Good weather was forecast for early June, so we decided to make a three-day motorcycle trip to John Day in Oregon. We started from Marv’s house in Kirkland, and crossed the Cascades on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass. Just a few miles past Lake Kachess, we exited the interstate and took a version of the alternate routes we always use when crossing the mountains here. We turned south in Ellensburg and made our way through the surprisingly-unmonitored Yakima Canyon. There are definite advantages to having weekdays off.
Our trip to John Day was to be a little over 400 miles, so we took a less-exciting, more-direct route south to the Oregon border and crossed the Columbia at Biggs Junction, where we made an extended gas stop. We turned east on the curvy, high desert Wasco–Heppner Highway. I love winding through this section of Oregon with its wind-swept rolling hills and giant white wind turbines standing stark against the brilliant blue sky. All but a few of the hundreds were silently rotating, visable across and beyond the horizon.
From Condon, we turned south on the John Day Highway, and rode it to John Day, arriving tired after a great day of great roads.
In John Day we stayed at the Budget 8 Motel. It’s inexpensive and a little run down, but it’s adequate for a one-night stay. We rode into town for dinner at The Outpost, the only place in town we found to be open. It has very ordinary food but, when you’ve been riding all day, it’s good enough.
While at The Outpost, who should drop by our table but Bill (the-map-man) Hutchinson, who produces the ‘Come Ride With Us’ motorcycling maps at his print shop in John Day. Bill gave us copies of his latest set of maps for our use, and sat down with us for an extended chat. He distributes the ‘Come Ride With Us’ maps to businesses and motorcycle shops throughout the Northwest, and is a valued asset to the motorcycling community. Marv has met Bill several times on past rides. Here’s a link to Bill The Map-man’s “Come Ride With Us” web site.
The next morning we awakened to very light sprinkles. In the motel parking lot were a BMW RT1200 and a Kawasaki Concours. We talked to the two riders who were from the Los Angeles, California area. They had been up to Canada in the beautiful Calgary/Banff region. We discussed the usual weather, road conditions and traffic topics concerning riders before they lit out for their homes far to the south. Marv and I had planned a route north, where we’d stop for the night in Heppner.
We rode east on US Highway 26, and then turned north at Austin Junction for our ride on County Road 20. It’s a great twisting river-road through range lands. We’ve been on this road many times, and you sometimes come across cattle crossing the road, and sometimes you come across mounds of evidence of cattle crossing the road. We were lucky, in that we saw very little of one, and none of the other.
We turned north to ride the most interesting section of US Highway 395. After reaching Ukiah, our plan was to turn east, ride a clockwise loop through La Grande and back to Ukiah before heading west to Heppner. A few miles east of Ukiah, we rediscovered the rain we’d dodged earlier. The deeper into the Blue Mountains we progressed, the colder and harder the rain became. After the rain turned to sleet, I got immediate agreement from Marv when I suggested we turn west.
We rolled on west to Heppner over Highway NF-53 where we encountered another burst of small hail. I don’t know why we always end up in Heppner, other than it’s in a perfect geographic location for access to a lot of great motorcycle roads. The motel is sort of run-down and dumpy, and there isn’t a decent place to eat dinner, as the town seems to shut down about 3:00 PM. Still, I’ve stayed in this motel four or five times.
The next morning we took Highway 206 out of Heppner to the junction with Highway 97 at Wasco, crossed back into Washington at Biggs Junction, and continued north on Highway 97 to Goldendale.
After breakfast at Sod Busters in Goldendale, we took the Bickleton Highway east to Mabton. After a short diversion for a break, we took the freeway north through the Yakima area, and got off the freeway just north of Yakima for another run through the Yakima Canyon.
We used our alternative routes as long as we could before getting back on the interstate to cross Snoqualmie Pass to the Seattle area. We enjoyed our first ride into Eastern Oregon this season, and even left some roads off our itinerary; we’ll pick those up on another ride later this summer.