So, I was supposed to leave for Montana on Sunday.
After getting soaked, stopping in Maupin to try and get feeling in our toes again, getting help with battery issues in Madras, and getting lost three or four times around Gateway, we managed to find the camp site we were trying to Scout, just as the sun was going down.
We got back to Portland at 3am. My muscles are sore, but it was a blast, the few times the clouds broke and running around the Gateway valley area was well worth all the rain and cold.
My dear friend Marissa (another of the lovely Torque Wenches) and I have been plotting a kind of season opener motorcycle campout in Central Oregon. We decided that, since I was heading in that easterly direction, that a “small detour” to go scout out this campsite would totally make sense.
Our first sign that we should have postponed happened on Friday when I got told that Mt. Hood and Hwy 26 (our initial planned route) was supposed to get snow. I shrugged that off, knowing how bi-polar the weather had been lately. Then, Saturday night I looked at the Highway Cam, and sure enough there was snow, but none on the road so I figured we could manage. Sunday morning came and I checked the cameras and there was just a blizzard happening. Not to mention the rain in Portland was just dumping buckets.
Despite the weather and 40*F I rolled out to meet up with Marissa at 9:30a. Almost immediately I sprung a leak in my boots because it was raining so hard. Nevertheless, we had a nice breakfast, and shot the shit with Courtney and her husband (the head of Torque Wenches). We made one more stop at Cycle Gear, to get a Balaclava for Marissa, and some waterproof booties for me. Of course the booties couldn’t help me now because my right sock was already soaked.
The route to Maupin going over I-84 then dropping down Hwy 197 was cold, and very wet. We finally stopped to get feeling in our fingers and toes again at the Rainbow Tavern in Maupin around 3p. (A little later than planned because it took us so long to get out of Portland) The poor people in that tavern did not know what to make of us one bit and our waitress called us crazy more than once for being out in the weather.
When we left Maupin the rain had decided to give us a break, but the wind had other plans. It started blowing so hard that at full throttle I could barely go 70 mph. I don’t have to tell you that that was a gas suck. When we made it to Madras my bike was choking and spluttering. But we made it. However, when I went to check the map again on my phone the gas attendant made a rude comment that I couldn’t just sit at the pump. Instead of arguing that it would only take me a second to check the map, I moved my bike to another parking space in the lot.
Since I thought this trip was just going to be a detour along me route to Montana, my bike was fully loaded. So, when I went to turn my bike to back up into the parking space, I turned too tight and dropped the bike. Nothing was hurt and we got the bike picked up just fine. We made jokes about it being a “real” trip now because someone had dropped their bike. Of course, dropping the bike had flooded it, so Marissa and I sat on the pavement and shared some Hot Cocoa while we waited.
When we were ready again to make the next leg to the campsite, we noticed that Marissa had accidentally left her headlight on. She turned the key but all she got was a very sad noise from her bike’s attempt to turn over. We looked at each other, then down at her bike, and simultaneously said ‘shit.’
I proceeded to unload everything from the bike again to get at my battery so we could jump start her bike. While I was doing that a man pulling a load of snowmobiles stopped next to us and asked if we needed some help. We explained that her battery was dead and asked him if he had some jumper cables. He said yes, got out of his truck and instead of getting his jumper cables he came over to Marissa’s bike and knelt down. “Oh, well there’s your problem right there. The start cable is loose.” He tightened it, let Marissa hit the start button and it roared to life.
We all laughed a bit, thanked the man and were excited we didn’t have to jump Marissa’s bike. I checked the map on my phone, satisfied that I totally knew where we were going, we took off. About 15 miles down HWY 197, I started to doubt that I went the right way and pulled off to the side of the road. Marissa came up beside me, and I said ‘I think I went the wrong way.’ she looked at me and looked back, ‘Ya, I think you went the wrong way.’ We laughed as I checked the map again, sure enough we had missed the turn that had been immediately after the gas station. I found our alternate route and lead us to Gateway.
I silently cheered that I had successfully got us there, but stopped again to check the map one more time. “Ok, this way and then when we go over this creek we turn left.” Right. Ok. We drove through Gateway and up the side of a gorgeous Canyon wall. It was beautiful, no doubt about it. I was thinking in my helmet about how awesome it was going to be to be able to come back and have time to stop and take pictures of this place.
However, after driving for a few more minutes we both stopped and realized that we had gone the wrong way again. I looked at the map and saw there was an alternate route that we could take and we were already halfway there. We continued on and soon hit gravel, then we passed a fence and a sign. I stopped a few feet after the sign and leaned over to ask Marissa if she had saw what the sign said. “Oh, ‘Posted. No Trespassing.’” I laughed, and looked down the road. I realized we were on a farmer’s large property. I looked back at Marissa, “I don’t really want to meet a farmer with a gun.” Marissa looked down the road and back at me, “Ya, I also don’t want to meet a farmer with a gun.”
