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Posts Tagged ‘Hells Canyon’

HCMR-13I’m talking about the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally in Baker City, Oregon.

The king of the curve!  And it all happens on July 12-15th.

The U.S. Government named Hells Canyon a national wilderness area which protects the canyon into the future, but the real essence of the area is in its native American past.  It’s home to the Nez Perce and for hundreds of years the area belong to a proud people.  Today their spirit lives on as you ride in the area.

I’ve been to the Hells Canyon a number of times and it seems like I uncover more motorcycle riding treasures on each trip.  There is fantastic scenery, friendly people and wonderful roads.  I have not, but many riders have ridden all of the motorcycle rally routes and yet they still return looking for more.

The Little Dragon (188 corners in 14 miles) demands it, but all the roads require that you bring your “A” game, because the challenging twisty roads offer up a great experience to those who conquer them.

The best news is that the rally was pushed out a month or so last year after having a couple years of questionable weather.  Hey, I like rain as much as the next guy, but standing around the tent heaters was the last straw for me and I for one am thankful they moved the date to a timeframe when you can count on the weather being awesome.

It will be nice to walk around in shorts in downtown Baker City and check out main street, the Corner Brick, The Geiser Saloon and old town cafes.  I hope to see you there.

I’ve previously blogged about the “June-uary” rally HERE and a list of HCMR posts HERE.

Photo courtesy of HCMR

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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I previously blogged about how miserable, weather wise the rally was this year.  And Steve & Eric Folkestad tapped out.

Meaning they surrendered to the weather and the public outcry and decided to move the date of the annual event.

It’s a smart move given the weather over the last 3 years has prevented this rally from achieving its full potential.  The new dates for the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally are now July 12-15, 2013.  Mark your calendar because the Devil’s Tail with hundreds of curves, blue sky and t-shirt warm temps will be a spectacular view.

Speaking of the Devil’s Tail — it can easily lull you into a catatonic state-of-mind during the 20+ miles of curves and may let your attention drift off the road.  Don’t let it!

And speaking of attention span, during this years rally around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday June 9th, at milepost 17, on the Idaho Power Road leading to Hell’s Canyon Dam one person was killed and another injured after the two motorcyclists collided.  I was talking with a person (name withheld) later in the day  about the accident… as their group was the first to come up on the accident and it looked like a sport bike failed to stay in his lane and traveled left of the double yellow center line, where it collided with the other motorcycle.  Life Flight was called in, but John S. McCree, 68, of Port Orchard, Washington later died from his injuries.  According to law enforcement reports it didn’t appear that weather or alcohol was a factor in this crash.  This same group also came up on a sport bike accident a couple hours later on that same road.

The above motorcycle accident along with the one on Highway 7 which occurred just 11 days earlier make this one of the deadliest starts to the “summer” riding season for the Baker City area.  My thoughts and prayers are with the McCree, Mohrland, and the Currey families.

Photos taken by author

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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HCMR – “Showers” in downtown Baker City

I’ll get right to the point. 

This year the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally (HCMR) was hit hard with the “Gore Effect.”

Huh?  You may remember this as the phenomenon that whenever Al Gore discusses Global warming it leads to unseasonably wicked cold temperatures, driving rain, hail, or snow mix whenever he visits an area.  I’m not exactly sure where Mr. Gore was located last weekend, but I’m darn sure he had to be thinking about the northwest, because Baker City, Oregon got slapped hard with a cold wet rag right to the face!

If you’re unfamiliar with the rally, it’s located on the border of Oregon and Idaho and Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon in North America.  Motorcycle riders come from all over to ride the Devil’s Tail, visit Historic Baker City, Oregon and then travel along the various Hells Canyon Scenic Byways.

So, here is the ASK of Steve and Eric Folkestad, (organizers of the HCMR rally):  Send Al Gore a letter asking that he never think about the northwest or better yet, after attending this rally 4 previous years and having some portion of it significantly disrupted by poor/bad weather let’s move the date! 

HCMR – Temperature kept going down, and down!

This past weekend was the straw that pushed me over the edge.  Unless the date of this event moves out to later in the month/year, I don’t plan to return!   And if the random survey I took with several other riders was any indicator,  there are a number of motorcycle enthusiasts who plan to remove HCMR from their list of early summer (“June-ary”) rides. 

Hey we’re a hardy bunch, but clearly riders would like to guarantee improve the odds of better weather for this great event.  And just because the Sunridge Hotel had the largest crowds in the city huddled around two patio warmers don’t think I’m railing against Global warming. 

