Portland to Ridgecrest- 10 Days on an XR650R through the Eastern Sierra

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by bicycleweed, Nov 8, 2011.

  1. bicycleweed

    bicycleweed Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    16
    Location:
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Oddly enough, my parents gave me the idea for the trip. Even though they were more worried than anyone else. They were preparing to set off on a month long bicycle tour of eastern Canada and upstate New York, and I was enjoying a farewell dinner with them. Well, I had only taken 4 extra curricular days off from work in the past year, and needed a vacation. I sell bicycles for a living, and ride bicycles just about every day, so a vacation from the pedals sounded great. Toss in drifty turns and fast whoops, and the goal was set. Riding from Mexico to Canada in the desert sounded good- that would be the goal, and if I couldn’t make that happen, I’d get as close as I could.
    In late September, I finally found a decent XR650R. Serendipitously, my YZ125 sold 24 hours prior to checking out the XR. Driving to yet another bicycle race, I stopped and took a look at the XR. It was used, and had a few small quirks, but it was legit and everything checked out.



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    Preparing for the trip, I really didn’t know what to do. The plan was to just wing it for a route, more or less ask for directions, and just guess which roads and trails would be best. With a brand new bike, that sat for a few weeks as the stator was getting rewound and awaiting a new clutch cover gasket, I had maybe 100 miles on her prior to departure. In short, she was an un-tested beast.



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    The days leading up to departure were jam-packed. Bicycle rides kept getting in the way of trip packing, and I was a bit sleep deprived with all the stuff to organize and prepare. Part of it was just nerves, too, as I’ve never before really done a trip like this.
    Thursday, I worked a full day. Came in late, as I had little sleep the whole first week leading up to the ride. Wanted to pack up and be 100% ready to go straight from work. Come quittin’ time, around 5:30pm, I jumped in the truck and charged north. Made it (thanks to Monster Energy) to Ashland by 11:30pm. Drove aimlessly towards the east side of the valley and found my way up to Grizzly Peak.

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    Friday morning, I got coffee and groceries in Ashland, OR. Noticed for the first time that it was fall in other climates.

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    The rest of the day was spent jamming north to Portland. My plan was to find a good mini-storage spot and got the truck parked. Thank goodness for cell phones and GPS, as I neglected to actually plan this part of the trip before arriving in traffic in Portland. Anyhow, found a spot, and got the bike out and loaded up. Big problem- I didn’t fit on the bike! With all my gear, my backpack would hit my dry bag on top of my panniers. The only solution was to completely re-prioritize, lose the big backpack, and to go with the ultra small CamelBak.

    Finally, all set to go around 6:15pm…

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    Excited, nervous, anxious- I throttled out from my truck, did a sweet wheelie, and roared out from the self-storage yard like Johnny Campbell starting the Baja 1000. A few minutes later and the headlight didn’t come on. It was getting darker by the minute. This is what I call an impediment. Well, it might just be a dead battery… I rode around the industrial area of town with no headlight in the dark in an effort to charge the battery. No dice. I pulled into a motorcycle dealership’s parking lot and used the lights in the parking lot to re-configure the headlight wiring. Got it to work once, then it died again. By 10:00pm, the headlight still didn’t work consistently. It was time to chill out, rest, and think about a solution. I was beat, starving hungry, stressed, and frustrated. It was also on the verge of raining. I got a cheap hotel and called it.
    #1
  2. larryboy

    larryboy Stable genius.

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    29,541
    Location:
    Über Alles,California
    Bring it, this place needs some new blood!!


    :lurk
    #2
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  3. bicycleweed

    bicycleweed Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    16
    Location:
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Saturday morning came early. The headlight didn’t work, but hey, there’s daylight!

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    Riding to Mt. Hood was generally cold, wet, easy riding. The dirt roads were plush gravel and made for easy riding. Made it to Timothy Lake and explored some dirt.

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    This sign was pretty exciting, but the resulting road wasn’t as drifty as I was hoping.


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    Yep. I promised myself I’d throttle back a bit, but it was just such a smooth section of road!


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    After leaving Mt Hood, I pulled into a gas station just outside the Indian reservation east of Mt Hood, and met a motorcycling Romanian named Dan. He moved his family to Portland a few years ago, and was on a Goldwing, returning from a weekend trip out to John Day, Oregon. While we were chatting, another crew of dual sport riders pulled up in a cloud of desert dust. They had just ridden south from Hood River on a sweet desert road. No one knew of a good dirt way to continue south, so I hit the slab towards Bend.

