Now most everyone knows it doesn’t take much of an excuse to get me out for a good motorcycle ride, especially if it means riding in new-to-me locations with great friends – old and new alike. Well that was the case for this past weekend. Harold and his awesome crew at Giant Loop (www.giantloopmoto.com) put together a fantastic excuse with great riding, great location (http://summerlakehotsprings.com/) and fantastic hot springs.
Now Bend Oregon is a bit of a hike from Seattle/Issaquah area, so decided to make a full on road trip of it. Fletch, Chris and Alex ponied up for adventure. Leaving mid-day on Thursday from I90 Motorsports for last minute supplies (http://www.i-90motorsports.com/) we headed east over the pass with sunny and warm weather. In fact nothing but sun and warmth for the weekend. We turned right at Ellensburg and hopped onto the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route for our first dirt fix. (http://www.backcountrydiscoveryroutes.com/WABDR) We moved at a good pace and enjoyed the heck out of views and the riding. Alex was waiting for us in Packwood so we grabbed some grub at the tavern then headed south back on the BDR for camping. We found a good spot I have used before and where able to get the tents up and the fire started before dark. Have to love early season camping as there was no fire ban yet. Although Fletch was a little eager at times with the gasoline fuel additives. As luck would have it, the extra little bit he use caused him to run out of gas 1/4 mile from the gas station near Madras OR…but that is whole other story.
After a most excellent nights sleep I got to make some of my home roasted coffee and fill of oatmeal in camp. Doesn’t get much better. Ready for the day we finished packing up and hit the trail. Now we had heard and seen some reports about snow, but we weren’t sure about where specifically and at what elevations it would be at. All of the days leading up had been warm and sunny, so we were hopeful and optimistic. Unfortunately in vain. While a great effort was made, we ultimately got denied and turned around at 4300 – 4400 foot levels. We made it through a good number of stretches of snow – not too easy on fully laden GS or Alex’ Moto Guzzi Stelvio. (http://www.motoguzzi-us.com/motorcycles/stelvio-1200-ntx.html) Not so secretly, Chris and I were jonesing for Fletch’s KTM 690. (http://www.ktm.com/enduro/690-enduro-r-eu/highlights.html#.U5XhFxEU8QU) Definitely a good choice for the harder riding and snow for sure. We found some great work-arounds/shortcuts/adventure cuts but ultimately we had to turn back and do way too much slab. But hey – all part of the adventure. We had a little bit of excitement during a polite little off for Alex heading up one of the adventure cuts. Great stretch, he just got caught out in a rut that sent him heading for some small trees. That is one big bike to pick up – 100 lbs more than a 1200 GS! He rode it like a champ.
The big tragedy of the day ended was making it all the way to Bend and then not being able to find a campground that wasn’t full – apparently the Girl Scouts were in town. Since it was getting full on dark, we chose the cheap hotel route over blindly searching out BLM land. Let’s face it, a shower feels mighty good after two days of dirt riding, so “not camping disappointment” didn’t last very long. Up and at ‘em to meet up with the other crazies at Giant Loop for breakfast and ride briefing was next on the agenda. All said and done there were about 90 people involved and most broke into small somewhat organized groups. Justin, Kevin, Paul and others help guide and sweep for people unfamiliar with the area. Fletch, Chris, Alex and I sort of jumped in and out of the groups as we like the smaller team better. Biggest excitement for the morning was Fletch’s near miss at the first gate. Poor boy was flying so fast he didn’t see the barbed wire was up and closed! With cat-like reflexes he started the stopping process, only to be dropped like a rock when he grabbed a little, perhaps a lot too much front brake. He and the bike were shaken but not stirred, so after a few moments to collect his thoughts and observe all the smiles we were giving him, it was time to take off again.
A much needed fuel stop for bodies and bikes gave us all a chance to breath clean air (lots of dust) and take in the excitement and accomplishment of the morning. Good thing too as we were going to need all our faculties for the afternoons ride. Unfortunately, Alex had another off and this time it broke his rear brake pedal a few miles out from the gas station. BTW, this Chevron in Christmas Valley I think is the best roadside gas station I have stopped at ever. Truly an oasis in the Oregon Outback. This is an appropriate name for this region miles southeast of Bend. As the suburban cabins and scenery fall away from Bend the Outback starts to take over. Miles and endless miles of broad sweeping valleys and vistas. Lava rocks (several of which I hit quite hard), moon dust and very high speed gravel filled sweepers are everywhere. Riding in this great land proved to be epic for us. Chris was hammering in the lead, while I rode feverishly to keep up and Fletch was doing the same to keep me in his sites. Yes, there were some slow technical bits, but frankly this ride was defined by the high speed craziness. 5th and even 6th gear don’t get used much on the dirt, but such was not the case for Saturday. It was all out balls to the walls as the saying goes.
With absolutely huge smiles on our faces we hooked back up with the Dirty Girls (Gaila, Tracy, Jill and all the others) for an great evening of tall stories made even bigger with good food, drink and a raging bonfire. Most everyone found time for the Hot Springs before dinner but I had to wait until Sunday as duty called and I helped a bit with food prep and logistics. What a neat little setting these historic springs have. Not only was it an important stop in the early 1900′s for cowboys and the like, but it is today an important part of the Burning Man (http://www.burningman.com/) pilgrimage for many. Bet that gets pretty wild and crazy! Sunday morning came way too early and everyone quickly started to pack up for the treks home. Seattle was a long ride for some. I stayed to help out with the clean-up and finally some quality time in the hot spring. Sweet! While I planned to stay another evening, I started to get antsy so packed up and started to head east. Landed in a quaint little country town on OR 20 called Burns. I am on my way to help out at PSSOR (Puget Sound Safety Off Road) Adventure Camp in Idaho. (http://pssor.com/pssor-adv/training-camps#schedule) Really looking forward to it, just hoping my now dented front wheel and tire treads will last through next week!
One more thing – a little video from our fun so check it out:
So that’s it for this road report. Surely Gaila has much to add too. See you out on the road/trail… Tad