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French Glen, Oregon

French Glen, Oregon

No blog post can touch on the full spectrum of a trip, but I’ve put together some snippets of what our “off-season” ride looked like heading to Laughlin River Run in April.

You might say we got a sense of the diverse charms that spring weather in Oregon provides by starting in Portland and tracing a route up the slopes of Mount Hood and then south toward Bend then east to Burns.

Can anyone say weather woes?  There was wind, rain, heavy thunderstorms, hail, lighting BOOM! and all of this during the first 5 hours of the trip!

Harney County - Oregon

Malheur Lake in Harney County – Oregon

By no means am I complaining, but even with all the technology to expand our knowledge about weather patterns and conditions sooner or later, you’ll have to ride in the rain… and did we ever.  After the 5-hour trip to Burns we are now certified wet-weather professionals!  By the time these cold and weary travelers stopped in Burns we were done with the wind-chill riding.

This part of the trip was like a steeled-toed kick into springs teeth!  Winter reigned.

Plugging In

Plugged in outside of Winnemucca

As a side bar, have you ever noticed the difficulty of heated gear and in routing the cables and making the connections?  I typically avoid “plugging-in” until it’s very cold and  raining.  The extra rain gear and winter clothing is bulky and then we’re trying to route these COAX 2.5mm connectors through the sleeves into a SAE 2-pin connector and somewhere in the mix is either an on/off switch or a single controller that allows you to control the vest or any other item connected to the vest (gloves, pants, socks) as one single zone.  This rarely works well when there are multiple heated garments because they develop hot spots and I’ve had a vest get too hot while the gloves were cool and those dual electronic controller units for two separate zones mean even more wires and more expense.  Yeah, it all looks easy enough sitting in the motel room, but the reality is it takes coordination to get it all on, position it correctly so that you have freedom to move and then it’s a “do-over” after a fuel or rest stop.  It should be easier?

Eastern Sierra NV Mountains

Eastern Sierra NV Mountains

At any rate, the next morning we grabbed a sausage biscuit, put on rain gear, “plugged-in” and rode out early from Burns toward French Glen.  We took the French Glen Highway (or Oregon Route 205) to avoid the worst of the rainy weather.  Part of the group was headed directly to Las Vegas (700+ miles) and wanted to put some major miles on vs. the remainder of the group planned a more leisurely ride down to Laughlin with a day or so in Death Valley.

“America’s Patriotic Home” — Hawthorne, Nevada.

Ammunition Depot at “America’s Patriotic Home” — Hawthorne, Nevada.

We headed east then turned south on Oregon Route 205 through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge where the summers are short and it’s home to countless migratory birds.  Despite the seeming nakedness of the landscape on most of the route, this area of Southeastern Oregon which OR-205 travels through is a true wonderland of high desert topography. There are no less than four designated scenic byways that take off from OR-205, or is the route itself.  From a motorcycling perspective, the road isn’t all that challenging and like many little used desert highways in Oregon, the actual road surface is in good condition for the entire route.  For a majority of the ride, the road is straight with a few long bends that, fortunately, change your perspective of the wide open landscape occasionally.

Parked at Motel - Hawthorne, NV

Parked at Motel – Hawthorne, NV

I’d like to tell you all about the photographic panoramas and the many intriguing natural geologic pictures I took in the spectacular mountain range, but there was heavy fog, mixed with thunderstorms and for a couple hours outside of French Glen we even rode in full on snow flurries.  And I’m not talking about a blizzard of Snow Geese mind you, but traversing the area in blinding snow.  We did see the French Glen “Historic” telephone booth!

This trip didn’t offer us the time to ride Steens Mountain loop road, or continue over the summit ridge and onto the Alvord Desert.

We did the math.  We double checked weather radar and this was the quickest and the logical adverse weather avoidance route.  We hoped to avoid much of it, but the storm and high winds engulfed the entire state.  As we motored on my mind wondered if this was how the settlers and fortune-seekers who made their way West through gorges and high-mountain lakes had to deal with during their overland route.