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    Then exactly what I was worried about happened. 45 minutes outside of Bend, two small town sheriff pulled me over for no headlight. This had to be the most nerve wracking moment of the trip. If the cop felt like being a jerk, my whole ride could be over. After last night’s panic attack of no head light success, there was no way the light would suddenly start working now. He was nice, and I stalled out long enough for them to leave frst so they didn’t see my lack of a light as I pulled away from the curb.
    An anxious 45 minutes later, I saw signs for an OHV park just outside Bend as the sun was setting. Rallied the trails for a while in the twilight, and slept on the side of a sand hill climb. Life is good!

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    The next morning was really the start of the adventure. It was time to take matters into my own hands with the damn headlight. Dim stock light, you are my new best friend. Meet Miss Expensive Baja Designs headlight. Now prepare to show her how to get it done.


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    This vibrated loose.


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    This was an easy solution.


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    The main problem with the light was the charging of the battery. The bike has a re-wound stator, something pretty standard for the Baja Designs stuff. The real problem is probably the battery- it’s small and only about 500 mAh. I have a hunch that the little thing is buggered up from too much brake light testing before the trip. I do have a big ole LED tail light, but it should draw enough that the HID headlight is worthless.

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    On a whim, visited an excellent local shop, Sunnyside Sports, which I’ve sold bikes to for a year or two. They were pretty surprised to meet me, and unfortunately, most the folks I regularly chat with were out. It was still nice to see the place. I got supplies at the market, and suddenly my headlight works! Out of nowhere!

    The sights of the OHV trails outside of Bend.



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    These sandy roads and powerline trails are awesome on the big XR. Pop into 4<sup>th</sup>, rev up, and air out!

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    Rode a ton of awesome powerline trails and random dirt roads, generally heading south, and ended up coming across a town called La Pine. This was a good chance to grab some spare oil, water, and to gas up the bike. And it seemed like there was a lot of dirt to ride heading south and southeast across the state.

    Coming down a swooping left turn and there was a break in the tree line. A jagged garden of lava rock reminded me that pinch flats and a wrecked tire are just one botched landing away.



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    Hit a ton more OHV trails eastwards instead of the highway, then as the sun began to trod down the sky, had to finally get on 395 for an hour or so and make up some distance.

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    Found a friendly gas station at a timely moment. Yep. In Oregon, you need to have someone else pump your gas for you. Preferably, they are employed by the gas station. But this also means that during the hours when the stations are closed, you can’t gas up.

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    It was time to keep making up miles towards 395. Ideally, the ride would be all dirt. But, I am running out of daylight and need to make some progress. I’ve been on the bike for almost 6 hours. Made it to Summer Lake as the sun was setting, so I turned around and rode back up to Fremont Peak for camping. Sweet mtn top campsite, and got in just before sunset.

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    #3
    pigjockey likes this.
  4. Sean-0

    Sean-0 straya carnt

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    4,940
    Location:
    Mumblebum Northern NSW
    Im in ..... gotta be good ... xrr and a no working headlight :freaky
    #4
  5. bicycleweed

    bicycleweed Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    16
    Location:
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Do all posts on this forum need to get approved? I've got a bunch more stuff to post up and it's not posting...
    #5
  6. Sean-0

    Sean-0 straya carnt

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    4,940
    Location:
    Mumblebum Northern NSW
    no mate ......not that i know of
    #6
  7. ktmnate

    ktmnate Long timer

    Joined:
    May 7, 2003
    Oddometer:
    3,098
    Location:
    Somewhere
    Hahaha great start!. We just tried the OBCDR in late October. Coldest ride ever for me. We camped and the temps got below zero. My XR headlight wouldn't work either. It was just the battery. I have the HID and it needs a kick to get started. Can't wait for the rest of your report.



    Nate


    PS -which giant loop bag is that?
    #7
  8. RideFreak

    RideFreak Torque Junky

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2009
    Oddometer:
    16,094
    Location:
    Out in the NM Dez somewhere
    Who needs a frickin HL :lol3

    in...
    #8
  9. bicycleweed

    bicycleweed Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    16
    Location:
    Santa Cruz, CA
    **Double post**
    #9
  10. Garthe

    Garthe ROCKS ARE YOUR FRIENDS...

