Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Rider's Itch

It's late March and we have a forecast of snow tonight and tomorrow night. It rains six days out of seven and the one day a week it's sunny, or at least dry, I'm mowing the lawn or tackling other chores. Getting out on two wheels is difficult.

I feel like those two kids in Cat In The Hat.

The urge to get out on a multi-day trip is driving me crazy. I spend more time than I should in Google Maps planning out possible routes, paying special attention to trips that don't require riding over mountain -- snow-covered -- passes. The idea of taking the same trips as last year occurred to me, but with the twist of riding them in reverse order.

I'm really itching to ride.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The other side of a classic river

I live in Oregon. When I need to travel along the Columbia River I do so on Interstate 84. It's fast, and less boring than most interstate freeways. But there's another side to that mighty river that doesn't get the respect it deserves.

Washington state road 14 (SR14) follows the Columbia River from Vancouver on the west to it's junction with Highway 395 to the east, which lies just north of Hermiston and Umatilla, Oregon. The road is in great shape and offers a diverse range of scenery and terrain.

This past weekend I rode my V-Strom to visit my Dad at his home in Hermiston. I decided to take SR14 the whole way. From where I work in Gresham I backtracked west to I-205 and crossed the Columbia there. Then I got on SR14 and rode East. The road winds up and down several cliffs above the river, offering some fantastic viewpoints. The road is two lanes the entire way but has narrow shoulders in many places. The road surface is in great shape, however. Sometimes slow cagers can get in your way and it's important to keep and eye out for John Q. Law, but other than that it's a great run.

From Vancouver to the junction with Higway 97, just north of Biggs, Oregon and just south of Goldendale, Washington several towns are found at seemingly evenly spaced intervals. Gas and food are both available at most of them. Once you pass east of 97, however, it's 82 miles of nothing. Absolutely nothing. No gas, no food, nothing. Because the bridge to Biggs is closed, the last gas available is a quarter mile north on 97 at a Shell station/minit-mart.

The views to the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge are amazing. The cliffs and hillsides are rugged and majestic and as good, if not better, than most other terrain features I've seen all over the entire Western U.S., including the run up to Lolo Pass in Idaho. The Gorge is in my own backyard so to speak and I have taken this route for granted by sticking to I-84.

Once past Dallesport, however, the terrain flattens and becomes more arid but no less dramatic. It's not until you go east beyond the junction with 97 that things get boring. Even then, however, it's more exciting than the Oregon side of the river.

The trip from Gresham, across 205, and east on SR14 to Hermiston took 4.5 hours with several small stops.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Another Sunday down the Valley

It was another sunny Sunday and the smell of menudo cooking drove me out of the house and out on two wheels. I headed south through my usual off-season route to Silverton. But instead of stopping for lunch I continued on until I reached the tiny town of Scio.

There were a lot of riders out but not a single V-Strom could be found other than my own. The more miles I put on this bike (I'm at 10,000 now) the more I love it. It's performance and comfort far exceed it's very meager cost. Every time I go on a day ride like today's I yearn for my first big trip of the year. I'm not sure where I'm going on the first trip, but I'd imagine it will be the southern Oregon and northern California coast. The redwoods are fantastic and I don't have to ride over any mountain passes to get there. Other than a very high likelihood of rain I don't anticipate weather being a factor.