Day 8
June 18th, 2002
Pendleton, Oregon

The rain came into Pendleton yesterday afternoon and stayed.  It rained all afternoon, all evening, all night, and was STILL raining when we woke up.  Not hard, just steady.

"The only way we are going to get out of this, is to RIDE out of it."  I hear-+ Dennis say.

We have a easy day today.  We are less then 400 miles from Crater Lake.  The plan is to tour the lake, then find a place to camp.  I am looking forward to a easy day in the saddle, and seeing some great scenery.

Gas tanks full from the day before, we take US 395 south out of the city to SR 74.  As we move into the Oregon hills, it is not only rainy, but foggy.  Not Blue Ridge foggy, but pretty thick.  A miserable morning.  Morning radar reports stated several pockets of slow moving rain all over the area, but should dissipate by afternoon.

I have the point.  I was thinking what would happen if I rode off a steppe into oblivion.  How long would Dennis go before he realized I wasn't up there?  The fog has reducrd visibility- to just a few feet, he would never know I was gone.  Would he ride into the next town scratching his head?  How would he find me?  Would he double back looking for me?  I don't have a flare to shoot up, so I would have to try to make it back up the steppe, and flag someone down, and see if they found some  joker on a bike like mine, and if so, to send him back.
Let me say this now, the East Oregon Hills are some of the best riding in the country.  Well maintained challenging roads, snake you through the hills of this well kept secret in the riding community.  To top it off ,there is little or no traffic, nothing like the traffic clogged roads of back east.

SR 74 is very curvy, but the fog and rain put a big damper on things.  These hills give the rider just the right elevation variations.  The road takes you to many summits where you can look out over the area.  Not as good as Steptoe-but what is.

I can see clear skies around me, but the road is not taking me there.  It keeps routing us to the dark clouds.
A coyote or a fox scampers across the road in front of  me with something in his mouth.  He disappears up a hill when I close in.

We complete a long, deep right hander, and when we come out of it I can see blue skies ahead.  A welcome sight.

Riding west the clouds and rain go away.  The sun lights up the hills and we pick up the pace.  With the fog and rain gone, Dennis takes the lead.  Ain't he something?  That's alright, pay backs are hell, when we get to the Bay Area, HE is going to be in the lead.

We "curve" the STs through the hills for 50 miles or so.  Twisting, and scraping.  I touch the right peg down on a tight right hander.  The riding is spirited as we move the gears up and down.  Third, through 5th in the runouts, before gearing back down for the next tight curve.  A lot of  fun.

In Heppner we drop down to the posted 30 mph and look for a cafe to take a break.  The football field is not much to see.  Scraggly, white buildlings dot the approaches into the center of town.  A local cafe appears and we pull in.  A few locals are sitting around, the table have a red and white checker board pattern cloth.  The walls need painting, and I hear water dripping from a overhang. A man speaks to me-

"so where are you guys from?"

"I'm from Alabama, and he's from San Francisco"

"I use to live in the Bay Area.  Came here to escape all that nonsense."

"well you found a good place, quiet and peaceful country"

After our break we ride out of town on SR 206.  Another awesome road.  The countryside is rolling range land.  Cattle can be seen in a few places, and the occasional farm house.  This is truly some good riding, and the last few days are the reason a guy rides all the way out here to tour.

Condon, Oregon is the next town.  Awful close spelling to something else.  I wonder how many times someone says the wrong thing, or hears it wrong.  "Hey, where ya from?"  "Condon, Oregon." "Don't be a smart ass. Now where ya from?"  There is not much there, only a few stores and houses.  I wonder how they feel about being the home of safe sex.

Riding south on SR 19 we find a signing announcing the 45th parallel.  It is located just north of the Fossil town limits. The half way mark from the North Pole to the Equator.  We marked the event with a picture.
​We found this landmark on SR 19, a few miles north of Fossil, Oregon.
In Fossil we take another break in a local cafe.  We park on the street and stroll in.  All eyes move to us.  Dennis asks for coffee, and the man says-

"Just pour ya cup from over there"

Things are quite informal in Fossil.

SR 218 takes us by the John Day Fossil beds.  I don't know the history here, but apparently there are a lot of dinosaur bones to be found in these hills.

Again it is a windy day.  The wind has bucked so many days on this trip I feel like I need a clipper ship instead of a ST.

Along a rocky, wind blown hilltop, I pull over for a photo op.  Dennis continues on.  I see the road twisting beneath me as it makes it way up the next hill.  I stop and take a picture of brother Dennis working his way up.  The riding in this area is worth the trip brothers. If you are ever within 200 miles, you owe it to yourself to ride here.  We did all the work, just follow the routes.  Make sure you start or end in the Palouse.  Just remember to pour your own coffee in Fossil.
​The rolling hills of northeast Oregon offer great riding.
We drop out of the hills on US 97 north of Madras.  It was a great morning of riding.

Lunch is at a semi busy Subway at the north end of town.  I had the meatball sandwich.  I called my wife, returned messages, and got a weather report.

While eating lunch a young mother came in with her 4-5 year old daughter.  The little girl had the most strikingly blue eyes I had ever seen, and her blonde hair was neatly cut into a very nice coiffure.  Her daddy is going to have a hard time when she grows up.

Back on the road, we take US 97 south.  This road will take us all the way to Crater Lake.  It is not a fun road.  Too much traffic.  We take it easy as we see Oregon's Finest giving out more then a few performance awards along the way.

We gassed up at Bend.

We ride steady on 95, I am anxious to get to Crater Lake.

