I've put a few thousand miles on my Wee-Strom since I bought it February, but most of the rides weren't for fun. I had a few Sunday afternoon blasts across the Willamette Valley, and an epic ride half way across the state to Smith Rock State Park with my climbing partner, Dane. But nothing like the adventure I bought my Strom for. Dane and I had a climbing trip coming up...but he hadn't really managed to put in a good adventure on his new-to-him Wee-Strom, either. Climbing a Northern California peak turned into riding our Stroms to a NorCal sport wall...into just riding our Stroms. We had a weekend, perfect weather, and some rough idea of where to go. Sweetness. The itinerary: starting in Eugene, Oregon, ride into the woods Friday night, head to the coast on forest roads in the morning, down Highway 101, over to central Oregon, camp in the woods Saturday night, hit some trails Sunday morning, and head home. Can it get any better? Dane knows central Oregon even when he's completely lost on roads, so figuring out the navigation through the Siuslaw fell on me and my GPS skills, feeble as they are. I mapped a pretty mysterious route that stayed far away from any major roads or highways, and spilled out onto Highway 101 north of Florence. Usually I confirm my two-year-old GPS data with Google Maps, just to be on the safe side, but forgot to on this trip. That will come up later... We got a late start out of Eugene, around 1800 (about 6 p.m. for you crazies out there), and made a meandering beeline for the Siuslaw National Forest. I should pause here and delineate my riding experience. I have about 10,000 miles of year-round road experience, all paved. I've never ridden dirt bikes in my life. The main point of this trip was to change that; the main point of buying a slightly-already-abused V-Strom was to not be afraid to learn how to change that. On to the ride. Last time I posted I promised more photos; I have plenty of those, along with a video (none of the REALLY good stuff, as we were having too much fun). Watch the video, read the report! <object width="853" height="505"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/X_p6AYZi5r4?fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/X_p6AYZi5r4?fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="853" height="505"></embed></object> We were off the pavement and onto the gravel in no time. I was leading, being GPS-boy in uncharted territory, at about 15 miles per hour. Standing up. On smooth, straight, uphill gravel. At some point, Dane had enough and came past me at a healthier clip. Trusting his experience (two decades worth), I sat down, sped up and was surprised to find my bike more stable. I remembered to steer with my weight more than my bars, and we were flying down the road. The light was starting to turn as we crested the tallest peak for a few miles. An old unmapped logging road followed the ridge. Figuring there was a landing, we followed it out. One landing lead to another, until we were way out on an island of dirt just big enough to camp on and soak in the sunset, with views all the way to the ocean. In the half-decade I've lived in Eugene I had never seen the Siuslaw National Forest like this! Since Dane and I are both climbers, we tend to go lighter than most (my boxes are usually half-empty), and heated up water for dinner with his homemade Red Bull alcohol stove. Then we settled in to watch the light fade and the Milky Way and remnants of the previous night's meteor shower come out to play. That's when the rave music started. At first we thought some drunks were driving around out in the woods bumping their music. LOUDLY. we couldn't see lights, but the music was CLOSE. And repetitive. The same beat. Over. And over. Both on edge, we kept our...um...personal defensive devices...close by. So much for a good nights sleep. After an hour two of unplanned conversation about the strange horrible experiences we had heard of people surviving, we settled into an uneasy sleep. One of the few skills I've retained from my time in the service is the ability to wake up instantly, on high alert, adrenaline pumping, at the slightest sound. Twice the music got loud enough to trigger my senses to jolt me into a heart-pounding awakening. Nothing there. At some point, maybe around 0300, the music stopped, and I drifted into deeper sleep. We woke with the dawn, downed some breakfast and cowboy coffee, and loaded up. The riding was amazing. Strips of straight, fine gravel would curve into little-traveled Hobbit trails surrounded with high brush. Out in front, I saw more rabbits than I could count, a coyote, dozens of quail, chuckers, and other birds. We even came across a few steaming-fresh piles of bear scat. Our sunrise descent dropped us onto an oiled dirt road with houses on the river side. As we buzzed along, underneath a giant sign that said "Floating Rocks," we discovered the source of our elusive trance music: Aerious Forest Retreat. At least, we were pretty confident that was the source. Check the site yourself, if you're not sure... We found a creek to draw water from, and take in the deep, cool valley we had dropped into. Our next leg was the best discovery of all. After passing houses with solar panels, enormous gardens out front (and maybe "other" gardens out back...), and rusty buses, we were suddenly on pavement. PAVEMENT. In the middle of the woods, miles from anything. The road