Tuesday, December 8, 2009

13 degrees

I rode to work today. The sign on the bank on my way into Gresham said 9 degrees, but the weatherman said it was 19 in Portland. My home gauge in Sandy said it was 10. Weather.gov said it was 13 degrees. Not sure what the official temp was (I'm still looking for a good thermometer to mount on my bike) but I know that it was cold. Either way it shatters my previous cold-ride record of 25 degrees.

My gloves did great, my insulated Fieldsheer Booster pants and Aerostich Darien jacket did great. The only cold part on my body was my cheekbones. There's a tiny draft of air that seeps in my HJC Sy-MaxII helmet that I can't seem to get rid of.

Really, the only problem with my ride this morning was my face shield fogging slightly and then freezing. I rubbed shaving cream on the inside and that helped, but I think sometimes when it gets below a certain temperature even that can't completely eliminate fogging. What I need is a breath guard inside my helmet, or one that I wear on my face.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cold and foggy

I've been busy most weekends so I haven't had much chance to ride in a recreational capacity. This time of year I tend to get most of my miles in while commuting to work. This morning was cold and foggy and I had a fair bit of moisture on the windshield by the time I got to work. It was dark when I left the house, too. For some reason I enjoy riding in the dark.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gold in the Gorge

Sunday was an absolutely beautiful Fall day in the Pacific Northwest. Fall is one of my favorite times of year, and when it's good in Oregon it's great. I took a very circuitous and winding ride to Multnomah Falls along the Historic Columbia River Highway mid-day. The riding was somewhat slow because of wet leaves on the pavement but the beautiful fall colors and amazing scenery go better with the slower pace anyway.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Visiting family

I left work Friday just before 10am under cloudy skies with occasional rain drops on my face shield. The first part of my trip involved interstate freeways: I-84 westbound to I-205 northbound over the Columbia River. Then I merged onto Washington SR14 and headed east, following the river to my first pit stop, a Chevron food-and-gas at North Bonneville.

Once I had a frappucino inside me I continued on until I got to Lyle, Washington where I turned north onto highway 142 and followed the scenic Klickitat River. Hwy 142There were several vehicles parked on the side with small boat trailers behind them, and I saw several drift boats and pontoon boats on the river; fly fishing is popular on the Klickitat.

Once I got to Goldendale I grabbed a quick bite to eat at McDonalds and filled up my gas tank (so I wouldn't have to worry about it two days later on the journey home). I got to my sister's house at 1:15 pm.

An uncle and two aunts on my father's side of the family were visiting from out of state as was my niece and her husband. It was a great visit. My sister's house is fairly small, however, so I brought my small tent and sleeping bag and camped out on the back deck. It was an unusual arrangement but it worked well. I heard quite a few coyotes barking, yipping and howling both nights, some of which were fairly close to the house and barn.Back deck camping

I left at 10am Sunday morning and retraced my steps. I ate lunch at the Big River Grill in Stevenson, Washington -- a grilled salmon salad with coffee -- and crossed back over into Oregon via the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks. I had a few more sprinkles to deal with but they were minor and barely got the pavement wet. I was home by 1:30 that afternoon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Over and back again

I had hoped to go for a long bike ride during my day off yesterday but people at work kept calling me with tech support requests. I still managed to go for a ride but I had a late start.

The weather turned out to be perfect. It was sunny without much wind yet it was cool enough to wear all my gear without being too warm. I rode up the Clackamas River Road to Ripplebrook Ranger Station, then headed south on FS46 toward Detroit.

Rather than go all the way to Detroit, however, I cut east on FS42 which follows the old Oregon Skyline Road in several places to come out near Timothy Lake and connect with Highway 26. I took a quick break at CJ's Chevron, then headed up and over Government Camp to traverse the Cascades a second time in less than two hours. There were a few slow pokes on 26 coming down the mountain but that's nothing new.

I filled up my gas tank in Sandy as I neared home so the bike would be ready for the next ride. Maybe today.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Too tired to ride home?

We've had great Fall riding weather lately but I've been concerned about commuting to work. I've been working so many hours that I'm afraid I'd be too fatigued to make it home safely. Sometimes I'll get home and not remember the drive.

Riding motorcycles is a great thing but you need to maintain a sense of awareness of when it's okay to ride and when it's not okay.

I'm taking a couple days off later this week and hope to get some good day rides under my belt. It's perfect riding weather and like to hit some area mountain roads before they get covered with snow for the winter season.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pavement and gravel to high mountain lakes

Saturday I rode to Detroit via FS46 up the Clackamas River. I parked at The Cedars restaurant amidst a half-dozen Harley riders that acted as if I didn't exist. In their world, maybe I don't. Second Breakfast, as the Hobbits call it, consisted of biscuits and gravy with a side of two eggs, over-medium, coffee and ice water. The pirates sitting in the adjacent booths continued to ignore me.

On the way back I took 4220 east to Olallie Lake, hitting gravel most of the way. There were lots of 4x4 pickups up in the woods cutting firewood. I got a few odd stares as I rode past. Initially riding on gravel felt squirrelly and weird but I soon got used to it and was able to ride at a decent clip. I eventually reached Olallie Lake and stopped at the shut-down resort to gander at Mt. Jefferson.

My original plan was to take Skyline Road due north to Timothy Lake but I didn't have a very detailed map and I didn't trust my GPS quite enough to rely solely on it's direction. I was also concerned about remaining fuel, so I backtracked to FS46 and rode the pavement all the way back home.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Circumnavigate your local volcano

Sunday is a good day, and for many reasons beyond the traditional. It can be a day of rest, reflection, and recreation. If you ride a motorcycle, it can be all three. Zooming along back country roads can give your tired and weary mind rest from the tribulations and stress of a long work-week. You can reflect on your place in the world and regain perspective as you spend hours alone with just your thoughts and the road and the beautiful scenery passing by. And of course riding a motorcycle is a recreational thrill that can't fully be explained to those that have never done it.

Sunday was a good day for me. I left my house in Sandy at 9AM, gassed up at the local Chevron, and headed east on Highway 26. When I got to Brightwood I left the highway and hit the Barlow Trail Road. It's a residential road that parallels the Sandy River, with excellent road quality and wonderful 35-40 mph turns (which I take at 65 mph, thank you very much). After several miles it T's into Lolo Pass Road, so I headed left and went north up to Lolo Pass. At the top, I pulled over for a bio break, then got onto FS18 and headed back down the other side of the pass.

The views of Mt. Hood from FS18 are amazing and for those Portlanders that are bored with the usual view of the mountain from Highway 26 it's a must-drive. It looks like a completely different mountain from the northern and eastern flanks and I remember thinking to myself it would look very fitting in Switzerland.

The road surface, although gravel, is in great shape and has very few potholes and almost no washboarding. The only downside is the frequent views of high power transmission lines that parallel the road. Eventually I got back onto pavement onto Lost Lake Road. Turning left would take me to the lake and the state's busiest forest service campground. I turned right and headed down into the orchards of the Hood River Valley and the small, bucolic hamlet of Parkdale.

Originally I had intended to ride into Hood River and catch Interstate 84 east to The Dalles before heading south again on Highway 197, but the idea of riding on an Interstate Freeway just seemed contrary to the day. I relied on my Zumo GPS to guide me to Highway 35 and headed south past several campgrounds named after Robin Hood locations and characters along the rushing Hood River. After a few miles I turned left and headed east on the now familiar FS44 toward Dufur.

This road isn't as curvy as FS48, it's parallel brethren to the south, but is plenty of fun nonetheless. It's a 30 mile ride east to the small farm town of Dufur, passing through pine trees and oak before emerging into golden wheat and grass fields. My stomach was beginning to growl but I wasn't in the mood for a sit-down meal at the diner there, so I passed by the small town and continued south on Highway 197 into Tygh Valley.

When riding through small towns or any stretch of road with a slow speed limit I often stand up on my pegs to give my posterior a rest. This also helps stretch my shoulders and back and allows me to ride even further without having to stop for a formal break. Eventually I need to shut the bike off and rest so I pulled into the Wamic store and stood in the shade while eating a snack of Mounds candy bars and drinking a Frappuccino. The little store was busy but oddly I didn't see any other bikes passing through the tiny town.

Snack consumed, I mounted my noble steed and headed west back toward home on FS48. This road passes by Rock Creek Reservoir amidst oak and pine trees before getting into heavier timber. The road surface is in great shape considering its location and I was able to maintain a fast but safe pace. As I regained elevation the air became cooler. I had opened the air vents on my jacket and switched to my warm-weather gloves back in Wamic and was tempted to stop at the junction with Highway 35 at White River to switch back into my colder-weather gloves, but I knew that once I got over the pass at Government Camp and descended back down toward home it would warm up again, so I hung a left and headed south on 35 without stopping.

