(2007) Fossil, OR

Fossils and Fire

Carolyn (Bluepoof) was planning on leaving a motorcycle at my house to use when she comes to Seattle for work. Only too happy to oblige, we made arrangements months ago on how to get the bike here. What follows is the second half of that plan…

September 1~3, 2007
Total Miles: 905 miles, 3 days
Seattle, WA to Fossil, OR
Map Link

Carolyn had left San Francisco with her friend Jenny on Thursday the 30th and made her way north. Meanwhile, I would leave my house on Saturday morning and meet them “in the middle”, the “middle” being La Pine, OR. It was only a 6-hour ride to La Pine from Seattle, including a boring stretch of I-5 between here and the Oregon border. I hit the road at a leisurely hour and wiled away the hours as the pavement zipped under my wheels. I was on the KLR so as to better play in the dirt of Oregon with Carolyn but the bike ran well and I had it efficiently packed with minimal gear.

I crossed the Columbia River and set about finding a motorcycle shop. My bike was running hot and having just replaced the coolant, a gasket and some hoses, I was puzzled as to what the problem could be. After finding Factory Motorsports in Oregon City, OR, I was informed that it was a lack of coolant. Apparently my previous leaks had drained out far more than I had realized. A wonderful guy named Steve came out from behind the service counter, wheeled my bike into the depths of their shop and returned it a few minutes later, completely topped off and ready to roll. At no charge. Needless to say, Steve is now in my good graces and I’ll happily recommend this shop to anyone passing through. Not to mention that they have a really nice selection of gear and sundries. I ended up buying some sunglasses there, as I had my Aria XD helmet which did not come equipped with a nifty drop down sun visor like my Caburg has.

After the bike had been healed I once again headed out, this time in a random search for a Nikwax customer whom I knew lived somewhere in the area. I took a number of back roads and doubled back only once before finding her farm and, luckily, her as well. I introduced myself and ended up spending a bit of time there, meeting her goats, chickens, calf and husband. She and her husband gave me some pointers on good roads to take over to Bend and I bid them adieu.

The route that they suggested was a good one and I found myself rolling south on the Cascade Hwy (213) to Route 22 at Stayton. From there it was an easy trip across the Santiam Pass. It is by no means a technical pass and there was a fair bit of traffic involved but it was by far better than a lot of roads I’ve been on. And as for the traffic, I kept reminding myself that this was a holiday weekend. After passing a few recreational lakes I came upon a sign declaring the possibility of smoke on the road due to a fire at Burnt Butte. This is apparently near Sisters, OR, as that’s when I could first see the huge billowing clouds of smoke rising above the mountains. The devastation was amazing, with over 7,000 acres on fire and charred trunks standing naked in the sunshine. The sun became an otherworldly red as I passed between the smoky skies and it. Unreal lighting made it seem like a fantasy world. But the miles kept passing and so did the destruction. The next thing I knew I was in Bend, a different kind of hell.

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Black Butte fire near Sisters, OR

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Black Butte fire near Sisters, OR

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Low visibility

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Sunshine through the smoke

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Colored clouds

It was hot. The sun was out and I was in full gear. The road south to La Pine is completely unremarkable, save for a couple of signs indicating that something interesting was down the side road and completely out of sight. Instead I watched the clock tick by, knowing that I’d be very close to our 6 o’clock meeting time. I always get a sense of satisfaction when I can travel for hundreds of miles and still reach my destination at an appointed time. However this time it did me no good; Carolyn wasn’t there.

Not only was she not there, but she wasn’t even registered at the hotel we were to stay in. And the hotel was full, so it wasn’t like we’d just get a room when she arrived. I was wondering if I had the wrong place, as I figured that with all of the anticipation that had gone into this trip, surely she would have made a reservation!

She hadn’t. She and Jenny pulled into the parking lot 10 minutes later and I informed Carolyn of our predicament. She went inside and came back out shortly with the announcement that all of the hotels in La Pine were full. We’d go to Bend for the night.

I repeated the mundane ride, the indicated features still hidden from sight off the main road. We found a nice motel in Bend and were soon on our way to find dinner at a local Italian restaurant and then returned to our room to get a good night’s sleep.

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In for the night in Bend, OR

The next morning we followed Carolyn’s GPS in pointless circles through downtown before giving up on it and finding our own way out of the city. We bombed east on some small back roads until we ran into the junction of 23, the enticingly named “Crooked River Highway”. This road swept northward along the Prineville Reservoir and true to its name, it twisted and turned as it followed the Crooked River. Many miles and smiles later the three of us were spit out into Prineville were we then picked up Hwy 26 running east towards various John Day-named places. The first one was the John Day Fossil Beds and Painted Rocks. We darted up the side road and were greeted with strikingly colored hills and valleys. A quick trip to the first scenic vista point let us take some good pictures before heading back down to the main road – and going further on it, passed the end of the pavement and into the unknown. Our goal was a dot on our maps called “Twickenham”. It looked remote and the name was inviting. What could be in Twickenham? We had to find out.

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Last stop before the Crooked River Highway

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Off we go towards the Crooked River!

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Mmmm – deep canyons and water

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Nothing but a geologist’s dream here…

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The Crooked River

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Fly fishing in the river

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Views

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Carolyn

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Jenny

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The KLR with in “light pack” mode

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Looking at the world through rose-colored glasses

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Beware of the Children!!!

