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Posts Tagged ‘Routes’

McKenzie Pass Highway (OR242)

Oregon is home to a large network of highways and backroads, from rugged coastal headlands to deep old-growth forests, lush vineyard-lined valleys to lofty alpine passes, high-desert vistas to deep river canyons. The epic landscapes offer up motorcyclists everything from beginner to expert road diversity.

One such spectacular highway is the old McKenzie Pass Highway (OR242), which opened this week from it’s winter hibernation.

Assuming you start in Sisters, Oregon you’ll have about 8 miles of warmup of gently rising, mostly straight road as you head west past hay meadows and into the forest. Then you’ll take a 90-degree turn at McGregor’s Curve, and the elevation climb is on. The main ascent is over 5 miles, and you can settle into a rhythm as you take in the pine-scented air.  Unfortunately, you’ll also note the large wildfire destruction from the summer of 2017 that disrupted the forest and surrounding landscape.

Until the 1860s, the pass was an Indian trail that later became a wagon route (known as Craig’s McKenzie Salt Springs/Deschutes Wagon Road) for driving cattle over the Cascades.  As you emerge from the forest at Windy Point, you’ll get a nice view of Mt. Washington and can scan across a 65 square mile, 2,000-year-old black lava flow. You may want to stop to process it all and then continue on as the ascent travels serpentine asphalt between lava-rock walls just before reaching the summit.

The summit provides a unique view of the lava-rock-constructed Dee Wright Observatory (at 5,187 feet), which provides panorama views of the mountain landscape and Three Sisters Wilderness areas.

The 25-mile, 4,000-foot descent to Highway 126 is no “puff and fluff” ride as it snakes down tight corners and exhilarating switchbacks to the dense Cascadian forests over the McKenzie River. It’s a dramatic transition from the east side of the Cascades and is a billboard of the natural environment and defines the uniqueness of the region.

The highway speed limit is slow at 35mph to 45 mph in most places. The scenic views are well worth the extra time and should be on everyone’s ride list.

Additional Information:
The John Craig Story
McKenzie Pass
Previous Blog Post

OR 242 map/photo courtesy of Oregon By-ways.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Greatest Road - iPhone App

Paper maps are essentially unmanageable on a motorcycle.  As a result many motorcyclists venture toward stand-alone handlebar-mounted GPS units that are easy to read and manipulate.  Then there are those who prefer to leverage their smart phone and Google maps.  Of course there is the debate about distracted riding of ALL kinds and whether anyone should be using GPS etc. while driving a motorcycle.

Then there are old skool riders who just hit the road and want to wander.  They wonder where they are and wander around looking for it.  To each their own because it’s about the adventure and freedom on a motorcycle.

Earlier this week I was contacted by the founder and CEO of Greatest Road Software who remarked about a couple of map/navigation apps I mention on this blog.  He suggested that I give their app a try.  I did and decided to blog about the results.

This post does not answer the question… which iPhone app is the best for use on a motorcycle?

Road Stretch Details

That is complicated.  Some riders are looking for a point A to point B mapping solution where others are looking to be part of a larger community with the intent to share route information and to rate the trip with comments and tips.  If you are in that last category then I think you’ll like “Greatest Road” as it was built to help bikers worldwide find, rate, share and comment on cool roads.   Essentially the app was designed to make the best motorcycle roads easy to find and provide routes with detailed information from other riders along with a map.

I tried the application on an Apple iPhone 3GS running iOS 4.1.

To be clear, I’m not a GPS nut or a certifyable map-aholic.  Sure I’ve used my iPhone to avoid rain and find my way, but it was to point me in a general direction.  Not for turn-by-turn instructions.

So, after downloading the small ~8MB app I open it.  Users choose a location on a map, and zoom in or out. Each road stretch has a user-generated star rating system telling you how enjoyable, twisty and scenic it is as well as what shape the surface is in.