Nothing could be more fun in my book – sarcasm alert – than holding a cold refreshment in 40 degree rain while standing six people deep around a patio warmer trying to catch a little bit of  heat.

Don’t make us start a Facebook petition to move the date!

Photos taken by author

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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The rumbling to life of a half-dozen V-Twins brings a collective smile.

We’ll pull out in formation, heading 300 miles East to the first night’s destination in famous Baker City.  You’ll understand why when you begin the adventure and travel the colorful history of the Oregon Trail and through the majestic Wallowa Mountains of Northeast Oregon. As always, it’ll be good to be on the road.

We call it the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally (HCMR). A two-wheeled tour with friends from various walks of American life with the single mission of enjoying the ride to a gold mine of geology, scenery, plants and wildlife.  Home of several scenic byways including the Elkhorn Drive National Scenic Byway that’s a dream to put your bike on one of the greatest motorcycle roads anywhere.

Our journey will begin in just a few days.  It’s a long enough ride for everyone to find their groove, yet sprinkled in with a few stops where conversations recount who we are, where we’ve been and what we’ve seen. That’s how road trips work.

It also gives this ever-fashionable blog editor a chance to swap the wingtips for a more suitable form of footgear.  Along the way we’ll find motorcycle friendly businesses that speak “two-wheel” and once we end at the “Queen City of the Mines” (Baker City) the Folkestad motorcycle rally ambience will take hold.

I’ve blogged about previous trips HERE for 2011, HERE for 2010 and in 2009 HERE.

Don’t miss this rally!

Photo courtesy of Baker City Chamber of Commerce

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The Devil's Tail

It’s about 90 days out until HCMR, but if you wait much longer to ride the dream in historic Baker City be prepared to camp out on the High School football field.  Not that there is anything wrong with that as the posse tried this a couple years back.

There’s truly something about Baker City, Oregon.

It’s a city that rolls out the red carpet for bikers and welcomes them like they are veterans returning home from a war.  Local residents volunteer their homes and when ask provide updates on what’s new in their fine city.  It’s a friendly atmosphere, warm outgoing residents, great food with refreshments, and this year a Main Street that will be closed to traffic where the vendors will hawk their wares in the street along with the motorcycle show.

And that’s just Baker City. Add to this the awesome motorcycle roads that intersect at Baker, I-84, Hwy 30, Hwy 7, Hwy 203, Hwy 245 and Hwy 86. Also nearby are Hwy 244, Hwy 237, Hwy 26 Hwy 82 and the Hells Canyon, Blue Mountain and Elkhorn Scenic Byways. And don’t forget the more important road — The Devil’s Tail — a 22 mile road from Oxbow to Hells Canyon Dam is the signature ride of the rally. It could be the most inspiring 44 miles you’ve ridden on a motorcycle!

There’s a lot more and if you’re looking for a narrative taste I’ve blogged about previous trips HERE, 2010 HERE and 2009 HERE.

You wake up in the morning and the beauty surrounds bikers on all sides. The Blue Mountains, the Elkhorn Ridge, the Seven Devils, the Wallowa Mountains and the Strawberry Mountains. More natural landscape in your first breath than many people get to experience in a lifetime.

I’ll see you there.

Photo taken by author.

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Oregon Trail Interpretive Center - Baker City, OR

On Friday we were up early to grab coffee and breakfast before making our way out to the ‘Devils Tail’ and Hells Canyon Dam.

It was rather obvious while eating my scrambled eggs and looking out across the vendor parking lot that there were some hard-living characters who had run wild the night earlier.  They weren’t totally burned out, but obviously moving a little slower.  It got me to thinking about how Harley like virtually every other motorcycle manufacture, is facing a huge, looming crisis; the ageing of its core clientele.  Like every other market they touch Boomers dominate the motorcycle industry, especially for those expensive touring cruisers that generate so much profit for the corporate coffers.

Depending on whose data you reference; AMA states the average age of its members is 48, the American Motorcycle Industry Council’s most recent survey (2008) has the average pegged at 43 years old (up 5 years from 1998) and a JD Power and H-D survey has the average at 49 years old.  It would seem that motorcycling is no longer a young man’s sport.   Based on my observation this morning I would concur and while I didn’t see anyone trading their favorite ride in on an RV, I did see a lot of interest in the Boss Hog trikes and customers lining up for demo rides.  Most were intrigued with how to navigate the parking lot in reverse gear.

