“Aaaaargh!” I cried to myself, as the icy claws of the cold water gripped my toes and lower back. I knew the riding conditions were not forecast to be warm and sunny, but neither did it say anything about rain!
Alas, I’ve been riding the remote wilds of central Oregon long enough to know, the weather forecast is, at best, about as accurate as a drunk Scotsman playing darts. At worst, you can be out in the middle of nowhere, and get clobbered with some snow in the middle of Summer.
I was off on yet another 2-day riding adventure. About 600 miles in total, to the Eastern parts of Oregon.
For the first day, I would be departing my usual home base of Bend. Heading East on the 26, I would pass through Mitchell, and John Day. Just before reaching Unity, I would turn off onto the wild and wooly, highway 245.
After a restful evening ( and a couple of pints ) in Baker City, my second day of riding would have me following the wagon ruts of the early pioneers, and making my way along parts of the Oregon Trail. I would head north on the 30, and onto the 237 into La Grande. From La Grande, I would take the 244 to Ukiah. After Ukiah, it’s onto the very spicy 395 south which takes me back onto the 26, and back to Bend ( and a couple of pints ).
After surviving the wet crossing of the Ochoco “Mountains”, I pull into Momma’s Good Grubbins Cafe.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to dry out in a public place of grub and chub. Say what you will about all of the Starbucks everywhere, but they are great for drying out in. Although, I must say, I’ve gotten some not-very-happy looks from the baristas, as the water puddle beneath me grows like a fat man in a donut shop.
As I’m enjoying my steaming hot cup of Joe, and Denver omelette, I look out the window and see rays of sunshine. Thank Goodness! Let’s rock!
Dried out, and back on the bike, I continue East, on the 26. This part of the highway takes me through the John Day Fossil Beds Monument. Do you remember that scene in the movie “Lord of The Rings”, when Frodo is looking out upon the mountains of Mordor? Ha ha. You get the picture, eh?
There’s no flowing magma or black, belching smoke here, but plenty of curves snaking through the gaps in the basalt rock cliffs.
This type of riding, if done in a “spirited” style, must be done with a bit of care, as the rock walls are not very forgiving. The RVs tend to kick up a bit of gravel onto the corners, also. But, if you can hold it together, upon being spit out of the gap on the other side, you will find yourself whooping with pure joy, and thinking “It’s a good day to ride!”.
Before I can blink 5 times, I’m pulling into the little timber town of John Day. I spot Momma’s Coffee Shack and decide a hit of chub is in order. There is much spirited riding ahead, and I need to be on full alert.
A raspberry mocha, with a double shot of espresso, does the trick. Yeah, I’ve been told I tend to take things on the sweet side. Hey, I’m a sweet guy, so I like my stuff sweet. What can I say.
Fully awake and full of vigor, back on the 26 I go.
This part of the 26, east of John Day, and up until the intersection with the 245, near the little town of Unity, is fairly relaxing, easy-going riding. But, as you can see in the photo below, in the distance, there is a sign that motorcyclists love to see … “Shenanigans ahead!”. Yeaaaah! < thumbs up emote here >
After a good dose of meandering turns in the expansive, beautiful, remote wilderness of eastern Oregon, I reach the 245.
Just like with the 26 out of John Day, the first half of this highway is fairly relaxing. It wanders through some ranches and farm country. What I refer to as “bug country”. As in, having to pull over every 30 minutes to scrape the bug juice off the visor.
Bugs. It’s just one of the many things I love about riding. There’s nothing better than the smell of bugs, sweat, and chain lube. Hey, truth be told, upon walking into a coffee shop, I’ve gotten some smiles from the ladies. Perhaps, I’m onto something here. I should give the men’s body spray company a call. Ka-ching! $$
Ok. Enough about men’s pit spray, the second half of the 245 is coming up, and this piece of road is serious business. It’s not for people who scare easily. You miss a turn here, and … well, truth be told … you be GONE! Or, as the mafia likes to say … “disappeared”.
Beneath most of the corners is a whole lot of steep hillside and scrub brush. To make the riding even spicier, no guard rails. To make the riding spicier still, logging trucks barreling around the corners, and often cutting into the opposite lane. Ha ha. Did I tell you, I live for this shite?
The great thing about the second half of the 245 is, come the end of it, you reach Baker City.
And, we all know what can be found in most small Western towns, yes?
Yup. You got it.
After a couple pints, and a good snore, it’s time for Day 2 of my little jaunt.
