Ride Report

Ride Report: Northeast Oregon – Day 3


We woke up late again on Sunday. Like usual, neither of us was in a hurry. We understand riders who are going to cover hundreds of miles in a day, especially in hot weather, getting an early start, but that’s not what we are doing. Today looks to be about 250 miles. It was kind of depressing to realize we were already turning around to head home. Luckily we were near the eastern edge of the state and had two days to enjoy getting back to Portland.

We took our time getting ready, and snacked on some of the breakfast bars we purchased at the store the night before. By the time we were packed and leaving, it was 10:30am, virtually the same time we pulled out Saturday morning.

Twenty miles and 30 minutes later we were in Baker City, with many historic buildings dating back to the late 1800’s. With nearly 10.000 people, it was much larger than most of our stops. We pulled in to a gas station to fuel up and soon a couple of older gentlemen on Harleys pulled in. We struck up a conversation and they were very curious about the weather to the east, as we were coming from that direction. But remember, we had just started out, so we couldn’t give them any advice. We asked where they had started from this morning and had to laugh when they told us they began in Mitchell. Mitchell was near our ending destination today! So, at 11am, they had already ridden as much as we planned to ride all day, and they were eyeing Montana as they headed home.

We headed south on Hwy 7 for about 10miles until it turned in to Hwy 245. We took 245 for about 35 miles and really enjoyed it. For several miles we were on perfect pavement, gliding in and out of curves between 35-45mph. This is the kind of riding I enjoy the most! Nice scenery, good roads, curves with a pretty consistent speed. We were also still blessed to not have any traffic yet.

When we hit Hwy 26, we realized that we were now in the flow of traffic, meaning we found cars and other motorcycles. We saw many bikes riding the opposite direction and couldn’t help feeling sorry for the riders. They were taking a route that would get them “through” the area, but they would not get to explore like we had been.

After lunch in John Day, we were a short ride away from the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. As a lifelong Oregonian, I have often heard of them and seen them on maps, but had never visited. I was not too excited about it, as I am not very interested in geologic studies.

Well, my interest was peaked as we approached the area. From a few miles back, we both notices a “crack” in the hillside we were following. The closer we got, the more we hoped that we would be riding into it rather than passed it. We both had huge smiles when we saw for sure that indeed the road did turn and enter the gap to which we had been paying attention.

The road followed a rock wall on our left and a small river on the right. We rode the short distance to the visitor’s center and the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. The view from the visitor’s center gave us a good picture on the famous “painted hills” which cover many of the 14,000 acres.

The other highlight of that viewpoint was Sheep Rock, so we each posed for the obligatory photograph.

Duane and Sheep Rock


We spent some time in the paleontology center. The most impressive part was that it is an actually working center. We were able to watch as scientists painstakingly “scraped” away debris to reveal the intricacies of a fossil.

When we left we headed west to have dinner in the small town of Mitchell. Before we pulled out, I decided I’d try to figure out how people take pictures while riding. I fiddled around with the camera for a while until I found a way to keep it strapped to my wrist so that I could safely ride, but then easily lift it up and snap a few picture along the way. I realized if I didn’t mind holding the camera upside down, I could do this without it being a distraction. It wouldn’t matter if the camera was upside down or not. Unless I also tried to take some video. Hmmmm…would I really try to take video, forgetting the camera was upside down, therefore rendering the video useless? Of course not! Well, OK, but it was an honest mistake, and I could easily laugh at myself later, even as I turned the computer upside down just to see what it would have looked like.

My first action shot!

Pretty typical…a Ducati in my rearview mirror. 🙂

Approaching the gap through which we had entered from the opposite side.

We enjoyed more sweeping corners and some miles of twisty roads and varying scenery. I really did expect the scenery to change less often than it did after we originally crossed the Cascades and entered the eastern half of the state. I guess I still have a lot to learn.

Still ahead of that Ducati!

We pulled into Mitchell at around 4pm. I was looking forward to checking it out. Any town with a population of less than 200, that which can keep three diners in business is my type of town. The first thing we discovered is that the diner we planned to enjoy is closed on Sundays! We then noticed the only gas station in town (and within about 40 miles) was also closed. Well, we did what anyone would do. We checked out the bear with a mohawk! There is a bear kept in a caged area next to the gas station. I had heard of this bear before, so it was like visiting the local celebrity.

Henry the Bear with quite a hairdo.

Luckily there was a café that was open. It would probably be as good as the other. We went inside and met the mother and daughter who ran the place. They worked the café while the men worked the ranch about 10 miles away. The Café was perfectly clean, even the bathrooms! You could tell women ran the place.

Dinner was good, and it was another slice of small-town life. It was fun being the only customers in a tiny restaurant. The epitome of personal service. It also allowed us the opportunity to ask their advice about getting gas, since the station was closed.

The station would also be closed Monday, so we couldn’t get gas there in the morning. The nearest gas was at Service Creek, which was only 25 miles away, but there was one problem with that. The café owner was not sure if they would be open on Monday either. She said they were last Monday, but that was unusual, so she wouldn’t promise anything. Flexible hours! Another problem was that we still had 45 miles to travel tonight to our campground at Walton Lake, before returning this way in the morning and then continuing north from here.

We finally decided we needed to go to Prineville tonight for gas, and then backtrack to the lake. It would mean 30 extra miles today, but then no risk of running out of gas tomorrow.

As we got our gear on outside the café, we felt small hail hit us. We looked at the sky and saw that the hail and rain was coming from the east and we were heading west. We quickly left and raced to be sure to stay ahead of the storm.

We were able to outrun the hail, but to what end? As we approached Prineville, we were treated to a spectacular lightening storm in the distance. The big question was, how far away was it. Were we running from hail straight into lightening? It looked more and more possible as were got closer and closer to Prineville. Very dark clouds and flashes of lightening greeted us as we stopped at the first gas station in town. Prineville is a city of more than 7,000 people, so we had options here. We got gas, grabbed some snacks, and turned around to go to Walton Lake. This was the first time we had gone back over a stretch of rode we had already ridden. That was only for about 15 miles until we turned off onto a smaller road to the lake. I had driven that road several times with an SUV and camping trailer. Let me say, it was much more fun on a bike!

Walton Lake is an awesome place to camp. Large sites, no in-and-out traffic, and a scenic lake make it my favorite campground in Oregon. We pulled in around 7:00pm and set up camp.

See? I told you it was scenic.

I had packed fire starter and matches (I am no boy scout) so that we could enjoy a campfire. We bought wood from the host and enjoyed the rest of the evening sitting around the fire.

Enjoying my favorite camping activity

I knew I would not enjoy myself if I didn’t bring a folding chair. I ended up borrowing one from a friend because it was slightly smaller than any I owned, thus easier to pack. It served its purpose well! Wayne ended up realizing he also needed to bring something on which to sit. The same friend suggested a very small, easy to pack, tripod seat. It would never work for me, but Wayne decided to bring it along. He claimed it was just like sitting on a regular chair, if you were leaning slightly forward, as if you were going to poke at the fire. We were also at about 5,000ft of elevation, and ONE of us forgot to bring a sweatshirt, so check out the motorcycle/campfire gear.

He looks comfortable enough.

To wrap up Sunday, we rode just under 300 miles, enjoyed dinner at a small café, and camped in my favorite place in the state. Great day!