The water coming down the mountain in the White River was thin, sparse, and the color of coffee with cream. The mountain itself was nearly devoid of snow, with only the high glaciers and snow fields -- all now receding according to climatologists -- showing white. When Highway 35 merged with 26 the traffic got thick in a hurry. Everyone was coming home from recreating east of the Cascades and I had to dodge several travel trailers and motor homes as well as diesel pickups spitting out obnoxious exhaust.

Having experienced this route from Government Camp down the hill into Rhododendron many times before on busy summer weekends, I knew that getting into a hurry would do one of two things: earn me a speeding ticket or get me into a probably life-threatening accident. So I maintained my pace with the traffic and accepted the fact that I would be riding below the speed limit all the way until the road split into 4 lanes in Rhododendron. In Brightwood I spotted a motorcycle cop parked under the shade of a large maple tree, radar gun pointed right at me. I ride between 6-8 miles over the speed limit and he didn't even blink at my speed. He did have to drop his radar gun to wave back at me, though. I wave at motorcycle cops as if they're just another guy on two wheels and not someone that can cost me several hundreds of dollars in fines.

By the time I got home I had ridden 190 miles in four hours. I had circumnavigated Mt. Hood, the local volcano and the tallest mountain in Oregon. It's a great loop for a motorcyclist and I feel thankful it's so close to home.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Muggy commute

It's been very hot in recent weeks, setting records in fact, and I've opted to drive my air conditioned car rather than ride my motorcycle and risk passing out from heat stroke by the time I reached my destination. Yesterday it cooled down enough that riding was feasible and desirable.

I wore my Draggin Jeans and had a comfortable ride into work. Needing to run an errand downtown, I took a long lunch and met a friend for teriyaki and then took care of my errand before riding back to work. By the time I got back to the office I was sweating inside my Aerostich.

When it came time to leave there were rain drops on my windshield although not enough to matter. It was a dry ride home but muggy.

It was raining by nightfall and still raining when I got up this morning. Rain doesn't bother me that much so I intended to ride to work, but the forecast high was 75 and the idea of increased mugginess was very unappealing to me. So I wussed out and drove the car to work instead.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Larch Mountain Sunday Morning

After pulling a rib muscle last weekend, I finally healed well enough to be able to ride again. To dodge the hot weather, I left early Sunday morning (before 8am) and rode down through Bull Run, Aimes, then through Corbett and up to the top of Larch Mountain. There were only two cars in the parking lot, but lots of bicyclists heading up the hill for some kind of race.

It was a short trip but was fast and smooth and it was great to get out of the house.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


It's amazing how fragile the human body really is. For example, this past weekend I was hooking up my fishing boat to the hitch on my truck when I tripped. My body spun around and twisted in odd ways trying to keep from falling and in the process I pulled a muscle in the lower-right side of my rib cage.

It hurt. A lot.

It still hurts. A lot.

From what I've read and learned after talking with medically-trained friends of mine, there's not a lot I can do about it to make it heal faster other than keep from making it worse. Ice and pain killers can ease the discomfort, somewhat. The problem is, it hurts doing just about everything other than blinking my eye. Breathing hurts, sitting hurts, let's not even talk about coughing, hiccuping, sneezing, laughing, etc. I walk like I'm an arthritic 98-year old man.

Needless to say, I'm about to begin the longest dry spell of non-riding since I began traveling on two wheels back in October 2006. Until now the longest I went without riding was 19 days this past December during a period of record snow fall in our area. 23 inches of snow fell at my house and it took a very long time to melt off.

I'm not a happy camper, but from what I read it's best not to get impatient and push things until I'm fully healed, otherwise I will extend my recovery time at the very least or cause permanent damage at the worst.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Take a kid for a ride

My wife's God children stayed with us for the weekend. I took Brian, age 12, for a ride on my V-Strom to Lolo Pass on the northwest slope of Mt. Hood. He had never ridden a motorcycle before. Fortunately my spare helmet fit him perfectly and my spare jacket was a little loose but got the job done as well. It was warmer at the pass than it was in Sandy, which was overcast.

[caption id="attachment_453" align="alignright" width="360" caption="My wife's God child Brian at Lolo Pass, Oregon"]My wife's God child Brian at Lolo Pass, Oregon[/caption]

We took Marmot Road, which was a mistake. Despite being a fairly deserted route, there was a string of at least 30 cars crawling along at barely 25 mph all the way from Sandy to the junction with Barlow Trail Road. Many were vintage cars so it was probably some kind of cruise by blue-haired members of the ADL. At first I wondered if it was a funeral procession since it was so slow and no one was trying to pass.

We cut onto Highway 26 and boogied up to Zigzag, where we hit Lolo Pass Road up to the pass. Marmot was empty on the way back, fortunately.

Monday, July 6, 2009

To Detroit

The thick winter snow finally abated enough to ride NFS 46 all the way from Ripplebrook to Detroit. There were numerous bikes on the road and more cars in a single day than I saw on that route all of last year combined.

The town of Detroit was very busy. I rode Saturday morning, July 4th, and the lake was packed with boaters and its shore crowded with campers.

National Forest Service road 46 is in fairly good shape, especially considering how much snow fell this past winter season. They've done a good job repairing a previously nasty stretch of potholes and the road surface in general is improved over last year.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Favorite dealership closed its doors

I purchased my Suzuki V-Strom from Action Motorsports in Fairview, Oregon back in February of 2007 and have been going to them ever since for parts, accessories, and especially service. Their service department always did a great job at a fair price.

When dropping off some new tires yesterday to have installed on my 'Strom the owner informed me they had closed their doors. There were three semi-trailers in the parking lot to haul away the bikes. The owner told me he and his partner hoped to open up a service shop soon.

I've been a loyal customer and have spent quite a bit of money on accessories, parts, and service with Action Motorsports since I bought my bike back in Feb. 2007. The nearest factory-authorized dealership is another 30 minutes away from my home, which is very inconvenient.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Adventure lost

My brother was killed Sunday afternoon. He was working as an arborist, helping clear some douglas fir on some residential property. He had fallen several trees already and when the last one fell it landed on one of the other stumps and kicked back, striking him in the side of the head and breaking his neck, killing him almost instantly. He would have turned 50 in September.

My BrotherMy brother was the one that taught me a sense of adventure. Being 10 years older than me, he was my gateway to many things growing up that I never would have experienced otherwise. My first backpacking trip was with Greg. His time served in the Army with the Special Forces is what inspired me to sky dive. He taught me that enduring hardship in the outdoors was a matter of mind over matter. "If you don't mind, it don't matter."

I could listen to Greg tell me of the many adventures he's had in his life over and over again, for hours at a time. He lived a very full life and not all of it was positive, but through it all my brother always had a smile on his face even if it was hiding a grimace of pain underneath.

We had our fair share of adventures together, too, and Greg always looked out for me. At a Halloween party in 1988 I was trying to talk a drunk guy out of his car keys when he sucker-punched me, shattering my nose. Before I even realized I had been hit Greg had the much taller man down on the pavement giving him what-for. Without hesitation.

My brother was fearless. I've never seen him afraid of anything or anyone. He wasn't reckless or cocky about his own immortality, but he lived his life unburdened by fear. Although I've always been the cautious, responsible one of the family, some of his fearlessness and sense of adventure rubbed off on me.

One of Greg's defining characteristics, however, was his unwillingness to give up. No matter what the circumstance or challenge, he had the grit to get him through it. My brother has been through some hard times in his life and been in several life-threatening situations. He had the fortitude to get through all of them.

"If you don't mind, it don't matter."

Although I got my inspiration to ride motorcycles elsewhere, the willingness to set out on two-wheeled adventures and enjoy the ride unburdened by fear came from my older brother.

Thank you, Greg. I'm gonna miss ya, bro, more than you can ever imagine.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can I turn 40 again next month?

Despite the old and run-down nature of the Westward Ho Motel in Bend, I managed to sleep adequately well. I couldn't wait to get out of there the next morning, however. I rode to the north end of town and grabbed a bite of corned beef hash and eggs at Shari's -- across from The Riverhouse where I should have stayed to begin with -- then continued over to Prineville where I gassed up the bike.

I followed Highway 26 east to Mitchell before heading north to Fossil. I often stop in Fossil for a BLT but wasn't overly hungry so I continued back west toward Antelope. I was hoping to buy a bottle of water and have a short break in Antelope but their only store/diner was closed despite the sandwich board sign out front advertising the fact that they now sold bottled water.

