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Posts Tagged ‘11th Annual Rally’

At this point it seems everywhere you look America looks almost the same.

The interstate leads you to identical fast food joints, mini-mart gas stations and cookie-cutter Wal-Marts.  However, when riding to the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally (HCMR) it’s easy to notice there is a vast difference between the metropolis and the hinterlands.

Due to marathon rains and cold weather leading up to HCMR we didn’t “call-the-ball” until the last possible minute.   We finally departed at noon and as a result we rode directly to Baker City via I-84 to maximize our time in eastern Oregon.  Fortunately the wind was behind our back.  It was peaceful and we barely made a ripple in the air stream while enjoying the mechanical sounds of the V-Twin.

That evening we graced the downtown area refreshment centers to witness the Baker City welcome mat. Indeed they have a way of thanking motorcyclists who choose to spend their time and money in the small town and for that I thank you!

The next day we woke to pure blue skies and perfect riding temperatures!  We opted to travel to Oxbow and the Hells Canyon Dams.  The Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon on the North American continent, and the Hells Canyon Dam is located at one of the narrowest points in that canyon.

It’s a couple hundred miles round trip.

We departed on Highway 86 out of Baker City where traffic is non-existent and sweepers cut alongside the Powder River toward the Snake River.  The previous month of heavy rain left the country-side greener than normal and was most noticeable on the Powder River with water flow very high this year.  We passed by the town of Halfway, which is halfway between the gold mines of Cornucopia and the town of Pine Creek.  Just past Cooperfield we crossed the Snake River, near Oxbow Dam and entered Idaho to continue north on  “The Devils Tail” which was affectionately named so by the motorcycle riders who attend the rally every June.  On street maps it’s know only as the Hells Canyon Dam Road.  The 22-mile narrow stretch provides long sweepers and tight switchbacks along the roads edge.  The Road King is a proficient cruiser, but after an hour or so of these twisties a person couldn’t help but notice how agile the sport bikes looked as they throttled on around corners with ease.  We crossed over the Hells Canyon Dam and stopped at various locations for the obligatory tourist photo.

On the return route – isn’t it odd how the scenery changes when reversing directions on the same road? – the scene turned more toward scorched rock and weeds, but that might have been the result of the sun getting lower in the sky.  We had to watch out for gravel and mud washed onto the road surfaces, but in all the roads were in good shape.  The only road closed that was on the HCMR recommended ride routes was Road Rash Pass (FS 39) from Pine Creek to Joseph. It has been closed for a few weeks due to torrential rains washing out approximately a ½ mile of road.  In addition the steep road edge led to water so the attention needed to navigate the twisties seemed more intense on the return.  We made our way back out of Highway 86 up Pine Creek and stopped at Scotty’s Hells Canyon Outdoor Supply.  A lot of riders were roaming around the store where folks were relaxing with refreshments.   Temperatures were approaching 80 degrees and we listened to an oldster tell his story of dumping his motorcycle in the rocks vs. going for a swim.

Hells Canyon Dam

Interestingly that after the city fixed up the downtown area and spend all the time, energy and money they chose to NOT close off Main Street this year during the motorcycle rally due to safety concerns.  It wasn’t a big impact, as there were motorcycles all over the place along with a number of vendors, but it did take away from the quaint social street scene of years past.  I hope they rethink this in the future.

Departing the rally we elected to ride the Pendleton (Hwy 395), Heppner (Hwy 74) and Arlington loop to take in miles of nothing.  As the view atop Franklin Summit (3,456 ft) is just that… a land that is remarkably uneven, no trees and barren hills sculpted by the winds of time.  On a motorcycle it seems like an endless maze of hilltops and valley bottoms.  The sweepers are smooth and lend themselves so well that nothing is forced and you can almost close your eyes.  It’s a real contrast to the braking hairpin turns of The Devils Tail.

We descended down into Heppner and grabbed lunch at the one open diner.  It was good grub, but time was passing and we needed to get home before dark.  The road was a good experience until we opened up into the Gorge.  We should have anticipated the change when the large array of wind farms came into view. These 10-story high towers may represent the future in renewable energy, but they clearly have a visual environmental impact.  Needless to say the steady head winds mixed with even larger gusts meant we could watch the gas gauge decrement with every wind burst.

It’s been stated in the past that the best gifts are the ones you don’t expect.  HCMR is a great gift/experience and the ride is highly recommended.  Especially if you’re looking to get off the beaten path.

UPDATE: June 17, 2010 – Rob Green the editor of http://www.road-quest.com has provided some excellent video coverage of HCMR.  This year he brought out the HD video gear to capture the true essence of riding “The Devils Tail.”  Check it out HERE.

Note: The 2009 HCMR blog posts for Day 1 HERE, Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE and a tent camping postscript HERE.

Photos taken during HCMR.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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The Devil's Tail

I’m talking about the 22-mile road from Oxbow to Hells Canyon Dam called The Devil’s Tail and the 11th annual Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally (HCMR).

The rally starts in three days.  My one wish is for the weather to improve and provide us rain-beaten riders some sunny blue skies to enjoy this awesome motorcycle rally!

Last year I participated in the enjoyment of pulling off the tarmac to overnight under the stars and camped at the high school.  I learned a lot about storage because you need a good tent, a better sleeping bag, an air-mat and a “butt buddy” i.e. chair!  Most importantly I learned to make a motel reservation early and avoid the entire space is a premium issue.

The Hells Canyon Wilderness is an area located on the Idaho/Oregon border. It has some of the most spectacular views of the Snake River as it winds its way through Hells Canyon, one of the deepest gorges on the planet. The gateway is Baker City which is uniquely located as the connecting point of more great motorcycle roads than just about anywhere. I-84, Hwy 30, Hwy 7, Hwy 203, Hwy 245 and Hwy 86. Also close by are the Hells Canyon, Blue Mountain and Elkhorn Scenic Byways to discover.

I hope to see you there.

Last year’s blog posts for Day 1 HERE, Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE and a tent camping postscript HERE.

Photo courtesy of Steve & Eric Folkestad (Event Organizers).

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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