The group with which Marv and I ride has an annual ride called The Pelican Run. The trip is an annual spring ride to the Oregon Coast, and takes its name from the Pelican Pub & Brewery in Pacific City. We were both signed-up to go on the ride. There had been some discussion about the destination and, in a move to break with tradition, we made plans to go to Manzanita instead of to Pacific City this time. That contradicts the name of the ride but, since we don’t go to the Pelican Pub & Brewery anyway…why not? Manzanita is the better destination.
I had been watching the weather forecast for the coast fluctuate for several weeks, and then decided to look at the weather forecast for Eastern Oregon. It was much better, and the good forecast remained steady. The mountain passes were all open and clear, which opens up a lot of other destination opportunities. Marv and I gave it some consideration, and recollected that we had both been to Manzanita four times over the winter, riding variations of the ‘winter roads’ to the southwest. We decided that, if we made it a three-day trip, we could go to sunny central Oregon instead of to the coast. There was a great weather forecast for central Oregon on the weekend.
We planned a ride to Maupin, staying two nights at the Deschutes Motel, with a full-day loop into central Oregon and some of the best roads we know. Most of the active riders in the group were already signed-on for the two-day ride to Manzanita, so Marv and I sent a couple of invitations to friends to see if anyone else wanted to come along. John Parish jumped aboard. He was able to meet us in Maupin Friday night and make the rest of the trip with us.
Following my usual routine, I went to Marv & MaryLou’s house after work Thursday night so we could get an early start Friday morning. The morning weather in Kirkland was typical northwest – cold with drizzle. We left on our route to go over the mountains on I-90 and then get off the super-slab at the earliest opportunity. There are some nice roads that are great alternatives to I-90, and we incorporated them in our route.
We shook off the clouds, the drizzle, and the cold between Cle Elum and Ellensburg, and stopped for lunch at the Buzz Inn in Ellensburg. Our next leg was through Yakima Canyon, south to Yakima. It’s a sweet, winding river road through a scenic canyon with gentle curves. The speed limit is a ridiculous 45 mph, and the law enforcement authorities patrol it as though their last doughnut hangs in the balance, so this leg was strictly for the views.
At the south end of the canyon we took a short 20-mile stretch of freeway to avoid town and farm traffic. We got off the freeway in Zillah and bee-lined for Mabton. That was where the really nice part of the trip to Maupin started. The roads from Mabton to Goldendale, and down through the Klickitat canyon to Lyle, were beautiful. The lands on the east side of the Cascades have a short season during which they are green, alive, and beautiful. There’s wind-swept range land covered with green, fragrant sagebrush. Long strings of tall white windmills stand silhouetted against the blue sky, a telling sign of the persistent winds washing over the land. Water-carved canyons through red cliffs, clear-running streams, and pine forests nestled into the crags and pockets lay scattered across the landscape. Cumulonimbus drifting overhead bore witness to the wide horizons, sweeping views, and two riders on motorcycles sweeping through the canyons and whispering along the long stretches of empty highway.
At the southern end of the Klickitat Canyon, we spilled out onto Highway 14 in the Columbia River Gorge. We crossed the Mighty Columbia at The Dalles, and rolled over the hills for the last 30 miles into Maupin. Rather than going straight to the motel, we filled our gas tanks and rode down the hill a couple of miles to the Stonebridge Bar & Grill for dinner.
After dinner, it was back up the hill to check into the Deschutes Motel. The gal at the desk remembered us from last year, and was warm, friendly, and welcoming to us. It was a nice touch of personal connection.
John rode in around 10:30 pm. We chatted with him for a few minutes, but we could tell he was beat from the long ride, so we called it a day. We were glad he made it safely.
Saturday morning was sunny and cool.
We followed a nice route through the river canyons of central Oregon. Leaving Maupin, we went up Bakeoven Road to Shaniko, and then cut down through Antelope and turned east to Fossil.
We found a smaller road through Twickenham that wound through a beautiful stretch of canyons.
