Wayne and I looked forward to our short adventure. We planned a long weekend to cover a large section of the northeast quarter of Oregon. We have previously enjoyed rides throughout the scenic Willamette Valley, along the Pacific coastline, and over the Cascade Range into Central Oregon, but had not fully explored Northeast Oregon. We had plans to spend the next four days seeing a lot of it!
Our plan would take us only about 1,000 miles, but it would be a fun-filled weekend! We would begin by passing through the beautiful Columbia River Gorge before dipping south into the high desert region, which covers much of the eastern half of the state. We will ascend mountain ski passes and descend into valleys with beautiful views of distant mountain ranges. We will follow scenic byways and other less-traveled roads, stopping in small towns along the way. It will be our first attempt at motorcycle camping, although we will keep it simple by not needing to prepare food at camp. Three days. One thousand miles. Two huge grins!
CHANGE OF PLANS ALREADY?
Often when you hear of plans changing at the last minute, it is not good news. This time would be different! We had planned to leave Saturday morning and get back Monday evening. Wayne suggested that we leave after work on Friday instead. Duh! Easy enough. We’d add one night of camping, since we were doing this on a budget. Strict budget? Not really, but we were going to be careful. Cheap lodging, some “grocery store” meals, and of course a good small-town café or two. In fact, like many other people who tour on motorcycles, my favorite thing besides the riding is stopping at a greasy spoon. They aren’t meant to break the budget anyway.
FRIDAY We both took off from work a little early Friday afternoon and headed home to our bikes we packed the night before. After a little scurrying around grabbing any almost-forgotten items, we nearly met our 3:00pm departure time. By 3:20pm we were ready to roll. The 3:20 liftoff actually helped Wayne win a bet with his wife. For some unknown reason, they tend to believe that my promptness should be called in to question. Something about any time we ride, Wayne can set his watch to me…as long as he sets it 15-30 minutes late! So, they secretly had a bet. He predicted we’d leave at 3:40 while she guessed 4:00. Outrageous! I’m glad this time neither of them got it right.
THE BIKES Last year we ventured to the Oregon Coast on a similar short jaunt. One thing that was NOT similar was what we rode. Wayne was “between” big bikes, and only had his lawn mower to ride; a 2006 KLX 250. I would be on my 1996 Honda Shadow 1100. Luckily, Wayne rides faster than me, so we would be able to stick together in spite of his bike coming with an optional grass catcher!
PULLING OUT After a quick goodbye, we were on our way. Although today’s ride would be short due to the late start, and even though we had ridden it several times, it was still exciting to head out, knowing we had some great days ahead of us! We started out on I205 headed north and would quickly cross over the Columbia River into Washington state. A quick turn east takes us onto Highway 14 and into the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. We take the Washington side because Highway 14 is much more scenic due to its slower speeds and nice twisties. I84 is its Oregon counterpart and while the views are nice, it is just a four-lane, fast-moving highway. The only downside can be getting behind slow traffic and having no place to pass.
Riding this route in the past, on our way to Hood River, Oregon, we sometimes forget to stop before getting to Hood River, and often regret waiting. We tend to stop for a short stretch and chat every hour or so. Neither of us has any plans to tackle any of the Iron Butt challenges. Taking our time, enjoying the ride and the sights, and stopping whenever either of us decides to is our style.
The twisties on Highway 14 led to an interesting encounter with a log truck. Coming up on one particularly tight curve, the cars ahead of us were slowing, eventually to a complete stop. A log truck was stuck on a curve, not able to navigate it any farther. Hey Wayne, didn’t those signs advise large trucks to take I-84? No question why now! Well, in the end, it actually worked out to our advantage. We were able to pass the cars and then squeeze passed the truck on the shoulder. After a slight fear that the truck could get going right as we were getting passed it, we were actually free to move along without any traffic!
Well, as we rolled through Stevenson, WA, I was hoping Wayne would pull over, but he didn’t, so again for some reason, we went a little further on this highway with out stopping than we usually would. Finally, after passing where the Little White Salmon River connects with the Columbia, we pulled over for a break.
So, about an hour and a half, and 70 miles into our trip, we pulled into a small rest stop and snapped our first photos.
Our next landmark would be Hood River, with its steel-grated bridge and world-famous windsurfers. We planned to cross back into Oregon at this spot so that we could connect with the historic Columbia River Highway at the small town of Mosier. We have explored the highway on the western end, enjoying highlights such as Multnomah Falls and Crown Point, but have not ridden the 15-mile section between Mosier and The Dalles.
After holding on tight across the steel-grated bridge, and 5 miles on the slab, we rode into Mosier and began the twists and turns of the historic highway. Our smiles grew bigger as we had no traffic and could just enjoy the sunny afternoon as we felt our way through the corners. We pulled over at a look at point at Rowena Crest.
We continued on the historic highway until we reached The Dalles. This was our first fuel and food stop. We bought a few items to eat for dinner at the campground and headed the last few miles to Deschutes River State Park.
Remember, we don’t set any land speed records. We arrived at the campground three and a half hours after leaving home and covered only 120 miles. We set up camp for the first time ever on motorcycles. My main thought was that I hoped I’d be able to get it all back on the bike correctly in the morning!