Hells Canyon Dam

I’m not sure about you, but I’m the kind of person who gets satisfaction when my mechanical stuff is humming.  It puts a smile upon my face and makes me feel glad all over.  I felt that way on the ride out to the Hells Canyon Dam.  The departure temperature hung in the mid-60’s – cool for eastern Oregon — and looking around the horizon it was clear there was going to be a mix of rain showers and blue sky.  Yeah, we were going to be dancing between the rain drops all day long on this ride.

We traveled out on Baker-Copperfield Hwy (Hwy 86) toward Richland, through Halfway with a brief pit stop at the Scotty’s Outdoor Store just prior to Oxbow as we headed back to the bottom of the canyon.  Hells Canyon is on the border of Idaho and Oregon, and the ride is deep in the valley alongside the Snake River.  Yeah that one — the one where Evel Knievel attempted his X-1 Skycycle jump over the canyon, unsuccessfully, back in 1974.   Many people will disagree when you remind them that the Hell’s Canyon is North American’s deepest river gorge at almost 8,000 feet, 2,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon, but it’s true.

Posse On Devil's Tail

And as a bonus it has one of the most famous rides in the area — the Devil’s Tail — a 22 mile route from Oxbow, Oregon to Hell’s Canyon Dam. There are hundreds of S-curves and twisty’s with picturesque views.  The Devil’s Tail is not for the novice, and requires attention to riding. Last year we talked to a motorcyclist who misjudge the road and dump his bike.  Fortunately they had only minor injuries.

Baker City "Rain Out"

Back in the day this road was used to deliver workers and supplies to the site of the dam construction when it was being built in 1966. Today Idaho Power employees use it to access the dam and outdoor hobbyist use it for recreational access.  At the end of the road the dam and water were nearly level with the road.  As you drive across the dam we were greeted with a loud “whooshing” sound and at the visitor’s center which is a short, but steep ride below the dam we took pictures of the large volume of water flowing through to make hydro electrical power.  It’s a spectacular sight and the close proximity means you literally feel natures power.

Interstate 84 North - Departing HCMR

We reversed directions and headed back to the Sunridge Best Western where we met up with some other riders who arrived late-afternoon.

On Saturday the weather was a mixed bag.  The morning started out partly cloudy with the occasional sun burst, but the Whitman National Forest was socked in with storm/rain clouds which is where the posse planned to ride for a ghost town tour.  We downed some breakfast and remained optimistic the day would bring something better.  It turned out that optimism was sorely misplaced!

Hwy 14 - West of Umatilla

Thinking it would clear later in the day we elected to hang out in the vendor booths in downtown Baker City and wait it out… but, rain is a life metaphor – into every ride a little rain must fall, right?   Well it did.  I know the Folkestad’s like to state that the HCMR has never been “rained out” and I’m not sure what criteria they use, but it started raining around 1pm with showers at first and then turned to a steady hard rain from 2pm through most of the night.  We graced the downtown area refreshment centers and talked shop with the High Desert H-D folks from Meridian, ID.  Downtown was jammed and by the time we returned to the motel restaurant/bar it was packed with wet riders who called the day a total bust.  Good for Baker City businesses, but it seemed the weather conditions were conspiring against us.

Near Maryhill Winery - Goldendale, WA

On Sunday morning you could smell the cool breath of mother nature as we wiped off the previous night rain soaked seats.  Unlike Western Oregon, the majority of the landscape in Eastern Oregon is wide open which allows riders to see the lay of the land and it provides plenty of time to take it all in.  For me I enjoy Eastern Oregon because it’s different.  The people are different (in a positive/good way), the weather is different, it looks different and the roads are different.  It seems that people have a habit of never appreciating a place until you’re about to leave it.   I had some regrets that I didn’t get time to explore the ghost towns, but we were about to point the bikes north hoping for a dry day!

We rode out of Baker City on I-84 and encountered cooler temperatures as we traversed the Wallowa Mountains.  The sun shined brightly and by the time we stopped to re-fuel in Pendleton is was actually warm.  We cut over to Umatilla and rode Hwy 14 on the Washington side of the Columbia River.  The pull toward home and returning to “normal” life was getting stronger as the pace quickened back to Portland.  We dodged some rain drops near “The Couve” and got home in time to learn that yes, the self-proclaimed “King” — Lebron James — was still not a NBA champion and that my friends means the only place celebrating more than Dallas that night was Cleveland!

