Morning in La Grande felt very nice. It was cool but warming quickly so I knew I wouldn't have to wait too long before getting out the door. The sky was bright, sun shining, the road calling me to hurry it up.
I headed south out of town connecting with Hwy 84 for a bit as I made for Baker City, OR. First things first and I hunted for gas. The exit I needed didn't have any amenities and not knowing where the nearest place was, I took another mile jaunt and fueled up while watching a family taking photos of each other in front of some welcome to signage. I didn't ask, but my assumption was they were here (in this general area) for the eclipse.
I jumped back onto the highway to the next exit, taking the Baker Copperfield Hwy (86) East toward Halfway. The road becomes pretty rural quickly and after a few miles the straight boring bits are behind me and I'm curving along the hillside. Nothing too intense, but as I run along the Powder River there are some very pretty sections where you can pull over a quick photo shoot.
Already getting warm I don't hang around too long at any one spot and continue on my way.
Seeing the cutoff to the town of Halfway, I decide to take it. I don't need anything but I'm out here to see the place so figured I'd take a peek at old barns and buildings. The town isn't large but it does look like they put a bit of work making the place look attractive to get people in the Hells Canyon area to hop off the main hwy and get something to eat.
Things are getting better
I leave Halfway and head up into the slightly more mountainous area on the skirts of Hells Canyon Rec Area.
I know, from my basically partially ok memory, that I need to go to Copperfield and turn right and the road runs along with the Snake River on my left. From my map (Bing Map) that I remember, there aren't any other roads so just turn right. Easy enough.
As I get to the Copperfield area there is a RV/Cam/Park area to the right and as I turn right around the top my mind tells me that I'm right on track. The only problem is that I missed my turn which was before the park and I roll across a small bridge as I cross the Snake River into Idaho. Something tickles my brain. I thought I was staying in Oregon until I cross further south....but no, the river is there on the left so I'm good.
Best Mistake I've Made
What I inadvertently have done is found the best 23 mile stretch of road I've ridden in a very long time. The pavement is mostly very good with lots of small elevation changes and curves galore. A little rough in spots but no potholes or crazy patches. Just a few here and there where rocks have fallen and punctured the asphalt. Very quickly the road shows it's true beauty in the most amazing combination of curves and view along Snake River that is just right there so close you can almost touch it. The view is amazing. Steep hillside with rocks on the right, Snake River on the left and serpentine ribbon with almost no vehicles in the middle.
I fly along only occasionally slowing when I find a camping or park area making sure I don't barrel through any places that might have kids or dogs out here. The thing I didn't expect was just up the road.
I pull over to take in this amazing landscape, enjoying the colors and view, soaking it all in.
Beary Cute, a Little Scary
While getting lost in the amazing road the last thing I expected is what happened as I rolled around a tight right hander. I come around the corner and standing in the road, a few yards away, are two black bear cubs. I quick stop the bike and stand there staring. A bunch of thoughts go through my mind including wow, they sure are cute and pulling out my camera, but I think better of that instead keeping the bike in gear clutch pulled in just in case. My mind comes back to the present with the follow up thought that these aren't deer...and where's the momma? I scan hoping she's not coming down the hill wondering who the heck this rumbling shiny thing is. A few yards off the left hand side (the river side), I see her head come up and rotate around to look at me.
Ok, so if she comes out onto the road in front of me what's my play? Can I turn around in time? No chance. Punch it past her? Not if she's standing in the middle....ok....um....
She turns back and saunters down the hill toward the water, her cubs following along with her. I don't waste any time and launch down the road not knowing anything about how bears act/react around people and noisy motorcycles.
As I put some distance between us I realize that I did get a shot of adrenaline and take a few moments to make sure I'm not too excited. Nothing happened and it's clear to me that these bears are likely used to dodging vehicles and people so just relax.
Further into the beauty of this place
The road continues to curve and just gets better and better. A few miles down the road and I head up hill. The river never leaves my view but now I'm carving through the rock formations all the while the knowledge that this isn't the way I'm "supposed" to be going.
Back on Track
After a quick break at the top for some water, a snack and to remove my wind blocker top I decide to do a u-turn and head back. I can't see where this road goes and while I'd love to continue I also don't want to spend too many hours on the bike and be totally miserable later on.
Once I get back to the bridge I pass the park and then I see the turn I missed on my way in. Not sure what I was thinking but I'm glad I missed it. I'd never have seen that road and I've already decided to come back tomorrow as my route will take me back near this area so why on earth wouldn't I do it?
Now I'm heading south along the Snake River, on the Oregon side with the river on my left still which is part of why I was thinking I was going the right direction. In my mind, I had the River on my left, how could you mess that up?
Not as pretty as the Idaho detour, the road south was nice but basic. Nothing like what I just spent my time exploring...but I know I got some good stuff coming up so I relax and enjoy the view.
I can't get over the reflection so stop to take it in.
Back into Idaho
I cross back into Idaho at the Brownlee Dam and the road changes to Hwy 71 and immediately gets twisty and tight once again. There is one sign that says 25 mph, which the cars I encounter seem to honor and another sign that say "Private road, at your own risk" which I take to mean, "Heck yeah" as I turn up the wick and carve the corners deeper and deeper as I find a nice groove.
What a great road. Pavement isn't hyper smooth but it's nice enough if you have decent suspension.
Hwy 71 carves it's way out of the mountain terrain and down into the valley for a while covered in some kind of strange insect mating ritual. Piles of them. I did my best to crunch the fewest possible because I just didn't want to know if they were slippery or not.
Eventually I rolled into the very small, cute town of Cambridge, ID. I spot a cute old cafe and stop for lunch and to check in with work.
After having a nice time chatting with the two young ladies who were working at the cafe, I saddled up for the last stint down to Ontario to spend the night. My hotel was in the older part of town, which is perfect for me as it gives me something interesting to get out to see and photograph once the temperature dropped below 90.