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2004
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    Location:
    Arizona
    It might be restricting you, because your new. Keep on posting....

    Go get'em BW...:clap:clap:clap
    #10
  11. larryboy

    larryboy Stable genius.

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2005
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    Location:
    Über Alles,California
    Must have been a glitch, Sean-O's post was right after mine when I went to bed last night.
    #11
  12. Fireball

    Fireball Ancient Astronaut Theorist

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2004
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    Location:
    Bacon Double Hamburg NJ
    :lurk
    #12
  13. bicycleweed

    bicycleweed Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    16
    Location:
    Santa Cruz, CA
    A cold morning wake up showed some weather blowing in over the valley. The view was nice, but I wanted to make some progress. Preferably on the dirt!
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    Fried wires going to the headlight. Do note that the headlight is set up exactly as per the instructions.
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    Rode 395 in darn cold temperatures to Paisley, Oregon. Got water and gas, then blindly jumped into forest service dirt roads in the Fremont National Forest. It was pretty sweet, going from high speed highway in uncomfortable cold to endless mellow dirt roads through the forest. Did 60 miles without seeing a soul. It started off as kind of lame, then I felt better sliding the bike through turns and pumping through dips.

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    Rode 395 to Lakeview, and ate a solid lunch at a little diner, followed by more 395 to Alturas.

    And onwards…
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    Goose Lake in the distance.

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    Gassing up, I met a SoCal brodude with tons of tattoos, an irritably clean truck, and a fresh KTM 450MXC. He gave me some tips on Miller Canyon off Hwy 138 up to Big Bear. From Alturas, I tried to ride south through the XI reservation, but got shut down. Well hey, these random roads roughly parallel 395- why not give them a try?

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    Got stuck on crappy volcanic route to dead ends to do 14 miles of crappy southwards progress via 30 miles of lame riding that took almost 2 hours. Rode 395 south to West Reservoir. Creepy, creepy place. Flashing lights, no noise, no people, no signs or anything. Just plain weird. Plan is to ride to Reno the next morning via sweet western Nevada desert stuff. Hoping to make it to Virginia City and well on wards to Mammoth tomorrow.

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    It’s 35 degrees outside. There’s a lake, but I’m too beat to gather firewood for a camp fire, so a swim means shivering away the night. A simple camp suds shower is the trick!

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    A cold morning is best greeted with a warm cup of coffee.

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    Woke up early and got going early. Absolutely shredded out of camp! Sweet lake area trails, mostly sand, but having fun on the bike! Made it only a mile or two out from camp, but feeling like a total hero, and my clutch cable broke!

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    With the broken clutch cable, seconds later, I got stuck in cow herding traffic. Had to put it in 1<sup>st</sup> and put put through tons of cows- to the point that it was ridiculous. However, with a few cowboys around, I didn’t want be forced to do a sweet neutral drop and scare the cows so I didn’t stop chat. Once back to 395 (in Likely- I think!) I had to jam straight down 395. This was the coldest, most miserable part of the trip. Air temp probably 35 degrees. After a half hour or so, I saw a gold mine. A Winnebago. I jumped in behind the RV for 80 miles to break the wind. Chapped, bleeding lips, a bloody nose, and constant shivering all kept me company. And anytime I stopped, it was going to be a sweet neutral drop and sketchy wheelie to get going without a clutch.
    Just outside of Susanville, I gassed up and talked to a local kid with a ton of moto stickers on his truck; he said the town’s only moto shop had just closed. No choice but to hit 395 for the whole blast down to Reno to RMS motorsports.
    While there might have been other options, I just charged the freeway through Reno in rush hour traffic, and exited near the airport straight to a red light. Shoot! Cars pile in behind me. I try to signal to driver that I’ve got a problem, who knows if he knew what I was trying to explain. RMS has a clutch cable, and I also got oil, an air filter, and chain lube. At this point the chain is done, but my plan is to lube the heck out of it and run it till it’s done.

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    Luckily, my good friend Don answered my text and agreed to meet up for lunch. I was secretly hoping to just rally on past Reno and down towards Mono lake, but I was tired and hadn’t really showered since Portland on Friday. It is now Tuesday. Luckily Don invited me over. And even offered up a futon. That would have been hard to turn down!

