Jacksonville, Oregon & Collier State Park

This weekend’s jaunt is to check out historic Jacksonville near Medford, then through Klamath Falls and a stop at Collier State Park on Sunday.

Weather was gorgeous on Saturday, although a little nippy in the morning. We dawdled a bit getting going, 23 degrees is chilly, even with heated gear! By the time we got on the road around 9am, it had warmed up to the 30’s and was perfect with our heated gear.

We stopped at Shilo Inn in Medford to see if our room was ready yet, no go, so we stripped off our cold weather gear and headed the 4 miles into Jacksonville in balmy 70 degree weather.

Jacksonville was started in 1851 with the discovery of gold in Rich Gulch. The town’s brick buildings (installed as an answer to the many fires they experienced with the previous wood-frame structures) are very reminiscent of similar gold rush ghost towns on California’s hwy 49.

The town survived the fires and lack of any real gold money by becoming a well-known center of trade for the area. The advent of the railroad in Oregon was exciting for Jacksonville, until they realized the trains would bypass this hilly area, instead using the relative flat valleys through Medford. As Medford grew into a booming metropolis, Jacksonville struggled to keep some of its former glory, fighting hard to keep the county seat by building a bigger and more beautiful courthouse, only to have their best-laid plans go to naught. The county seat moved in 1927, and by the 1930’s the few residents still left were digging underneath the town to scrounge what little gold was left.

Fortunately, the advent of America’s historic preservation movement interceded in the slow decline, and by the mid 1960’s many groups (including US Bank) were helping keep the history of Jacksonville alive.

The town is currently suffering from the low end of another boom/bust era, with some newly minted commercial buildings sitting empty and forlorn at the edge of town, and a budget shortfall that has temporarily closed the museums. I’m sure things will turn around soon, and if this weekend’s traffic was any indication, the core of the town is still healthy.

Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has a wonderful website http://www.jacksonvilleoregon.org/ that offers tons of information to peruse before you go. The neatest thing offered is the audio tours, which can easily be downloaded and added to your mp3 player. http://www.jacksonvilleoregon.org/audiosite/index.html

If you’ve never saved an mp3 file from the internet, here’s how to do it. Right click on the “download tour” and choose “save link as” then select a location (your documents folder, desktop, wherever you’ll remember it), and click ok. The file will be saved to your computer, then you can load it to your iPod or other mp3 player (put it in the player’s podcast folder so it’s easy to find). Also print off the maps for each of the tours while you’re there.

These tours are just like having a personal docent telling you about the town, its people, and its buildings. A great way to learn! I wish more places did this, it’s a super idea.

After spending hours in town, we headed up the hill to the cemetery. Mike’s not a big fan of hanging out with deceased folks, but this is the most amazing cemetery, and we enjoyed nearly two hours exploring the beautiful grounds and listening to the stories of the people.

You can’t help but be affected by the place. Life was so heartrendingly hard, but people persevered. Simple things we take for granted brought immeasurable hardship to settlers in the 1800’s, but instead of making them trudge through life, they created beauty and art. Tombstones lovingly created with hours of toil live today as a testament to how strong these people really were. I am such a soft, spineless, and whiny fool compared to even the weakest of these souls!

Saturday Pics:

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After a good night’s sleep at Shilo, we woke up to wet roads and a light rain. Not in the forecast, but still no big deal. I can’t tell you how much more relaxing it is to have heated gear and not worry about this stuff!

We got going by 8am, and pulled into Collier State Park a little before noon. One other car in the parking lot left just as we were eating some food and checking out the map, so we were all alone with the big trees and antique logging equipment. Halfway through our tour, the rain started to come down, but with our riding gear we stayed warm and dry. Hearing the rain fall and the absolute quiet of this place was so beautiful. The equipment is massive and truly impressive to see, definitely worth stopping!

This was also the inaugural trip for Mike’s new camera, an Optio W80, which is waterproof and cold resistant – perfect for hanging around his neck and snapping shots while riding. I’m happy with the photo quality, very similar to what we were getting from the Canon SD10 before it died (probably because it wasn’t waterproof and we got it pretty wet!).

Sunday Pics:

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Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum

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So, last weekend when we were having lunch in Maupin, Mike picked up a flier for an air museum in Hood River. We looked at each other and said, “Air museum in Hood River? Never heard of it. Lets go!”

By Friday it looked like the weather would cooperate, and I found a cheap room at a mom & pop hotel in Rufus, so off we went.

Leaving Saturday morning at a little after 9am, the bank clock in Madras showed 40 degrees, but the sun was shining down and we were warm and feeling good.

I was worried the highway would still be covered in gravel, but it was clean and smooth sailing until we turned off of 26 on to 35. Swerving to miss yet another pothole, I was getting flashbacks to riding in Alaska. Fortunately, after the last snowpark it got much better and was smooth sailing in to Hood River.

