Day three; Western US ride
Again with the ass-dragging in the AM! You’d think we had done this before. We planned three easy days because… well because we are just enjoying being on the road all by our little selves. Now we’re into it. Like I said, the ride starts here.
Before we started I had a good yack with a fellow at the motel riding a Gold Wing from CA heading to Victoria . Good thing, too. He had a deadline and no idea where he really was going, so basically saved his butt time-wise. No clue were he was going or how he was going to get there. Waddya gonna do?
Our ride today was to Burns, OR, down 395. I highly recommend this road!!! Started out with …. Sorry, I just gotta say this because I can’t concentrate worth a shit. There’s a couple having at it overhead in the motel here - Christ, there they go again – and it’s sure as hell distracting. TV all night’s got nothing on this.
Anyway, where the hell was I? … O.F.F S. Round two already? This guy’s a champ.
Anyway, awesome ride. Rolling plains to distant hills. Great road. Very volcanic landscape where the rock is showing. No wind, which is nice. Not cold. Not hot. Just that lazy riding along, going with the curves, rolling-on-the-throttle-out-of-the-curves kind of riding. SO awesome with two bikes in tandem as if they were one. We do that a lot when the riding is like this…. Man, life is good.
Finally! They must be having a smoke now.
Battle Mountain appeared almost out of nowhere changing the road from laid back schmoozing to full on curves and hills. Another kind of great but actually a bit of work. As it turns out Arlene was having a tough time with her shoulder. At the end of the day she figured the shifting (clutching) was giving her arm and shoulder hell. Nonetheless, she rides so well.
The road continued on like that until we reached John Day, OR. A bit of an aside: Arlene has a John Day in her family tree. She knows it’s not the same John Day but nevertheless, it’s a curiosity so has always been on the “Got to check this out” list. We had lunch there in the usual mom and pop restaurant, enjoying the local’s enjoying themselves, visiting and so on.
The town was filled (as so many have along the way) with thank-you signs for the firefighters, but here it was real. It’s been a very bad summer fire-wise everywhere in the northwest. When we left the restaurant on 395 it turned up a draw and the scene unfolded. There had been a ground fire following the draw along the undergrowth along the creek (I learned later it was caused by a lightning strike). Every house along there for a couple of miles had been destroyed - completely. One place stuck with me: truck and utility trailer, burned out completely, flat to the frames, backed up to a burned out foundation told a story of an abandoned scramble to salvage anything they could, but to no avail. I’ve seen that at a couple of interface fires (mainly the Glen Eden in Salmon Arm in the ’70′s) and know exactly what had happened. Can you imagine calling it that close and having to bail out? I started to count after a few places then gave up after 25 . There apparently had to be more than 30 homes destroyed: vehicles, houses, outbuildings, trailer homes, equipment… you name it. At least no animals like Glen Eden. I could smell the burned timber but there was a hint of that familiar house-fire smell (all same garbage fire) that I am so familiar with, so this hadn’t happened all that long ago. I saw one fellow standing in the middle of a completely burned out spread. Even from the road I could see the empty expression on his face. I’ve seen it before and know the look well. Man, I can’t imagine the feeling in his gut. As we climbed up the draw we saw more of the same, then the fire obviously candled and turned to the hillsides. Finally at the top the retardant was all over the road and evident on the hillsides adjacent. They had finally got a handle on this, but too late for the homes. Both of us had that empty feeling you get when there’s nothing that you can do to make things better. We didn’t even talk on the radio to each other. Didn’t have to. Emptyness…
Talk about an old tape. Don’t miss it one bit.
The road turned back into more of the kind of road we all long for that rises and falls, turns and sweeps and at the same time offers interesting peeks through the bush and vistas as it crests the next hill. Other than that – just another road. Gotta love this road. I recall reading “Ghost Rider” by Neil Pert, drummer for Rush. To make it ubber short, his daughter and wife died very close together, escaped by riding his bike around North America and wrote about the ride. Generally the book wasn’t all that great but he vividly described riding 395 so I have been itching to check it out ever since. I wasn’t disappointed.
I highly recommend this ride to anyone transiting south through eastern Oregon. We had occasion to ride in the Baker City/Hell’s Canyon area just east of here a few years ago (uh, several, I guess) and combining the two areas would make a riding holiday in itself. I guarantee no disappointments. Tons of great roads, lots of cool history and really great little towns. You could spend a few days in the area with a couple day’s ride from the lower mainland (one if you really, really haul ass but what’s the point in that), so overall, a nice get-away within reach of home. Be advised: It’s high and can be colder than a witch’s tit at night and hotter than hell during the day. We’ve never been through central Oregon and not been cold. And hot.
We rode into Burns, OR for the night. Ran into 3 FF’s at the motel from Burbank FD on their way north. It’s cool to yack with folks you don’t know and both understand each other – really understand.
So. So far the true first day of the real ride was stunning. Arlene’s shoulder smartened up when after we were through the Battle Mountain corridor and we both enjoyed the ride from there on. Lots of mares’ tails in the sky today so we’ll see what happens tomorrow weather-wise. That usually means rain but then we won’t be here, will we.
The consensus during happy hour was that Susanville was the destination tomorrow. A bit of a jaunt at about 400k so we’ll have to get up early and haul a bit of ass. No worries. No wiggly bits on the map like today so should be OK. It always helps to have a bed booked at the end of along day. Takes the pressure off big time.