Springtime in Oregon is hard to beat when it comes to weather. 72 degrees and sunshine? Yeah, that works. Being a motorcyclist, you’ve got three guesses how I’ve handled it, and the first two guesses don’t count.
Sportbikes don’t like snow
Two days in a row, I rode my 2012 Suzuki GSX-R750 “Shoot to Thrill” past Estacada, up highway 224 to Ripplebrook ranger station, and then south on NF46 toward Detroit. Both times I was turned back by snow, as I expected. What was surprising was how far I got before the road was covered enough to make me turn around.
Although I didn’t have a GPS on my bike, I would estimate the snow is at 3,300 feet elevation, and was within a few miles of the summit at the power lines. If you can get that far, the rest of the route should be open.
They are doing repair work at mileposts 31-37, and delays during the week are common. This is to repair damage to the cliff face after the big fire that occurred about a year-and-a-half ago. Highway 224 is in reasonably good shape, otherwise. NF46 has some issues, however. There are a few more potholes, some of which would give a sport bike rider a hard time if they were hit at speed. There are also some trees down, blocking portions of the roadway or hanging low over one lane. It’s best to take it relatively easy on the sighting lap before giving it the beans on the return leg.
The Smiling Astronaut
When I rode up the first day, I met two guys on sport bikes stopped in the road. They told me the road was covered a mile ahead, and although a pickup truck had driven up through the snow and parked at the top of the hill, it would be impassible to all but a dirt bike with knobby tires.
One the second day, I rode to that point myself and stopped at the snow to take a break before turning around. On the way back, I came up behind a guy on a sport bike west of Ripplebrook. We zipped along until we came to the construction delay, and chatted briefly before continuing on to Estacada where we exchanged contact information. His name was Wayne and he was riding a 2013 Kawasaki ZX-10R. We agreed to talk more about future day rides on our sport bikes.
To paraphrase the old Honda slogan, “You meet the nicest people on two wheels.”
Recently the weather has been cooperative enough for me to get both bikes ridden, my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and my 2012 Suzuki GSX-R750. I try to ride each bike at least once every other week, rather than winterizing them and letting them sit. They only get non-ethanol fuel as well, and I think this keeps them in better shape.
On the V-Strom, I went up highway 224 to Ripplebrook. They are working on a hillside prone to landslides, so there are some construction delays to contend with. This is between milepost 31 to 37. At the Ripplebrook ranger station, I kept heading south on NF46 toward Detroit. We’ve had a lot of low-elevation snow this winter so I didn’t expect to get far, but I wanted to see how things were looking. The road has a few new potholes but is in otherwise good shape.
I had to turn back just past where NF42 heads east toward highway 26. Despite this, it was a fantastic ride and it felt good to stretch the V-Strom’s legs a bit.
In other news, I have published my third novel. It is titled Paragon’s Call and is the culmination of The Taesian Chronicles trilogy. It is available for Kindle on Amazon.com, and is free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
The sunset of an old hero The dawn of a new foe
Paragon’s Call is the third and final book in The Taesian Chronicles trilogy. In this exciting and fast-paced conclusion, we pick up the story a year after the Battle of Eeron from book two, Ohlen’s Bane. Ohlen and his comrades, Therran and Ahmahn, discover the novaari, dangerous beasts that are half man, half animal. Ohlen is conscripted by Emperor Percy Saltos to lead a ragtag group of criminal misfits called Paragons, who are charged with seeking out these monsters and destroying them. But not everyone wants them to succeed.
I haven’t been riding much in the last quarter of 2015, and the new year isn’t shaping up to be any different. I try to get both the V-Strom and Gixxer ridden at least once every other week, rather than winterize them and let them sit.
The pattern is to find a dry weekend, even if it’s just an hour of opportunity between rain storms, and ride each bike for at least 30 minutes. This helps clear the exhaust of moisture and charge the battery. I keep my bikes in a storage unit and there’s no electricity, so that eliminates the possibility of putting the batteries on a tender/charger.
With El Nino, the weather has been rather uncooperative. It’s been raining like mad, and on the rare dry days, it’s bitterly cold and blowing wind. I also have to avoid most side roads because they often still have icy patches or gravel from previous freezes.
As a result, I have no interesting blog posts to write. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some interesting rides in as the weather improves with spring.