Other than the small flier and a basic website, we didn’t really know what to expect when we pulled up to “Waaamu“. From the outside the building presented a basic no-nonsense metal front, inside we paid our $12 (adult) and $10 (veteran) and walked through to the main area. We were presented with a huge hangar full of dozens of beautiful vintage planes – all built prior to 1940. First and foremost was a Curtiss Jenny, which one of the founder’s sons told us is nearly 100% original – much better than anything the Smithsonian has. This plane is still flown – to the chagrin of the Smithsonian!

Many of these planes are one of the last, or the last remaining of a model. So many beautiful machines, but Mike’s eye was taken by another old machine – of the two-wheeled kind. A gorgeous un-restored Indian! Although the main focus here is on the airplanes, the museum also includes some great old cars, motorcycles and very detailed flying scale plane models.

We had a great time talking to members of the founding family of the museum, and learned so much about early-era flight.

After hours touring the first hangar, we moved to the second, which is made up of vehicles from 1940 and later. Including more planes, many military vehicles, cars, bicycles and some harley stuff. We enjoyed this section as well, although it’s not as cohesive as the selection in the first hangar, there’s many neat pieces of equipment here too.

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5pm was coming quick, so it was time to get back on the bikes and head to Rufus and some dinner. We were both starved, I’d eaten breakfast but Mike only had a few cups of coffee in his belly, we were both ready for some grub at Bob’s Texas T-Bone.

We got to the motel, dropped all the stuff in the room and headed for salad and fresh salmon dinner! Now our bellies are full and we’re watching a little tv before we turn in.

Tomorrow we’ll ride home on 74, then on to 207 and a stop at Hardman (my favorite Oregon ghost-town), then catch 26 at Mitchell and back home again.

2010-02-28 Ride through Condon Oregon

Started at our regular gas station in Terrebonne, just Bill and us. Through Madras, then onto 293 towards Antelope, the sagebrush looks like grizzled old men, bowing their heads in sleep just waiting for the warmth of summer. We swoop through canyons of red rock, some sharp as shale, other sections looking like pillars of silly sand raised up by a giant hand and now set and weathering the eons.

I’m left to my thoughts until the road gets tight and the corners demand my full attention. Focusing completely on corner signs, reading the entrance and exits and adjusting speed and lean, watching for evil gravel and powering on at just the perfect moment to get that sweet feeling of lean and compression that tells you you’re doing it just right. What a joy to have something forcing me to focus so wholly that I forget everything except what is happening right here, right now.

An “Entering Fossil” and a speed limit sign bring me back to the “real world” and we’ve arrived at our lunch stop. Fossil’s Big Timber restaurant is a favorite for lunch.

Afterward, we take a few photos of the courthouse and other neat local edifices and then head north on 19 towards the open rolling fields and wind generating monoliths of the plains.

At Condon we take 206, then spend awhile wandering the backroads near Moro, trying to find the little canyon cut road that Lorrin, Sue, and Tom took us on a few years ago. Every time we think we have it, the road turns to gravel, and we turn around for another try. We finally make it to Kent by guess and by golly, and after spending some time looking at the old buildings in town and chatting with the locals we hurry home before deer-thirty.

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2010-02-27 Exploring Wapinitia and Simnasho

Wapinitia is a tiny ranch community about 15 miles from Simnasho and a few miles from Hwy 216. We’ve ridden through here so many times, and always been intrigued by glimpses of old buildings through the trees. After our ride through here last weekend, I told Mike I wanted a closer look, so we gathered our buddy Steve and headed out.

First stop was the beautiful old church at Simnasho.

This Presbyterian Mission has not been in use since the mid-1960’s. After walking around and trying to avoid the standing water, I realized what I thought was an old downed fence line was actually an ancient boardwalk. Seeing how muddy and swampy the ground is right now, that boardwalk probably came in pretty handy!

Next stop is 15 miles down the road, Wapinitia. We asked a local, and found out we’ve been saying it wrong all along, it’s Wapa-nee-t-siha.

This town was founded in the mid 1800’s, with a post office opening on March 21, 1878 (closed on Feb 8, 1935). The Wapinitia post office was established as the southern terminal for The Dalles to Wapinitia stage line, 47 miles southeast of The Dalles on Wapinitia or Juniper Flat. The original location was about 1 mile west of where Wapinitia stands now. It was moved to its present location at some point before the 1880, to the junction with the Warm Springs Indian Reservation road so as to better serve the people from both localities.

At this time, the creek running through town (see map below) was the divide between the reservation and the flats (the reservation property now stops much closer to Simnasho) which may have been another reason for the location of the town.

Earlier in the week, I found a 1920’s map of this town, showing the location of buildings and a cemetery. I printed it off and we had it with us. Below is the map, colored in with green for the sites we found, red for the buildings the locals said were definitely no longer standing. The rest we are unsure of.

wapinitia map - colored

The first building we visit (#32 on the map) is what we thought was a grange hall when we were riding through before, but it’s actually the “new” school’s gymnasium. It’s currently called Wapinitia Hall, and is sometimes used by a theater group, the Town and Country Players.

