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Ride Report: Day 5: Smithers, BC to Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK

I checked out of the Hudson Bay Lodge, loaded up the bike and headed northwest. The goal was to reach Hyder, Alaska. My GPS said I would arrive at 10:24 AM, which was great. I could stop, have lunch, sight-see a little bit, then head back to Smithers for the night. As I rode, 10:24 am came and went, yet I still had 100 km to go. I thought my Zumo 220 was out of its mind. When I finally reached Stewart, BC and crossed the border into Hyder, I noticed the clock on my bike said it was 11:24 am. Then it dawned on me that my GPS tells me the arrival time based on the time zone of my destination. Hyder is in the Alaska time zone while Stewart was in the Pacific time zone.
Just before I got to Stewart, I stopped in front of the glacier for a few photos, then crossed a narrow one-lane bridge that was erected after the original bridge got washed out by a flood more than a year prior.
In Hyder, I rode up the forest service road 88 to the Fish Creek wildlife viewing area. You can walk on elevated wooden walkways and see bears fishing in the creek below it. All I saw was the creek; no bears were present. Back in Hyder I stopped at the general store to buy a souvenir for my wife. The owner, a big guy with a head and beard full of white hair, asked me where I was from. When I told him I was from Sandy, Oregon, he smiled and said he was from Beaverton, Oregon, about 40 miles to the west of Sandy.
We chatted for a bit, then I headed over to the Glacier Inn for some lunch. This is a very charismatic place, where you can get “Hyderized” — drink a local form of moonshine. I never drink and ride, so I left with a full belly but no booze in me. Getting back into Canada and the tiny border crossing, a young gal named Cyr (pronounced ‘seer’) asked me several questions, then let me through. There is no questioning when going from Stewart into Hyder.

On my way back to Smithers I saw a cinnamon bear peaking above the brush on the side of the road. I made it back to Smithers under light rain and checked back into the Hudson Bay Lodge for the third night in a row.

Ride report: Oregon Wheat Country

It was a quick 24-hour overnight trip to my Dad’s in Hermiston, so instead of getting there in 3 hours via I-84, I spent 6 hours riding there via a very circuitious route that looked more like a sine wave than a travel itinerary.

When I left Sandy Saturday morning it was sprinkling lightly but was already 60 degrees outside so the ride was pleasant despite the precipitation. There were very few cars on the road and I made it up and over Government Camp without too much frustration.

My route took me on forest service road 48 from White River past Rock Creek Reservoir and into Wamic. By this point the sun was shining amidst occasional puffy clouds. Just east of Tygh Valley, OregonFrom Tygh Valley I headed east on 216, and pulled into the White River Falls State Park on the suggestion of a buddy. I’m glad I did. The falls are incredible and worth a visit. There’s a trail down to the river but I stayed up top.Just east of Tygh Valley, Oregon

It was getting warm enough that I stripped off my cold-weather pants and put on my cooler warm-weather riding pants. From this point on, I was riding unfamiliar roads. I crossed the Deschutes River at Sherars Bridge and climbed up some tasty curves to the plains on top. Heading north I got into Grass Valley. My breakfast had worn off and I was feeling a bit peckish so I stopped at a small convenience store for a snack. There was an older gentleman there with a steel-blue ’06 V-Strom, and we chatted for a few minutes. I also chatted with the guy working there for a few minutes before heading north to Wasco.

Once I got to Wasco, I turned southeast and headed past the giant windmills to Condon. By the time I got there it was lunch time so I pulled into the Twist and Shake drive-in and enjoyed a bacon swiss mushroom burger and a Pepsi. There was a Fourth of July celebration going on in the park a block away and I could hear music on their loudspeaker. I got gas at a local station and continued east on 206 toward Heppner.

Once at Heppner, I turned north on 74 into Lexington, then into Hermiston. I arrived at 2PM to warm and windy weather. I had a great visit with my Dad, including a wonderful meal of ribs and fried shrimp at Hale’s downtown Hermiston. The wind blew all night.

We awoke to sunny skies and a warm west wind. After breakfast, I mounted back up and began backtracing my steps to Heppner and Condon. I gassed up again at the same station in Condon, but chose a different eatery for lunch, a small cafe on the main drag. They were still serving breakfast so of course I had to partake of their biscuits and ‘ugliest gravy in Oregon’ with a side of bacon and a fried egg on top. Two cups of coffee washed it down.

This time, I headed south to Fossil, then westward over some of the tastiest curves in the state back to Antelope and Shaniko. I followed Bakeoven road, the middle half of which is gravel and tar, down into Maupin, then back up the other side of the Deschutes River canyon toward Tygh Valley and Wamic. The rest of the route home was identical to the reverse journey the day before. Traffic coming down off the mountain was typically thick for the Sunday of a holiday weekend.

