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.