8 miles up the road I stopped at the only remaining establishment open in Shaniko,

[caption id="attachment_437" align="alignnone" width="420" caption="Shaniko, Oregon"]Shaniko, Oregon[/caption]

an ice cream shop that also sold a few other items. I got a nuked corn dog and ice water for $1.50, gave the old lady working there a $5 bill and said, "Keep the change." After chatting with the old man sitting on the front porch for a bit I continued north on Highway 97 to Biggs where I gassed up and chugged a frappuccino. Once across the Columbia River I made my way to my sister's ranch halfway between Goldendale and Bickleton, at the end of a rough and bumpy dirt and gravel road. My bike was covered in dust and dead bugs and I've never seen anything more beautiful.

My sister and her husband and I stayed up to around 10pm chatting then headed to bed. I slept well and was up by 6:30 am the next morning. My Dad and his wife arrived from their home in Hermiston around 8:30 am and we visisted until noon, had a quick lunch, then I mounted back up and headed back down the dusty trail, homebound.

I had to change into and out of my cold/wet weather clothes three different times on the way home. The weather was tumultuous and fickle, hot and muggy one minute then cool and rainy the next. I made it home safely, however, without getting overly wet and despite the nearly bald tire on the back.

My trip was a huge success. I logged over 2,500 miles in 9 riding days (12 days total, with a three-day stay in San Francisco). It made me want to turn 40 again next month. And next year. And the year after that.

Monday, June 8, 2009

News Flash: Crater Lake Still There

Using advanced satellite technology and on-the-ground reconnaissance, scientists have confirmed that Crater Lake remains in it's current location. "Yep," said USGS Senior Geologist Stan Goodman, "it's still there."

There were no breakfast options within walking distance of my hotel so I had to resort to McDonalds for morning calories. Their mochas aren't that bad but I'm sure they taste the way they do because of a dozen different lab-grown ingredients only a savant biochemist could pronounce. It's only in me for about 24 hours anyway, so what do I care?

The road up to Crater Lake from Grants Pass is scenic enough but too straight for my tastes and crawling with ADL members. My butt gets sore when I ride in a straight line. When I stopped at the national park entrance the mosquitoes were swarming my face looking for a quick meal. Blood-suckers! There's still quite a lot of snow at the Rim Village but I managed to get up to the edge and take a look at the lake.

[caption id="attachment_430" align="alignright" width="479" caption="Yep, it's still there"]Yep, it's still there[/caption]

After grabbing a quick snack and some souvenirs for family, I descended the eastern slope and made my way to La Pine for a cobb salad and second mocha of the day at the Red Rooster Cafe. They have a sign on the mens room door that says, "This door to remain closed at all times / By order of the Management." Funny.  They actually decorate the lower-half of the walls of their cafe with chicken wire.

Not wanting to get to Bend at noon, I headed back west to take the Cascade Lakes loop. I stopped at a small lake-side campground and posed my bike for a picture with the lake and Mt. Bachelor in the background.

[caption id="attachment_431" align="alignright" width="480" caption="Damn, that's a sexy bike!"]Damn, that's a sexy bike![/caption]

As I was getting closer to Bend I noticed that once again I was getting to my destination way too early. So I stopped at a small scenic overlook and chilled for a while. Wanting to goof off a little I posed my camera on a tiny tripod and used the timer to take this photo of myself and the bike (that's actually how I take all my own pictures on trips).

[caption id="attachment_432" align="alignnone" width="420" caption="Tripods and timers are handy"]Tripods and timers are handy[/caption]

Once I got into Bend I used my GPS to find my way across town to the Westward Ho Motel. It's old and kind of a dive but it's clean and super cheap. Tomorrow I continue heading north to visit my sister at her horse ranch outside of Goldendale, Washington. Of course, I'll be taking the twisty way there.

Update: The Westward Ho Motel in Bend is "Cheap, and not even worth it." It's a truly classic example of 'you get what you pay for.' I paid $32.80 for my room and that should tell you something. I won't be coming back.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Living in the wild, wild west

The purpose of yesterday's ride was to get as much of Highway 36 under my wheels as possible. I rode east from Fortuna inland all the way to Red Bluff, then backtracked halfway and cut north on Highway 3 to Weaverville where I stayed the night.

On the way back, about 10 miles east of the junction with Highways 3 and 36, the road is high elevation, narrow, and very curvy with lots of nearly shear drop-offs on one side and solid rock cliffs on the other. During one hairpin turn I scraped my foot peg, which isn't necessarily a dangerous situation by itself -- it was probably the sixth time on this trip -- but it jolted my brain out of the zone and distracted me for several minutes.

Less than a half-mile later, the road curved to the left. It was a decreasing-radius turn, where it actually gets tighter as you get into it, and I hadn't burned off enough speed beforehand. Normally you want to brake before the turn and not during. As the turn's radius decreased I found myself drifting to the outside of the turn toward the narrow 6" gravel shoulder and the drop off to my potential doom many hundreds of feet down beyond that.

I did my best to brake, which stands my bike upright slightly, and the front tire went into the gravel. Insert cliche about my life flashing before my eyes here. I had a brief second of tank-slapping (it's a motorcycle phrase, look it up; it's not good) and miraculously got back off the 6" of gravel and back onto the pavement. I was literally inches away from falling to my probable death.

Needless to say I had to pull over soon after to clear my head.

I could have easily died or suffered severe injury, and my bike (and I) would have fallen for quite a while before hitting the bottom of the canyon below.

Motorcycling is an inherently dangerous activity, but so is driving a car. [Statistically, I'm twice as likely to die as a pedestrian than I am as a motorcyclist.] I survived the incident and learned several things from the experience.

If I scrape a peg or something else happens that breaks my concentration, I need to slow down or pull over until I can regain my focus. My bike is very capable of taking some seriously tight turns and when I found the turn's radius decreasing I should have been more assertive and attacked into the turn, but because I was fearing another peg scraping, I slacked up and that is what sent me wide.

Normally riding near long drop offs and other hazards doesn't phase me at all. I'm aware of the scenery around me as I ride but I don't focus on it. I focus on the road. I'm also normally aware of my state of mind; when I'm in the zone I'm not afraid to push my bike's limits a bit more than normal, and when I'm not in the zone I back off and ease up on the throttle.

It was a growth experience, and as the latin saying 'Ad astra per aspera' goes, ("to the stars through difficulties") through adversity we grow.

I made it to Weaverville safely and checked into the Weaverville Hotel.

[caption id="attachment_426" align="alignright" width="460" caption="Weaverville Hotel"]Weaverville Hotel[/caption]

It was built in the late 1800's and looks like something you'd see in a western movie. The hosts are super nice and really made sure I was comfortable. Shortly after getting unpacked I went next door to the New York Saloon for a cold beer. When I asked the bar lady what she had on tap, she said, "Coors Light and Bud."

(Anyone that knows me is well aware of my views on those brands of libations. "People that drink Coors Light don't really like the taste of beer, they just like to pee a lot.")

I asked if she had any micro-brews, and she pointed behind me at a Sierra Nevada sign hanging on the rough-cut wall. "I can't pronounce it, but we have that." She couldn't pronounce 'Sierra Nevada'? WTF? The beer was cold and she even asked if I wanted a glass, however, so she gets points for effort.

Dinner was at the La Grange Cafe across the street. I had a glass of local gevurtztraminer that was a bit too sweet so I switched to a reisling from the same winery -- much better. It went very well with my hazelnut-encrusted halibut. Mesha was a great waitress, too. She gets her name from the biblical character, Meshak. Her brother is named Shadrak. Her father was apparently disappointed she wasn't a boy and made her name more feminine by taking off the trailing "K". It was a fantastic meal in a very quaint and wonderful little town.

I slept well and had an early breakfast at the Nugget, where I dined the previous Sunday on my way south, then headed west on 299 before cutting north on Highway 96.

96 follows the Klamath River and is very scenic; I highly recommend the route. When I got to Happy Camp I located the only gas station in town, a card-lock self-service station that offered a single pump available to the general public. There was a half-dozen guys on sport bikes filling up when I pulled in. One guy asked, "Where ya headed?"

"Grants Pass, the twisty way," I said.

"Us, too!" he said.

I let them zoom ahead of me after we were all fueled up, knowing they'd just have to pass me as soon as we got out of town.

Cave Junction came along soon enough and I pulled over at the Dairy Queen for a chicken sandwich for lunch. It was noon and I knew I'd be arriving at my motel in Grants Pass way too early. That happens to me a lot on my trips because I get started too early in the morning.

