Bend, OR was awash with sunshine this morning, the air was crisp, maybe even a little cold but it was beautiful out just the same. Today would be my last day on this ride and I was grateful our infamous Oregon rain stayed away.
I woke early around 5:00am and was on the road shortly thereafter. My first stop was for gas and a squeaky-clean Shell station beckoned. In Oregon as in New Jersey we’re not allowed to pump our own gas; it’s always been that way and no one seems to know why we’re holding out on this issue. Oddly, if you’re riding a bike the attendant swipes your credit card, selects the grade you want, and then hands you the hose so you can fill it yourself. “Wouldn’t want to spill gas on your tank” is the most common statement given. I’ve been told we cling to this outmoded way as it provides jobs for several thousand people and maybe that’s so but it’s still a pain in the butt for most of us.
In this instance the attendant commented on the thick layer of bugs on El Nino and then asked “How far ya riding?” “I’m heading home to Bandon, it’s on the coast south of Coos Bay” I replied. “How far’s that?” he asked. “Oh, around 250 miles” I replied. “Damn, that’s a helluva long ride!” he said. I agreed, it’s a helluva long ride. I didn’t bother to go any further with this line of talk; it was time to roll out. Besides, I could hear the big golden arches calling to me…
After breakfast I paused on the highway south of town to take in the view of the Three Sisters range of mountains. Bend and its environs are a Mecca for winter sports buffs; folks come from all over the country to ski and play in the snow. A direct result of that popularity has been the understandable increase in population and its subsequent big-city issues, some of which are not so good. A few of the locals have made it clear what might happen to anyone of a criminal bent as illustrated by the sign seen along the south highway. There was a religious message on the opposite side. Go figure.
My riding outfit this morning had consisted of the Bohn Armor outfit, the top worn by itself and the bottoms worn under jeans. After 15 minutes of riding I realized I’d freeze to death if I didn’t bulk up a bit more so I stopped and put on the Draggin Jeans Kevlar shirt, another concession I’d made to safety issues. It’s a mesh type material like the Bohn product and it didn’t take too long for me to realize that wearing two such outfits still doesn’t provide much in the way of warmth. Stopping again I dug out my electric vest and plugged in. Ah, very nice I thought I thought as the heated material rose to its max setting. That was fine for a few more miles and then the stiff cold breeze flowing down through the open neck of all three layers gave me reason for one final stop, this time to put on my neck gaiter. At that point I figured enough already, no more stops or at this rate I won’t make it home today.
The route I had chosen led me along the highway towards Crater Lake and when I came to the turnoff I thought I’d drop in and shoot a few pics. I hadn’t been there for many years and I was curious about the changes made to the park. As I approached the gate the sign with the entrance fees jumped out at me like a lightning bolt: $10.00 per vehicle just to drive through and take pictures! Bummer, no way Jose, I’ll pass on that one, let the tourists take the hit. Barely slowing I did what I thought of as a well executed U-turn and got the hell out of there, wallet intact and more than a little disgruntled. After a lifetime of footing the tax bill for parks like these I feel I and all the others in my age group should be allowed free access. Maybe someday that will occur. Right after Santa brings me the pony I’ve been waiting for.
After that enlightening experience I followed what is known as the Rogue-Umpqua scenic route through the mountains, reveling in the clean air and scent of pine trees. Along the way I turned into the viewpoint overlooking Diamond Lake and the two volcanoes resting silently, Mt Thielson and Mt Bailey. Both long extinct; they remain part of the “ring of fire” located along the Pacific rim just waiting to be called up to active duty. Memories of Mt St Helens came to mind and I’d as soon not witness anything like that again. Rock formations along the Rogue-Umpqua route are incredible and it wasn’t easy to resist taking hundreds of photos. This simply has to be one of the most beautiful routes anywhere and if you’re ever in the area be sure to take time to see it.
As I continued down the mountains into the valleys where Roseburg is located the temperature began to climb. On the eastern edge of the town I stopped in the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant and shed the vest and Kevlar shirt. It felt like it was going to be a scorcher which is not unusual for this part of the state.
After working the I-5 slab for a few miles south I exited and headed west on Highway 42 towards Bandon, a distance of around 93 miles to my home. Leaving the freeway you soon come to Winston, a small town that’s home to one of those Safari parks where you can get eaten by lions, etc. I haven’t been there yet as a similar one is located close enough to our home that we can hear the animals. Sometimes it's a bit like living next to Jurasic Park...
Heading west there’s a small settlement located around 10 miles down the road that’s aptly named Ten Mile. Clever, huh? The TenMile grocery store has become one of my regular stops whenever I ride through the area and today I figured it would be mandatory; I needed a candy bar fix before continuing on. While there I met another rider on the cleanest BMW I’d seen in ages. We talked about our diverse approach to bike selections and how they suited our individual needs. When I mentioned riding to Alaska on the Ninja he agreed it was a good choice given the low center of gravity and light weight. I asked if he’d thought about riding there and although he’d like to do it someday he figured it would be on a dual-purpose bike. Smart thinking I thought, no use beating your bimmer to death on the rough Alaskan roads.
The ride through the countryside continued and I made one more stop before home. There’s a small BLM park located on Bear Creek Frontage road and I wanted to take a photo of the camp’s bridge. I haven’t stayed there yet but expect to sometime; it’s one of the few remaining places you can stay at free which has great appeal to me. It’s on the small side with just a handful of campsites and I doubt many people are aware of its location, just my kind of place.
As I approached the coastal area the temperature once again began to drop and rather than spend the next half hour uncomfortably cool I paused long enough to put my vest back on. It was a good call, today the Pacific Ocean breezes were making sweaters and wind breakers mandatory and that was for those who were just walking. As I passed through our small town of Bandon I didn’t see a single T-shirt wearing rider anywhere and I felt a bit smug for having my electric vest on. My ride was now down to less than 8 miles which passed quickly; I arrived home safely and without much fanfare. Both the dogs and even Linda remembered me and came to the gate to greet me. I was a bit surprised about the dogs as they sometimes exhibit a convenient memory loss given the opportunity to bark. Bark they did but it was more of a “Where the heck have you been?” version rather than the more menacing one reserved for strangers.
The ride to Nova Scotia was filled with lots of great moments and other than a few weather issues it couldn’t have been better. According to my odometer I covered nearly 11,000 miles and if you add to that the 600 mile false start to central Oregon it was more. El Nino performed flawlessly and my thanks go out to the people at Kawasaki for designing and building what has to be one of the most bulletproof bikes in existence. I’ve got a few maintenance things to do but then that’s to be expected on a bike that now has over 20,000 miles on the clock. I couldn’t be more satisfied, Kudos to Kawasaki!
This might also be a good time to express my thanks to all of you who have followed this blog and especially those who offered me their company and provided places for me to stay. It would have been a lot less enjoyable had you not done so and I will cherish those times; old friends and new friends alike, you were great to listen to and be with.
So what’s next? I’m glad to be home and looking forward to catching up on the homebody things that need to be done around here. This year’s journey is over but soon it will be time to start planning for the next ride to who knows where.