By the time we hit the Winnemucca stopover point, the weather was beginning to improve.  At least the snow and rain had stopped.  Winnemucca is a gateway of sorts to the Great Basin, with Idaho and Oregon to the north, Salt Lake City to the east and Reno to the southwest.  It’s located at the crossroads of Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 95.  We did notice that a strong wind was blowing out of the south.  This was high-wind warnings and there were a lot of semi’s pulled over to the side of the road waiting it out.

After a lot of miles I became convinced that the great state of Nevada had the sole purpose of being an ATV enthusiast’s playground.  Of course, this isn’t 100 percent accurate, but as you ride along the desolate roads it might as well be.  The sand in the air blew into our faces, covering us with a fine layer as we rolled on the throttle and continued south down Highway 95.

The group I was riding in overnighted in “America’s Patriotic Home” — Hawthorne, Nevada.  The town is unique with Walker Lake at the foot of Mt. Grant, but more importantly there is the Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Ammunition Depot in the area.  At first glance that is incongruous since it’s in high desert east of the Sierra Nevada and at least 300 miles from the nearest ocean.  The Army stores some nasty stuff at what started out life as the Hawthorne Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD).  The facility is made up of hundreds of buildings spread over more than 225 square miles and bunkers dot the sagebrush-covered hills which are visible from the highway.  Sadly, back in March 2013 a mortar shell explosion killed 7 marines and injured eight during mountain warfare training in the area.

We overnighted in Hawthorne which is shouldering its share of the economic slump as there are empty storefronts with windows neatly covered with plywood painted white, red and blue stars. We found a Mexican restaurant called Diego’s which was within walking distance of the motel and after a 425 mile day enjoyed some refreshments and good food.

We were headed to Death Valley via the eastern entrance at Beatty and planned to stay over at Stovepipe Wells and ride around the valley floor for a day.

The Ride To Laughlin 2014 – Part 2 (HERE).

Photo’s taken by author except French Glen photo courtesy of Jamie Francis/The Oregonian

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

 

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Sept. 29, 2013 - Rain!

Sept. 29, 2013 – Persistent Rain!

Wow, what a difference just a few days makes!

It was rather pleasant temperatures, but you could feel it starting to turn toward fall then those northwest rains, persistent rain started.

Then it turned to relentless rainfall this weekend as we got hit with the remnants of Typhoon Pabuk which dumped record breaking moisture on the region.  Enough to eclipse many long standing records!

The Portland International Airport surpassed its wettest September on record with more than 4.38″ as of 12 noon today. The previous September record was 4.30″ set back in 1986.

The winds have gusted to near hurricane force along the Oregon coast and in the valley, we’ve had high-wind warnings and thousands of people have lost electricity throughout the state, as emergency crews work to restore power.

Riding the remnants of typhoon Pabuk

Riding in the remnants of Typhoon Pabuk

In all the years that I have been riding a motorcycle, I can honestly say that I don’t remember one biker who loves riding in the rain.  You deal with it when it happens, but no one prefer’s riding in it.

But, not this guy in the photo… the rain can’t extinguish his fiery spirit!

I was departing my neighborhood, as the wipers on full speed barely kept up and I snapped this semi-fuzzy photo of this dude powering on the throttle.  He must have looked out the window and observed the sideways downpour and said, “ohhh great, it’s raining, I’ve got to go for a ride!”

Well, I suppose if you have to ride in the rain, riding in the remnants of a typhoon means you’ve got a good story to tell all your buddies.

And it’s not even winter yet!

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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I-5 (S) In Route To Team Oregon – ART

“June Gloom” – It’s a southern California term for a weather pattern that results in cloudy, overcast skies with cool temperatures during the late spring and early summer.

We should be so lucky in Oregon!