The road surface was a bit sandy in places, but we were able to set a comfortable pace without too many worries.
We stopped in Mitchell for gas and lunch, being 15 minutes too late for breakfast.
We went east on Highway 26 to the junction with Highway 19, and then turned north.
We continued north on Highway 207 past the Spray turn-off, and farther north to Kahler Basin Road. Here we turned west and rode to Winlock. There was a series of three small roads through canyons we wanted to explore. They were Kahler Basin Road to Winlock Lane, and then connecting to Alder Creek Road.
They’re unimproved roads through ranch country, but they are comfortable to ride, and the surface is sealed all the way along. We saw horses and cattle along the road, and surely there were a lot of deer and elk which, fortunately, we didn’t see. We intersected with Highway 19 again west of Spray, and rode up to Fossil for fuel and a short break.
We took the fabled Highway 218 west and north to Shaniko. I had been leading the route most of the day because I am GPS-enabled; Marv and John are not. When we got to a point where the turns were all known to us, I waved them past and got to enjoy bringing up the rear for a while. I was enjoying not watching my rear view mirrors to make sure my companions were still there for a change. When they’re in front of me, I have only to be concerned with keeping up with them, and not what’s going on in front of me, and behind me.
I was watching Marv riding directly ahead of me and, somewhere along Bakeoven Road, I noticed a small white fleck on his rear tire. He’d been concerned about his front tire starting to wear on the shoulders, and we had been keeping an eye on it, inspecting it at each stop. The white fleck on his tire seemed to be becoming more of a streak. As we rode down the switchbacks of Bakeoven Road into Maupin, I got close enough to see that his rear tire was beginning to look like a zipper. There was steel cord clearly showing around about a third of the perimeter of the tire. His front tire was no longer our primary concern.
When we got back to our motel, John, Marv and I discussed our options. It was Saturday night. No motorcycle shops were within range of where we thought Marv’s tire was capable of reaching and, even if we found one, it would likely be closed until Tuesday morning. Both Marv and I keep a second rear wheel with a mounted tire ready to go, but his was 350 miles away in his garage. We determined that we were going to have to get his spare wheel and swing-arm lift to do the switch.
While Marv talked to his daughter on the phone, I was emailing with our friend, Kurt. Kurt very generously offered to help out by picking up Marv’s spare wheel and meeting us in Yakima. Marv asked his son-in-law and grandson to drive down and meet us at the motel Sunday morning with the spare wheel and necessary tools. It was nice to know there was so much help available if we needed it. Kurt was very generous to offer to help. Steve and Grant sacrificed the better part of their Sunday helping us out, getting up at 4:00 AM and making the 620-mile round-trip to Maupin. They saved the ride from coming to a bad end.
When they pulled into the parking lot, we quickly set about getting the rear wheel swapped out. It was fortunate there were five separate minds with helpful suggestions of how things should be done. Nevertheless, we managed the change, and made Marv’s bike roadworthy again. We thanked Steve and Grant, and they drove off into the sunrise like the heroes they are. John, Marv and I rode down the hill to have breakfast.
We rode home on the reverse-route of Friday’s ride to Maupin. There was really only one thing remarkable about the trip home. As we were crossing a short flat piece of rangeland near Mabton, I was nearly caught counting sheep – by a small flock of sheep. I really didn’t notice that they were in the ditch and road until I was nearly on top of them. Later I learned from John and Marv that they were surprised as well. I think the combination of a long day, and the warm sunshine had lulled us to sleep.
We crossed back over drizzly, cold, Snoqualmie Pass into Western Washington. A few minutes after cresting the pass we were out of the drizzle. The rest of the ride was pretty good, considering how crowded the freeways were. John turned south on Highway 18 to head for Tacoma and home. Marv and I continued west on I-90 and took I-405 north to Kirkland. Marv dropped off to go home; I continued north to Sedro Woolley. I arrived home around 8:30 with another great adventure to file away. It was a fun ride, with a little high-drama from the tire thrown in. It’ll be remembered as a great ride. The weather and roads just don’t get any better.