Halfway, Oregon is an Eastern Oregon destination that is just shy of motorcycle sport-touring Nirvana. It’s the southwestern entry to the storied Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area. It’s the motorcycle riding Mecca of the Pacific Northwest. It’s remote, uncluttered, and scenic.
As it turned out, the ride will now be known to me as:
Halfway to Halfway
This report is over a week late, but the reason will become obvious in the following paragraphs.
The Return-to-Halfway Ride turned out to be a Halfway-to-Halfway Ride. Colin, Marv, and I left Marv’s place Thursday morning to meet up with the rest of our group for breakfast at Norma’s in Nisqually. Dean, Randy, George, and Larry and Kathleen, were there waiting for us when we arrived. We all ordered breakfast. Doug showed up a few minutes later, completing the group for the first part of the ride. We would meet up with Don in Carson, WA, and with David in Maupin OR.
We had been in and out of the rain all morning, but the later the day got, the drier it got. The highlight of the ride to Maupin on Day 1 was Wind River Road. It has a very nice selection of curves and twists that cut through lush forest down to Carson on the Oregon border.
We followed Highway 14 along the Columbia River, with a short diversion on the Cook-Underwood Road, and then crossed the Columbia at Hood River. With a few more diversions, we found our way down to Maupin for the first night’s stay.
Here are the Garmin tracks for the first day:
Maupin is popular with the guys in this group, and for good reason. There is a moderately-expensive hotel on The Deschutes River called the Imperial River Company. They have a pretty good restaurant, and an outdoor area to lounge around. Half of the group, I included, stayed at the less-sparkly-but-very- comfortable Deschutes Motel a few miles up the hill. After getting checked in, cleaned up, and situated, we all made our way down the hill for dinner. The food was pretty good.
Marv and I had ridden our bikes down for dinner. On the return, I was riding in front, when a deer I did not see, passed between Marv and me, just as we were approaching the motel. I never saw it; I was fixated on a beer can I ended up running over.
The next morning, after getting my cameras in and ready to record, I rode down to meet with the rest of the group at their hotel. We all got ourselves staged in the parking lot, ten motorcycles and eleven people. We left Maupin on Bakeoven Road, which had a lot of asphalt debris in the curves. It starts out as a twisty climb up to a desert-like plateau. Up on the top of the plateau, where it planes out and leads to Shaniko, I remember a rattlesnake crossing the road. It stopped to hiss at me in its pre-strike pose. I just caught a glimpse of it at 60 mph. We followed Bakeoven Road to Shaniko, where we turned south on Highway OR-218.
Highway 218 is a sport-touring dream. It’s a beautifully-paved, well-engineered road that winds through beautiful countryside. The group spaced out quite well and I ended up paired with Doug, winding our way down to Antelope. We arrived to find those ahead of us pulled over for a regroup. We discussed the two most important things with which our group concerns itself – gas, and breakfast. We decided to go to Condon for gasoline, and then we’d catch breakfast farther along the route.
We left Condon after getting our tanks filled. We waved at the county sheriff who was eyeing us closely at the filling station, and set out on the illustrious Highway OR-206. The road between Heppner and Condon is another fantastic ride in the high wheat fields and range land of Eastern Oregon. The road goes through series after series of sweeping curves. The sun was out and the cloud-dappled sky was enormous over our heads.
One of my objectives on this ride was to get some video of all of the riders for some distance. I went around several of the other riders and got behind David, and then George, to get video of the faster guys in the group first. That would enable me to slow down a bit in the afternoon and get the video of the rest of the group over the next few days.
I rode behind David for a while before going around him and getting a long video of the elusive George.
He’s a skilled and quick rider. He seems to dart around corners effortlessly. He’s a handful to try to keep up with. After a long stretch of pacing him through the curves leading us to Heppner, OR, I slowed a bit when we were about 10 miles from town. George maintained his usual pace.
I caught back up with him a couple of miles later as he slowed down for an oncoming emergency vehicle.
It was a white Chevy Suburban–style SUV with the overhead lights flashing. Another mile down the road and a red emergency truck went by. It too was in full emergency mode. The traffic on the highway that day was pretty light, so I started to feel a bit uneasy about it. I later found out that George was getting the same feelings.
Another mile or so, and a county sheriff whizzed by. Then, in the last mile just before we arrived in Heppner, came the ambulance. I was feeling sick to my stomach.
I went up to the gas station in Heppner to fill my tank. George waited at the intersection where our group would be turning to make sure everyone knew to deviate off the course for a couple of blocks to get our tanks filled. The next stretch of the road was to be a long interval with no gas available. When I got back to that intersection, Randy, Dean, David, and Larry and Kathleen had arrived. Everyone had their helmets off, and we all had the same concern. Where was the rest of our group? Larry and Randy said that Marv had been behind them, and then he wasn’t. I thought for a minute, and then decided I needed to go back to find the missing members of our group.
I rode 17 miles back until I came over a rise and saw emergency vehicles across the fields to the next hill.
I had spent the interval running through scenarios which didn’t have anyone in our group involved in an accident, and not believing any of them. As I arrived at the scene, I saw that Marv had missed a corner and had landed in the ditch. It seemed unbelievable to me that a rider with that kind of skill and experience could have an accident. I pulled up and stopped roadside, observing the scene. I stalled my bike as I tried to find a suitable parking spot. I was very grateful to hear from Colin as he approached me, that Marv was conscious and talking to the paramedics. I parked my bike and, after talking to Marv and the paramedics myself, I started taking care of the necessities, dealing with the sheriff, etc.
The Return-to-Halfway Ride was over for Marv and me. After getting thoroughly checked out in the hospital, Marv was found to have four broken ribs, strained or torn his hamstring, punctured a lung, strained his neck, and suffered some painful bruising. I made arrangements to get Marv and his bike home.
It was an interesting weekend. It wasn’t anything like I expected it would be. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”