Our “May Grey” was followed by a full on rain storm today.  Surprise, the first week of June is heavy rain and to top it off there is the forecast of snow down to 3000 feet in the cascades.

It turns out that I took the day off work and planned to attend the Team Oregon Advanced Rider Training (ART) with some rider friends.  In the paperwork, Team Oregon made it very clear.  Regardless of the weather, rain or shine the one-day course would happen so come prepared.

You see ART is not a high speed, racing-oriented class, but it provides riders a chance to build skills on an enclosed track while getting feedback from expert instructors. It’s designed for the rider who has at least 12,000 miles of current, on-street riding experience and includes 4 hours of range (riding) instruction including cornering, braking, swerving and traction management.

Advanced Rider Training Is Cancelled

So, I put on the rain gear and departed the house in heavy rain to take on the morning rush hour traffic.  Merged onto I-5 with the visible oil sheen and “rooster tails” from semi-trucks while watching a couple of folks on their cell phones – I suppose they had to tell friends just how wet the roads were – to arrive 35 minutes later at the Pat’s Acres Racing Complex and learn that the instructors cancelled the class!  Huh?  And get this… because the track was too oily and wet.

Are you tracking with me here?  It’s Oregon!  Duh.  I just spent the morning on an oil slick I-5 corridor accelerating/braking in stop-n-go traffic, making lane-change transitions, passing semi-trucks while thinking about my traction judgment and then safely existing the freeway and smoothly cornering through the curves of the Canby ramp only to find out that Pat’s “little race track” has an oil sheen and the rain made it slippery when wet!  Are you kidding me?  Really.

Who are these people?!  Isn’t the idea of this course to help riders improve judgment and skills by linking turns and choosing better lines in the rain. To get better in the type of weather conditions that are fairly routine in the Northwest.  And to practice on a closed course vs. on the interstate, right?   So let me get this straight.  The weather is too challenging to learn, but it’s okay for riders to head back home in the very same conditions that required them to cancel?  Worse yet was the fact that several people had called 30 minutes prior to the start of the class and obtained confirmation that it was still on.

I’m sure the Team Oregon office in Corvallis didn’t appreciate my phone call.  But, they did hear my “pull your head out” message and where to send my refund!

Photo taken by author (GoPro Helmet Camera) 

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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You (almost) thought it would never happen but, finally, winter is waning.

Let’s face it, riding anything (including a riding lawn mower) in the northwest has been a chilling and damp experience!  And we still have many cold, wet days ahead even though spring is supposedly here.

Portland (OR) normally receives an average of 3.71 inches of rain during March, but at the end of the month we had received 6.49 inches (5th highest on record) and there were 29 days of measurable rain breaking the old record of 27 days.  And on the very last day of month was the first time we witnessed the temperature gauge hitting 60 degrees… the latest date in recorded history to reach that mark.  Yep, a lot of records were broken and not necessarily in a good way.

But, no worries if you like the drizzle it’s going to be another soggy week throughout the area with high temperatures reaching all the way up to the mid- 50s.

My point is that I’m trying to sketch out my spring and summer riding entertainment and the weather is making it difficult to visualize.  What with all the boating, hiking, photography, local festivals and drinking of refreshments over the BBQ I’m not sure if I can fit it all in which is largely dependent on when the rain will subside.   Last year I laid a plan out HERE and was fortunate to have the budget to complete three (Laughlin70th SturgisStreet Vibrations) of the five trips as well as the Hells Canyon rally.  It was a lot of miles and a good riding year in my book!

One which will be difficult to repeat as the Zac Brown Band song, “Toes” rolls around in my head…

“I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand
Life is good today, life is good today…”

It got me to thinking about all those miles last year and the first surprise to me is how much better motorcycle clothing has become.  It use to be a worn out leather jacket to carry you through summer and winter riding, augmented with a vest or long sleeve shirt or two.  Now days there are heated hand grips, heated clothing and a variety of wind blocking jackets with reflective piping.  In addition there are all these Gore-Tex waterproof pullovers, neckerchiefs and face masks that do exactly what they were meant too.