In spite of the ‘rain out’ on Saturday the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally was a great experience.  If you have not attended it should be something on your bucket list!

Postcard From Hells Canyon – Part 1 HERE.

Photos taken by editor. Previous HCMR posts: 2010 HERE, 2009 HERE

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Highway 97

There was fun, sun, cerveza’s and of course a dash of rain.  Mixed in along the way was some imperfect weather, but what can a person expect living in the northwest in June?!  It’s an imperfect world and besides, many riders revel in the glory of making it through adversity.  Not me… I like perfect weather versus keeping track of the number times I had to dawn on rain gear.  But that’s me.

At any rate, the opening sentence pretty much describes the high level summary of the ride situation to Baker City for the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally (HCMR), but if you’re the kind of person who reads the manual, ferrets out all the details and amazes friends with all your product knowledge then read on…

The posse started this ride on Interstate 84 to pick up a buddy in “Googleville” (aka The Dalles) then at Biggs Junction we rode south on Hwy 97 to Wasco.  From there we traversed Hwy 206(Wasco-Heppner Hwy) to Condon.  This stretch of road offers up a lot of sweepers and depending on which type of bike you ride it could be fast or a mental exercise to stay alert.  You’ll never get lonely on this stretch of road, not because of the number of RVs or automobiles – there are none – but because squirrels frequently run out across the road to challenge your dodging skills and if you’re real lucky you’ll get the occasional mule deer to snap you back to reality.

Clarno Unit -- John Day Fossil Beds

From Condon we rode Hwy 19 to Fossil where we took a detour on Hwy 218 to the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds.  The Clarno Unit is located 18 miles west of Fossil and is just under a couple thousand acres in size.  It’s a remote area and Hwy 218 is a real joy to ride.  There is nothing which explains the exhilaration of roaring out of tight corners and setting up for the next hairpin.  There is an odd trend in this area of marking an entire set of 6+ curves with one single sign marked with the speed of the slowest and tightest of the entire bunch of curves.  The first 5 corners are truly 45MPH then the last one is a 20MPH right angle with gravel on the apex.  Good to see the state saving money on road signs!  The views of Central Oregon’s near-desert environment are astounding and this highway was nearly empty of anything other than a variety of grasses, sagebrush and juniper.  The cliffs of the Palisades are the most prominent landform in the Clarno Unit and the trip wouldn’t have be complete without a photo op.

We back tracked the 18 miles to the junction of Washington Street and Seventh Street (Hwy 19)… street names in Fossil make it seem like a big town – it’s not.  We then proceeded south to Service Creek then to Mitchell and picked up Hwy 26 east (essentially follows the Oregon Trail) to John Day, Prairie City and then we veered off at Bates onto Hwy 7 (Whitney Tipton Hwy) toward Sumpter.

Prairie City

Along this area we unfortunately came upon a motorcycle accident between Sumpter and Baker City just after Philips Lake.  The rider failed to negotiate a sweeper and laid the bike down.  The footboard and engine guard made deep grooves into the asphalt as the motorcycle and rider slid off the right shoulder of the road down an embankment onto some soft brush.  The rider narrowly missed hitting a guard rail and survived with only minor injuries.  Very fortunate.  The motorcycle was towed away.  Traveling this route was basically going from one mountain pass to another separated by valleys, small towns and river valleys.  The passes were over 5000’ and the changes in temperature were notable until we arrived in Baker City.

After 400+ miles we arrived at the Best Western Motel and were greeted with smiling employees who got us checked in and on our way to dinner at Arceo’s Family Mexican Restaurant.  It was awesome!

And speaking earlier of accidents… the following day (Friday) we learned and responded to voicemail’s from people who were concerned about a motorcycle accident on I-84 which happened around noon and whether it involved other members of the posse who were in route to the rally.  It didn’t, but sadly a 63-year-old Albany man was killed and a 50-year-old Lebanon man was seriously injured about four miles east of Troutdale.   The two were part of a group of 12 people, aboard 10 motorcycles, heading for the HCMR rally.  Michael Pamplin, 63, was riding a H-D in the middle of the group when he lost control and crashed to the pavement.  Even worse was the fact that he was run over by another motorcyclist in the group, 50-year-old Keith Corbett, and died at the scene. Corbett was taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center with serious injuries.  It’s unclear what was the main precursor to causing this wreck…

Postcard From Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally – Part 2 HERE.

Photos taken by editor.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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