As predicted, my room wasn't ready when I got to the Super 8 in Grants Pass so I asked my GPS to tell me where the nearest park was so I could find a shady spot and take a nap. An hour later I was checked into my room.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Heading back north

[caption id="attachment_416" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Steve and Tara"]Steve and Tara[/caption]

I met a schoolmate, Tara, that lives in San Francisco for dinner and a trip through the California Academy of Sciences. (No, my gut isn't really that big as you see in the picture; I was leaning back against the railing.) We ate at one of her favorite restaurants, Park Chow and ate dead fish -- mahi mahi and halibut -- then went over to the museum to see alive fish swimming around, including an enormous giant sea bass.

[caption id="attachment_417" align="alignnone" width="380" caption="Steve and giant sea bass"]Steve and giant sea bass[/caption]

We then stayed up until midnight catching up on the last 20 years of our lives.

Despite a late night, I was up shortly after 6 am and got everything packed. I grabbed a quick breakfast at the Olympic Flame Cafe next door, then checked out of the hotel. When I went into the parking garage to get my bike, I discovered it was surrounded by exotic sports cars: Ferarris and Lamborghinis and Others, Oh My!

[caption id="attachment_418" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="More than two dozen exotic cars"]More than two dozen exotic cars[/caption]

I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge by 8 am and headed back up Highway 1, the same way I came down.

[caption id="attachment_419" align="alignright" width="320" caption="Just north of San Francisco, Hwy 1"]Just north of San Francisco, Hwy 1[/caption]

I made it to Fortuna without any problems, although I had to dodge what looked like a gray fox but was probably just a young, skinny coyote as well as two female turkeys. It misted a little bit the last 20 miles of 1 but the precipitation was nothing substantial.

I checked into the Super 8 in Fortuna at 3:30 pm and got two loads of laundry started in their coin-operated machines. Dinner was at the Eel River Brewery next door. I ordered blackened salmon but it was super greasy and salty so they made a second attempt. That version was grilled and less salty but was over cooked. The 'works' baked potato and amber ale were good, however.

Tomorrow I head due east on 36 to Red Bluff, then will backtrack to Weaverville for the night.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Culture and sophistication

I walked over to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, or SFMOMA as the banners all over town call it, and got a healthy dose of culture and sophistication. One of the things I find convenient about modern art museums is you can tell very quickly what you like, and more often than not, what you don't like. Modern art can be very 'odd'.

Some of it kicks ass, though. I did get to see a Picasso, some Jackson Polluck, and a couple Diego Rivera paintings, one of which I really like.

[caption id="attachment_408" align="alignnone" width="472" caption=""The flower carrier" by Diego Rivera"]"The flower carrier" by Diego Rivera[/caption]

Modern art sculpture seems to be where people truly get off the merry-go-round before it has come to a complete stop. They had a large off-white bean bag with a gaping hole in the top, kind of like a stocky donut. Look down into the hole and it's got a pile of brown fabric bundled up inside giving you the impression you just looked into a giant albino's rectum. Another 'sculpture' was a stack of three cardboard fruit boxes, like you'd see piled up behind a grocery store.

I hope that artist didn't get paid for his work.

One abstract painting caught my eye, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps because it's got a sense of humor without being too far over the edge. It also has a subtle sense of depth that I appreciate.

[caption id="attachment_409" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="Three people"]Three people[/caption]

The part of the experience that was the most enjoyable was watching all the unique and interesting people, both inside the museum and outside walking the busy sidewalks of the city.

[caption id="attachment_410" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="The Art of Appreciating Art"]The Art of Appreciating Art[/caption]

When glancing out an upstairs window of the museum, I was lucky enough to find Waldo on the rooftop of an adjacent building. I never knew he had a career in HVAC.

[caption id="attachment_411" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="I finally found Waldo!"]I finally found Waldo![/caption]

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fisherman's What?

'What's a wharf?'

More pics...

[caption id="attachment_403" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="Fisherman's Wharf"]Fisherman's Wharf[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_404" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="Boats at the wharf"]Boats at the wharf[/caption]

A Taste of San Francisco

Wednesday June 3rd - San Francisco

Today was spent on foot. Union Square, the Financial district, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf. I had my first trolley ride, too. Two of them, actually. I saw a homeless guy pushing a vacuum cleaner down the sidewalk and wondered how often he changes the bag. Food included a French chicken sandwich and some of the best Indian food I've ever eaten. Without going into menial details I'll simply post a series of pictures instead.

[caption id="attachment_394" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Statue in Union Square"]Statue in Union Square[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_395" align="alignnone" width="240" caption="Hobart Building"]Hobart Building[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_396" align="alignnone" width="240" caption="Dual towers"]Dual towers[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_397" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="50 bikes all in a row"]50 bikes all in a row[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_398" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Chinatown"]Chinatown[/caption]

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In a California State of Mind

Tuesday June 2nd 7:19 PM - San Francisco, CA

I just finished an amazing dinner at the Cafe Grande here in San Francisco. Don't let the pedantic name fool you. The restaurant is gourmet and 'all that and more.' Chardonnay, escargot, and day boat scallops followed by tarte tartin apples (that's French for 'Good lord, that's good!'). Today was an amazing exerience. And it was all California.

It started overcast and misty in Fortuna. I slept well, which is always a bonus and not to be expected when on the road. Breakfast #1 was the 'one-notch-above-vending-machine' continental offering courtesy of Super 8. Enough to kill the growlings in my stomach until I can get something decent down the road. It was misting a bit as I headed south on 101. Traffic was light and I made good time getting to Leggett, where I veered west onto Highway 1.

It's amazing how you can see a route on the map and have no idea what it's actually like. Highway 1 has got to be the curviest, snakiest, twistiest little road this side of a spastic snake's tail after one too many espressos. I don't think I got out of second gear more than twice for over an hour. Heaven on two wheels. But wait, it gets better.

The clouds dissipated and the sun came out without being overly warm, a luxury if you're decked out in protective motorcycle gear. The road stayed twisty and the scenery kept up the awesome pace mile after mile. I noticed a tree with flaky bark and wilty leaves, like a very tall willow, that smells amazing. Like sage or thyme or something. They're everywhere. And redwoods, too. Lots of huge, massive, tall redwoods. Northern California has the market cornered on great trees, or at the very least giving every other state a serious run for their money.

Breakfast #2 was at Perko's (WTF?) in Fort Bragg. One waitress was so obnoxiously loud and fast I'd swear an oath in court she was wacked out on WAY too much meth. The other had so many piercings in her left ear she'll eventually start walking with a limp from the extra weight. The belgian waffle with two eggs (on top, thank you very much!) and bacon -- plus coffee, of course! -- was pretty good, though, so I didn't complain.

For the most part my way south on 1 was better mile after mile. The Oregon coast is well regarded, but I'd put my money on the northern California coast for overal aesthetic beauty. Plus it's not marred by clear cuts like the Oregon Coast. The towns are more quaint and the air smells better. Must be the herb trees. Whatever they are.

Then things got twisty. And fast. The road gets very narrow and follows every curve of the landscape, alternating between mere feet above the beach to a thousand feet up steep cliffs above the water line. The turns come fast-paced one after the other and they're tight, oh Lord they're tight! The first gear kind and with your ass-end nearly in front of you.

[caption id="attachment_389" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Taking a break"]Taking a break[/caption]

Then the buzz kill came along in the form of two vehicles completely unaware of the "pull over when you're ass is slow" law that most other Californians honor. After nearly two dozen miles of that many cars or more piled up behind these Lifetime Members of the Anti-Destination League, they finally pulled off into a resort and the rest of us took off in earnest.

First in line was a Ford Mustang, then myself, followed by a silver Porsche 911 Carrera. The Mustang was outclassed and he knew it because I was on his tail with every twist and turn. He pulled over after about a mile and let the Kraut and I get by. Then the race was on. In the rare stretches without turns the Porsche caught up to me but I gained ground in the tight turns. I scraped my pegs twice which isn't easy on a bike as tall as mine.

[caption id="attachment_390" align="alignnone" width="641" caption="Central California Coast"]Central California Coast[/caption]

We went through a couple of small towns with 25 or 30 mph speed limits and that allowed him to catch up. For whatever reason, perhaps the challenge, I allowed him to pass by pulling over onto one of the numerous turn-outs. He zoomed past and I pulled back on the throttle to catch up. His acceleration far exceeded my bike's but I could carve up the turns with an edge.

Soon I was right on his tail again. This kept up for several miles, with the cliffs getting steeper down to the crashing waves below and the road seemingly getting narrower with every mile. Eventually he pulled off on a side road and I continued on a much safer and more sensible pace. Maybe someday I'll get a sport bike, something more appropriate for my riding style. Or maybe not. I like remaining alive.