Let’s see, if drizzle falls at about 3-4mph and big rain drops fall at about 7-8mph… then the difference of a walk in the rain vs. a motorcycle ride in the rain is about ten times the speed.  Ten times as much water hits you per second.  I won’t go into the mathematical proof here, but think about that and the fact that rain is hitting the rider horizontally, not just vertically.   First the air gets cold, then the rider is hit with a wall of spray from trucks that is mixed with oil residue all the while the face shield accumulates condensation … Is there any wonder why so many motorcyclists try and limit their riding in the rain?!  But, I’ve really digressed.

Time to hit “repeat” on the iPod and sketch out my riding plans…for when there is less rain!

Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Who’ll Stop The Rain?

It’s a reference to the Credence Clearwater Revival (CCR) song that gained popularity in the early ‘70s.  It was written by John Fogerty and originally recorded for their Cosmo’s Factory album. It has a mellow acoustic, folk-rock feel to it that you can sing-a-long, but if you do I doubt you’ll feel good about riding in the rain!

And speaking of rain.  The “Rain Train” won’t stop.  We’ve been plagued with a prominent winter weather pattern the past two months.  It’s walloped the spring motorcycle riding season in the northwest.  I’m not talking about weather that is somewhat imperfect for motorcycle riding…we’re talking about unseasonably cold temperatures, rain gushers, multi-day storms, wind shears, and what looks to be the new normal…riding in perpetual wet.

They’ve switch from measuring the amount of rain fallen in a day to the number of consecutive days rain has fallen!   Sad but true.

Even if you get past all the Gore-Tex dress-up for the wetness, you still have traction and vision issues to confront.  Nothing like hydroplaning on a motorcycle.  Or how about those curves where the surface oil makes it feel like buttered Teflon?

Most riders get use to riding in the rain more by accident than choice.  You depart in the morning for a day long ride with the sun shining then you find a thunder shower sometime later in the day.  I know some of you are saying “what rain?”  Good for you.  When it’s 49 degrees and sloppy,  I say “Wet Ride? Why.”  But, now I’m concerned that the wet weather will continue through the summer.

I’ve resorted to surfing the net for better rain gear because not riding is not an option…for long.

Photo courtesy of AccuWeather.com

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Need I say more? 

Don’t get me wrong I like fall and during the winter I manage to shred the mountain a couple of times, but I’m just not ready to end the great riding season of 2008

But it’s turned cold and as you can clearly see  on the weather chart its going to be very wet this weekend!

So in protest I’m going to boycott winter stuff this weekend. I’m not going to bust out the jeans and the sweater.  I’ll be the one in the coffee line with a mild case of Hypothermia caused by an extended exposure to a damp environment… but, I’ll be in my favorite Hamm’s t-shirt and flip-flaps…I’m not going to let it be winter. No, I won’t, I won’t!

Forecast reminds me of that Gary Allen song about rain

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The calendar states it’s Spring here in the Northwest, but it seems more Spring in some places than others.  

We’ve had 4 back-to-back days of morning snow/rain and temperatures in the mid-30’s!  During the day we’ve seen sleet, hail and rain down pours temporarily flooding streets.  What is going on?  This should be the time of year where warmer weather brings out the motorcycles.

I did see a biker this past Saturday.  Some dude (no he wasn’t wearing “colors”) on I-5 riding North bound on what looked like a new Flat Black Cross Bones, but who could see?  Wipers on high, couple of inches of standing water in the middle lane and hail the size of pencil erasers pelting my windshield.  Even with a full face helmet that dude didn’t have to worry about a “blind spot” because no one could see him or anyone else on the freeway for that matter!

I know why I ride, but for the life of me I can’t think of a reason why that dude was riding…at least not on that day!

Photo courtesy of Burnszilla.

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