The trip was 529 miles in 24 hours and covered some absolutely gorgeous wheat country between Heppner and Condon, and arguably the finest curves in the state between Fossil and Shaniko.

Chilly, foggy rides calls it 'ice fog'

It’s been cold the past few mornings as I rode into work. Yesterday and today were both foggy and below freezing. If you travel through it long enough, the fog freezes on the surfaces of your bike, face shield, and even on your gloves and jacket. The road surface was fairly dry, although it had a nice shine to it in my neighborhood as I first headed out. I took my time and rode cautiously, as as if it were raining (which it did three days ago).

In addition to the freezing fog, the stock battery on my 2007 V-Strom was finally due to be replaced. It served me well, 35,000 miles over 4 years (my bike’s 4th birthday is a week from today) which is better than normal. I swung over to Yamaha Sports Plaza in Fairview, OR on my way home yesterday and bought a new gel battery for $87, then Steve, the service manager, installed it for me right there, free of charge. They not only sell Suzuki parts but their service techs are fully qualified and experienced Suzuki wrench-heads, some of whom worked for Action Motor Sports, the previous dealership where I bought my bike four years ago (in the same location). Although they didn’t have a lot of people browsing the shiny new bikes in the showroom, Steve told me they are third in the world for Yamaha parts on-line. Way to go!

Dinner ride to Tippy Canoe

My wife and I rode to the recently renovated (new owner) Tippy Canoe bar and grill on the Old Columbia River Highway, along the banks of the Sandy River near Troutdale. It has a new owner and received a very expensive renovation so we decided to give it a try.

We got there at 6pm on a Sunday evening and less than 20% of the tables were occupied. That was our first clue that something was not quite right. When we got our menus we understood why right away. The prices were outrageous! Most entrees were $25 or more, even the salads were close to $20 each. We immediately asked to see a lunch menu. I ordered a grilled chicken salad, which should have cost $9, but instead was charged $17. The salad itself was unremarkable. My wife ordered a crab salad and it too was nothing to write home about.

For two salads, an iced tea, and a slice of carrot cake for dessert, we were charged $54.

The ride there and back was fantastic, but the Tippy Canoe Bar and Grill will not get any more of our business, that’s for sure.

Ride Report: Day 3, Loop to Weaverville

After another night of sleeping well, I started with the usual free continental breakfast provided by the Super 8, sans protein. It usually gives me enough energy to make it to Weaverville where I stop for a real meal.
Fortuna is on the south side of a string of cities, including Eureka and Arcata. Since I knew I’d be tired at the end of the day, I decided to ride north on 101 through those towns and do a clockwise loop, to get that city riding out of the way up front. When I would finish at the end of the day, I’d only have a mile of easy freeway riding before getting back to my motel.
The run north went quickly, including the big mess through Eureka at 30 mph. I then turned inland on highway 299. I got stuck in a line of cars slugging along behind a slow semi. California drivers seem to be really good at letting me pass, though, which is something I miss when traveling to other states.
I stopped in Willow Creek by 9 AM for gas and a protein drink. The temperature was already getting warm. The leg of 299 from Willow Creek to Weaverville seemed a lot shorter than I remembered. I usually travel the loop counter-clockwise so that may have had something to do with my new perception. 299 is scenic and has a few wonderful curvy sections, but there’s a lot more law enforcement present so speeds must be moderated at all times.
Before I knew it I reached Weaverville and it was already getting uncomfortably warm. I gassed up the bike, then stopped at the Trinideli for a tasty BLT. Plenty of bacon! The Trinideli was for sale, too. For only $129,000 you could own a thriving restaurant in a small, quaint town.
The next leg, highway 3 to Hayfork, is my favorite road, ever. And I’ve ridden close to 65,000 miles of roads. It is windy, has great sight lines, and the pavement is in pretty good shape. However, as with all things of great reward, this comes with great responsibility. You cannot ride beyond your abilities or the conditions on this road and you must be completely focused at all times. You can find gravel on the inside of curves, oncoming trucks that have crossed the center line, slow locals and RVs, and all sorts of critters including deer darting across the road in front of you.
But, if you survive all those hazards and make it to Hayfork, you probably have a huge grin on your face and adrenaline pumping through your veins. Running highway 3 is best from Weaverville to Hayfork because most of the curves are uphill and that makes it easier to modulate your speed using just the throttle. It also takes a lot of strain and weight off your wrists which occurs when braking on a downhill curve.
I rode this leg with moderate assertion without being reckless and yet the enjoyment level was as high as ever. I may have enjoyed it more because I didn’t have any pucker moments, either from riding too fast or from close calls. The temperature was high and that is also why I didn’t push it.
A few miles past Hayfork the road branches west onto highway 36 which runs all the way to Fortuna. I had to stop for construction up in the hills and pulled up next to a grey-haired gentleman on a V-Strom 1000 with a silver tank. We chatted for a bit, and being on the faster bike, he let me go on ahead once the construction delay was over.
The rest of 36 passed smoothly under my tires. I stopped in a shady spot on the outside of a curve in the slow, gnarly section just west of Dinsmore. This is a section of 36 that has no center stripe and has multiple 10 and 15 mph hairpins that demand full attention. I drank some water and cooled off for a few minutes, then continued onward. Soon I was back on the road and zooming through a fun stretch of redwoods near Grizzly Creek State Park. The air got noticeably cooler the closer I got to highway 101.
When I pulled into the 76 station behind my motel I saw a couple riding BMW 1200GSs and heard them speaking in a southern accent. I caught a glimpse of their Arkansas license plates and discovered why.