[caption id="attachment_391" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="Highway 1 north of San Francisco"]Highway 1 north of San Francisco[/caption]

The last stretch of 1 before reaching San Francisco is very tight and technical and not for the faint of heart. My clutch hand was beginning to get tired so I focused on solid yet safe technique. Soon I was in the city and feeling the need to strip down to warmer-weather gear. I pulled into an alley between two buildings and stripped down to my skivvies, getting a very interesting stare from a lady in a Honda taking a short-cut through the alley, then changed into my riding jeans and switched into lighter gloves. More comfortable, I got onto 101 and was soon turning a corner to see the Golden Gate bridge. I was blown away by how massive it is.

I had put a $5 bill in my chest pocket, easy to reach and ready for the toll. Somewhere my research got mixed up -- they required $6 -- so I had to pull my gloves off and dig my wallet out of my front pants pocket which is not an easy task when sitting on a bike. Once through the toll-booth I found myself in busy city traffic. It was urban warfare and everyone was out to get me! "Clowns to the left of me / Joker's to the right / Here I am stuck in the middle with you!"

My handy GPS guided me true, thank God! I never would have found my way otherwise. I ran a red light, though, as prophesied by several dreams I had a while back. The lights in San Francisco are on the corners of intersections and aren't very easy to see with the massive amount of visual pollution bombarding the senses. I pulled over in front of a hotel and asked the doorman where my hotel was. He said, "Right here, sir!" Wunderbar! I shut off the bike and unloaded my luggage onto his brass cart. Once I checked in, the desk clerk assured me my luggage would be deposited safely in my room while I looped around the block and parked my bike in the secured parking garage.

After getting showered and settled, I took care of a few phone calls and e-mails (it never ends for an IT guy, unfortunately) I headed downstairs to dinner. Tomorrow? Who the hell knows! I'm playing things totally by ear, which as anyone who knows me can tell you is completely out of my nature. Things have gone swimmingly so far, here's hoping that continues!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Trip Day 3: Twisted Bliss

Monday June 1st, 3:47 PM - Fortuna, CA

It rained during the night but the skies had cleared by the time I got up at 6:30 AM. I drank the protein shake and ate the pear I had purchased at the grocery store the night before, packed the bike, and headed out. I was on the road by 7:30, an hour ahead of normal.

My route took me south on state route 3, and just past Yreka the road gained elevation. I passed through a few small towns like Fort Jones, Etna, and Callahan. I rolled through a high valley filled with cow pastures and the scent of the previous night's rainfall.

[caption id="attachment_383" align="alignright" width="320" caption="Valley fog"]Valley fog[/caption]

Low clouds hovered above the valley floor, too timid to rise but reluctant to float away. Then I began to climb.

I had never heard of the Scott Mountains before today but I became very enamored with what I saw. They are rugged and appear unspoiled. In very little time I had reached 5,200 feet elevation and noticed the Pacific Crest Trail crossed the pass. The fun had only begun, however.

The descent down the south slope was steep, narrow, and rugged. The road surface was in great shape and the lane lines were bright and clean, but the turns were very tight and the steep drop-offs threatened to distract me from this very technical ride.

[caption id="attachment_384" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="Scott Mountains"]Scott Mountains[/caption]

The red snow markers spaced closely along the roadside and the short, tight turns reminded me of a slalom ski course. Anyone who downhill skis could appreciate the experience.

The creek rushing down the gulley to my right was the headwaters of the Trinity River. After several challenging miles down the mountain, the turns eased up into 35-40 mph postings instead of the earnest 15-25 mph turns behind me. I often double the posted turn speed but during this stretch when they said a turn was 25 mph they meant it.

By the time I got to Weaverville I was ready for fuel, both in my bike and my stomach. When riding through the small town I located the Weaverville Hotel, another night's stay on my return route north back toward home. After breakfast at the Golden Nugget cafe, I continued south a few short miles to the junction with hwy 299 and 3 and was immediately halted by road construction. I had to wait nearly 15 minutes before I could proceed.

Two trucks were in front of me. One pulled off onto a side road and I soon passed the other, and for good reason. The stretch of hwy 3 between Weaverville and Hayfork has an incredible run of 25-30 mph turns that are well-banked and fast. My bike was never in the vertical for more than a few seconds before leaning back into another near-peg scraping turn. Because of my space toward the front of the construction waiting line, I knew I wouldn't have any slow cars to contend with.

The road climbed and dropped several times, twisting and turning the whole way. By the time I reached Hayfork, I was feeling alive in a way that's difficult to describe. My riding skills are gradually improving and I'm noticing greater feel for the bike and how it handles. I was amazed I never scraped my pegs.

After Hayfork I left hwy 3 and got onto hwy 36 westbound. The turns got faster, with a nice mix of big sweepers and plenty of tighter turns to keep the excitement going. I had to pass a few people, several of whom pulled over to let me by, before I noticed a sign saying it was the law that slow motorists have to pull over. In Oregon you don't have to pull over unless you have 6 or more cars backed up behind you!

I stopped for a break in Dinsmore before continuing on to Fortuna. I fueled up the bike then located the Super 8. Strangely enough, my GPS doesn't think the city of Fortuna exists, despite its population of nearly 11,000 people. Susie at the front desk was very friendly and helpful, offering a rag to wipe down my bike as well as a tip that the brewpub next door grants a 10% discount if I show them my room key.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Trip Day Two: Yreka, CA

Sunday May 31 - 5:59 PM - Yreka, CA

Dinner was a shredded beef enchilada with a unique savory spice from the Puerto Vallarta restaurant in Yreka, California. There are two Mexican restaurants within a block of the Super 8 Motel, and the Vallarta was the recommended choice according to the gal at the front desk when I checked in. When I asked if there were any good restaurants for breakfast within walking distance, she shrugged and with a resigned look on her face, said, "Dennys." I decided to purchase my breakfast in advance from the Ray's grocery store across the street and pick from the motel's continental breakfast selection.

7:04 am, Klamath Falls, Oregon

I did't sleep very well last night. There was a prom going on in the hall across the street and the air conditioner in my room was effective but noisy. Wearing ear plugs to bed is not uncommon on my trips and I've grown accustomed to the necessity. Sleep came to me at 4 am and departed at 7 am. I got up, dressed, and walked down to the lobby of the Maverick Motel to see what their continental breakfast had to offer. Very little. Packaged pastries organized in clear plastic drawers akin to what you'd find in a scrapbooker's craft room, a large stainless pot of coffee illegitimately labeled 'regular', and packets of instant oatmeal.

[caption id="attachment_373" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Maverick Motel"]Maverick Motel[/caption]

After a waking shower, I packed my hard cases and mounted them on my bike. The forecast said it was supposed to be in the low 50's but the actual temperature had me forming a sweat. I stripped off my biking pants and took out the cold-weather liner from my jacket. The Chevron station from the day before wasn't busy anymore but it still took the attendant several minutes to come out and hand the pump nozzle to me -- a lame legal requirement in Oregon. Once my tank was full I headed southeast toward West Klamath.

It took some driving around but I finally found my way to the Klamath Memorial cemetary. My goal was to visit my Mom's cremains. Unfortunately they are interned in the chapel which is only open on weekends by appointment only, and appointments can only be made during regular business hours Monday through Friday. I'll have to visit her some other time, I guess.

Highway 66 connecting Klamath Falls in the east with Ashland to the west is known as the Green Springs Highway. It runs through a mixture of pine and oak and finishes with a dramatic and nauseatingly steep and twisty descent down to Ashland. I felt no ill from the delicious turns, feeling like a slalom skiier instead, and was surprised to see several bicyclists climbing the step and winding grade. Once in Ashland I pulled into the Wild Goose Cafe for some biscuits and gravy, two eggs, and sausage with the requisite cup of coffee. The waitress was intrigued by my chosen route for the day, twisty and circuitous, and warned me about forecasted thunderstorms. I thanked her for the warning, and although I never saw any raindrops on my ride I did see the effects from previous deluges -- gravel washed into the roadway from over-run ditches.

My GPS put me on I-5 northbound but my butt only gets sore when I ride in a straight line so I pulled off and took a two-lane route westward instead. I passed through historic Jacksonville and remarked to myself just how quaint and 'historic' the town felt. Subsequent towns were Ruch, Applegate, and Murphy. I was thankful I had chosen that route. The road was in great shape, the turns were pleasant, and the scenery bucolic.

Once I reached Cave Junction I pulled int the Chevron and told the gap-toothed but pleasant attendant, "Fill, regular." He smiled and pointed at the pump, "Go for it. I'll hang out in case you need help." We chatted a bit as I filled my gas tank, and when I asked if he knew how to get to Happy Camp, he said, "Oh, yeah! Go down this road about a half-mile, turn left, take the first right, then just 'head into the hills.'" He leaned back and gave my bike a good up and down glance, then followed it with, "You'll do fine." I wonder what he would have said if I was riding a Harley.