In front of this is the cement foundation for the “new” school, which had burned down sometime after 1930.

And, unfortunately, what it looks like today:

Next, we wanted to try and find the old cemetery. The map showed it pretty much directly behind the school at #34, and sure enough, there is was.

This tiny cemetery held few graves, but they are in remarkable shape. I took photos of most, but forgot to note the engravings on some.

Dau of
HT and CE Corum
Nov 25 1886
Nye Hill
Son of
JA and EJ Noble
Oct 27 1888
Aged 4 years, 5 mos & 4 ds
Lorine Hollamon
Died Nov. 27, 1916
Age 7 Mos.
Darling We Love Thee
Susan E.
Wife of
J.M. McClure
Dec 23, 1890
Aged 21 Y’s, 9 mo’s, ? Da’s
I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh
Tomas or Thomas T. Woodruff
?? 12, 1889
Gone but not forgotten
Eliza H. Davis
Dec ??, 1844
?? 19, 1904
59 Years
?? Mo.s 7 Days
??  Davis
Aug 28, 1843
Apr. 12, 1909
Joseph Buck
Jan. 4, 1895
50 Years


Mike is not a big fan of cemeteries, so I was happy he was willing to pause here for a few minutes. I love anything that gives me perspective on how short our time here is, and old cemeteries certainly do that. To see even marble begin to crumble and fail after 100 years, and know how little of who we were will be around in 500 or 1,000 years, makes me wonder if anything but love and family are really worth spending time on.

Sobered and quiet, we headed down the road a bit, towards what was the Barzee hotel (#19). The building is now for sale, and has had some extensive (and relatively odd) renovations over the years.

I can’t find any information about the Barzee family, other than knowing they owned the hotel we were currently touring!

Inside we found our very own Mystery House. With the lack of level surfaces, a walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night could be quite the “trippy” experience here.

Oh rats, back to normal.

So, our question was why there were two hotels in this town so far away from the railway? From online research, I found that there was a Dalles to Wapinitia Concord Stage Coach line which was started sometime in the 1880’s, and continued at least to 1897. Mr. Ortley owned many of the town’s stores and one hotel (I don’t know if this was the Barzee or the Harphram). Ortley took on a Mr. Davis as partner of the store and hotel in 1882. In 1885 Mr. Davis acquired ownership of The Dalles to Wapinitia stage line which he operated, with the help of his sons William and Edward until his death in 1897.

Our next stop is a church on the hill (#21). Still standing, but in pretty sorry shape. I’m glad we took the time to walk up hill and see this gem hidden in the juniper trees.

After a quick stop to say hello to some friendly locals of the hoofed variety,

We head down the road towards a road marked “Road” on the map (descriptive, ain’t it?). Every time we ride through here, I love seeing this little old shed with its bowed out sides – looks like someone has completely overstuffed the thing until it’s ready to burst.

Walking down the road towards what we think are #8 and #9 on the map, we are greeted by a dad, mom, and their three kids.

This family is living on the same property where the husband’s granparents grew up. This sweet little homestead is still healthy and liveable. We especially appreciate the gingerbread and three-sided window at the back of the house.

A few more minutes goofing around with some signs laying on the ground,

it’s time to get back on the bikes and find some grub in Maupin.

More history on this area is available through the wonderful Wasco County history website.

Here’s some information condensed from that site:

First school was opened sometime in the early 1880’s

Hiram Cormn had a store in the early 1880’s

The very early post offices was one mile west of Wapinitia.  A plot was donated by the Corums,early storekeepers at Wapinitia There 3 infant daughters was buried there,the 1st in nov.of 1885.

Two hotels, a livery stable, a blacksmith shop, and the ever present saloon or “gallon house”  all existed in the 1800’s.

E.M. Hartman and son Earnest. built a general merchandise store of approximately 10,000 square feet of space in 1900, including groceries, apparel, household items, school supplies and machinery.

In1912-13 a modern two room school was built that provided education for grades 1-10.

In about 1910 a church was built through community effort;There was a resident minister and a active congregation.

By 1915 there were two general stores, a blacksmith shop, a post office located within one of the stores, a pool hall, and still one gallon house.

In 1915 there was a three year high school and still grade school. 1918-19 the high school was standardized and had 4 grades.

In addition to the Wapinitia school on the flat were Pine Grove, Oak Grove, Victor, Batty, Derthick,and Fairview which had grade schools only, so they attended the Wapinitia high school.

The Commercial Club was very active, with a good brass band.

Water was scarce, there were few wells; majority of households had to haul water in long wagons, storing it in cisterns. People who had seep wells were very fortunate. Irrigation was still a dream, as it had been since the 1800’s. Water from the mountains for irrigation came to Juniper Flat around 1920.