I took a quick shower and ran a load of laundry before dinner. I ate at the wonderful Eel River Brewery next door and in addition to a couple of pints of their fantastic beer, I also had a fantastic conversation with two local guys named Loren and Rusty.

Wash and ride

The weather in Oregon apparently didn’t get the memo about global warming. I guess that’s why they call it climate change instead. The planet is getting warmer, on average, but some areas will actually see colder and wetter weather. So far in 2011, Oregon has been acting more like southeast Alaska. It has been cold and wet and dry days have been few and far between.

Saturday was dry, although not overly warm. I started at 8 AM, pulling my V-Strom out of the garage, hooking up the garden hose for the first time since last Fall, and giving my bike a much needed wash. I ride all year and washing it during the Winter months is like trying to make the bed while you’re still sleeping in it. It took a while but eventually I got all the nastiness off. After giving it a towel-dry, I pulled it back into the garage and propped it up on the center stand to re-lubricate the chain.

After doing a few other chores around the house and eating brunch, I decided to get a ride in. I fueled up in Estacada, then headed up the Clackamas River highway 224 toward Ripplebrook Ranger Station. On this run I focused on practicing smooth cornering while hanging off the side for better cornering speed. It takes some getting used to and looks rather dramatic. It’s also unnecessary because I don’t corner fast enough for it to matter. However, it’s a lot of fun and that’s reason enough.

Just before crossing the river at Indian Henry Campground I saw three guys identically dressed in blue and white leathers taking pictures of their three identical blue and white Yamaha sport bikes lined up in a pretty, neat row. We waved and I zoomed over the bridge and up the hill on the other size. Once at Ripplebrook, I turned around and headed back down the river to home.

This run is about 65 miles round-trip and includes mostly big sweepers with a few slower curves thrown in for variety. The scenery is dramatic and there are no stop signs once you leave Estacada. There are occasionally slow cagers and every once in a while I see law enforcement, usually on summer Saturdays when the sport bikes hit the road.

Ride report June 2012: Day 8

Durango, CO to Manitou Springs, CO

The free breakfast at the Durango Best Western was adequate but lacked proteins. I then headed north on highway 505 to Montrose. The passes are beautiful and so was the road. It was breezy in Montrose where I gassed up and ate a snack. I then caught highway 50 east which was much drier than I would have thought. I could see the smoke from a wildfire to the south as I neared Pikes Peak.

Going over Monarch Pass was fantastic. The road was in great shape and other than dodging a pudgy marmot sprinting across the road the ride was fantastic. I stopped at the top of Monarch and took a picture of my bike in front of the Continental Divide sign, then continued onward.

Colorado drivers were beginning to frustrate me. They seemed to go 15+ over the speed limit in the straights but would slow WAY down for any kind of curve. They acted like they were freaked out by it and it seemed contradictory. But, that is better than Idaho drivers that are slow no matter what the circumstance.

The mountain towns of Silverton and Ourey remind me of those little villages you see pictures of in the Swiss Alps, quaint and small. Manitou Springs has a similar flavor, with a much busier, pedestrian friendly feel. My place of rest for the next two nights was the Best Western on the eastern edge of town, across from Garden of the Gods. I was very glad to check in as the area was beginning a record-breaking heat wave, with temps well into the upper 90’s.

Dinner was at a pizza deli next door called Savelli’s. The food was good and so was the service. My room was adjacent to the guest laundry so I got caught up in that regard as well.

Review: Aerostich Courier Bag

For about a month now I have been using an Aerostich Courier bag when commuting to work on my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and my 2012 Suzuki GSX-R750. As you can imagine, the body position is rather different between these two bikes. The V-Strom has an upright, neutral position and the Gixxer has me leaning forward with my elbows practically touching my knees.

