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Oregon: Around the Bend

Mile 1075 to 1910

Had to cram in a lot into a few short days as the window started to shrink before catching the Alaska Marine Highway System Ferry to Alaska. On the road North into Oregon I decided it was worth stopping at a local shop and getting a professional once-over of the V-Strom before I was stuck in the middle of the Yukon Territory with some unexpected breakdown. I was already about 500 miles past the recommended oil change interval. With a quick Google search I located Tread & Track Motorsports in Klamath Falls, Oregon. They were kindly able to squeeze me in at noon while I went down the street for some decent Mexican food. The shop guy also gave me a great recommendation to swing by Skagit Powersports up in Washington before I head to Canada, for any other last minute needs for the road.

North of Klamath Falls I turned off the highway to Crater Lake National Park. I had last visited this park in July 2010, and the one thing that stood out besides the awesome view was the vapid attack of mosquitos. Even at mid-day, the little buggers were probably the worst infestation I had ever witnessed.

At least this trip I was a little earlier in the year so I was hoping the bugs were still in hibernation. Unfortunately that meant there was much more snow around the lake. This shot doesn’t even do justice to the drifts of snow around the lake; snow drifts still measure 11 feet deep in places around Crater Lake. So what is a fun-loving boy on his bike going to do with that snow? Time to build a snowman of course. This lil' Olaf may even stand guard on these shores till summer is a memory and the flurries of winter revisit.

My dreams dashed of finding a nice dry campsite in the park, I headed out and West, towards Roseburg, OR. Away from the National Park (and its lurking mosquitos), there is an excellent National Forest (Umpqua) to ride through on the drive. With the sun setting, it was straight out of a movie with the deep green hues of the dark woods, with curve after curve of road winding out before you under the sagging branches, with the craggy valleys of the North Umpqua River hugging in parallel beside the motorcycle. There were some sections you almost expected Sasquatch to jump out before you. At least for safety, the only twilight animal that I noticed even near the road was a shy coyote that darted away as soon as my bike rounded a curve. After a pleasant 85 mile trek through the woods I made it to Roseburg, and then in the morning headed North on the I-5 to Portland.

Reaching Portland, I had worked in a couple days to visit with an old friend Linda and her family. They lived in the happy little bedroom community of Lake Oswego, so I hung out with them for a a few days before heading on out to visit with another friend in Bend Oregon.

Portland is one of those great West Coast cities that is worth exploring, even though almost by rule on this motorcycle adventure I am trying to avoid the urban centers. I took a day to explore three unique areas of Portland – the Portland Japanese Garden, the International Rose Test Garden, and downtown Portland (& its delicious food cart district).

It was a Friday so I traveled early to get to Japanese Garden before the crowds – while there are plenty of spots in the park area, and conveniently it is right next to the Rose Test Garden so only a need to park one time – spots fill up fast by mid-day. Also, many of the spaces are on a curving incline. So, you do have to take some care with certain spots which are less bike friendly. Admission to the Japanese Garden was $10 and provides a nice tranquil respite and a keen area for photography. I have always wanted to visit when the Japanese Maple is changing colors but that will have to wait for another year.

Same goes for the International Rose Test Garden. No admission is required for the Garden, but as a result the crowds can be distracting on a busy day. You will find a dozen volunteers as well, trimming the roses like busy bees.

It is just a short motorcycle ride from the garden to the true downtown center. Finding a spot is dependent on your resourcefulness as a city rider, as well as awareness of where to land yourself to minimize walking. For riders handy with a phone, an app called CurbNinja does provide a bit of assistance in cities like this, to find convenient motorcycle friendly parking. I choose a spot in the Old Town area. It is central to the food carts – these things number in the hundreds on a typical day and span just about every type of cuisine you can imagine.

After grabbing a bite for walking, I headed over to Voodoo Doughnuts on 3rd Avenue. Some of the best treats in the area – only bad part was that this particular Friday was National Donut Day. The line snaked about 1 hour long since I think they were offering up one free donut to each person in line. So, I skipped that and just took my snapshot across the street at the famous “Keep Portland Weird” mural. There are a ton of other things to see downtown, and if you love books definitely make a stop at Powell’s Books. It was time for me to head back to Lake Oswego, and after another nice evening out with Linda's family I packed up for the road to Bend.

From downtown Portland on a typical day you can capture a postcard picture of the city with snow-capped Mt Hood off in the distance. Unfortunately I was not there on one of those days. So, I loaded up the V-Strom on Saturday and headed straight to Mt Hood instead. The mountain is an hour east of Portland and a fine ski destination and it is an easy motorcycle ride up. There is a ski lodge at the top worth visiting given the chance (one that was used in the Stephen King movie “The Shining”), but on this day I was off to visit friends in Bend so no time for that or hiking the mountain. I had done both in years past so took a quick snapshot of the bike from the road and back down the mountain I went.

This route from Portland to Bend covers 200 miles, so an easy and fun ride. While Portland is a tough city to leave behind, Bend is one of those gorgeous cities in Oregon worth routing through anytime you have the chance to cross the state. I had a friend Jerry from work who moved his family to the city from Southern California and opened up his hillside house to me. Jerry and his family layered on multiple hikes around the city with me in a couple short days. The thing about Bend is that on its surface it does not seem to have much in way of attractions – no historical monuments or theme parks, etc. But you can probably spend a good week in and around the area, exploring the downtown, or the Old Mill District, floating the Deschutes River, going to the Brewery, or just hiking / climbing. Then it was off to the North to make it to Washington.

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