His directions proved true and I relied on my GPS for the remaining route. As the road got narrower and steeper, I noticed a distinct lack of clear cuts. Living near the Mt. Hood National Forest I have begun to take them for granted.pass_happy_camp I stopped at a wide spot on the side of the road and took some pictures of the bike, the view, and the road. pas_twistiesBefore long I was at the summit and crossed from Oregon into California, marked only by white letters spray-painted onto the pavement. or_ca_border_roadIt was a quick descent down the 9% grade and before long I found myself in Happy Camp, California.

I didn't find it to be that, exactly. I pulled into the small market and drank a pop from the vending machine under the front awning's shade.

[caption id="attachment_376" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Happy Camp, CA"]Happy Camp, CA[/caption]

As I watched local residents come and go I kept expecting to hear banjo music in the background. I noticed a large grasshopper across the road and took its picture, doing my part to help that poor starving giant insect get rich and famous.

[caption id="attachment_377" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Giant grasshopper"]Giant grasshopper[/caption]

My GPS said to head east on Highway 96, and I'm very thankful I took its advice. 96 isn't quite as diverse or challenging as 36, its parallel cousin to the south -- and tomorrow's ride -- but it's faster and has its own flavor equally worthy of remark. Law enforcement seems to be completely absent and the cagers are slow but polite -- several pulled over to let me pass, something I've only experienced in northern California. The road follows the Klamath River, scenic and very popular with anglers and rafters. The temperature had risen quite noticeably and I was thankful to ride at 65 mph through all but the tightest turns. The bike performed wonderfully and I really felt like I was in the zone.

I got to Yreka at 2:30, almost the exact same as my previous day's arrival in Klamath Falls. 8:30 departures and 2:30 arrivals seem to be consistent for me on my trips. My room at the Super 8 is twice as large as my lodging at the Maverick last night, I have free wi-fi in my room, and it only cost $56. The town itself is definitely not much worth looking at, however.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Trip Day One: Klamath Falls, OR

Sat. May 30 - 2:53 PM - Klamath Falls, OR - Maverick Motel

It's warm and muggy here in Klamath Falls. But, let's start at the beginning...

6:24 AM - My cat thought it was a work day and meowed a lot, wondering why I wasn't awake yet. I went downstairs and got a pot of coffee brewing, then turned on the news to catch the weather forecast. Within minutes I could feel an occular migraine coming on so I took my meds, poured a cup of coffee, and watched some TV.

After a small breakfast, my headache had diminished. I showered and began loading my luggage onto the bike. I rolled out at 8:25 AM under sunny skies and 64 degrees, heading east on Hwy 26.

The pass at Government Camp wasn't very chilly and by the time I crossed into the Warm Springs Indian Reservation I had to pull over and get into my warm-weather gear (jeans and no jacket liner). The high desert north of Madras smelled like onions, wet juniper and sage, from thunder showers the night before. Traffic was light and I followed two other motorcycles all the way into Bend. On the south side of town I pulled off the bypass and stopped at Shari's for a late breakfast. After getting some bisquits and gravy, I crossed the street to the Chevron and fueled up. I was back on the road a few minutes past noon.

Anyone that has traveled on Hwy 97 south of Bend knows how long, straight and boring it is. Thankfully I had earphones with some good tunes playing on my iPod. I also broke up the monotony by weaving side to side in my lane. Corny but it helps. Large clouds were forming in the skies to the south and west, and I had a dozen fat rain drops on my windshield just north of Chemult. I was expecting to have to pull over and suit back up for rain but the offending clouds veered to the west and left me alone.

The temperature was getting warmer so I pulled into the Collier State logging museum and took off the bandana under my helmet. This allows more air to flow onto my head through my helmet vents. Klamath Lake was fragrant and calm and traffic around its eastern shore was incidental. On the north side of town I pulled into a Chevron to top off my tank in preparation for tomorrow's ride but there was a long line of cars and only two pumps working. I got back onto the highway and headed on to my motel.

The Maverick Motel is on Main Street in old town Klamath Falls. It also shares the parking lot with a brew-pub, so you can guess where I'll be having dinner tonight. My room is tiny, maybe 10' x 11', and upstairs -- I requested a ground floor room -- but it's clean. There is no wi-fi Internet access, howevever, so I'll have to post this at my next stop.

6:02 PM

Dinner was at the Klamath Basin Brewery next door. Taco salad and a fairly decent IPA. After the IPA, however, I could barely taste their '8-second' lager; it was like water. IPA's do that to your taste buds.

The service was good as was the conversation with the two owners, one of whom just got his motorcycle endorsement last August via the Team Oregon MSF course. He rides a Kawasaki Ninja 250. Based on his short stature, his bike choice was excellent. They mentioned they have free wi-fi so I'm going to let my dinner settle then go back over for another pint and take PeeWee (my Asus eeePC netbook) to post today's entries to my blog.

There are ominous thunder clouds to the west, the direction I'm headed tomorrow. Other than a few miles of I-5 from Ashland to Grants Pass, it should be a day of nothing but twisty back roads, some barely as wide as a car: destination, Yreka, California.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dinner ride to Tippy Canoe

My wife and I rode to the recently renovated (new owner) Tippy Canoe bar and grill on the Old Columbia River Highway, along the banks of the Sandy River near Troutdale. It has a new owner and received a very expensive renovation so we decided to give it a try.

We got there at 6pm on a Sunday evening and less than 20% of the tables were occupied. That was our first clue that something was not quite right. When we got our menus we understood why right away. The prices were outrageous! Most entrees were $25 or more, even the salads were close to $20 each. We immediately asked to see a lunch menu. I ordered a grilled chicken salad, which should have cost $9, but instead was charged $17. The salad itself was unremarkable. My wife ordered a crab salad and it too was nothing to write home about.

For two salads, an iced tea, and a slice of carrot cake for dessert, we were charged $54.

The ride there and back was fantastic, but the Tippy Canoe Bar and Grill will not get any more of our business, that's for sure.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Review: Draggin Jeans from Fast Company

I recently purchased a pair of Draggin Jeans from Fast Company. The style I purchased are called 'utility' jeans, which are basically cargo pants with a relaxed fit. I paid $120 after shipping and received them about 10 days after I placed my order.

[caption id="attachment_363" align="alignright" width="139" caption="Utility Draggin Jeans"]Utility Draggin Jeans[/caption]These denim jeans are lined with Kevlar for abbrasion resistance in a crash. Armor is optional. I opted for the unarmored version.

My first impression was that they are longer than I anticipated. I normally wear 32 waist and 34 inseam in Levis and these seemed like they are at least 2" longer than that. When standing in my bare feet they are too long. But when wearing boots they stack nicely and the extra length makes a lot of sense when sitting on the bike.

They are also heavier than normal jeans of the same size. The denim is fairly thick and the Kevlar adds weight, presumably. They are very comfortable, however, and feel as if they've already been washed 20 times. Speaking of washing, they can be washed and dried just like regular jeans -- just make sure bleach, color-safe or otherwise, never touches them; it destroys the Kevlar.

I'm learning that 70 degrees is my cut-off point when I want to get out of my armored Fieldsheer Mercury riding pants and into something cooler. That's where the Draggin Jeans come in. I've ridden 200 miles in them so far and they have proven to be very comfortable and much cooler than the Mercury pants I normally wear. That was the whole point.

I'll probably buy another pair but will get the relaxed style rather than the cargo-pant version. These pants are not cheap but they are worth the price. The next pair I get will have armor, just because that's the kind of guy I am. Safe.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Larch Mountain and Columbia Overlook

Sunday was a fantastic Spring riding day. It was a pleasant temperature, without being too hot or too cool, and there was a slight hazy overcast to the sky that kept it from being too bright. I have several riding options near my home that offer a great bang-for-the-mile value -- lots of scenery, very few stop signs or stop lights, and close enough I don't have to ride an hour just to get to the fun stuff.

I descended down Ten Eyke Road into the Bull Run valley below Sandy and wound my way through Aimes, down Gordon Creek Road, and up Evans into Corbett. I turned east and headed up Larch Mountain Road behind a series of slow cars. Everyone and their brother was out sight-seeing. I had to pass several cars, some of which were courteous enough to pull over and let me by.

The road to Larch Mountain has several stretches through timber that remind me of photographs and video I've seen of the Black Forest in Germany. Tangentially I've heard some speculate that the road up the Clackamas River from Estacada to Ripplebrook is equal to Lolo Pass in Idaho. The parallels of scenery between area routes and those found in more exotic and well-known locations are intriguing.