was one lane, with a healthy growth of moss in the middle on several sections. Even better, the paved single lane wound up one side of a mountain, and then followed spur contours for several miles. It was clearly maintained, as well. There were several areas where cracks had recently been filled or washouts that had been repaved. Having been on pavement all morning, we took off like jet fighters, goofy grins plastered to our faces. I stopped at a 50-50 junction in the road to wait for Dane (our standard practice, usually...as you will see...). He pulled up next to me, practically giggling. "What the hell is this road doing here!?" I shouted as he pulled up. We decided someone high up in the Forest Service rides a motorcycle, someone who can allocate money for road maintenance. There was just no good reason for this road to be where it was. We decided to slow down a little though; it was Saturday, after all, and we probably weren't the only ones on the road, remote as it was. Still, our grins were undiminished. After several more miles, the road was blocked for repairs, but we needed to head east anyway. back onto the gravel. The logging roads turned into a literal maze at this point. My GPS data was old, so we guessed our way along. One road was non-existent, probably washed out years ago; another just ended in overgrowth. After several turn-arounds, we popped up onto an old logging landing to get our bearings. We could see the road we needed, down below us, etched into the mountainside. It was the shortest route to a large gravel road we could almost hit with a rock from where we were. The landing was tricky riding: large rocks on pebbled gravel with a very steep incline. We got switched around, so after a thorough discussion of our route Dane led out while I pushed further up the landing to turn around. Back on the main road, I gassed it to catch up with him. After several minutes, I realized I must have passed the turn. It was supposed to be right by the landing road. I turned around, and soon found fresh motorcycle tracks leading into a tight track that used to be a road. Crap. Dane already headed down it, I could tell from the tracks. No way should we be going this way. I took a deep breath, adjusted my coat (it was getting hot at this point), and throttled into the overgrown, eroded track. I should remind you at this point, I had NO dirt experience before yesterday at this point in my life. None. The "road" quickly turned into a 4-wheeler trail. Definitely still used, but definitely meant for four wheels, not two. About every 100 yards there were deep cuts into the trail to prevent erosion. I cleared the first two just fine, on a steep downhill, but became solidly high-centered on the third. I gassed it, I rocked, I cussed. After a minute or two, my back tire bit and I was up and over. I was pretty sure Dane was halfway to the valley floor at this point, meaning: 1. I was on my own, and 2. I needed to catch up. I started to ride a little beyond my ability. Or, well, way beyond my ability. I cleared the next wash with a hard thump to my skid plate, but I had too much throttle when my back tire hit the soft dirt on the other side and I couldn't stay level. Down she went. No worries, I was still on the trail. I picked the Strom up, hopped back on, and hit the next wash with a little more umph at the beginning rather than at the end. Good one, Tim. My front tire shot up in the air, and the back followed, but with way more upward momentum than forward momentum. Oh, and I still had the throttle twisted up. My back tire landed first in soft dirt to the side of the trail, and I think I was down before my front tire got reacquainted with the ground. My bike was sideways across the track. More cursing. I stood the bike up, and managed to rock and gas it back in the right direction while standing next to it. I slowed down, and let my skid plate earn it's keep. Finally, the thick brush opened up and I was in the clearcut, the part of the road we could see from the landing. The dirt was packed, the cuts were flatter, and I could see water squirted on the grounded before particularly nasty washes. Thanks Dane, I thought. Could've stopped and waited for me. I continued to move quickly, wanting to catch up, and quickly learned how to clear the washes without getting stuck on my skid plate. After about 400 yards, something caught my bike. I'm not sure what happened. Some combination of my left box hitting something on the upslope, my front brake engaging, my rear brake skidding, my right foot finding nothing but air, and my body tumbling into a baby pine tree while my bike fell over the edge of the trail. I ran back to my bike. It was all but upside down. I tried to lift it. The ground just slide out from under my feet, down the slope. I could smell gas leaking. I tried a different position. And other one. Useless. I was going to have to walk out to get Dane. I watched gasoline run down the outside of the tank and drip inside the fairing. It was already pooling in a little nook. This could spell the end of the trip, I thought. And how the hell am I going to get my bike out of here? I was on the verge of tears, pissed off at my stupidity in such a precarious situation, when who should round the bend BEHIND me, but Dane. What. The. Hell. The cavalry had arrived. And was NOT in front of me. It took him a minute or two to figure out how to stand his bike on its