Road Stretches - Map View

My first impressions: works well with northwest roads.  It’s easy to use and not confusing on how to set-up routes.  The user can move and zoom the map to an area you’re interested in, and the app shows road stretches nearby. You can save a complicated route in about 30 seconds and can view all other routes in your desired area… again with comments that others have uploaded.  What makes this application most interesting is the share-ability of the information, all your routes and comments are all in the same “folder” as other people have uploaded as well, for the location that you are interested in, all in the same easy digestible format.  Users can email directions to other bikers with iPhones, or send a GPX file to yourself or others to install the route on a dedicated GPS device.  Open-ended comments mean riders can share highlights or report on a hazard. In fact, most content – contributions, ratings and comments – are supplied by fellow motorcyclists.

The app is priced at $4.99 on Apple iTunes.  If that is too pricey for a full purchase commitment then I suggest the “try before you buy” section.

Look, I’m no lawyer.  I just like motorcycles and good roads to ride.  Here comes the disclaimer:  Use at your own risk as I’m not liable for the accuracy or how well the application works when you use it.

Photos courtesy of Greatest Road Software.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Elena at Chernobyl

Elena at Chernobyl

Next month marks the 23rd anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Ukraine. 

I stumbled onto Elena’s site several years ago, but had misplaced the URL until just recently.  She travels a lot on her Kawasaki Ninja (ZZR-1100) and one of her favorite riding destinations leads North from Kiev, towards the Chernobyl “dead zone”, which is about 80 miles from her home.  She has photographed and documented her motorcycle radiation travels into the “Zone of Alienation” and it’s well worth the read.

As background — On Friday evening of April 25, 1986, the reactor crew at Chernobyl-4, prepared to run a test early the next day to determine how long the turbines would keep spinning and producing power if the electrical power supply went off line. While dangerous they ran this test previously.  Several alterations were made to the generators to lower the power output.  As a part of the preparation, they disabled some critical control systems – including the automatic shutdown safety mechanisms.

Shortly after 1:00 AM on April 26, the flow of coolant water dropped and the power began to increase.  At 1:23 AM, the operator moved to shut down the reactor in its low power mode and set-off a chain of events.  In a matter of seconds the reactor went from 5% output to 100 times its normal level.  The coolant water flash-boiled, triggering a huge steam explosion which leveled tons of concrete and steel including the 2000 ton cap on the nuclear containment vessel.  Many of the 211 control rods melted and then a second explosion, whose cause is still the subject of disagreement among experts, expelled fragments of burning radioactive fuel core and allowed air to rush in — igniting several tons of graphite insulating blocks.  Once graphite starts to burn, it’s almost impossible to extinguish.  Hundreds of volunteers died on the scene ill prepared for this type disaster.

WPPSS Cooling Tower - Satsop

WPPSS Cooling Tower - Satsop

The public alert about the release of radioactive material didn’t come from Soviet sources, but from Sweden on April 27 where workers at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant (680 miles away) were found to have radioactive particles on their clothing and they were determining the source. It took 3 days before all permanent residents of Chernobyl were evacuated due to unsafe levels of radioactivity.   It took 9 days and 5000 tons of sand, boron, dolomite, clay and lead dropped from helicopters to put out the graphite fire. Over 2M acres (or 1/5 of the usable farmland in the Ukraine) was, and still is unusable.

There have been military and research reactor deaths (e.g. Idaho; Tokai-mura), but the Chernobyl disaster has the distinction of being the only commercial nuclear power plant where radiation-related fatalities occurred.  The last 2 reactors at Chernobyl remained operational and online until shut down in 2000.  Chernobyl has been renovated and is now home to more than 500 residents. Those include nuclear scientists, maintenance officials for the Chernobyl power plant, liquidation officials, doctors, physicists, and most of all, radiation physicists. Visitors to the Zone of Alienation can stay at a local lodge in the Chernobyl suburbs.

While I like taking long motorcycle rides on empty roads the requirement of a Geiger counter mounted to the handle bar would be a deterrent!

Footnote: the northwest has it share of  “reactor rides.” There is Trojan (decommissioned), Columbia Generating Station (near Richland/Hanford and only pacific northwest running plant), and WPPSS at the Satsop site which shines on as a $2.25B economic default.

Photo courtesy of Elena web site.

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