Roads were unimproved, inches deep in dust in summer and hub deep in mud in winter. The first improvement in roads was when the market road from Wapinitia to the lower end of the Flat was built in 1922 or 23. That was gravel, not paved. Pavement started in 1927.

The 1930’s saw the gradual change from horses to tractors for farming.

REA brought a welcome change in the lives of all in 1927 — electicity.

History, maps, and other information gratefully gleaned from the following sites:





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Ride to Madras the long way ’round

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My new back tire came in on Thursday. I figured it was time for new tires since the old set had 10,000 miles on ’em. At first I thought we’d wait until the backordered front arrived before getting them installed, but we decided to take it in to Pro Caliber first thing Saturday morning. They did their usual quick and perfect job, and after checking out some neat snow-x conversions, we were on our way.

On the drive back to Terrebonne, Mike says “lets go ride!”, I say sure, he calls Bill Philo and Bill says “Sure!”. This is the best kind of riding buddy, when a phone call out of the blue on a February morning gets him out on his bike and ready to ride in 1/2 hour or less.

We get to Terrebonne gas station, and Bill’s already there with Steve. We get gassed up and ready to roll. Since it’s late, we decide on a short loop through Gateway and then Madras for a late lunch before heading home.

In Gateway we explore the old train depot, a very neat old building that looks like it’s seen a few different tries at being renovated and nothing really stuck.

After waiting for the train to pass, we gear up and head into Madras for some excellent homemade soup and cornbread at the truck stop, then on home, ready for another day of riding tomorrow.

An ‘Oh Wow!’ Weekend – Lolo Pass and Montana

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Have you ever revisited a spot and just been amazed at the beauty you missed (or forgot) the first time?

Last weekend was like that for us.  Two years ago (to the day) we attemped this same ride with our buddy Bill.  That time we encountered a massive storm and battled through the worst rain we’ve ever ridden in.  Although I remembered the Lolo Pass road fondly, for some reason I completely blocked out the beauty of the scenery (or maybe the rain washed it out of my brain?)

Friday evening we drove over to carpenter Nick’s place to see what he’s been up to – amazing changes there, new paint, flooring and other mods really make a difference!  We picked up cinderblock and mud so he could ride over to our place instead of driving and toting supplies.  Our intention was to use the 3 day weekend to finish the inside of the garage, but Nick had cedar delivered to his place and needed to use the time to build a fence.  So driving back home at 10:30pm we saw a 3-day weekend stretching before us with nothing to do.  Hmmm, ride??

Getting home I jumped on the computer, checked weather reports (very good), and looked for rooms (also promising). Waking up bright and early Saturday I called and booked rooms for Saturday night in Riggins Idaho and Sunday night in Stanley Idaho.  This would put us at a little over 400 miles each day.

The sun was shining and high temps were in the 80’s, perfect riding weather, although the furnace effect did warm things up through Oxbow reservoir, it cooled again as elevations increased on the road to Cambridge.

I did remember this road from our last trip – especially the tight twisty climb up the canyon side next to the reservoir – fun, but a little tense for me as I still have a bit of an issue with heights.

Scaling the Wall at Oxbow dam

By 6:30pm we were happy to pull into Riggins and find the Big Iron Motel.  This little spot offers motorcycle discounts, and the owners Scott and Rose have really worked hard to make this a nice place.  Comfortable beds, soft linen, nice pillows, and other amenities really shows the care and hard work they put in here.  Highly recommended!


Our room at the Big Iron

The next morning we got an early start and headed down the road towards Grangeville and our turn onto Hwy 12 – Lolo Pass.  The road was damp in spots, showing that at some point overnight they’d had rain.  Glad we missed it!

Lolo Pass has the most amazing corners. Long, sweeping, banked, and no reduced radius endings. Some are so long and tight, I swear I’ll meet myself coming the other direction at the exit!  With every heaven there’s a hell – and this road’s bad side it the speed limit. 50mph is just stupid, and aggressively patrolled by a State cop whom we narrowly avoided by chance.

Breakfast of huckleberry pancakes at Lochsa Lodge and from here out we were in new territory we’d never ridden before.  At this point, the road leaves the river valley and raises up to meet Lolo Pass in all its rocky twisty glory.  A tiny bit of snow and a few gravel patches showed the winter didn’t let loose of this one until just a few weeks earlier.

Dropping down the other side, we landed in Montana. The road opened up to sweeping views of open farmland green with new crops and dotted with freshly born foals and calves.  The smell of sweet grass and lilac was nearly overpowering in some spots.

Pictures 289

Riding through old small towns made me wish for more time, museums and vintage buildings flew by though, with no time to stop and smell the roses.  At one point, a sign to Daly Mansion made my head turn in time to see a long shaded lane flanked by maple trees leading to a massive light pink-brick Georgian-style mansion.  The view was gone in an instant, but not before I added it to my mental list of ‘places to see when we have time’.

