Day 16 – Bend, Or to La Grande, Or

Distance: 301 miles / 484.4 Kilometres
Temperature: Low 20 (start of day)/ High 29 (rest of day)
Travelling Time: 8:00am-4:00pm

This is the last of three days in my journey. I’ve selected routes that will have part of the day as open road highway riding and the remainder challenging technical rides. Today was no exception. The weather has been terrific. I woke up to bright skies and a nice warm day.

I headed out the highway 97 north and made a quick stop at the Crooked River. It’s basically high desert scrubby bush and such north of Bend, Oregon. I wasn’t expecting to see a gaping cavernous river canyon along the way. The layers of volcanic rock breaks away into blocks and creates stunning canyons. What is also amazing is that the Cascades including Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor are all visible even from a few hundred miles away – they are absolutely gigantic in comparison with the state’s surroundings. The highway is otherwise uneventful and with the iPod on the first 50 or so miles flew by.

The route that I made a quick detour for was the ride from Shaniko to Fossil, Or. It’s a pretty unique ride because it is a challenging and twisty road, and, because it is the ‘highway through history.’ It is composed of various layers of eroded rock dating back literally billions of years. It is uniquely isolated and incredibly beautiful. I saw almost no signs of human life until near the end of the ride – almost 50 miles. The scenic highlight is the John Day Fossil Beds Memorial Park. It reminded me a lot of the buttes and eroded formations of rock that I’d seen in Utah on a previous trip. Right beside the highway is a formation called the ‘Clarno Pallisades.’

True to form, no matter where I go, for some reason, I get asked for directions. I’d blown by a car going extremely slow before the monument, and when it was clear, passed them. When I arrived at the momument I still had my iPod going and my earplugs in. The driver of the car had come over to talk to me – my first thought, someone is going to read me the riot act about passing them on double lines. Turns out it was two 20-something women looking for directions to the highway north of the one we were travelling on. Very nice and very friendly, we were both on our way to our destinations. I must say my experiences with locals has been much more positive than my last US trip – everyone has been extremely friendly and approachable.

The road from Condon to Heppner was supposed to be another highway cruise. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was not well travelled but also had several sections of twisty bits and technical riding – something I hadn’t expected. It was very much like riding through 80 miles of Southern Alberta’s badlands. A series of up and downhill runs through canyons. Well worth the trip to make up time and for some enjoyable riding.

There was one quirk to the day. I bypassed the far end of the town of Heppner which is where the gas station is (according to locals from the next town – Pilot Rock). Unknowingly, and without distances posted on the map, I pressed on to the next town. I’ve now determined that my bike will in fact go farther than 210 miles on a tank – 221 to be exact. I was fairly confident that I’d make it without running out of fuel but the little voice always says, “what if you run out of gas out here…?” Luckily I had the best fuel economy of the trip at 43 mpg and still had 3 litres of gas to spare – haven’t really converted everything to imperial measurments – really odd to be constantly talking in metric and imperial 😉

My last three days will take me through a route of mountains and passes in Washington (stopping tomorrow night in Wenatchee) and a bookend to the trip with a stop in Nelson, BC for a night and quick loop before returning home to Calgary on Tuesday.

My tires are starting to show signs of wear, but nothing of any concern. I was going to have them changed down here but I’ve had a tough time finding shops open early enough in the day or weekends – so I’ll order some online when I get back home and have them changed. I’ll be curious to check the distances on these tires as I think they are approaching the range of the last set – 12,000 kilometres, which is unheard of for motorcycle tires.

Footnote: It was quite funny to go to the Safeway here tonight in La Grande and see all the booze in the chilled drinks aisle – Fat Tire Beer is tasty. I actually got ID’d at the front counter. I thought the clerk was kidding but she really though I was underage (21) – nice finish to the day.

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