At a rest area near Beaver Marsh we take a butt break.  Here, we find Thud Thompson on his 2001 ST and his riding partner on a 2002 Wing.  Thud is ex Marine and a retired Seattle police officer.  They are on a short weekend trip and he has the saddlebags off his bike.  His bike sports over 40k, so he has been a busy man.  Thud is in his 70s, and his partner in his 80s.  Gives us all something to look forward to.  We exchange quibs, and they ride out south.  Good folks.

At the same rest area I see a man sitting on the curb by his car.  His hair is long and scraggly, his old van matches his appearence.  He is from Pa. and out of ga and money, trying to get to Coos Bay.  I hear his sob story out, but I failed to make a donation.   As they say, he was "down and out in Oregon."

At last we turn right onto SR 138 for the final approach to Crater Lake.  The highway has a long straight, perhaps 5 miles with no turnouts and unlimited visibility.  I crouch down behind the windscreen, and twist the throttle.  Been a long time since I opened the ST up.  My bike accelerates to 100, 110, 115, 125 and pegs out at 127. She was dead stable and purred like a kitten.  Not bad for a fully loaded touring bike with over 50k.  I dropped back down and Dennis catches up.  Fun.

We begin to see snow as we move into higher elevation and the temp noticeably dips.

The entrance is quiet as we pull in.  Two young female attendants are taking up money.  I make small talk with them, and make them laugh about something I can't remember.

"How much is it?'

"well he as a golden passport"

"well yeah"

"well he gets in free and so does he family"

"is that rat?"  as I get out my money

"so if you guys are brothers, you get in free too"

"well of course we are brothers sweetie"  as I tuck my money back in the Roadcrafter.

"how cold is it up there baby?"

"not too bad, you look like you can handle it"

It was obvious we are not kin, I just think the attendants were helping out a lone rider a long way from home.  As I told brother Dennis, it never hurts to flirt a little bit with someone who isn't expecting it. 

We ride up the mountain to the lake.  I am about to witness a place I have only read about.  I have heard over and over again how beautiful this place is.  The snow banks grow higher as we move up in elevation.  Damn, it must snow a lot up here.  The temp is a chilly 28 degrees at the top.
​Riding past snow banks, I work my way up to Crater Lake.
It's a fun ride to the rim, and then I see it.  Before me is one of the true wonders of the world.  A place so beautiful, and pristine it is breathtaking, Crater Lake.  Visibility is perfect and the lake can be seen in all its glory.  The water so blue it looks painted.  The surrounding mountains cradle it, holding it up to the sky. 

The beauty and majesty of Crater Lake.
Traffic is very light, and there are no RVs.  We are lucky this day, about half the time the lake is clouded in mist and fog, especially in the afternoons.

The pictures are not computer tricks, the water is really that blue, and clear.  Also very cold.

This is the deepest lake in the country, close to 2000 feet and is a closed system.  No streams or creeks enter it. The water coming in only clean and pure rain water, and snow melt. 

We get off the bikes and take pictures and stare at the gem before us.  This is a quiet place.  I am totally awestruck.  I can now understand the pull this place can have on people.
Humbled and awed, I proudly pose by this Masterpiece of
We ride the rim road stopping at numerous vistas, getting all the pictures we can.  I don't even feel the chilly air.  Of all the places and wonders I have traveled to, and seen, this mountain lake ranks right up there with the Grand Canyon for the number 1 spot.  To me its a toss up.

The lodge at Crater Lake looks like a good place to stay.  I bet its nice too look out your balcony over the azur lake.

While taking pictures at one of the overlooks the decision is made to drop down off the mountain to camp. Too cold up here.

With the sun dipping down below the mountains we leave this strikingly beautiful place.  How can I ever hope to convey how spectacular this place is, without y'all seeing it?

SR 62 takes us off the mountain to SR 230.

We ride among the tall trees in the late afternoon, looking for a campground.  We find one at Union Creek.  A federal campground.  It is a quiet place in the forest with a nearby river cascading down the rocks.  We find a nice spot and pitch out tents.  I set mine up with the front door looking out to the river.  I like to pitch my tent so I have a view.  

It was getting late and the nearest cafe would soon be closing.  So we unloaded as quick as we could and headed to Prospect.

In prospect we found a small cafe called Becky's.  A nice place with good food.

"are you Becky?"

"no not hardly, I'm Molly, no one knows who Becky is"

One day I am going to write a book about life as seen through the eyes of waitresses.  I have flirted and talked with these bastions of the road from coast to coast.  Some are students, some are full time, some are pretty, and some are downright homely, but all have a story to tell.  The waitresses of a local places, differ quite significantly from their chain counterparts.  I guess waiting on strangers, makes one harder, and they require a another approach to make them to be friendly.  They see all kinds of people all day long, where as the local waitress serves friends.  The local waitress is much more into in your travels, and more likely to be a full timer.  She is usually more interested in the places you have been, and things you have seen.  Such is life.

I had some great pork chops at Becky's.

It was only a mile back to the campground so we got back kind of early.  There was no shower so I used the cold water from the sink to sponge off.

I was able to pick up a weak signal, and managed to spend a few minutes with my wife before losing her.
Tomorrow will be another relatively easy day.  We enter the Hotel California, and spend the night in Eureka, but not before we ride the awesome Klamath River Road.  Don Cortez is riding up from the Bay Area to enjoy the fellowship and ride with us.

When the sun went down the temp dropped rapidly.  It was going to be a cold night this close to the Cascades.  I wore a sweat shirt to bed, and wool socks. 

I was cold, and with nothing else to do in the dark woods I got in my sleeping bag.  I skipped my head phones, because I wanted to listen to the water on the rocks just outside my tent.

Not sure what time I fell asleep, but it was early.

Next-Day 9