We did stop for a few minutes in the next town when I spied this old beauty

St. Marys Mission - Circa 1840s -  Stevensville Montana

St. Mary's Mission - Circa 1840's - Stevensville Montana

This quiet spot is still lovingly maintained by the Catholic parrish, and the attached cemetary added a sweet sadness with newly planted flags and flowers in readiness for Memorial day.

We continued on, following the Salmon river through red rock canyons and open valleys.  Such varied, ruggedly beautiful terrain here.

Hard to believe this was all one road, and the pictures were taken within 100 miles of each other – looks like we’re in three different states – well, four if you count the state of elation we’re feeling from being able to ride this!

I was a bit unsure of our Sunday night’s lodgings. Everything in Stanley was over $100 and the Salmon River Motel was $65. I’m always happy to get a deal, but then find myself wondering WHY it’s so cheap? Time would tell. Upon arrival, the motel appeared like a normal 1970’s cracker box, with cabins located to the side.  Opening the door to our room, we were pleasantly surprised to find a full kitchen, large space, two beds, and then sliding open the curtains brought the biggest surprise – the Salmon River, huge and full, racing by not 5 feet off the back deck!  This had to be the most beautiful view we’ve ever had from a motel room.

Million dollar view from our 65 dollar deck

Million dollar view from our 65 dollar deck

Waking up the next morning, we were on the road again early.  The view for the first few miles out of town was dominated by those imposing Sawtooth mountains, then began climbing into a heavily forrested area.  I was worried the road would get boring at this point – just trees and no view.  Boy, was I wrong! Soon we were climbing and negotiating 20mph switchbacks on a road that became increasingly more beautiful and technical.

Breathtaking vista on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway

Breathtaking vista on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway

Even dropping down into Boise the road treats you to views of Lucky Peak Lake surrounded by steep rock walls with beautiful blue water sparkling below.

We did our time on Hwy 84, then happily turned off at Vale for the final leg of our journey.  Arriving home in time to watch the Lakers get trounced, it was good to remove our sore butts from the saddle – 1300 miles in 3 days – definitely not a relaxing weekend, but totally worth the pain!

From The Snow to the Sun to the Sand


Had a wonderful weekend ride. Friday we got out of town early and headed down 97, then turned right at Beaver Marsh towards the longest and straightest stretch of road I know of in the state. Snow still cuddled up to the roadside, more than a few feet deep in spots. The air was chilly, and I was very happy for the heated liner and gloves. By the way, the heated gloves WAAAY ROCK over heated grips. The gloves have heat on the backside of your hands, so it radiates inwards. The back of my hands are always cold, the palms, not so much. Heated grips warm your palms and leave everything else frigid. Especially if you’re a ‘two fingers on the brake and clutch’ kinda rider, those two fingers will be cold with heated grips.

After a stop at the Grand Canyon of the Rogue (very cool canyon with tons of rushing water) we wandered the rest of the way in to Grant’s Pass, making it to town by around 5:30 or so.  After dropping most of the gear in our motel room, we rode to dinner at Abby’s Pizza (only salad bar in town), then relaxed and watched the Blazers get beat up.

The next morning after a quick bowl of cereal (for me) and coffee (for both of us) we were on the road to Oregon Caves.  This section of pavement could be very fun if it were a bit wider, had some guardrails, and didn’t have multitudes of gravel in every corner.  It was still fun, but no way I was willing to wick it up and really rail the turns, especially after a bit of back-end drift in the first corners.

We got in on the 10am tour (first of the day), and had a very nice young tour guide.  I thought the caves were cool, Mike was less impressed.  He was thinking that for all this hoopla the rooms would be larger.

We were back on the bikes a little after noon, and headed back down the mountain and towards the coast.  Our route took us through some beautiful country, and touched the very tip of California and Redwoods National Park.  Boy, those are some humongous trees!

We headed up 101 from Brookings, and got into some pretty intense wind gusts.  Funny thing is there’s a flashing sign at Brookings that states “Wind Gusts next 20 miles if sign is Flashing”, but it wasn’t flashing.  So I guess those zephyr winds which were blowing me out of turns weren’t big enough for them to bother with.  Wonder what it’d be like to ride in ‘real’ wind gusts? No, I really don’t wonder that.  I don’t want to find out!

Brookings had some traffic, but it tapered off pretty quickly.  By Gold Beach the road was pretty deserted, and a joy to ride (except for the occasional hurricane).

Gold Beach was supposed to have a Motorcycle Museum – well, it did, but it doesn’t any more.  Closed a year ago.  Rats!! A day late and a dollar short, that’s us.  Crazy thing is, the website for the place is still active, so it really tricked us.

Reached Bandon in the early evening, and it was beautiful.  Very quiet. A bit too quiet for a tourist town on a Saturday evening, but it is still early in the season, so hopefully more shops will inhabit the empty storefronts soon.

