Exploring Burns, Seneca & home through John Day

Checking weather reports on Thursday, it looked like we would be getting one gorgeous Saturday, and Sunday would be a good day to stay home, so we started looking at maps and checking for back roads we haven’t done before, or it’s been so long we’ve pretty much forgotten. We’d never done 395 from Burns towards John Day, and there was a jaunt on some Forest Service roads that took a minor detour from Seneca to Prairie City so we added that in too.

Overall, this is an enjoyable ride, with no major “oh wow!” moments as far as scenery. The roads are all in very good shape, even the short gravel sections. At 450 miles, it’s probably a bit long for a casual day ride, but it worked out fine for us.

Burns is sort of a gloomy place to visit right now, their sad little casino is closed with a sign out front saying “Closed, New Building to be open Spring 2013!” which makes it even more depressing. A town that used to house plenty of industry is now home to picturesque and crumbling old warehouses and other buildings. Good people live here, I hope more business comes to the area soon.

450 mile jaunt through the Eastern Oregon backcountry
Here’s the loop.
Continue reading

Nose gear malfunction

I was sorting through some old photos today, and came across probably the most expensive pic I’ve ever shot.

Why expensive? It cost us a ton of moolah in medical bills.

Here’s the setup. It’s 1998 and we’re visiting the guys at BBR Motorsports, face to face for the first time after doing business with them by phone for years. We’re on their backyard track, playing on one of their super-cool mini conversions and also one of the first YZF400’s in the US. Everyone’s having a tough time getting the YZF started, and Mike’s awesome at starting any bike, any time. So, after everyone else has had a go, he throws a leg over and kicks the thing to life. Duane says, “go ahead and ride, you earned it” so Mike takes off.

He’s riding around the small track, tentatively at first. Each lap I yell to him “Do you want me to get your helmet?”, he shakes his head no. Each lap he’s going a little faster and getting more comfortable on the bike. I can hear him coming towards the small step-up jump near where we’re all standing and I hear the engine rev, so I aim the camera and shoot this:

Houston, we have a problem.

After clicking the shutter, I step back quickly as he grinds to a halt at my feet. He’s basically made a three-point landing including the footpeg, the bars (now bent), and his nose (now bleeding profusely). He never let go of the bars.

Way to make friends and influence people, I tell ya.

We sop up as much blood as we can, apologize to the Brown Brothers for thrashing their shiny new bike, they wave goodby and say “no biggie, you’re not the first” and we head to the hospital where Mike is diagnosed with a broken nose (duh) and a severe lack of forethought (not really, that’s just what I was thinking). They pack his nose, remove all the money from his wallet, and off we go to Supercross, where he proceeds to ooze blood and generally look like some goofball that got the bad end of a bar fight.

After the swelling goes down a few days later, he spends more time being tortured by our local docs who stick a few rods up his nose, make cracking sounds, stuff his beaker full of drugs and gauze, charge us up the nose, and send him on his merry way. He removes the stuffing and goes to work, garnering sympathy or a horrified look from everyone he meets.

Time goes by and the nose never heals properly (I guess the part where the doc told him to leave the packing in for at least 24 hours after it was straightened might have been for a good reason after all). Another trip back to the torture chamber — er — doctor’s office and a bit of surgery for a bunch more money and he’s good as new, better actually, since he now wears a helmet EVERY TIME he gets on a damn bike.

Moral of the story? Don’t show off on a new bike, especially if it’s not yours. Don’t ride without your helmet, especially if you’re planning on crashing. Don’t remove the packing after they fix your broken nose, especially if you’re not that fond of follow-up surgery. And most important of all, don’t let your wife take photos of your stupidity that can be used as an embarrassing reminder for the rest of your life, especially if she writes a blog.

Food for thought

Found a great blog post today regarding the difference between trophy rides (you know, fist in the air, I made it here) and just enjoying the ride.


I have a heck of a time justifying our power-run trips that eat up miles and miss so much “good stuff” just in the hopes of making it to a coveted mark on a map (Prudhoe Bay Alaska, Cape Spear Newfoundland, those kinds of spots). I know we get so much joy out of exploring out of the way locations, so why do I still feel the need to compete for miles and pushpins on a map?

Trial by…..rain?

So, we actually went looking for the wet stuff this weekend.  We needed to see if our idea of ‘waterproof’ matched the manufacturers’ idea of ‘waterproof’ on the new boots, coats, bags, etc.  Our route followed the Saturday ride from a few weekends ago, ending in Rufus at the campground and ‘grassy knoll’ we discovered last time around.

Looking at sunny skies on Sunday morning, I let Mike talk me into wearing our old riding pants instead of the new ones.  After Idaho last year, I knew they weren’t waterproof – but a few sprinkles never hurt anyone, right?

Well, after a few sprinkles over Ochoco Pass, we rode into Service Creek in a gen-u-ine honest-to-goodness downpour.  My jeans were soaked under the non-waterproof riding pants, but thanks to that heated liner, I was toasty warm and comfy.  My new boots?  Absolutely and completely dry.  Mike’s new boots?  Absolutely and completely soaked.  Both are expensive insulated waterproof boots – looking at them you’d think Mike’s had a much better chance and repelling the wet stuff, but for some reason mine worked and his didn’t.


After a good lunch at Service Creek, IMG_2622 we kept on thru the rain – mostly just sprinkles, but some big showers.  I really enjoyed it because I was warm – but my worn-out front tire wasn’t real confidence inspiring in the few really flooded sections.  I’ll be happy to get those new tires on!

After stopping near Olex, and checking the skies, Mike decided to run 19 down to Condon, then back up 206 to Wasco to hopefully avoid a massive storm cloud that looked like it was between us and the Columbia River.  He must have guessed right, because by the time we hit Wasco, the rain was gone for good.