I use the Courier bag to carry my lunch, an iPad, an external hard drive, and a few other miscellaneous items. The total weight is around six pounds.

The bag itself is one large compartment. I purchased the additional pocket organizer that attaches to the inside panel (that presses against my back) with hook-and-loop fasteners. In this I store pens, business cards, a small notebook, and a few other small miscellaneous items.

I switched from using a Targus backpack with traditional shoulder straps and several external pockets, and so far I think I like the one big compartment of the Courier bag much better. It’s faster to get stuff in and out of the courier bag, and of course it’s easier to see in a single glance what is inside.

My biggest concern was switching from shoulder straps (plural) to a singular over-the-shoulder strap. Once the bag is slung over my head to the opposite shoulder, it presses against the flat of my back and I don’t notice it anymore after I get on the bike. Even when leaning forward on my Gixxer, the courier bag is comfortable and stable.

The hook-and-loop panel holding the main flap down is very wide and opening it can be rather loud.

I commuted to work through some serious rain the other day on my V-Strom while wearing my Aerostich Courier bag slung over my Roadcrafter one-piece suit. The bag remained stable and the contents were kept completely dry despite the heavy precipitation. I’m sold on the quality of this bag and wish I had purchased it long ago.

The craftsmanship of this bag is outstanding, just like that of my Darien jacket and Roadcrafter one-piece suit. The materials are solid and I can tell this bag is going to last me a very long time. Considering the very low price, I think it is an outstanding value.

My Aerostich and Me

“You look like you’ve been someplace interesting,” she said. The waitress nodded her head to the side, toward my Darien sitting upright in the chair next to me, crusted with miles of road spray and grime. “Yeah, we’ve been around.” The next words out of my mouth were related to my lunch order but inside I was smiling, remembering the thousands of miles my Aerostich and I had traveled together. Like a faithful buddy, it would have been apropos to buy it a cheeseburger and shake in thanks.

Riding: A metaphor for life

Over the past five years I have racked up over 43,000 miles riding motorcycles and have learned many things about the whole process. It’s not just a matter of how to mount, start, and operate the bike. It’s about trip planning, maintenance, safety, skills, awareness, frame of mind, and a host of other things that blend into the overall motorcycling experience.

Fortunately, none of the lessons I have learned involved loss of life (obviously), limb, skin, or even my dignity. Well, maybe there was some partial shame associated with getting my bike stuck in the snow with my wife riding pillion. But, as with life’s little experiences, we learn from our mistakes and we roll forward, hoping to avoid the accidents and inconveniences in future miles.

During one of my practice rides along Marmot Road, I was focusing on looking through the turns. Marmot Road is not in the best of shape. It has a lot of bumps, pot holes, and tree debris that can make a great ride go south in a hurry. My first instinct is to look at the pavement immediately in front of my bike. This makes my turns much slower than they should be and smoothness becomes a near impossibility. When I look ahead and keep my eyes focused farther up the road, my turns are fast and smooth and controlled. The thought occurred to me that there is a life lesson in that.

When we progress from day to day, if we have our eyes down at the minutiae traveling under our feet we lose sight of the big picture and become bogged down with trivial, petty annoyances. Minor bumps in the road seem much larger than they are, keeping us from living our lives smoothly and in control. Keeping our eyes focused farther ahead and more aware of the big picture enables us to overcome life’s little obstacles with greater ease and comfort.

I don’t intend to upstage Robert Pirsig or hijack the wisdom of his Zen work, but mentioning the parallels between motorcycle maintenance and life in general is worth the virtual ink. Keeping our bikes running smoothly isn’t very effective if we take a purely reactive approach. Exercising and eating right is just as important for our bodies as changing the oil and filters on a regular basis is to our bikes. We can go off-road or ride a little harder through the twisties or let the bike get frivolously dirty from time to time, but eventually we need to take a step back and give it a rest and take it easy, let the bike recover. Our minds and bodies are the same way. We can push things when we need to but sooner or later we need to offer up some give in equal measure to the take.

Finally, a motorcycle with all the world’s polished chrome and tricked out accoutrements is worthless if it never gets out of the garage and ridden. I wear the splattered bugs and road grime on my bike proudly because that is a certain indicator that I have been somewhere interesting. On the rare occasions when I see my bike parked in the garage washed and shiny I actually feel a sense of impatient guilt, as if I’m keeping it from having fun. We can talk all day about what we want to do in life, discuss our dreams and what-if scenarios until the cows come home, but ultimately all that verbal chrome is worth nothing more than a gnat’s fart until we take that first step out of our front door and actually walk the walk.