I seldom need an excuse to ride a motorcycle, but having a specific destination can provide the motivation to tackle a tougher route or longer duration than would otherwise be the norm. Last weekend was a good example of this.
My good buddy, Mike, recently moved to Albany and wanted me to visit him at his new home. I was already planning on taking the Gixxer for a spin, so I decided to give my ride a destination. Of course, I wasn’t just going to buzz down I-5 (ick!) and back. I chose the long way ’round.
I left Gresham at 9 AM and rode due south to Deep Creek Road, which connected to Highway 211 just west of Barton. I followed 211 east into Estacada and veered left onto Highway 224 and familiar ground. There were numerous rafters on the Clackamas River and many cars headed in both directions between Estacada and Ripplebrook Ranger Station.
I stopped at the ranger station for a quick bio break, then headed south on NF46. I rode to Detroit without stopping, and maintained a spirited yet controlled pace. The temperature was warming up and by the time I got to Detroit it was already in the upper 70s. I ate a snack, filled up my tank with ethanol-free premium, and turned west on Highway 22.
This stretch of road, from Stayton, up over the Cascades to Sisters and Redmond, is busy and this warm late Spring day was no exception. I had to pass several slower cars, but kept my speed moderated for safety and economic sake — tickets are expensive.
In Mehama, I crossed the Santiam River into the the community of Lyons. It was my first time in that tiny town. Highway 226 west was my new route and I was impressed with how lush it was. This is a beautiful drive, and it exemplifies the beauty of western Oregon. The next town I came to was Scio. I continued south then west again on 226, past the community of Crabtree, and into Albany.
I got turned around in Albany and had to backtrack a few blocks to get onto the correct street to Mike’s house. I don’t have a GPS on my Gixxer and on the ride back I spent some time wondering where I could mount one in the cramped dash space of the sport bike.
Mike and I drove in his car to a nearby brewpub for burgers and BLTs and ice water. We were the only customers until a middle-aged guy showed up solo on his Harley-Davidson. He ordered a beer and Mike and I talked behind his back at how foolish we think drinking and riding is. That guy has his freedom to do what he chooses, of course, including the freedom to make poor choices.
I decided to backtrack the way I came, so I said my goodbyes to Mike and made it back onto 226 east bound. The weather had warmed up into the low 80s and was a bit muggy. The armpit and back vents on my Aerostich Roadcrafter did a surprising job of helping me stay relatively cool. I stopped for gas again in Detroit, before heading north on NF46.
There were many motorcyclists heading toward me and the waves were enthusiastic on both sides at how great of a day it was to ride. When I stopped in Ripplebrook for another bio break and to chug more water, there were a half dozen other riders doing the same thing. I saw a couple of Forest Service law enforcement vehicles parked at a boat launch on the way back on 224 into Estacada, but they paid me no mind.
I got back into Gresham at 4:20 in the afternoon, after riding 320 miles. I was hot, thirsty, and my helmet — which I had already cleaned three times during the day — was covered in bugs. The front of my Gixxer was even worse. It needs a thorough cleaning.
This past weekend I went for an overnight trip to visit family at their home in rural south-central Washington state. I rode my 2012 Suzuki GSX-R750, nicknamed “Shoot to Thrill.” The weather was perfect, the road conditions were great, the bike ran wonderfully.
I left Gresham Saturday morning and got on I-84 westbound. At I-205 I crossed the Columbia River and got on SR14 eastbound. Between Washougal and North Bonneville I got stuck behind some slow cars that for whatever reason were all Oregon drivers. To this day I don’t know why people think driving 10 mph below the speed limit is a good idea.
I stopped at the rest area on the north end of the Hood River bridge for a bio break. The sun was bright, air temperature was about 60 degrees, and the wind was calm. The river was nearly mirror perfect. Continuing east I had more of the road to myself without the hassle of slow cagers. At Lyle, I headed northeast on highway 142. This road follows the Klickitat River and has many fast sweepers and a few tight turns. The road was in great condition and didn’t appear to suffer any damage during the winter.
In Goldendale, I rode south a few miles on highway 97 to the Chevron where I filled up my fuel tank. I rode 133 miles on 2.3 gallons of gas. What a machine! After a quick snack, I continued east on the Bickleton Highway, then to my sister’s house. The last two miles were on gravel road, and although that’s never any fun on a sport bike, I kept it upright and stable.
