slight rise, there they were in the distance, glorious in their spring snowcaps. From left to right, Mt. Bachelor or ski area fame, Broken Top and the South Sister which SweetBird climbed in her youth, and the Middle and North Sisters, which I’d climbed a couple of centuries ago . . . or so it seems.


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    A left turn on Moffet Road soon put us on volcanic cinders used for the roadbed. Dark red, the gravel was deep and loose, prompting S1 to keep his speed down to mere double digits—and also a suggestion to air down a tad.

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    Usually the transition from forest to desert is gradual; Ponderosa pine to jack pine to Juniper to sagebrush. On China Hat Road the transition was like a baseball bat—forest, forest, forest, and WHAM, desert!


    Cabin Lake campground at the edge of the forest. (A portion of that mis-spent youth of mine was spent putting myself through college as a logger, mostly east of the Cascades. One of the secrets I learned about Ponderosa is that, if you get very close to the dark fissures in the bark and take a big sniff you’ll be overwhelmed by a pure vanilla odor—as if you’d opened a big bottle of vanilla extract right there on the spot. Another glorious scent of the forests of eastern Oregon).

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    Immediately after leaving the Cabins we break out into the desert and see Fort Rock in the distance.

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    Easy-Z stopped for his photo . . .


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    Fort Rock was our first real stop. I’d camped here in the 70’s when it was un-posted private land. The State now owns it and no camping’s allowed. If it was I’m sure the area would be trashed and that would be a shame.


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    The Rock itself is volcanic. Apparently, millions of years ago shortly before I was born, hot magma swelled up from the earth’s core, hit ground water, and started to cool even as it oozed out. It built a large cone which was later eroded by an ancient lake right about where our bikes are. Indians lived here for thousands of years and their artifacts, sandals and such preserved by the dry desert air, are still being found.

    Settlers and ranchers apparently like it too—well enough to have established a graveyard here in the shadow of the rock. It’s still actively used, but many of the markers harken back to pioneer times.

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    Some of the newer markers spoke sadly of family tragedies; at least we can imagine so. Note the motorcycle and trophy, and the dates of death . . .

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    Others show both humor and faith. I suspect that ol’ Leonard was a real hoot in his time.


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    Lunch was at the Fort Rock Restaurant and Pub. (Anyone wanna buy a restaraunt)? Since there were five of us and the restaurant portion had only booths, we asked to sit in the bar . . . a fitting place I’m sure. Mortimer, Easy, Rocky, and S1, left to right.


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    We decided to ride to Table Rock. (I think it was a secret plot to expose my motorcycle ineptitude, or something like that . . . ).

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    So up we go. I had the best (only) map, so I was leading through a nice desert two-track . . . then it got steep . . . then steeper . . . then the switchbacks began . . . everyone stopped to evaluate the next portion . . . and I chickened out. The idea of dropping a 600 pound motorcycle over the side here just wasn’t appealing. The other four, brave and skillful studs that they are, went on and made it. I turned around at a flatter place in the narrow road. Carefully, but without much problem.


    The road they did . . .

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    Some views before I descended.

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    I wound my way back down one switchback and stopped at a parking area at the first switchback. Beautiful views to the southeast.

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    Looking back up the road.

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    Here comes the crew!

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    Back at the county highway, on flat ground.

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    Fuel in Christmas Valley, then north on a fast gravel road to see Crack in the Ground. Literally!

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    Shadows were lengthening, evening was close, so we essentially hauled ass back north along China Hat Road to Highway 20 then north again to camp. Well, “90ongarvel” and some of the others hauled ass; I went pretty fast and spend a lot of time getting more comfortable at a good rate of speed—but still got to camp several minutes behind the gang.

    Great day, absolutely lovely country, and the weather couldn’t have been better. And best of all, my fellow riders didn’t even get mad at me for going slow . . . Yea!

    End of Saturday; tomorrow’s Easter Sunday.
    #17
  18. XC Rider

    XC Rider Motorcycle Vagabond

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    Right where I need to be
    Thanks for sharing Dan; always love your ride reports & photos.

    Will there be more!? :D
    #18
  19. manfromthestix

    manfromthestix Lost in Space

    Joined:
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    Lexington, Virginia
    Nice report! I grew up and learned to ride in New Mexico and just love the desert. I need to get back there and revisit some of my old haunts... I have been close a few times but was kind of afraid what I might find so I didn't make the effort to go look up the old homestead. I lived in Wyoming for decades and toured the West extensively, including the Seattle - Portland area, and loved checking out all the geological features that govern the climate and ecosystem. I rode through Hood, OR one afternoon at 96 degrees and by the time I reached the Coast a couple hours later it was 50 and foggy, with me freezing my ass off. I've been to places on the Big Island of Hawaii where the climate on one side of town was a verdant rain forest and literally only a few blocks away it was a total desert. I drove back and forth marvelling at it enough times that it finally pissed my wife off. I love that stuff!

    That's pretty good, The Crack In The Ground! I'm a geologist so I enjoy visiting rocks. I'll bet you guys cracked a few jokes while you were there, eh? So, was it all it was cracked up to be? You were smart to ride slowly, got to be careful riding in terrain like that or you'll fall and crack your head. The names of some of these things just cracks me up. I love the crackle of a roaring campfire after a long day of riding. That was a crackerjack of a report, brought back some good memories! Maybe I'll take a crack at another trip out that way soon, but it's a long haul from Virginia. Well, I'm supposed to be at work so I'd better get cracking!

    OK, enough, sorry. No, I'm not a crack addict, just too much caffeine I think. :D

    Doug
    #19
  20. MortimerSickle

    MortimerSickle Semi-Adventurer

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    Rainville, Orygun, where moss is a road hazard.
    We were just afraid to turn around where you did. :eek1
    #20