The day begins with a bit of riding along parts of the old Oregon trail.
Baker City was one of the first towns established by the pioneers, as they made their way to the Oregon coast. I’m supposing the town founder might have been a baker who had had enough of the creaking wagon and endless yapping of the mother-in-law. He stopped the wagon and proclaimed “Here be the site of the future Baker City!”.
To see the old wagon ruts, you have to hike a bit into the bush. Seeing as how I was wearing full riding gear, and had mega miles of shenanigans in front of me, I opted to stay on the bike, and push on.
After gassing up in La Grande, it was time for the final section of riding along the remote, but wickedly fun, highway 244.
Speaking of gassing up, as with many parts of eastern Oregon, gas stations run few, and far between. Fortunately, I’m riding a bike perfectly designed for this type of distance riding. The Yamaha MT-09 Tracer gets at least 200 miles out of its 4.8 gallon tank. When push comes to shove, I’ve been able to squeeze 230 out of it, but I prefer to stay off the fumes, if possible.
My #1 riding rule of thumb is “Pints by 7”.
After tens of thousands of miles under my belt, I have yet to NOT abide by that rule. Or, in the words of The Dude “The Dude abides!”. ( Wait. I think I got that turned around. ).
I fully intend to ride for many more tens of thousands of miles, and still abide by the words of The Dude. Or, is it “not abide”? Ah hell! You get my meaning!.
I must say, the 230 offers miles upon miles of damn near the most perfect riding one can imagine.
Believe me now, and believe me later, when I tell you this, I exaggerate not.
This is some very beautiful riding. Serene, meandering turns, in beautiful country, on a beautifully surfaced road. For icing on the cake, damn near no cars, and certainly no freaken RVs or trucks. It really doesn’t get much better.
I feel for the poor bastards who are stuck with straight, crowded, crappy roads in places like Ohio or Florida. Well, maybe I don’t feel so much for you. Ha.
Yup. I’m an old, bald bugger, who wears Hi Viz. What can I say.
I can say this. I ride the twisty roads of Oregon, in good style! Ha. While taking the photo above, one needn’t worry that I risked getting hit by a car. I think I saw one pickup, during a couple hour’s worth of joyous riding. Also, I’m wearing High Viz. 🙂
I’m going to wrap this post up with a short mention of the last segment of the ride, which was south on the 395, back down to John Day.
After a very nice ride on the 244, I reach the town of Ukiah. A gas and Gatorade later, it’s onto the 395 south.
This part of the 395 offers some very spirited riding on sweeping corners, in a wilderness setting. If you need to reduce the chicken strips on your tires, this is a good piece of riding for that. Just be careful of what I call “The Horned Wall of Muscle.”.
Yes, that’s right. Running into any of the various types of wildlife will most likely result in not drinking pints by 7. And, by indirect translation, abiding by the words of The Dude. We certainly don’t want that.
So, with that being said, I’ve been riding in Oregon for a while now. I’ve tacked on quite a few thousands of miles. I’ve yet to have an encounter with wildlife, but believe me when I say this, there is plenty of it. How do I know? Because, I’ve seen plenty of it.
Many a motorcycle has had an unpleasant encounter with the Horned Wall of Muscle, and hence … yup, you guessed it … abided by the words of The Dude. As in, you did not abide by rule #1, which is “Pints by 7”. I read about such encounters, in the local rag, all the time.
Here’s my few tips for avoiding The Horned Wall.
- When the trees and veg are up against the road, slow down.
- When whipping through a blind corner, slow down.
- Don’t ride “just after sun up”, or “just after sun down”. Photographers love what they refer to as “The Golden Hour”. Motorcyclists should avoid it, if possible. The Golden Hour is when The Horned Wall tends to be up and about.
- If there is very little oncoming traffic, ride the centerline. Hell, I often will ride the centerline even if there is traffic. I just quickly move over, as the car passes. Use your entire lane. Motorcycles can do that.
- Git yourself a good horn! Git rid of that cheap beeper, and git yourself a good honker. These horns not only alert The Horned Wall, but work great on RVs, and cagers in general.
That’s all I can think of for now. I’ll add to the post, if anymore come to mind.
Hey All, I hope you enjoyed this post. I know it’s been awhile, but I’m back in the saddle. Look for more posts in the near future. Also, if you’re enjoying my words, please pass a word to your buds. Getting noticed on the web is like a motorcycle in L.A. traffic. It’s tough to be seen.