The ride home the next day was even better. Rather than backtracking the whole way, I continued east to the tiny community of Bickleton before heading south to Roosevelt. This stretch of road is simple at first glance, but has some interesting characteristics. It has numerous straight stretches a few tenths of a mile long, followed by a 90 degree turn posted at 30-45 mph. Each turn is banked, and the pavement is in perfect shape. There is some gravel on many of the curves, however, so picking a good line and maintaining control is critical. The other interesting aspect of the route is the rows and rows of wind turbines.
The road descents about 2,000 feet to the road-side community of Roosevelt along the Columbia River. It comes to a T-intersection with SR14. I turned right and headed west toward home. From this point forward, SR14 can be extremely windy. Today, however, it was calm and I had the road practically to myself.
I stopped in The Dalles for gas and food before continuing west. Traffic increased, and there were lots of motorcyclists about. Several sport bike riders gave me the signal for law enforcement ahead (by patting the top of their helmet). I saw one unmarked Washington LEO with his lights flashing, having pulled over a guy in a blacked-out Honda accord. I got two more warnings for cops but never saw where they were hiding.
I crossed back to the Oregon side via the Bridge of the Gods to Cascade Locks. I pulled up behind a buddy in his car just as we were getting onto the freeway. Small world!
By the time I got back home it was in the upper 60’s.
This past weekend I went for a long ride on my 2012 Suzuki GSX-R750, and was amazed at how warm it was. This is the middle of January and the temperature in town was 65 degrees.
I saw a lot of motorcyclists out and about, and although I couldn’t see through their face shields, I’m sure they were all grinning like me.
The bike is running fantastic and I’m very happy to have found a source of ‘clear’ premium unleaded … gas without ethanol. Since I don’t ride but once every week or two, it’s good to keep the tank filled with ethanol-free fuel.
I just got back from a six-day, 1,500 mile trip to northwestern California. This trip included a rather vigorous and hot run on the black-diamond route of highways 36, 3, and 299, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees at the mid-way point of Weaverville, California.
To start, I rode south through the eastern side of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, then cut across from Lebanon to Philomath for my first bio and gas break of the day. Highway 34 from Philomath through Alsea to Waldport was in fantastic shape and I practically had the road to myself. When I reached the coast in Waldport, it was time to add a layer under my Aerostich Roadcrafter to fend off the increased chill.
2012 Suzuki GSX-R 750
Shortly after, a rider on a Yamaha FJR1300 whizzed by me, then another. Because of numerous members of the Anti-Destination League restricting their forward progress, I caught up with them. Then the race was on. The lead rider was rather assertive and stayed ahead, while the second FJR pilot and I maintained a brisk but safer pace a few hundred yards behind. One by one, we passed slow cars when possible. I was impressed by how quick and nimble the FJR can be.
We eventually stopped at a gas station in Florence and chatted. Bruce and Dwayne were out on a day ride from Eugene and were still getting acquainted with their new-to-them FJRs. Bruce was a bit high-strung and ranted rather colorfully about slow cagers, especially those driving the Toyota Prius. We mutually wondered why people who drive them insist on going so slow.
I needed to keep moving on, so I said my goodbyes and continued southward. Soon I was in Coos Bay, checking into the Best Western and unloading my gear. Dinner was Hungarian goulash at the Blue Heron a few blocks away.
The next day was a sedate run down highway 101 into Fortuna. Dinner was great conversation, food and beer at the Eel River Brewing Company next door to my motel. After the carb-only breakfast provided by the motel and a protein bar, I left the next morning heading east on highway 36. My pace was moderate and the ride started out with mist on my face shield and damp roads. After 20 miles of riding inland away from the coastal weather, the pavement dried out and my pace quickened.
Rider and GSX-R750 on Highway 36
I got into Weaverville by 10:30, and after getting gas, I ate breakfast at The Nugget. After parking in front of the restaurant, I didn’t even have my helmet off before a gray-haired gentleman emerged and started chatting me up about my bike. Then he began to tell me all about the numerous fast bikes he’s ridden and owned over the years. He seemed rather proud of the fact that a BMW S1000RR seemed a bit slow for his tastes.
After a nice breakfast, I backtracked on highways 3 and 36 toward Fortuna. I stopped at Grizzly Creek Redwoods campground and got chatted up by a mechanical engineer named Marvin, who was visiting the area from Arizona, doing some soul searching about his career and where he wanted to call home.