kick stand on the steep downslope (I have no idea how he did it), and then it took us even longer to figure out how to pick the bike up. It was some combination of Dane using every muscle in his body and me using all the leverage humanly possible from under the bike. After a minute to let the bike settle, it started right up like nothing had happened. Back to Dane being behind me, not waaaay in front like I had thought. Apparently he too had missed the road, but noticed my tracks when he doubled back. So much for waiting at intersections. Once the bike was righted, he passed in front of me so I would have some idea of the obstacles before encountering them. He rode at about half the pace I had been, and expertly traversed each wash as it came up. In no time we were at the bottom of the valley, almost done. Then we hit the water crossing. The creek itself wasn't much. Low water, a few big rocks, easy bank on the other side. But we had to descend a steep, 50° bank to get to the creek. We debated how to do it. Finally, Dane descended the slope with his bike off so that his ABS wouldn't engage, while I had my bike on. ABS wouldn't have made much difference; the bikes just slid down the slope with their tires locked. d We were soon back on pavement, and after a gravel detour or two we hit Highway 36 out to 101. A few hours later of magnificent vistas, rivers, and valleys, we were in the midst of the Cascade Lakes of central Oregon. The only stop was for cold drinks at a roadside station somewhere along the Umpqua River. We reached the start of Todd Lake Road at about 1800, just enough time to find a camp for the night up in the woods. The road was amazing. Packed dirt, deep cuts and bumps, large rocks cemented into the ground. We flew along. Finally we reached a picturesque creek with views of Mount Bachelor and other lesser peaks. We parked a ways off the road and settled in for the night. Dinner for me was dehydrated mac & chili, oranges, crackers and sausage, dry ice cream, and a tiny bottle of wine. Ready to sleep. The next morning began with a damn good cup of coffee in an even better location. I don't have any photos from the rest of Todd Lake Road, but there are a few clips in the video. And yes, I do look like a tool when I cross the river with my feet down. But when an older rider tells you to keep your feet down and watch out for big slippery rocks, it's a good idea to do it! Todd Lake Road gave way to windy asphalt that led into Sisters. We had all day to get home, so we stopped in for a cup of coffee and a chat with the locals. From there, we headed out to the Old Santiam Wagon Road. Now, every time I've ever driven on this road in my Toyota, the dirt has been firm, almost concrete like. Solid as a rock. Not this year. The long spell of dry weather in our state had turned the road into a beech. The sand was generally 4 inches deep, but even deeper in some spots. Having never ridden in sand before, I had a steep learning curve ahead of me. After a lot of tense nerves, and an all-but-stopped spill on my part (I put my feet down...and they just sunk into the sand), we resorted to riding with our feet down and battling gravity with every revolution of our wheels. We chatted with a few people in trucks or on 4-wheelers (all of whom thought we were nuts), and sweated our way down the road. At one particularly well-used area for off-road vehicles, my Strom started battling with the sand for balance. I was moving at about 25 miles per hour, and had been for awhile, when it just decided it was done. I tried everything: leaned back, hit the rear brake, gassed it, let it wander where it wanted. After about 50 yards, the bike finally lost and pitched over, right in front of 20 off-roaders milling in the parking lot. As I went down, my wrist rolled across the throttle, opening it wide and sending a shower of sand into the air. I hit hard, but was fine. As I lay there, I heard a dozen "WOOOOWHOOO!"s and lots of clapping. Then there was a pause. "Dude, are you alright?" someone yelled. "Yeah, I'm fine," I shouted back as I prepared to lift my bike. After hoisting it, I shouted, "Is this a bad idea?" I could see a few of them miss my sarcasm, so I answered myself. "Yeah..." I wish I had had one of them take a picture of me. I'm still a little too nervous about leaving my Strom laying on it's side while I document my errors. Maybe I'll get over it one day, but I'm not planning on dumping my bike again for a long time! A few more miles and we met up with Highway 126, ready for some lunch and ready to head home. For all the high-centering, dumping, and rough trails our bikes faired amazingly well. The worst casualty was Dane's chain. A large rock went for a ride all the way around the rear sprocket underneath the chain, stretching out a whole section of links, so he'll have to replace it. As for my skid plate...I'll be getting a new one : All in all it was an amazing first adventure tour. I had 555 miles on the odometer, for almost less than I spent on food for the trip. I figured about 100 miles were non-paved. I learned a lot about mixed riding, and am pretty confident now. Most of all, I'm pretty impressed with the V-Strom. It took a beating, and came out surprisingly well. It's next test is in a month or so: 1000 miles of mixed riding across Oregon, including the Steens Mountains and Strawberry Mountains. Trip report will be coming to a website near you.