Riding through the wind farm, we saw a crane holding a blade assembly – we stopped to watch as the crew effortlessly attached the beamouth blades to the tower.  It was an incredibly impressive sight.

 Wasco Wind Turbine

To get an idea of how big these things are, check out the two guys standing on top of the tower.

 Riding into town, Mike rode right past our friends’ Lorrin & Sue’s house, I pulled up next to him at the stop sign and asked why he hadn’t stopped, and he said “I would, but I don’t remember where they live”.  Okay, this is the ‘man in brown’, Mister UPS — and he’s in a town with FOUR streets.  He just rode right past their house!  By the time I led him back a few blocks, the whole fam-damily was out in the front yard waiting for us, shaking their heads.  Gotta hassle Mike, he’s normally the address guru!

After spending awhile bugging the Lissman’s, we were back on the road.  We’d decided if it was raining, we were going to motel it.  We’re not planning on camping in the rain anyway, so seeing if the tent leaked would just be a moot point.  Of course, if we end up ’emergency camping’ in a downpour in Alaska – I’ll regret saying that!  This time though it didn’t matter, because by the time we got to Rufus, it was apparent it hadn’t rained there, and wasn’t planning to anytime soon, so we got settled in and went to dinner. IMG_2654

The next morning, Sue and Lorrin showed up to ride with us to Madras, and took us on some great backroads on the way there. 

A little ways outside of Wasco, we stopped by the side of a road, and Sue pointed to the mailbox of our buddy Tom – so she got out the cell phone and gave him a ring to see if he’d like to join us IMG_2656

By the time we rode down the driveway, Tom was walking out of the house, gear and helmet in hand, and ready to ride! IMG_2662  Heck, I wouldn’t have even had my shoes on and gotten to the door by then.

I’d love to show you a map of the exact route we took home, but all I know is that we were on some very cool back roads that ended up at Sherars Bridge, had a great lunch at Wamic  


before heading to Madras, where Lorrin, Sue and Tom split off for home.

It was a great weekend, and we’ve only added about 15 more things to our list of stuff to bring on the ‘big trip’!

Roaming to Rufus

Last Sunday, we had the heated liners turned up to 11 and I was happy for my heated grips.  This Saturday we leave the house at 10am and I’m sweating in my lightweight mesh pants and with all the vents open on my coat.  Must be spring in Central Oregon!

Mike planned our route around a few northeastern roads that looked interesting on the map, but that we’d never ridden yet. 

If you’d like to read the rest, click on page 2

Tent virgins no more!

Last weekend was the inagural ride for our new tent, sleeping bags and sleeping pads.  We thought we’d head down to Maupin and spend the night at the little campground by the river there.  But then I got an email from our buddies Lisa and Kirk and their daughter Brynnie from Idaho – they were heading to John Day and would be camping out Saturday night.  No way we were going to pass up spending time with them!  An added bonus is that they’ve probably spent more time on bikes and camping than anyone else we know.

Friday night I tried to get all the camping gear on the bikes.  After messing around with it for an hour, I decided to let Mike ‘stow master’ Falcioni take the helm.  Once he got home, he was able to get everything I had in 4 bags into his 2 bags on the Versys!  Amazing!  He is the Tetris master, indeed.

Saturday morning we messed around until noon, then started getting clothes and some food packed into the Beemer bags.  That took us nearly 2 hours.  We were supposed to meet up with Lisa and gang at around 3pm, and at the rate we were going, I didn’t think we’d even be rolling out of the driveway by then.  Fortunately, we pulled our head out and got in gear.  We made the trip to John Day in record time, and got to the Clyde Holliday park about 3:15.  Kirk already had their tent up, but said they had only been there about 15 minutes.

It was so great having the ‘camp gurus’ there, I think we asked about 4,000 questions, but the tent went up really easily and we were ready to get down to some serious bench racing.

  Brinnie was being super-goofy, and it was so fun being around a little girl!  Of course, this little girl has more motorcycle miles under her belt than I do!

Here’s the tent all set up (the green one on the left).

I did make one mistake, and had our heads where our feet should be.  Not a big deal, I’ll do it right next time! 

The only downside to camping with true ‘campers’ is that they have all this cool stuff, and then you think you need all that cool stuff — which leads to Sportsmans’ Warehouse and REI getting even more of our money. 

We also came to the realization that we really did need some way to at least heat water, so we’ve got a little MSR Pocket Rocket (must be a guy thing) with one pot.

With this addition, I realized there’s no way to fit everything in the bags, so we’ll both be wearing backpacks.  We’ve always worn backpacks on prior adventures, so it’s not really a big deal.

After setting everything up at camp, we headed towards John Day, stopping at buddy Bill’s house to check it out.  He and his wife Sue purchased the old school house last summer, and they’ve been there every weekend since.

Kirk and Mike goofin’ around at Bill’s place.





Bill’s got some new graphics for his KLR, he’s hoping they’ll let him into the BMW rally next month!

Bill's KLeemer


Mike and Brinnie check out the loft in Bill’s shop.

The next morning, we got packed up and ready to go (yea, real speedy we were — I think it took at least 2 hours for me to wake up!), after saying goodbye to Lisa, Kirk & Brynnie, we headed home via a convoluted route through Spray and Winlock – we even got to ride a few miles of gravel.  I told Mike I wished he would leave the street tires on the Versys, because then I can keep up with him on my more dirt-worthy F650!  It’s probably the only time in my life that I could have gone faster than him on a bike!

Here’s a few shots from the ride home – click on the flickr pics to the right for bigger versions.

At home, Sabrina decided she’s ready to try riding – here she is showing off her stylin’ gear: