It was March. Still cold. Still raining in the northwest. Four of us met to plan out an upcoming ride. We didn't need to do this, but swapping ideas of where to go let us experience our upcoming ride vicariously as the rain came down outside. A Goldwing, two Valkyrie Interstates, and a Harley-Davidson Street Glide where sitting ready in their garages. Where to go? We weren't interested in just running up high miles. We'd done many long distance runs before and we've been around the Pacific Northwest many times. When all other planning fails, just follow the dotted green lines. So we mapped out a route that wound around the region following the dotted green lines; the scenic routes as marked on our trusty auto club regional maps.
What we did was piece together a route that linked three Scenic By-Ways: the Journey Through Time, Elkhorn, and Blue Mountain Scenic Byways. This route had us meandering around the northern part of Oregon. Total mileage for these three Byways would only be about 522 miles; although we expected spontaneous side excursions to probably double that mileage. Not many miles for 5 days, but when you see these roads, the countless vistas and the many small towns that command you to stop; planning to average 150-200 miles per day works well. At least it works for us.
The fact is we stop a lot. We admit it. Hardly 30 minutes goes by before someone wants to pull over to take a picture, adjust their load, check a map, take in a view, or stretch their legs. We don't care anymore. We're not out to impress anyone but ourselves. Our goal: enjoy the ride and the trip. Make it an experience you don't measure with an odometer but with a memory.
On departure day, we got out of town early to avoid traffic and made a first stop up on Mount Hood for breakfast. Mount Hood is the symbolic and geological demarcation between the populous west side of the State and the rural ranch land of Eastern Oregon. Far from the hustle and bustle of the damp population centers of Western Oregon, the east side of the state is high desert; dry and sunny most of the year, and sparsely populated. It can get really cold in the winter but this was late June and the weather was perfect: 75 degrees and sunny. Crossing the Cascade Mountains does more than change the climate; it drops you into another world. Small towns, agriculture and a ranching way of life. We love this part of the country. Our favorite place to ride, we find ourselves coming back to this neck of the woods again and again
Continuing east, we veered off Highway 26 that crosses Mount Hood and hopped on Highway 216 that dropped us into the town of Maupin. From there we jumped onto the even smaller and less traveled Bakeoven Road and its twisty climb out of the Deschutes river valley and connection to our first leg of green dots: the Journey Through Time Byway. Don't know if it was the time of year, the backcountry twisty roads, or just high gas prices but we had almost exclusive use of the roads. No RVs, few cars, only an occasional forest service pickup or fellow motorcycle tourer.
We rolled into the town of Antelope by mid-afternoon. The area around here is prime habitat for this town's prong-horned namesake. We often see Antelope off in the distance but never worry about them on the road; they are too smart and savvy for that. Wished we could say the same for the local deer. The town of Antelope, population 37, reflects the kind of towns we ride through. Each town may have only one or two services offered and through the years we have come to learn what's available, what's good and what to avoid. Here there are no services other than food (and only on certain days) at the combo caf and store. But we know what to order. Cobbler is the specialty so we indulged in their trademark Marrionberry Cobbler la mode while we trade stories with a couple of retired motorcycle cops traveling on matching 105th Anniversary Edition copper-colored Harley Electra Glide Classics.
By late afternoon we pull into Dayville for our first night. Originally a stage stop due to its location at the junction of two rivers, Dayville is not much larger now than it was then. You can even still see the landmark 1883 red barn as you leave town heading east. We secure a couple of rooms at the Fish House Inn. Again, this town is small. One caf and a place to stay. The Fish House Inn is really just a couple old houses turned into rooms for rent...but the owners take pride in keeping up the place with bright green grass and an oasis-like feel in the middle of this desert.
We continue east and on the second day end up in Sumpter. Gold found in this area in the 1860's formed it into a boom town. Once boasting a population of thousands, Sumpter is now home to a modest 190. After securing some rooms in the local motel we grabbed some buffalo burgers at the only open caf and planned our next leg. After settling up the tab of $71 for four burgers and drinks, we made a mental note to put the motel on our return list but think twice about the caf. When you spend more on burgers than motels it just doesn't seem right.
The road out of Heppner
The proprietor of the Antelope...
The proprietor of the Antelope Cafe with his famous cobbler.
Blue Springs Pass over the...
Blue Springs Pass over the Elkhorn Mountains