From one trip to another.
We got back home a week or so ago from our drive across country (we flew to North Carolina and drove our son's car back home so we can sell it while he's in Afghanistan) and I'm ready to get on my bike!
I started the way I usually do by checking the weather at key places along potential routes. First up Eastern Oregon/Western Idaho - a couple good routes out there it appears.....mid 90's....hmmm. Southern Oregon/Northern Cali? Same thing. Ok, what about Western/Central Oregon. Mid 80's - now we're talking.
Having a list of good roads in my pocket I bust out my latest purchase, a Butler Map. Up til now I'll done online researching between Bing/Google maps and "best of" websites. Using a good ol map map is a new old feeling that I really like. Tactile and everything is held within the context of the whole (geographic relationships) that can get missed with online maps. Can't zoom in so am using a photographer loupe to get down close to the details. I also use my phone's camera sometimes (which can zoom in).
A Route Emerges
Anytime I plan a foray into Western Oregon I include stops in Beaverton to see/stay with my mother. She's in her late 80's and when she's gone she'll be gone so I try and get down often. Besides, I like seeing her and free room and board doesn't hurt either.
Throwing my Kriega and tank bag, I ride down along a combination of familiar roads. I won't rehash those as I've covered them before. The goal is always to spend the least amount of time on the freeways. I should probably mention that I decided to take my Suzuki on this trip instead of my Versys. I love naked bikes and just had lust in my heart which overrode the known ability to ride long miles on the Versys - I can take breaks, right?
I will say that riding this Suzuki is glorious. The wind is back...I love that feeling. The motor is smooth and the slight forward cant puts me into the perfect position for carving corners. Speed touring on a naked bike...there is nothing better.
Day 2 (Oregon Route Day 1)
I called a late audible and chose to take I-5 to Salem then route 22 East instead of heading into Estacada and taking route 224 south to Detroit. I just don't have enough cold weather clothing and I fear that 224 through the mountains/trees could be quite chilly. I couldn't find an official weather station so went with my gut.
I rolled into Detroit Oregon with two things on my mind - get some gas just in case and double check the route. Just south of here is the first new road I planned (Straight Creek / NF-11) and it's not a major road so I wanted to burn it's name into my eyeballs.
After grabbing some gas I tried to roll through town to find a place to sit and research but did not see anything obvious like a park or open benches so I started south (staying on hwy 22).
There it is.
After getting nervous and pulling out my map again, because I have no service, I found the turnoff (Straight Creek). Ok, on track, let's hit it...
Wow, now this is a cool looking road! Narrow, tight and twisty, heck yeah....hold on there.
Let me start off by throwing some cold water all over your excitement. This road is not something you can fly on. You're not doing 60-80 as you carve corners as you might on larger, more open hwy type roads. This is often a 1 lane road, very tight in places and quickly becomes a bit rougher than my non adv suspension likes to deal with without trying to pound my spine. It's not chunked up potholed, but it's, as marked on the Map, a paved mountain trail more than a real road and for much of it (and the other one to come later) it is, at times, like being bashed around by two people with no breaks. The second you let your guard down, wham. Still worth doing if you're up for a gorgeous adventure in the trees that leads past some beautiful places. I just want to throw in that caveat so you can decide based upon the kind of riding you want to do.
Because of the speeds I could manage (lack of speed), this route between hwy 22 and 20 (eventually) was a couple hours or so (I did stop a few times for photos, lunch and fatigue).
The route can feel pretty remote because there is nothing here for much of it, but I did see regular vehicles passing by and there are a few camping areas so at times there were tents and RVs aplenty, but it was never congested or busy in the conventional sense.
Straight Creek Summary: This route is something you accomplish.
It kicks the crap out of you, but gives you a number of great section and lots of beauty abounds. I am not sure I'll do it again (maybe on my Versys) because I prefer a more "speed touring" style of riding, but am glad I did it.
Finding my way out of the trees the road improves in both width, condition and speed, but also in blockage from cars who made their way in a few miles to Green Peter Lake and are no on their way back out. A few passes later and I'm at Hwy 20. Turn left and settle into the speed once again. No frost heaves or sink holes trying to fracture your vertebrae.....nice.
It's a hwy, but it's a pretty nice one because just a little East of here it heads up into the "mountains" which tends to produce some good curvy riding. Hwy 20 does not disappoint. It's only the Crossovers driven by people not in a hurry that spoil things here and there, but that's riding isn't it?
"I'm not in a hurry, I just don't want to stare at the back of your stupid car doing less than the speed limit in the corners", I say to myself as I pass each one in turn.
Cresting the pass, I head down 20 toward Sisters or so the signs tell me. I'm not going to Sisters and keep my eyes open for the turn at Hwy 126 which is merely there to connect me to the next new road.
126 does have a section of visual uniqueness - volcanic rock. I don't know the specific history but they sure don't look that old. It's darker than the photos or my attempt at good editing could manage to convey.
Hwy 126 eventually curves West and takes me toward the second Butler Map Route (NF-19). I get some non-ethanol premium gas (I don't actually know how much, but with every other pump double stacked with vans, jeeps and cars, I didn't care) and enjoy a little shade while I check the map to confirm my turn shouldn't' be all that far down the road. During the planning stage I used Bing Streetview to "see" the turnoff so I had an idea about what the signage would be about.
It's not large, but a brown national park color helps me identify it. Braking hard I just make the left without having to turn around.
The first section is a park access road with signs to this and that keeping me busy as I try to identify the route I want. Stay right and I'm on my way. This road is not unlike Straight Creek. Also designated a paved mountain trail it also demands your attention to avoid the sunken spots, heaves and rocks.
Not too far down from the start I come across a large rock which seems to be there to mark the top of the lake.
A couple quick photos and a short snack and I begin the trip down along the reservoir. Eventually I cross over it and head into the mountains to do battle once again.
When is this going to end?
My ass is killing me. The road has been beating me for what seems like hours. Between the holes and heaves and repeated heavy braking trying to avoid slamming through and over these road 'features', I am battered, beaten and very tired I find myself rolling into what looks like a residential part of a very small town and stumble across another covered bridge. Covered Bridges are pretty rare and visually interesting (gotta get some pics), I do respect what Oregon has done in making efforts to keep the bridges in service. A picnic table in the shade makes the perfect excuse to take a much needed break. No service so I cannot make a reservation for the night yet, I know I'm near (very near) to Hwy 58 which will take me into Eugene where I am fairly sure my phone will work once again.
Hostel in Eugene
I book a room at the Hostel in Eugene. It's an eclectic place as you'd expect from a college town like this. My bed is the upper bunk which is actually quite comfy but climbing into bed feels like something a kid should be doing. There's another rider already here. Some guy from Canada, whom I never actually meet.