Thursday, January 21, 2010

Portland and South

Portland was to be a day or so of much-needed rest, and gear exchange. An ex-girlfriend of mine lives there now, and I'd had my hot-weather riding gear shipped to her in advance of my arrival. The plan was to pack up my yellow Olympia suit and ship it back to Chicago, and continue on through the southwest in my heavily vented mesh riding gear.

The Olympia is a great suit, no doubt. Served me pretty well thought some truly stupid weather, and actually I'm still wearing it for daily riding now, in January, in Chicago. But it starts to get sticky much above 75 degrees, and 85 is pushing the levels of comfort even with the vents open. The day spent getting from Idaho into Portland had been through a lot of very hot, dry areas, and as long as I never stopped moving, it was pretty comfortable. But to stay comfortable, I had to have all the vents zipped open, as well as keeping the cuffs all the way open to get some additional airflow up my arms.

These open cuffs proved to be irresistible to a wasp.

My eye caught the motion blur just as it went into my suit, and then a burning sensation on my wrist. This was made worse by the knowledge that the thing was probably still alive somewhere in the suit, which lead to me comically whacking at my right arm with my left, while still trying to maintain control at highway speeds. I pulled over and dumped the crushed remains of it out, but I didn't have anything to treat the sting with. This was it a day later.

Ah well. Waiting for me in Portland was my mesh gear, so cliff bars, and some other assorted care packages from my father.

I didn't do a whole lot else while in Portland, updated my blog and hung out with the ex and her new girlfriend (She was pretty gay before me, it wasn't that I was such a bad boyfriend that I turned her gay. At least, that's what I tell myself). After a day off, it was time to get back on the road.


I used interstates only to get past the suburban sprawl of Portland. Once I was sufficiently out in the country, I got back to where I belong, on side roads.

When I left Portland, it was the better part of 90 degrees, and sunny. And it stayed that way until I got to within about five miles of the coast, at which point the temperature dropped to maybe 65-70 degrees. Normally this wouldn't have been a problem, perfect riding weather, but remember that I'd just swapped my insulated riding gear for my mesh stuff. A Teknic Supervent Pro jacket, and Olympia Airglide pants. Both of these flow so much air that you almost feel like you're riding naked, and 65 degrees is freezing cold at highway speeds. I eventually stopped to put on my rain gear to act as a wind breaker.

It may have been cold, but the ocean sure was pretty.

It was so strange that just a few miles had such a large temperature variation, at least a 30 degree drop in just a few miles without significant elevation changes. But once I had the rain gear on, I was pretty comfortable without all the air blowing through me. I headed down the coast on Highway 101.

Now, what I'm about to tell you is very important. One of the more important things I learned on my trip, so pay attention.

If you are heading down a fairly major or well traveled road, in my case Hwy 101, pay attention to the forks in the road. Because if you ever come to a fork a road labled "Old (whatever road you're currently on)" . . .

You take that road. You take that mother fucking road.

It wasn't just the twistiness that was fun. Although that was a good part of it. It was beautiful, just stupidly beautiful.

Info on it:

Someone with the same priorities as I had made some appropriate alterations to the sign. :)

I guess compared to other roads in the area, it probably isn't that steller. It's old and isn't maintained very much anymore, so the pavement was actually pretty rough. But there was hardly any traffic on it; thoese three cars I passed in the video were the only three I passed in the whole three hours I spent just going back and forth over that stretch. It was just me, and the sunlight filtering through the trees, and the bike, and the road. I couldn't have asked for anything better.

Although it looks like some people had a bit too much fun on it.

Given that it was in a national forest, I headed down one of the gravel side roads to find someplace to camp. Off that side-road, I spotted another side road.

I headed down it for about a mile, and it just kept getting denser and denser.

This far in I wasn't worried about being pestered by any vehicles, so I set up my tent just off the side of the track, and turned in for the night.


The next day I headed back to the coast, and kept going down the 101. I'm sure it would have been pretty, but the whole area was covered in solid fog and clouds, and was very busy, lots of traffic. It was cold, occasionally rainy, and even with my rain gear I was dearly missing my big yellow suit. Maybe I shouldn't have swapped the gear out.

I stopped at a candy store to have a shot at raising my spirits

Mmmm, chocolate . . .

hey, cool, a road named after me!

Honestly, nothing much of note went on this day. It was cold, foggy, and occasionally sprinkled rain all day, obscuring what I'm sure were some very pretty coastal views. I camped for the night in what looked to be a turnaround for highway maintenance vehicles, going to sleep to occasional rain and chill.


I was sick of the cold. The last two days had been spent largely shivering under my mesh gear, waiting for the endless fog to clear up so I could actually see some of this pretty Oregon cost I had been told about. But at this point, I was done. I wanted heat, I wanted dry. With my setup at the time, excessive heat was easier to deal with then excessive cold, so I decided to turn farther inland.

I think I left Hwy 101 somewhere around the town of Gold Beach, and headed due east into what looked like on my GPS to be a maze of twisted roads going into the Siskiyou National Forest.

I had no idea what I was in for . . .

Seemingly never-ending ribbons of gnarled, twisted asphalt spiraling off into all directions.

(I guess you don't really HAVE to watch that, there's no crashes or close calls or anything. It's just ten minutes of blissfully perfect motorcycling)

I kept going deeper and deeper into the forest, getting gloriously lost in a maze of forest service roads.

Woah, washout

Eventually the pavement ran out, so I had to lay off the Rossi imitations, but whatever.

Oh, Oregon, how I miss you.

This is what the whole day consisted of. Tearing around on roads like in that video, while starting at scenery like this.

It was balls-hot, nudging 95 degrees according to my thermometer. But I stayed moving enough that it didn't matter, and I was having way too much fun to care.

I was so wonderfully lost that day. I've got no idea the route I took or how I got there, but eventually the forest spit me out somewhere on the east side against I-5, in the "Town" of Wolf Creek. I grabbed a quick bite at a Taco truck before getting on I-5 to go south.

Riding along I-5 was even hotter then in the forests; at least 100 degrees. I stopped at a highway rest area to soak my tee-shirt in water, which cooled me down very nicely with how vented my jacket was. I was only on the super-slab for a few miles, getting off at Hwy 199 south into California . . . where that night I found the greatest campsite ever.

My previous post on it:

And in interest of continuing the liner order of things, this would be the next entry:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Getting to Portland

Leaving whatever diner that was where I ate two pounds of hamburger, I headed west out of Lewiston with about 45 minutes of daylight left. Not far outside of civilization, I headed across a bridge and saw a parking lot down to the right hand side. It looked to be parking for a general recreation area and was lined with large boulders to prevent people from taking their cars under the bridge itself, but . . . bikes don't have that limitation.

The traffic was light and didn't bother me, and although at one point I thought I'd been discovered and the police were going to hassle me, it turned out it was just a bunch of people coming in to have a bonfire off under one of the other bridges out of frame. Far enough away and quiet enough that it didn't bother me, and the night was overall uneventful.

The next morning I kept heading west, into drier and more aired countryside. It was warm, too; at least 85 degrees for most of the day, and I was still in my neon-yellow touring suit. It wasn't too bad, but stopping at all was pretty hot, and I had to have all the vents open as well as the sleeves open to get enough air to stay comfortable.

Upon pulling into some small town just inside of Oregon, I followed some signs to a visitor info center.

Usually these things are positioned conveniently on the highway within easy site and access of visitors, but this one wasn't. I had to follow a bunch of signs way off the beaten path to find it, located on the river in a semi-industrial area. I guess I wasn't the only one who thought it was a strange location.

My main objective there was to ask their opinions on what the most interesting roads going to Portland were going to be, as well as refilling my water bottles. After looking at some of their atlases and getting their opinions on routes, I was on my way down the river.

The easiest way to get to Portland would have been to stick to I-84, it was a direct route. But . . . well, me and interstates don't mix. Luckily there was a slightly better option. I-84 runs along the south side of the river, with frequent enough towns and gas stations and the like. But on the north side of the river is Rt 14, the Lewis & Clark Highway, which passes though much less developed and more rugged areas. Sure, there wasn't gas for 160 miles, but it was a way better option then the super-slab.

And while on it, I could look across the river at all the suckers on the interstate and feel superior.


While their road was dull and boring, mine often looked like this.

And had tunnels! What more excuse does one need for wanton application of throttle?

Even though it's called a lake on all the maps, most of them are formed by a hydro dam a few hours down the road.

At some point, wanting to stretch my legs, I followed some little sign advertising a historical locomotive parked in some tiny po-dunk town down by the river.

This is something else that your brain has issues with the scale of in pictures. Each of those wheels is taller then I am, and I'm six foot flat.

Big 'ol thing.

Heading out of the little town, I saw something else that poked at my wanderlust; an open boxcar.

It's always tempting just to jump in and see where you end up. It's weird, even riding on the best form of transport ever invented, I'm still pulled towards other adventures. Ah well. Next summer.

I pushed on down Rt 14, eventually getting into wine country.

And a mountain. No idea what it is, but it sure is pointy.

Anyway, at one point I had to cross over the river, to get to the scenic drive that the lady at the tourist info center had recommended to me. This was accomplished via a toll bridge, and although I thought I was being clever and funny by stopping at the toll booth, reaching down to pick up the dropped coins and trying to pay the toll lady with them, she didn't appreciate my effort. She gave me some kinda BS about how those coins were already the property of the city (by what, laying on the pavement?), and made me pay the toll with my own actual money. Bitch.

This valley had a constant, un-relenting wind out of the west, and out in the harbor, there were hundreds of people taking advantage of it.

I had to put up with interstate for a few miles, but at least everything was getting green again.

The lady at the info place earlier in the day had recommended that as I got closer to Portland, I should take the Historic Columbia River highway.


Oh, that is a lovely sign to see


There was a lot of traffic, preventing me from riding as . . . enthusiastically as I would have liked, but holy shit was it pretty. Wiggling through the forest before darting out to the cliffs to overlook the river



The road spits you out into some semi-residential farmland, very pretty area. Saw this for sale, too.

Hello pretty thing!

I think the seller was asking ~$25k for it. It was very shiny.

Retiring to the interstate for the last bit into Portland, I quickly ran into traffic, a huge backup that went as far as I could see. A major annoyance for anyone in a car, but to someone on a motorcycle . . . *split split split*

I happily puttered between the lanes of traffic, grinning at the occasional annoyed honk from some jealous twat in a car, and even passing a few other guys on bikes who were evidently a bit more respectful of traffic laws then I was . . . and promptly splitting right past a squad car.


Even though lane splitting is legal in almost every other country in the world, for some perplexing reason it remains illegal in the USA and Canada, with the exception of in California, where it is expressly legal. And while how strict the enforcement is varies by . . . well, by officer, doing something as blatant as splitting right by a cop isn't the smartest of moves.

I swore at myself for not seeing him in advance, flipped up my helmet, and merged into the lane to my right. I glanced over my shoulder to look at the officer, fully expecting him to light me up and tell me to pull over . . . but all I saw was his outstretched arm wagging a finger at me.

Phew! I waved in apology/thanks, and proceeded to not lane split for . . . at least ten minutes. Traffic laws don't apply to me! :D