Exploring Snake River and Hells Canyon Day 1

Another short trip as summer wanes

The Eclipse is coming next week and a few hours south of me will be the 100% zone. They are forecasting up to a million visitors crawling all over the roads and taking up all the hotels for miles around. If I wait until they all clear out that will be two weeks of the remaining summer gone.

Deciding I didn't want to wait, I quickly pieced together a few days worth of routes, packed my top box and took off.

The Route

I will head down to Beaverton, then over to La Grande before taking a day looping into Idaho down to Ontario. The last two days, I headed up through Idaho again and over to Dayton, Wa before finally returning home to Tacoma.

Day 1

Day 1 was a simple commute down to Beaverton, Or to see my mom once again. Striking out from there the next day, I headed around downtown Portland and east along Hwy 84 up to Rowena Crest (for the twisty roads more than the view at this point). By the time I hit the Dalles, Or, the temperature was starting to rise requiring that I swap to my full on summer shirt.

After doing a little work and picking up a travel size chain lube I started south on 197 stopping a couple of times to stand and stare at Mt Hood and some neat old buildings in Dufur.

First new road

As I try to do on every good ride I turn onto the first new road of the trip, Hwy 216 which ran me east into the hills of the Deschutes Wild and Scenic Corridor. Views of farms and ranch land abound, as well as, some great views of the Deschutes River. This road winds around some upper exposed farm lands before ending at Hwy 97 at Grass Valley.

I continued south on 97 toward my next notable way point, Shaniko, Or. I did find something interesting to photograph along the way and to give my back side a break.

Shaniko has either been preserved or has done a good job in making themselves look preserved. There isn't a lot here (it's not big), but there are some things to see so I recommend stopping and taking a break and poking around. The old buildings look great and if you like getting away from the modern trappings and take in the way things used to be before they are gone.

Enveloping yourself in old timey Americana aside, Shaniko has one other key feature. It's at the end of Hwy 218, which is one of the best twisty roads around so after your done snapping pics, head south. Normally I come from Fossil to Shaniko but am looking forward to doing it in reverse to see how it flows.

The road between Shaniko and Antelope, another town that almost doesn't exist, begins slowly and you'll probably question if I've over-hyped this road. Keep rolling, I promise you that road is going to get good.

The twists and turns begin in earnest and don't let up all the way to the outskirts of Antelope. Pavement is in great shape with only the occasional bit of small gravel from trailers cutting corners the road draws you in to hit corners harder and harder.

My cheeks in pain from the grin I cannot undo, I roll through Antelope at 25. Once again I don't see any people. I've never seen an actual human being here. Watering is going on, cars and trucks but no people. I do wonder sometime if this town is inhabited by vampires. I don't stop to find out.

I continue east on 218 toward Fossil. The curves are more sweeper than twisty with short straights connecting it all together like a fabulous race track. There are a lot of corners all along this road making it one my favorites in all of Oregon. One of the beauties of riding out in Eastern part of the state is the lack of traffic (It's almost non-existent) so you can twist your right wrist accordingly as you see fit. The road isn't trying to kill you like some do, but many have collapsing radii so stay alert especially when you can't see around the corner which happens frequently as this road runs along the valley and hillside following the contours of the land.

Eventually the road connects with the John Day Hwy 19. At this point there isn't much here. Head straight across the road into the "downtown" area. There is a lovely cafe down a couple blocks and gas can be found a block over if you need. My cellphone is useless out there and the cafe does not offer Wi-Fi so just know that. I was hoping to do some work here but a nice bleu cheese burger and my map made it a nice stop nonetheless.

Next up, Spray

Leaving Antelope on Hwy 19 I continued on my way along a much less twisty, but very pretty stretch of road. For whatever reason, I almost always see deer along this road. I throw that out as a reminder that even though the road is less intense it's not without its dangers.

Spray gives you a chance to get gas and water or a snack. It's another super small town and there is even a little park down by the river if you want to take a longer break.

Continuing on the road follows closely along the John Day River which can throw up some stunning views. I find myself distracted over and over again so finally decided to stop and pull out the camera.

Keep right when you get to the Hwy 207 turn off to Hardman and continue to Kimberly (what a great town name) and which point hang a left onto 402 toward Hwy 395.

Hwy 402 is a pretty open road. It's curvy but nothing too tight. I can imagine local with sport bikes would rail along this road. I found myself taking more and more speed into the corners and leaning my Versys over like a downhill skier just enjoying a steady fast run.

Hwy 402 meets Hwy 395 at the town of Long Creek. Gas if you need and some really cool custom woodwork around the corner just as you get onto 395.

North on 395 and you're quickly taken into the trees and out of the ever heating sun. The road bends around gently for a while until you get to the John Day River again and the road tightens up as it follows along closely with it.

Hwy 395 along the John Day is a real joy. Lots of great corners to enjoy quickly or slowly, but if you're going slowly, please let me by. Actually there are quite a few passing places (mostly legal ones) so if you get stuck be patient for minute before going insane with rage.

Last leg

395 breaks out of the trees just south of Hwy 244 where a right turn takes you into Ukiah where you can get gas or a snack and pick up a motorcycle map of roads free of charge. I needed none of those things so took a break at the local park with some water and an apple watching a family playing catch.

From Ukiah, heading east on Hwy 244 I leave the town behind and into the tree-lined road that starts out along the floor, but rises up into the hills not too far down the road. It's not a technically challenging road but this late in the day technically challenging might have ended badly.

The road is pretty enough and eventually pops you out at viewpoints and onto an upper plateau farmland area before eventually dropping down to I-84 where I head south just a little bit to La Grande, Or.

Found my hotel just a mile off the exit. The very nice young lady helped me with a smile and made a number of dinner suggestions. I opted for a little walk and grabbed some roasted chicken and salad from the Safeway.

I lubed the chain, put the cover on did a little work then watched the sun beginning to set. After that I sat in my room and watched some Andy Man Cam videos before calling it a night.


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