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Heading for the Painted Hills

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Irrigation in the desert

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The Painted Hills

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More hills

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Near the parking lot

Carolyn and me in the Painted Hills

It was a lovely gravel road that led us over hills, around valleys and along cuts made into the sides of the mountains. The views were great, the weather was great and the company was great. I’d race ahead and then lay in wait to take pictures of Jenny and Carolyn as they zipped by. Then I’d pass Carolyn as she stopped to get her photos and eventually we all met up at a bridge that crossed the John Day River. The road was now paved and Twickenham was just around the corner. Or so I thought. I was surprised when we hit the junction of 23 with no town having been passed through. Apparently Twickenham no longer existed as a town. Either that, or it was the barn that was for sale a couple of miles back. Regardless, it was now time for lunch and we turned our bikes towards Fossil, OR. A quick bite later and we were ready to explore the town. We checked out the museums and a gift shop before deciding to leave the town and continue on our journey north. We were hoping to stay somewhere along the Columbia River, which was still quite a few miles away.

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Bridge Creek Road

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Twickenham Road

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Carolyn and Jenny

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The road not taken

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Oregon’s version of Half Dome

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Nasty thorn bushes…

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…that are very tall and thick!

North on 19 and then west on 206 would be the easiest way to get there. There was slight disappointment that no dirt roads were readily available for us to continue on. Fortunately 206 was a great road through the deep valley of the John Day River, surrounded by tawny hills, windmills and volcanic cliffs. I was really wishing for a higher-powered bike at this point but the KLR still managed to pull along fairly well.

It had been a long day and as unofficial leader of the group I decided not to push for Hood River but instead we settled for a motel room in The Dalles. A long walk around town led us to the only likely-looking place for dinner, which was of course on the other side of the motel. Dinner was excellent (and huge!) and we went back to the room to plan out the next day’s attack.

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Lunch in Fossil, OR

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Heading northwest on 206

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Oregon dryness

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Windmills of Oregon

Jenny had to head back to California and Carolyn and I quickly squashed her thoughts of making it to the Oregon coast and into California in one day. Instead, she agreed to ride with us through Rowena (a lovely portion of the original Hwy 30 along the Columbia River), stop for breakfast with us in Hood River and then head south to the border. Carolyn and I would cross the Columbia at Hood River and explore some forest service roads north of Trout Lake.

Breakfast was tasty and we sat by the river, watching boats and swimmers go by (there was some sort of race happening that morning). I was disappointed that our parking job had gone unappreciated: someone had parked their car across two parking spaces in an incredibly crowded lot. I might have given the guy a break if it had been some classic or exotic car, but this was a late-model Cheverolet Cobalt, for Pete’s sake! So we boxed him in with our bikes, hoping that he’d get back to his car before we finished. Alas, it was not to be and we pulled the bikes out of the way before he knew what had happened.

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Rowena Curves on Hwy 30, Oregon

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Chevrolet driver who can’t park

Jenny kept going as Carolyn and I made the perilous crossing on the steel deck, 4,400’ structure, not exactly easy to do with skinny, knobby tires. At least it wasn’t windy at this time of day. The road to Trout Lake was easy and gave us great views of a receding river and the nearing mass of Mt Adams. The snow-covered mountain kept us close company as we passed through Trout Lake and passed the “Road Closed” sign on the forest service road we’d normally take through this section. The gravel road had washed out and the unofficial detour was up a 3 mile stretch of 4×4 dirt roads. I had come this way a week before on the BMW so I knew of the way around and was excited to try it again on the smaller KLR. Sure enough, the dirt section flew by as I nosed the lighter KLR up its path, Carolyn following along behind me until we reached the gravel section of the main forest service road. From here on out it was a fast trip down good gravel roads and eventually on to smooth pavement.

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FS 23 out of Trout Lake

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Mt Adams

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Road closed (FS 23)

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Taking the unofficial detour

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There goes Carolyn!

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Mt Adams again

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FS 23 resumes

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Carolyn enjoying the day

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Another face of FS 23

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Holiday traffic at Randle, WA

I was surprised to come out of the forest at the intersection near Randle to find a line of cars, trucks and RVs waiting to merge onto 12. Apparently the end of the long weekend was nearing rapidly. Carolyn and I waited in line just long enough to cross the bridge before taking a shortcut down the shoulder to the corner, as most traffic was waiting to go left and we were going right. Right into the biggest fair I had ever seen in Packwood! Traffic crawled through this normally sleepy little town and I suggested that we stop somewhere else for lunch. Carolyn agreed and we tried to escape up Skate Creek Rd, only to find the other half of Seattle heading home from the weekend. I left Carolyn behind after passing an RV and then made a game of passing as many more as possible for the rest of this usually enjoyable and quiet stretch of twisty road.

We met up again in Ashford where we found a tasty lunch and directions to our next stretch of exploration: Forest Service Rd #92 (I think) that then turns into Scott Turner Rd. I was in some doubt about this road as there appeared to be numerous turnoffs and junctions and I wasn’t confident that we wouldn’t go astray. Normally I wouldn’t mind getting a little lost, but Carolyn had a plane to catch that night out of Seattle and it was rather important that we make it on time.

I stopped a couple of people I saw along the way to confirm that we were on the right track and with that bit of confidence we continued to climb up mountains, Mt Rainier keeping an eye on us from the east. And just as predicted by one helpful soul we passed through an open gate and into the outskirts of Eatonville.

Traffic hell awaited, punishing us I’m sure for managing to avoid so much of it thus far on our trip. A two-mile line up of cars were in front of us and there was no way around. Eventually we made it into Seattle, got her bike settled into my garage and Carolyn ready to head back home via the plane.

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FS 92 west of Mt Rainier

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Cloud covered Mt Rainier

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Carolyn on FS 92

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Moosejaw!

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Carolyn on 92 again

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Loose, heavy gravel on FS 92

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Home again in Seattle

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