The next morning after a wonderful free breakfast, we packed everything up and got ready to go.  As we were starting the bikes, a few drops of rain fell on us.  So, yes, it did rain at the coast while we were there!

We took 42 S in to Coquille, then on 42 until it runs out of steam at I-5.  Next we jumped onto 138 and followed the road as it twisted and turned through the Umpqua Valley.  This was the first time we’d ridden this stretch, and it’s gorgeous!

Mike was hoping a low mountain pass road would be open for us, so we stopped at Steamboat Inn to ask.  The gal there was a wealth of knowledge and said she’d just tried the road last week and it was still very blocked.  Bummed that our fun road wasn’t an option, we decided to eat lunch at the Inn.  Glad we did, it was excellent!  Can’t wait to go back and try a burger, they’re on homemade buns and looked scrumptious!

After lunch, we continued on, finishing our 700+ mile loop back where we started, riding past Diamond Lake and on to Beaver Marsh and 97 to home.

John Day, Baker City, Union and Beyond!

Sundays ride

Sunday's ride

Slide Show

Another super on-bike weekend!  Friday evening we tromped out to the shop to replace the sprockets on Mike’s bike, only to be stymied by the worlds tightest countershaft nut. Mike decided to wait until the next morning and take it in to one of the shops and have it impacted off.

Saturday morning we both got up early and I took off for Salem.  My best school buddy since first grade was having a birthday party for her dad.  I got to Mom’s at about 10am and we had fun talking and moving furniture until the party at noon.  It was so wonderful seeing old friends and catching up with everyone.  I’m still trying to figure out how some people haven’t aged a day, and the rest of us really show our age.  It’s not fair!

I lost track of time, and before I knew it, Mom was telling me it was 2:30 already!  We raced back to Mom’s house and I changed out of my Sunday best, jumped back in the car, and raced home.  Arriving in the driveway about 5pm, Mike had the bikes out, and shortly afterward we were geared up and on the road.

We met up with Eric and Josie in Prineville, then continued on towards John Day.  Entering the John Day valley, Mike spotted a huge herd of elk in a field, then we started seeing masses of deer in nearly every green field by the side of the road.  Now I know where they raise all the deer for the rest of the state, I swear we saw a thousand of them by the time we got to Bill and Sue’s place just outside John Day. After stopping to say hi, we continued in to town and checked in at Little Pine Motel.  I was trying to rush everyone around so we’d get down to the restarant before it closed, but by the time we got there, the ‘Open’ sign was dark.  Fortunately the door was unlocked, and a sweet waitress had pity on us!  As usual, The Outpost served up a great meal and excellent service.

As we turned in for the night, Josie mentioned she might snore a bit. A few hours later, I got out the earplugs for Mike and myself, and we were able to go back to sleep.  Mike really enjoyed teasing Josie about the snoring, and fortunately she’s a good sport!

Checking the map before we head out Sunday morning

After some coffee and oatmeal at The Outpost, we saddled up and headed towards Baker City.  The sun was shining and the sky was blue and clear.  The mountains look so beautiful with their fresh, white, snow-covered peaks.

Mountain views just outside Canyon City

We pulled into the Shell station in Baker City around noon and gave Lorrin a call. He arrived and led us back to his parent’s home on the outskirts of town.

Riding through downtown and seeing all the cool old buildings really reminded me that someday we’ve got to spend  time exploring what was once the largest town in Oregon.  It was a hub of activity for settlers following the Oregon Trail, and later served miners during Oregon’s gold rush.

Its the 13th house on the Right!

It's the 13th house on the Right!

We settled into lawn chairs on Lorrin’s parent’s front yard and enjoyed some good conversation while waiting for Tom to arrive from Wasco.  We didn’t have to wait very long before Tom showed up.  The first thing he said when he took off his helmet is “Lorrin, do you know the difference between your left and your right?”  Lorrin had told him it was the 13th house on the left when it was actually on the right.  Tom had ridden along, looking at the lonely driveways on the left side of the road when out of the corner of his eye he saw a bunch of bikes in front of the house on the right!  Lorrin doesn’t make many mistakes, so it was fun to tease him on this one.

We geared back up and were soon on Hwy 203, a beautiful winding road leading towards Union.

Above Baker City

Above Baker City

We passed through Medical Springs, and Sue pointed out the pool where Lorrin was once enjoying a swim until he realized he was sharing the water with rattlesnakes.

Union is another great little town with many brick structures built in the late 1800’s.  After ordering lunch, Mike and I took a quick stroll down the street to check it out.

Theres gotta be some old bikes in here somewhere...

There's gotta be some old bikes in here somewhere...

Unfortunately we had to go back to the restaurant and didn’t even get to check out the incredible school and hotel further down the street.  We’ll have to come back and spend more time here (added to our growing list of places to spend a day – I think we’ve got enough to keep us busy for the next 25 years!)

