Saturday, August 23, 2014
Gosh it was good to be back in Oregon. Without having any discussion about this subject, both Scott and Madelyn coincidentally had the same thought as they crossed into Oregon from Nevada on US Highway 140. Yes, it’s a little weird, but par for the course.
Before returning to the Lakeview Lodge after dinner the night before, we made our obligatory visit to the grocery to pick up lunch supplies for the next day, so this chore was already done. We knew we’d have a long day riding from Lakeview to Crescent, so a hearty breakfast was in order.
Right next to the grocery, was Jerry’s Restaurant. We knew we were in the right place for breakfast, as the majority of diners were older local clientele that seemingly had been coming for Saturday get-togethers for decades. While we were a little out-of-place in our full riding gear, we were warmly welcomed to a booth for our morning sustenance and our past due roll-chart updating.
The hostess placed us in the booth directly next to a gentlemen that was finishing his meal. He (Brian sp?) asked, “Did we pass you a week ago on the side of the road in Oklahoma?”. Scott responded, “Not a week ago, that was more than two weeks ago…” While in Oklahoma, we had stopped on the side of the road to put on Gore-Tex gloves in the middle of a rainstorm, when a KLR and some other smaller displacement dualsport buzzed past us. This was Brian and his riding buddy. It seems that Brian was also affected by the blending of time and events; which, this blog helps reduce by documenting our trip and keeping things in relatively sequential order.
Brian and his buddy had been leap-frogging us ever since Tennessee. This is when we started to better understand what the Trans-America Trail (TAT) truly represents. Sam Correro is the undisputed “Father of the TAT”. He conceived of navigating a series of roads across the country with the intent of staying off the interstates (by-and-large) and rediscovering the true grit of our country. Then, there are a couple of other characters (i.e. gpsKevin) that have expanded this notion into a coast-to-coast off-road adventure using slightly different routes based on feedback from TAT riders. Consequently, no TAT groups ever ride exactly the same route due to physical conditions of the road, weather, time of year, motorcycle being ridden, experience, time, etc. All of these variables equate to a “TAT” experience for that rider and we all share the spirit of traveling across America using by-ways even though we may not share the exact same route.
Our goal was to reach Crescent, so we needed to get going, as we knew areas north of Silver Lake would be sandy and likely difficult. Leaving Lakeview, we quickly found ourselves back into timber industry lands. The TAT passed right through the middle of an ongoing logging operation and fortunately we were riding through this area on Saturday and not during the weekdays. For those of you that didn’t already know, loggers work Monday through Friday, so additional caution is required when riding in such areas during the classic work week.
Logging operations made the roads messy; although, they weren’t a problem as the conditions were dry. We’d hate to be traveling the same roads if any rain began to fall. The forecast indicated our Oregon riding would be rain free, so we were stoked, as this was the only state since we started almost a month ago where we didn’t encounter any rain.
The tall trees meant temperatures were in the 60s and low 70s, even though the skies were totally clear and the summer sunlight was a welcome change to some of our previous grey days. Temperatures would climb as the day progressed, but we didn’t care as we were almost home.
Our riding in Oregon wouldn’t have been complete without a little bit of drama. Sand creates drama. Madelyn couldn’t figure out how Scott made it through the same section, but it was a “When in doubt, throttle out” technique that prevented him from going down or getting stuck.
The TAT road network changed quickly from forest-covered, gravel logging roads to more open sky cinder-gravel roads, some of which were previous railroad rights-of-way – straight as can be and largely fast roads.
We were making good time, until Madelyn mentions that her F800GS (now affectionately known as “Charlie”) had a check engine light on, the bike was idling low (<900 RPM), and it was dying periodically. Hmmmm. What could it be? Any guesses? Not that Scott is anything close to be a mechanic, but his quick diagnosis was that it was air filter related. 4,000 miles of following in either Scott’s dust or the combination of both Scott and Kendrick’s dust eventually would take its toll.
Fortunately, we were only about fifteen miles from Silver Lake, so our plan was to get to the Feed Barn Cafe, grab a cool drink, and see if we could get Charlie behaving properly.
We arrived at the Feed Barn Cafe and guess who was there? Brian and his riding buddy. But wait, they didn’t pass us and we had stopped at the USFS Dairy Creek Campground in the Fremont National Forest to visit with a group of women BMW GS riders from the BMW Riders of Oregon Club for more than an hour. Brian and Scott shared notes and this reinforced how different each of our TAT routes end up being.
Scott had correctly diagnosed Charlie. He disassembled enough of Charlie to inspect and clean the air filter. Butterlies, moths, grass, and volumes of dust had been trapped by the air filter. It had done its job magnificently, but needed a little assistance to permit completion of the trip. Scott tapped enough dust and dirt from the filter, such that the engine returned to correct RPMs and was back to normal shortly thereafter. Time to button up the bike and get moving again.
North of Silver Lake, our version of the TAT goes through the Christmas Valley / Fort Rock / Hole-in-the-Ground area. Several years ago we rode this entire area and knew what lay ahead… sand, sand, and more sand. Not that we don’t like challenges, but we’re also not inclined to do the same thing twice. We altered our route so that we could enjoy the Oregon TAT and get ourselves safely to Crescent before sundown.
Oregon is far enough north that we enjoy longer summer daylight hours compared to other areas of the TAT. That being said, Oregon also has tall trees and mountains that can cut the summer light pretty quickly. By the time we reached Crescent, the light was above the western horizon, but not for long.
Saturday night, before Labor Day, also means lodging options are a minimum. Thankfully, the Big Pines RV Park had one tent spot left. This is a great camping option for TAT riders, as it’s relatively near where the trail crosses US Highway 97, they have hot showers, and very nice laundry facilities.
We made quick order of putting up our awesome MSR Hubba Hubba NX tents, Big Agnes down sleeping bags, and Exped sleeping pads from Next Adventure. Within ten minutes, tents were up, sleeping pads inflated, and sleeping bags were ready to receive our tired bodies.
We’re only two days away from the end of the TAT at Port Orford. No big deal.