    When it’s cold out, my toes turn black. This started happening after a really cold bike ride here in Santa Cruz of all places. This is how they looked at Don’s house, after riding 160 miles in the morning cold.

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    This was somewhere between 600 and 800 miles on the bike, I’m not really sure at this point, but at least half of those were on the freeway and freeways don’t burn oil. Right?

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    We had a fun night, and went out for El Salvadorean food and beer at Kraft Brewery. It was a bit of a hectic night, as Don’s housemate, Jon, and Don’s girlfriend, Andrea, were packing to head out to Anglefire, NM, for the Collegiate MTB National Champs. Despite snowy conditions, Andrea would go on to win the Women’s overall championship.

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    An early, cold morning and then it was off to the old Toll Road up to Virginia City.

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    Virgina City is a cool small town, but no sweet desert trails were easily found. The town was so touristy I just wanted to get out of there. I rode to Carson, visited the relatively worthless BLM center, which claimed to not have a map of Nevada, and was sent over to Walmart for a good map. Of course, Walmart is now exclusively Rand McNally, makers of the very map I was looking to replace.

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    It was time to get back on it. With renewed gusto, it was back into tight, rocky, sandy mountain trails.

    Cliché, yes, it was also kind of fitting.
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    Eventually the rocky and narrow trails led to a sandy, whooped out powerline road. I followed that for maybe 12 or 15 tough miles. Whoops are fun for a while. Then add 60 lbs of luggage and overwhelmed suspension. Not so fun, but still a good challenge.

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    The powerline whoops mellowed out and finally intersected a nice county dirt road.
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    A couple hunters sped by on quads, and the GPS said the roads would generally lead south to Pine Nut, an OHV area I’ve heard of previously. I did hit a couple dead ends here and there, then landed on a fantastic 60 mile dirt road out to Pine Nut and almost to Coleville. This was a long section of road, in a very remote neck of the woods, without any signage.

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    Sketchy, worn out chain.

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    I took a few wrong turns but the GPS saved me. This section was really cool- I was feeling better on the bike, sliding through most turns, wheelies, jumps, etc. And it was good and remote. It short cut a lot of the way from Carson down to Coleville. It was getting late, so I rode maybe 80 cold miles to Bridgeport. Getting dark. Coldest temps yet. Made it just past Bridgeport to the road towards Bodie. First priority was to find a good campsite where I could have a warm fire. I was cold, exhausted, and ready for a break. Being so close to Yosemite, I figured it was prudent to use an actual campground. Well, the only one I saw had several CHP parked in front, and the last thing I wanted was extra attention from the police. Bodie State Park ended up being day use only, so I rode back to town to get a room. First inquiry was at the Maple In, it was $80 a night, and they referred me to the Bodie Inn at $59 a night. Sold. Had Dinner at Rhino’s, complete with a KPIG sticker inside. Perfect!

    And this is where the riding got even better.
    #13
  14. Multisync

    Multisync n00b

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    7
    Sounds like a cool ride :clap
    #14
  15. BigNastybrp

    BigNastybrp Big Nasty

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    745
    Location:
    high speed boogie land, Sunny Ca.
    :thumbin
    #15
  16. skianreid

    skianreid Boulder Moto

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2011
    Oddometer:
    108
    Location:
    Boulder Colorado
    Oh Dude, one of the best hot springs on the east side is right there by the shooting range in bridgeport. I used to live in Ridgecrest and we used to ride all the way to Bodie on mostly dirt. Great report so far good on you.
    #16
  17. WRC51

    WRC51 Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2008
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    Location:
    Santa Rosa, Calif.
    Enjoying your RR, The Pig was one of my pre-sets when I lived in San Martin. :D
    #17
  18. brad21

    brad21 We have a pool... and a pond.

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2006
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    Location:
    Carson Valley, NV
    :huh

    :eek1
    #18
  19. xathor

    xathor Not actually Gnarly

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2009
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    449
    Location:
    Huntsville, Alabama
    Looks like frost bite on your toes. Shove a hot hands or something down to the end of your shoe.
    #19
  20. wachs

    wachs just passin' through

    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Oddometer:
    4,955
    Location:
    Tumalo, Oregon
    woo hoo and brrrrrrrrr! :clap
    #20