As we were getting ready to leave town, I noticed a young man walking down the street.  Not an unusual occurrence, except that he had a sheep on a leash at his side.  Its not every day you see a kid walking a sheep downtown.  Well, maybe it is if you live in Union!

Sheep Walking

Sheep Walking

Before LaGrande, as we were climbing a small rise I could see ruins of a large building.  After cresting the hill I could see a huge  barn-sized building which had twisted and collapsed onto itself. I was thinking how cool it would be to stop and take a few photos when an even larger and intact building appeared next to it.  Out front was a massive  sign reading “Hot Lake“. This brick and white-wood building looked like an old hospital.  There were Christmas lights strung along the front balcony, and a steaming pond to the right.  It looked a bit creepy, and I couldn’t tell if it was a going concern or abandoned.  A large, new, and imposing gate on the entrance road hinted that something was happening here.  After returning home, I checked it out online, and they are in fact resurrecting this old hot springs sanitarium.  Can’t wait to go see it.  Although, honestly, my initial impression of this place is that it’s a bit spooky.

Hot Lake Sanitorium in its heyday

Hot Lake Sanitarium in its heyday

We continued on 203 through LaGrande, then onto I84 for a few minutes, then to 395 and towards Dale.

We pulled into Meadowbrook Campground for a soda and final chat before Lorrin, Sue, Grant and Tom split off towards Wasco and we continued on home with Eric and Josie.

Eric and Josie

Eric and Josie

Eric was smart and gassed up at Meadowbrook, Mike checked his gauge and was still at half tank.  Unfortunately it dropped another bar right after we pulled out of camp, and by Monument we knew we needed fuel.  Pulling into the station at Monument, the windows were dark and the sign on the door showed Sunday hours as 8am to 4pm.  It was after 5. Fortunately, Mike’s a tenacious fellow, so he rode around until he found a local and asked about options and they lead us to the station owners’ home, where he graciously followed us back down the hill, opened the store and filled us up.  What a great guy!

We made it home before dark, and only had one deer scare on the road between Mitchell and Prineville. What a wonderful ride! Great friends, perfect weather, and incredible scenery the whole way.

Soaking up springtime sun on two wheels.

Like bears emerging from the winter den, we crawled out of the house on Saturday, blinking and squinting in the sun.  Driving around town doing errands, we saw bikes on the road and in the backs of pickups. Everyone was out having fun, and we were absolutely ready to join in.  A few phone calls, and we had a herd of riding buddies up for a loop through Antelope, Fossil, Service Creek, Spray, Mitchell and back home in time for Sunday dinner.

I’m always a little nervous about the first ride after a long dry spell, but I settled right into the riding rhythm in just a few miles. We met John, Bill, and Robert in Terrebonne, then picked up Eric and Josie in Madras.

I really love the road to Antelope, it is technical without being too demanding, and has enough straight stretches so you can relax and enjoy the view.

Sue and Lorrin were waiting for us at the little cafe in Antelope, and while some ate breakfast (and we all chugged good coffee), I decided to take advantage of the time to get a closer look at some of the old buildings in town.

Old Storefront, Church and wagon in Antelope

Old Storefront, Church and wagon in Antelope

One decrepit storefront is my favorite, and I always click a few shots every time we’re here.

This bright green truck always stands out against the winter dry grass.

This bright green truck always stands out against the winter dry grass.

Old home slowly settling into the ground.

Old home slowly settling into the ground.

While I was taking pictures, a local guy wandered by and mentioned I should check out the  jail on the street above.  The building looked like any typical old outbuilding, so I’d never given it a second glance.  Fortunately, I listened to him and hiked up the hill to see.  Inside is the old jail cell, with walls build from 2×4 lumber laid like sticks one on top of the other.  The original lock and hardware are still here, and other than some graffiti, it’s still very intact.  Cool!

The original service station is also pretty neat, with some of the painted signage still visible.

Service station in Antelope Oregon

Service station in Antelope Oregon

After breakfast we headed down the road to Fossil, while everyone else went directly to the restaurant, Mike and I detoured to take advantage of the early afternoon light and get some pictures in front of the courthouse.

Last summer we were able to go inside this great old building, and it’s just as detailed and regal inside as it is out.

Fossil Courthouse

Fossil Courthouse

The gang waiting for lunch

Hungry riders waiting for lunch

After an always-excellent salad at the Big Timber restaurant, the group split into ‘has chores to do around the house and have to get back’ group and the ‘did the chores last weekend or screw the chores we’ll do them later’ crowd.  The group with chores headed home, and Lorrin, Sue, Eric, Josie, Mike and I continued on down the beautiful winding road towards Spray.

I really love this country, and this road especially.  Following along the John Day river, the road twists through terrain as varied as rolling farmland to tight canyons, then opens into the Painted Hills and John Day formations that remind me of Bryce canyon.  After weeks of cold and wet weather, just being out in the brilliant warm sunshine was great, the beautiful scenery and fun riding were just icing on the cake!