Back in Fortuna, I gassed up, then headed north on highway 101 through Eureka before heading inland once again, this time to my friend Mark’s house in Kneeland. Mark and I had met by chance at The Nugget in Weaverville back in 2009, and have been friends ever since. He had just purchased a brand new 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 so we spent a bit of time checking it out and talking about bikes in general.
On Wednesday, we met Mark’s friend, Jim, in Eureka. Jim was riding a Moto Guzzi Griso, Mark was on his new Strom, and I was on my GSX-R750. We rode into town and had coffee at the very cool Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe. It was neat to see a write-up and pictures of the trip to Steens Mountain Mark, his wife Janice and I took back in 2010.
We then headed south on 101 to Fortuna before heading inland on highway 36. I was in the lead. Going past Grizzly Creek state park, three guys on BMW sport-touring bikes pulled out in front of us. One by one they pulled off and let us go past. Apparently our pace was a bit too fast for them.
By the time we reached Hayfork, the temperature was into the 90’s. We stopped for beverages and snacks, then began the really fun — and challenging — part of the trip, the section of highway 3 between Hayfork and Weaverville.
Mark led on his V-Strom, and although he was still breaking in his bike and didn’t want to get above 5,000 rpm, it took a fair bit of effort for me to keep up with him on the numerous 25 mph curves of highway 3. In the straights and faster curves, my Gixxer excelled and both the Strom and Griso had a hard time keeping up. But in the slower, tighter curves, the V-Strom excelled. I recall a few times when I was on my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650, riding up the tail pipes of sport bikes in the tight twisties, and was reminded just how nimble the Strom really is.
We made it to Weaverville safe and happy, but knackered. The temperature had reached 100 degrees by the time we stopped for lunch at Trinideli. We went up to the Chevron after eating to get gas, and saw two guys on BMW GS’s hanging out. One of them came up to talk with us. They were on a big trip from Colorado and had gone through several break-downs. One bike’s fuel system had died and the throttle cable of the other had broken. They were waiting for a new part to get shipped overnight to a local repair shop.
We headed west on highway 299 and, although quick, we ran a more moderate pace due to the notoriously high law enforcement presence. We also got held up by slow cagers. California drivers tend to pull over and let you pass, even log truck drivers, but drivers from other states don’t seem to have a clue about this courtesy. We got stuck behind an ADL life member with North Carolina plates that refused to pull over and let the string of impatient cars stacked up behind him go past.
We stopped in Willow Creek and got some provisions from the local grocery store. I bet our sweaty and road-weary presence was quite a sight to the other customers. Our final stop for the night was Jim’s camp spot in a private RV park 25 minutes further down the road.
When we got up the next morning, we found fresh bear scat in two spots within 50 yards of our camp site. After breakfast, Mark and I took off on 299 west while Jim hung back to get some chores done on his camp site. At highway 101, I headed north while Mark headed south back toward his home in Kneeland.
My ride north was uneventful. Once I crossed the border into Oregon, I noticed a huge law enforcement presence along the highway. There were radar traps seemingly every five miles. Prior to that, however, my low fuel light began flashing and by the time I got into Crescent City, my reserve meter said I had only 5.2 miles to go before hitting empty. It took 3.48 gallons to fill my tank, making me wonder if my Gixxer has a 3.5 gallon tank; I had always thought it was 4.5 gallons.
I stopped in Bandon for lunch, then got into Coos Bay around 3 PM. The temperature there was 87 degrees, courtesy of hot east winds blowing down the coast range. Dinner was at Shark Bites in downtown Coos Bay, dungeness crab cakes and halibut fish tacos, with a nice Eola Hills chardonnay.
Friday, the last day of my trip, was intended to get home as efficiently as possible. That meant cutting inland on highway 38 from Reedsport to I-5, then boogying up the freeway to home. I was tired and was suffering from some kind of sinus infection or allergies or cold that developed the night before. But, I got home safely and with a big smile on my face. It was quite a ride.
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.
Back in late May, I placed an order for a Roadcrafter one-piece riding suit from Aerostich. I chose a size 42 regular and had them rotate the sleeves forward to accommodate a sport-bike riding position. My custom-made suit came via FedEx yesterday and I took my first ride while wearing it.