We turned around and went back down the gorgeous canyon again and saw this big sign that explicitly stated where the campsite was, but only if you came into town from that direction. This side road turned into a very steep downward grade with super tight curves. Which was really fun with a lot of adrenaline in the mix. That steep grade turned into a one lane tunnel that let out to a gravel road, next to a slightly flooded creek with free range cows. That transition felt like going from the droll real world to the fairy realm. It was just beautiful in an eerie way.
We drove underneath an old railroad bridge, and passed a dilapidated building on this gravel for 7 miles, then we found the campground. At 7pm. Just as the sun was going down, and the rain started again.
I made a few calls to let my family know I wasn’t going to make it the rest of the way to Tri-Cities that night. I was going to go with Marissa back to Portland, and leave for Montana the next morning with the Truck (at the behest of my grandmother).
We began the trek back to Portland just as twilight struck, and we decided that we were gonna take a picture with the tunnel. We were gonna make it real cool and put our bikes on either side with our headlights facing in so we could stand in the center. It was going to be awesome. Now, I had a heck of a time turning my bike around on the steep grade. Marissa looked at me and said ‘Maybe we ought to take the photo on the other side of the tunnel were the grade isn’t so steep.’ I agreed and drove to the other side of the tunnel.
I got turned around again and was watching Marissa try and turn around, and watched in slow motion as she dropped the bike perpendicular to the grade of the road right onto her leg. I hurried back to the other side of the tunnel right as she was getting up out from under the bike and laughing. I checked again just to make sure she was ok, she was, and we both took a minute to laugh about both of us dropping our bike on this trip. We managed to get the bike upright, and after a little waiting for her bike rest it started again and we headed up the road back to Gateway. Now it was dark. And raining.
We stopped several times to check maps to make sure we wouldn’t take a wrong turn to get back to Hwy 197. I’ve honestly started to block out the leg back to Maupin in the dark. It was so cold. The wind was loud. Every muscle I had had gone from cold, to numb, to frozen, to so cold it hurt like needles. My left sock and my whole boot was still wet, and water had started to seep into my ‘waterproof’ gloves. When Marissa pulled over in Maupin, I was afraid my legs wouldn’t support the bike, and I had developed a terrible cramp in my throttle hand. We agreed to stop at the bar again to try and regain feeling.
One of the town drunks assaulted us as soon as we stepped in. I soon got frustrated with her attention and pushed her way and told her to back off. I felt bad for not trying to stay polite with Marissa around. But, I was tired. I was cold. And I just wanted to check into a hotel and take a hot shower, even if I had to dip into my Pilgrimage funds. Marissa talked me out of the hotel plan because she had to be at work the next morning. Very, Very reluctantly I threw myself back on to the bike.
It was a sheer force of will that I made it to the Dalles at Midnight. We pulled into the gas station, but it was closed. I thought, ‘surely now she can’t make me go on. We can’t even get gas!’ When I pulled off my helmet to lament to her, she replied that she had come up with a plan. She said she had Motorcycle AAA and she gets four calls a year, it renewed again in April, and that she was going to call and have our bikes towed back to Portland for us.
I had very mixed feelings about this. It was freezing, I was more than exhausted, I knew I couldn’t make it to Portland that night. However, I was afraid of the implications of ‘being one of those people who trailer their bikes.’ In the end, I rationalized that I was exhausted and the risk of being called one of those people was better than the risk of getting into an accident because I was riding while I was tired.
The tow truck came, Marissa convinced the man to load both of our bikes on the same flat bed, and we made our way to Portland. And so. Hephaestus was trailered for the first time since she has been in my possession. I immediately didn’t give a shit what anyone thought of me as soon as I got to take off my wet clothes in the nice warm truck. I had the opportunity to work out the cramp in my hand as e made it back to Portland at 3a.
From Marissa’s house I made the last 14 miles home reluctantly, took a hot bath until my fingers weren’t so blue, and collapsed into bed.
It was an exhausting, cold, wet trip. However, I couldn’t have asked for a better riding buddy than Marissa. She handled every mishap/wrong turn with humor and patience. I’m so much more excited to do the ride in April to this campsite than I was before. I ride alone so much, that I assumed if I rode any good distance with anyone else, they would freak out at the first sign that the trip wasn’t going to go as planned. Marissa changed the way I feel about group riding.
Sometimes, the best trips are the ones where everything goes wrong.