Painted Hills

Painted Hills

After stopping to say hi to Henry the bear in Mitchell, we said so-long to Lorrin and Sue as they headed back to Wasco and we continued on to Prineville with Eric and Josie.

Eric, Josie and Mike in Mitchell

Eric, Josie and Mike in Mitchell

As we were coming down the Ochoco grade, we got behind a Jeep Wagoneer going darned slow.  Looking in their back window I spied what I thought was a really large dog, then the animal turned and looked at me, and it was a foal!  The cute little fella was standing up in the back seat and seemed pretty relaxed about the whole thing.  Maybe they always take their horses for a Sunday drive?  All in all, a quirky ending to a fun ride.

Can’t wait to do it again next weekend (crossing fingers for good weather).

Alaska 2008 – Wrap up

A warm summer afternoon in 2007 and we’re all sitting at a small diner in a tiny Oregon town when BMW Steve (aka, Sir Crashalot) says “You guys should all buy KLR’s and do an epic ride through Alaska with me next summer”. Mike thought it sounded great. I thought the stupid KLR was so tall I’d need to find a way to bring along a ladder.

Within the next few months, Bill, John, and Peter all bought KLR’s, Steve already had his GS, but Mike and I weren’t sure what I’d do. Mike was positive we’d find a great deal on a F650GS, and I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Until it did. Yep, count on Mike’s ingenuity, tenacity, and plain good luck to make a deal on a bike with less than 300 miles. By November I had the bike, and later that month we had vacation time, the entire month of July.

In December we went to the Cycle World Show in Seattle, where Steve Trenhaile and Mike made a b-line for the Kawasaki booth. On the way to check out Mr. big-ugly-and-bullet-proof KLR, they stopped in front of something we’d never seen before. I thought it looked like a box of parts from various machines badly thrown together, the guys thought it was pretty cool. It was called the Versys, and was Kawasaki’s answer to a do-all lightweight street-worthy machine. While we wandered, we saw a Versys in the Happy Trails booth with knobbies and crash guards, then again in the Givi booth with bags. Hmmmmm. Suddenly the guys were seeing red instead of green. Less than two months later, both guys owned shiny new Versys.

Spring and early summer were spent purchasing and testing a multitude of gear, and finding out that our friends are flakes! Everyone who thought the trip sounded like a great idea six months ago was now either unable or unwilling to jump on the Falcioni tour bus and ride up north. Strangely enough, the one guy we were sure wouldn’t go ended up making the trip. Steve Trenhaile was on board and ready to do anything to make it happen.

Steve also invited his friend John Kusterer along. This was a worry, as John was the reason we’d had issues with Steve before. Those two get along so well, it creates a ‘them vs. us’ situation that never seems to work out amicably when we are involved.  Okay, admittedly, we’re not easy folks to get along with sometimes, since we’re both sort of opinionated – uh okay, we’re REALLY opinionated.  We also are major planners and so we tend to want to be in charge.  This makes it difficult to find people who are willing to mesh with our way of traveling.

For the sake of safety, we decided to give it a try. The worst that could happen was we’d go separate ways somewhere along the road. No, the worst that could happen would be Mike using the bear mace on John, and then not have any left when a bear showed up in camp. Fortunately that didn’t happen! Unfortunately, we did split up 13 days into the journey, and learned again that we’re really much happier traveling as a couple than a group.

What did we accomplish? Heading out on July 4th, we spent 26 days on the road. Only one day was spent off the bikes, and one other day with just a short jaunt. So, 24 all-day riding days, for a total of 9,000 miles. What goals did we miss? We didn’t make it to the Arctic Circle, or Prudhoe Bay. It would have been great to say we did it – and even though I’m disappointed that we missed out, it really was the only thing on the trip that would have been done pretty much just for bragging rights and not for enjoyment. Still, I want to hit that Arctic Circle target sometime, I guess down deep I do want that trophy on my virtual shelf.

Was it worth it? Well, it wasn’t ‘fun’, but it was an adventure. We flew through some of the most beautiful and lonely country I’ve ever seen. We’d touch down in a small town late in the evening, sometimes with a hotel reservation, sometimes not. We usually got lucky and had decent places to stay, but there were a few times that we were very happy to have camping gear, and a few times the motel was so ugly that we’d wish camping was an option! Just as quickly as we’d get in to a town, we’d leave again the next morning. It all turned into a blur of good and bad roads, breathtaking scenery, incredible wildlife and wonderful people.

Sadly, so much was packed into those 4 weeks that without photos and hotel receipts, I’d never remember what happened from one day to the next. Tiny points stand out clearly, little things I remember with ease and so completely, but these pinpoints of clarity are surrounded by a fog of other times and places that I should remember, but don’t. A month wasn’t nearly enough. I don’t know if three months would be adequate. I do know that by August 1st, we were very happy to be back home with our warm cats and comfy bed!

Would I do it again? Yes! When do we leave?