For whatever reason, perhaps state budget cuts, the gate to Larch Mountain was still shut due to snow -- what snow? -- so I had to turn around and head back down. There was easily a dozen cars parked at the gate, presumably hiking nearby trails.

[caption id="attachment_354" align="alignright" width="380" caption="Crown Point overlook"]Crown Point overlook[/caption]

I stopped at the Portland Woman's Forum overlook, which gives a great view of the Crown Point Overlook just upstream. I dismounted, drank some water, took some photos, gave another motorcyclist directions, then headed back the way I came.

[caption id="attachment_355" align="alignleft" width="320" caption="Blind motorcyclist"]Blind motorcyclist[/caption]

I took a photo of myself before departing, then realized afterward that I look like a blind man with my dark sunglasses.

Friday, May 8, 2009

V-Strom reliability

I purchased my Suzuki V-Strom in February, 2007 new from a local dealer (Action Motorsports in Fairview, Oregon). It currently has nearly 22,000 miles. I have changed the oil every 3,000 miles and had the throttle bodies synced twice, although both times the service guy said it wasn't needed. I'm on my second chain and third set of tires (Metzler Tourance).

Other than the regular maintenance mentioned above the bike has been rock solid without a single problem or even the slightest annoyance. The fuel consumption has seen a low of 49 mpg and a high of 54, with a solid 53 mpg average. I use regular unleaded, 87 octane. The oil I use is Castrol Actevo 10-40w, non-synthetic. It's still running with the original air filter.

This bike has been a fantastic performer and has been 100% reliable, doing everything I've asked of it and ready for more.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Gorge and Mt. Hood

It turned out to be a loop day. My ride began heading west through town and onto I-84, then over the Columbia River via the I-205 bridge. There were a lot of people out and about. Once in Washington, I headed east on SR-14 and followed the Columbia upstream. Unfortunately it must have been a rally day for the Anti-Destination League as driving 10 mph under the limit seemed to be the goal of every cager.

Overlooking the Columbia River There were large numbers of motorcyclists on the road as well, and I saw several V-Stroms mixed in with a couple BMW's and more cruisers than I could count. Passing opportunities were few and far between. I pulled into the Chevron at North Bonneville, fueled up the bike and myself as well with a breakfast burrito and a frappucino.

There was no wind in the Gorge, a rare thing indeed. Several various county law enforcement officers were seen heading in the opposite direction, but I never had a chance to go more than 5 mph over the limit (I seldom go more than 10 over) so speeding tickets were definitely not an issue. I crossed back over the Columbia via the toll bridge at Hood River with climbing temperatures and headed south on highway 35.

The highway around the back side of Mt. Hood had significantly less traffic and I only had to pass two slow cagers. White River, Mt. Hood The cool temps past Mt. Hood Meadows felt refreshing and the massive piles of snow on the road side demonstrates just how much snow the Oregon Cascades can receive each winter.

I stopped briefly at Government Camp to drink some water and wave at a toddler in the rest area showing obvious fascination by the two-wheeled astronaut stopped nearby. For the first time in a long time I was able to ride unhindered down the road from Government Camp all the way to Rhododendron, without any trains of slow cars to follow.

By the time I got home the temperature was already in the mid 70's. The total loop covered 160 miles and took close to four hours.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Before, during, or after?

It's a difficult proposition deciding what's more enjoyable: the planning, the ride, or it's memory?

Unlike those in more northern latitudes, I ride all year. Granted, I'm on two wheels less often when there's 23" inches of snow on the ground, but I do what I can. The longest stretch I've gone without riding was three weeks and a record-breaking snowstorm was the cause. When I'm not riding I'm thinking about it.

I spend a great deal of time in Google Maps (http://maps.google.com/) playing what-if with possible routes and destinations. It's even useful for finding accommodations and places to eat, sites to see. I've often said that I'm very spontaneous as long as I know all the plans ahead of time, and online tools like Google allow me to plan my trips, both real and imaginary, many times over well in advance of departure.

Sometimes I think my over-planning can lead to somewhat anti-climactic results when it comes time to actually hit the road. Perhaps my coldly charted arrival times and reservations have been handled so deftly that it leads to a noticeable lack of adventure. However, another philosophy might best be summed up by quoting something I told my employer the day after I got hired, "If you find yourself wondering what I do all day, why I'm so quiet, that's confirmation I'm doing my job correctly." (I work in IT and I was referring to a lack of system crashes and fire to be extinguished.)

But I think the planning and preparation of a trip is a great deal of the fun.

During rides it's comforting to know I have a place to stay when I reach each day's destination. It's not uncommon for me to have my dining options already scoped out, although I've yet to make reservations in advance. Perhaps part of the reason is because 71% of the time I'm dining on a weeknight and tend to avoid larger urban areas.

The rides themselves are gratifying for their own set of reasons. Despite my propensity to plan, I've yet to obtain the ability to control the weather, although I was friends with a guy in college that could (true story). God created the scenery, all I do is pick the route. Sometimes I'm tired, most of the time I'm exhilarated. On occasion I'll listen to music while I ride but seldom for more than an hour or so before switching to the inner solitude afforded me by old fashioned foam earplugs. Call me anti-social, but I've learned that the three of us -- me, myself, and I -- get along swimmingly, and my own thoughts have proven more than adequate as companionship for the road.

When I get to the day's destination a different rhythm sets in. Check in at the motel's front desk, weary and thankful for another safe ride. Find my room and unload the bike. Lay down on the bed and basically pass out for about an hour. Shower, then head to whatever restaurant is on my dinner list for the evening. I usually pick a restaurant within walking distance. Depending on the city and the dining destination I may take a local cab, but I never ride my bike to dinner. I often enjoy a cocktail of some kind with my evening meal and never drink and ride. That is one zero-tolerance policy I adhere to on a strict basis.

The rest of the evening is spent watching the Weather Channel and whatever movie might be on. I also spend some time writing in my journal, describing the day's events.

It's difficult to describe which phase of a trip is the most enjoyable. Ask a parent to pick a favorite child to get a sense for what I'm talking about. Each is different yet equally enjoyable. Perhaps that's why it doesn't get old. I can take a 10 day trip covering 2,400 miles, get home and want to head right back out the very next day.

Call me anti-social but there's something magical about spending that time alone on two wheels.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rider in the mist

It rained yesterday. During the night the clouds disipated and the temperature dropped to the low 30's, so there was fog and mist about when I rode into work this morning. The bike and my gear was wet when I arrived, as if I had ridden through a brief rain shower.

I love days like this.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Taking the long way home

Riding a motorcycle from A to B in a straight line is an oxymoron, a contradiction, an abomination. The whole point is to ride, not reach your destination in the shortest time possible. You don't hork down Kobe beef or Beluga caviar, nor do you bypass delicious twisties and scenic routes in favor of the homogenized super slab.

Sometimes you don't have a choice, but when on two wheels you always pick the route only Rube Goldberg could truly appreciate.

My favorite route home from work takes a circuitous tour of the rough and rural Sandy River watershed, passing through outpost communities of Aims and Bull Run, only to arrive in my home town of Sandy through the back door, so to speak. I leave Gresham via Halsey Street passing in front of McMenamins Edgefield and head east through Troutdale, crossing the Sandy River at Troutdale Park. The Old Columbia River Highway takes me past Dabney Park and into Springdale where I veer right onto Hurlbert Road (alternatively spelled on other signs as Hurlburt). At a four-way intersection I turn right and onto Gordon Creek Road.

I descend the river canyon wall opposite Oxbow Park, cross Gordon Creek, then switch back up to a small plateau that takes me over Trout Creek and onto a long straight stretch, horses running and passing slow locals. The road takes me under high-power transmission lines at the highest elevation of the route, approximately 1,200 feet above sea level. The boundary from Multnomah into Clackamas County is crossed and the road quality noticeably deteriorates. A few tight turns brings me up and into the community of Aims, marked by a small, old white church and a hand-painted sign to slow down.

The road briefly takes me back west into the setting sun before turning south into a winding descent to the Bull Run River and the narrow metal bridge that crosses it. I see the old Bull Run Power Station, decomissioned by the local power utility a few years earlier, on my right and the rugged wild Bull Run River running downstream toward me from my left. Another hairpin climb brings me up to the now empty Roslyn Lake above the river canyon walls.