First impressions matter, but I’ve learned that may not always be the case in riding apparel that needs to be broken in before they’re comfortable. Fortunately, my Roadcrafter fit me perfectly on Mile One. As with most specialized gear, it can feel a little awkward when you’re standing upright. It doesn’t get into its groove until you assume the position specific to the activity. You wouldn’t walk through a grocery store wearing scuba gear and expect it to fit right, but as soon as you get into the water everything would fall into place, so to speak.
Despite being a full-size suit, my Roadcrafter is surprisingly light. I expected it to weigh quite a lot, especially considering how much heavy-duty Cordura nylon and hardware goes into its construction. It is fully lined with a thin nylon material to prevent chaffing, and the protective pads in the shoulders, elbows and knees are discrete and barely noticeable.
Getting into the suit is counterintuitive, but the friendly folks at Aerostich include a ‘donning’ guide that makes it a snap. You hold up your suit and step into it right foot first, followed by your right arm. Then you insert your left arm into the sleeve. The unusual part is you engage the full-body zipper up by your throat and then zip it down rather than at the ankle and zipping up. Once I did it a few times, I could get into the suit in less than 15 seconds.
I threw my leg over the saddle of my 2012 GSX-R750 and rolled out of the driveway. Before departure, I opened both armpit vents and the vent across my back. The temperature outside was around 80 degrees so I anticipated being rather warm in the thick nylon suit. Surprisingly, I wasn’t any warmer than I am in my AGVSport leathers and noticed the Roadcrafter actually had a bit more upper-body ventilation. Most of this was from airflow down the back of the collar and across the center of my back. There are no vents on the legs, however, which may be an issue on especially hot rides.
Once I was on my bike, the suit felt like it disappeared. There were no hot spots or areas where the suit rubbed on a joint or limb. There was plenty of airflow from the open collar. It felt lightweight, too. I was immediately impressed.
I rode through Estacada up the Clackamas River Highway 224 to Ripplebrook Ranger Station and back again. During that ride I got sideways a few times and tested out how the suit felt at higher speeds. It was stable and comfortable, with no flapping or other detractions.
By the time I got home, my new Roadcrafter one-piece suit felt like an old friend. I look forward to many thousands of miles wearing it on my Gixxer.
I had plans to go fishing last Saturday, but those plans fell through so I decided to take a ride on Shoot to Thrill instead. But where to go? I remembered my very artistic and talented sister was one of the exhibitors at the Maryhill Museum Arts Festival, near the junction of SR14 and Highway 97 in Washington, overlooking the majestic Columbia River.
The weather was perfect for a ride, too. The sun was shining, there wasn’t a lot of wind, and it wasn’t going to be uncomfortably hot.
It didn’t take long before I was up and over Government Camp and veering off onto Highway 35 northbound. I took NF44 east past Camp Baldwin and began to smell the smoke from a wildfire. I couldn’t see where it was coming from until I went through the small town of Dufur and got onto Highway 197 north. Just as I was descending into The Dalles, I could see the source of the smoke from a wildfire on the southwest side of town.
I stopped at the Chevron for a snack and struck up a conversation with Dylan, one of the attendants, while he was taking his break. We talked about bikes, cops, and a few other topics before I got back on the bike and crossed the Columbia. I got onto SR14 and headed 17 miles east to the Maryhill Museum.
Several exhibitor tents were set up on the lawns in front of the museum. Most sold artwork or crafts, including my sister, Tami (www.tamlencreations.com). My arrival was a total surprise, she had no idea I was coming. Although we tried to talk, she had numerous customers so my visit was mostly symbolic.
I headed back to The Dalles where I filled up my gas tank (and said hi to Dylan once again), then headed south on 197 back into Oregon. This time, instead of heading back home on NF44 through Dufur, I kept going south to Tygh Valley where I headed west toward Wamic. There were lawn mower races going on at the Pub-N-Grub and I slowed down as I rode past the dusty event.
Soon I was zipping past Rock Creek Reservoir and getting sideways on the wonderful road between Wamic and Highway 35. Before long I was up and over Government Camp once again and back home in plenty of time for dinner.
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Like many fantasy authors, Steve Williamson was introduced to the genre when he played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. It was during a family camping trip in May, 1980, and as he and two friends sat inside a travel trailer rolling dice and fighting orcs, the air outside became gritty and hard to breath. It was permeated with the fine gray ash spewing out of Mount St. Helens which was erupting just sixty miles away.
Steve now lives in Western Oregon in the shadow of another active volcano, Mount Hood.