I can go right and descend back down to Dodge Park or left to other riding opportunities. I turn left. Passing a pioneer cemetery I cautiously descend a narrow stretch of road to a tight right-hand hairpin turn at the junction with Marmot Road. If I take Marmot to the left I have another 30 minutes of wild yet technical riding but that takes me east, farther from home. I follow the hairpin to the right and wait at a construction zone; Revenue Bridge taking me back to the south side of the Sandy River is being rebuilt and I only have to wait two minutes before getting the go-ahead. Climbing back uphill once again I pass by a bucolic farm to my right, the pasture green and flat. One final climb up Ten Eyke Road brings me abruptly back into civilization marked by a stop light and a 7-11. A slow cruise through the small town of Sandy brings me back to my home, happy.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Moonlit morning ride

I rode to work yesterday and today. Yesterday was a full moon and by the time I rode in at 7AM it was just above the western horizon, fat and amber. Today saw me leaving the house a bit earlier, at 6:30AM, and the moon was white and cold higher in the sky. The wind was stronger, and although today's temperature was 30 degrees it felt colder than yesterday's 29.

With Daylight Saving it's still dark when I get into work.

Monday, February 23, 2009

February ride to Ripplebrook

The weather was mild and sunny on Saturday so I headed up the Clackamas River Highway (224) to Ripplebrook. There was a moderate headwind coming from the east and very few cars on the road. For some reason, the few cagers I did see were driving very slow despite great road conditions. Some kayackers were in the water enjoying what looked to be some nice rapids.

The air temperature got noticeably colder near Three Lynx, and there was some construction in progress just past the bridge at Indian Henry. Snow was on the sides of the road for the last mile to Ripplebrook. I stopped and took a bio break, then headed into Timber Lake Job Corps to see if the lake was ice free. The eastern half had ice but the remainder was clear. An older gentleman was taking his pole out of the back of his pickup truck to see if he could catch a fish. I'll have to remember that lake for some early season fishing.

The ride back was pleasant and I found myself getting back into the groove on each subsequent turn. I saw a Sherriff heading up-river and was glad that I had been keeping my speed in check. By the time I returned home I found myself jonesing even more for my first big trip of the year, with an as yet undetermined destination.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Planning a birthday ride

The two-wheeled astronaut will be turning 40 this year, and I'm leaning toward a long trip to celebrate. But where to go? I'm a big fan of the HBO show Deadwood and thought about taking a 12-day loop trip there (Deadwood, South Dakota) and back. Or perhaps jaunting down Highway 101 to San Francisco and adding a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge to my trip repertoir. What about heading north into Canada?

The possibilities are limited only by time and distance. I get a lot of vacation where I work but because I work in IT it's not feasible to be gone for too long at one time. I think 10 days has been my max so far. If I wanted to be gone longer than that I'd have to make arrangements to get tech support duties covered in my absence. I've also thought about the idea of taking my camping gear to alternate between motels and campgrounds every other night to reduce expenses.

In the meantime I spend many hours in Google Maps planning out various trip scenarios, imagining all that glorious time on two wheels, seeing parts of the country I've never visited before.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Aerostich and Me

"You look like you've been someplace interesting," she said. The waitress nodded her head to the side, toward my Darien sitting upright in the chair next to me, crusted with miles of road spray and grime. "Yeah, we've been around." The next words out of my mouth were related to my lunch order but inside I was smiling, remembering the thousands of miles my Aerostich and I had traveled together. Like a faithful buddy, it would have been apropos to buy it a cheeseburger and shake in thanks.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ride: Willamette Valley Tour

The weather was fantastic for riding, no matter how you cut it. The fact that it was February 4th was irrelevant. It was great to be on two wheels. Period. I gassed up in Sandy and headed toward Eagle Creek on 211, then cut west through the Carver curves. I crossed the Clackamas River and made my way south through the countryside toward Redland. I was taking many roads and routes unfamiliar to me on this trip so I was relying on my Garmin Zumo 450 GPS. When I got to Redland I misread the directions I was given by the GPS and had to backtrack about a half mile before getting on the correct road.

Once I got to Canby I took Highway 99E toward Aurora, cut under I-5 near Donald, and continued west into wine country. The sun was shining and the temps were climbing into the upper 40's and lower 50's. I had to deal with a few slow locals but for the most part traffic was agreeable. During the day a few people pulled out in front of me but only to the point of aggravation, no real threat to my safety. I hit route 219 and headed north into Newberg.

By this point I was getting hungry and in need of a bathroom break and thought by the time I got to Yamhill I'd stop. The small town didn't disappoint. I stopped at Zippy's Pizza in Yamhill and at first had the joint to myself. A cup of coffee, some steak and bean soup, and a BLT made for an excellent lunch. The staff were friendly as well. Marking the halfway point of my trip, I mounted up and headed south on highway 47 toward Lafayette.

I was getting the hang of my GPS and the directions were easy to follow. I rode through Dayton and Unionvale, finally coming into the northwest side of Salem. And then the fun began. There don't seem to be any decent routes east/west across Salem and I ended up riding smack through the middle of town. I passed next to the Capitol Building and noticed that my GPS was trying to take me to whatever it considered the city center before it would guide me to my next destination.

I pulled over and deleted Salem from the route. Silverton was my next destination, and since I knew the route from that point forward that was the only remaining directions I needed. Once reprogrammed, I followed the GPS past the state fair grounds over 25 mph city streets and eventually made my way to Silverton Road heading east.

At this point my left wrist was beginning to hurt from all the shifting I had to do in Salem. On a normal riding day, regardless of miles traveled, my wrist doesn't hurt. All the stop and go riding through the Salem metro area probably trippled the number of times I had to pull the clutch lever and the pain began to show because of it.

I stopped at the small municipal park in Silverton and took a bio break. The rest of the route home was familiar, north to Molalla, then around through Colton to Estacada and home. The day was nearly 180 miles and took five and a half hours. I felt more tired than I normally do on a 250 mile ride, specifically because of the city riding. I learned that it's best to avoid big metro areas, and when I have to ride through them, set waypoints on the outside of town, otherwise the GPS will guide me right to city center. That's no fun on a motorcycle.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chilly ride up the Clackamas

The sun was shining and I had some time to kill before the Big Game, so I hopped on my V-Strom and rode up the Clackamas River Highway. There weren't very many cars other than a few Californians driving 10 mph below the speed limit and the road surface was in good shape. A few turns had some sanding gravel in the center stripe but I was able to slow down and keep in my lane without issue.

It was getting colder as I went upstream so I turned around at Indian Henry campground and headed back home to watch the game.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ride to Mt. Angel

The weather Sunday was sunshine, cold temperatures, and wind. I headed south through Estacada, then caught 211 toward Colton. Shady spots along the highway were still covered in frost and I had to slow down on a few curves to avoid sliding. The air temperatures were noticeably colder in Colton and Molalla than they were in Sandy.

I made it to Silverton and instead of heading back the way I came I turned west and rode to Mt. Angel. I had never been there before. I followed highway 214 into Woodburn, then cut back toward Molalla and the return route home.

As always the V-Strom performed flawlessly. I saw several other riders as well, taking advantage of the sunshine. It was a good day to get out on two wheels.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Frozen fog? No worries!

I rode to work today even though we had freezing fog overnight. We've had freezing fog the last several nights in a row. The streets in my neighborhood had a dusty shine to them when I left home this morning on my way to work, and I could feel the slipperyness when I accelerated. But I took it slowly and got out onto the highway without any problem.

It was in the upper 20's at my house and the moisture in the air made it feel very chilly. My gear worked very well, however, keeping me comfortable. I've ridden in temps as low as 25, but this morning did feel the coldest of all my rides so far.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Winter maintenance, dryer weather

My 2007 V-Strom 650 hit 20,000 miles recently, giving me an average of just over 10,000 miles per year (I purchased it on Feb. 12, 2007). I change the oil every 3,000 miles, it's on its third set of tires (Metzeler Tourance), its second chain, and I've had the throttle bodies synced twice (although I don't think it needed it either time). The bike has been 100% reliable with zero failures or problems of any kind.

Saturday I changed the oil and gave my chain a real good scrubbing and lube job. I'm not sure what scheduled maintenance is due at 20,000 miles but I doubt it needs any of it. The bike is rock solid and a joy to ride.

The weather is supposed to be dry all week. I rode into work this morning and had mist until I got to Gresham, where the precipitation could be considered 'pizzle' ... not quite rain, but close and certainly enough to get you wet. It should be dry by the time I head home.

Monday, January 5, 2009

First ride of 2009

I rode to work today. My last ride was Dec. 9th. Almost a month without being on two wheels, and it damn near drove me crazy. It snowed last night, building up a couple of inches at my house, but it turned to rain by 10pm and it was just rain by this morning. It wasn't very cold, either. 44 degrees in Gresham.