Thursday, August 16, 2012

After racing at Portland Intl. Raceway last weekend, Courtney Olive organized a three day road ride to eastern Oregon.  Courtney is the president of the Sang Froid Riding Club and we met last year in Peel, IOM during TT fortnight.  Courtney and the Club were instrumental in making the bike show happen at the Graeter Art Gallery and getting me out there to race at OMRRA's vintage weekend.
Five of us left Courtney's house in Portland around 10 Monday morning.  Tom Bright, a sixth grade science and math teacher was riding the oldest bike, a 1973 Moto Guzzi V-7 Sport.  Brett Edwards, proprietor of Glass From the Past, was on the other 750, two valve, aircooled twin, and '78 Triumph
Courtney and me in front of his '63 Falcoon Ranchero with his Honda 919 and Gary's Aprilla Falco
Special, which he describes as his rolling billboard as it sports bodywork (fairing, tank and seat) he makes and sells.  I started on the next oldest bike, Courtney's 1981 (the first year) Kawasaki 550 GPz.  Courtney, a lawyer for the Bonneville Power Authority, rode his '91 Suzuki 400 Bandit.  And, Gary Roper, a physical therapist and the guy who fettled the '51 Velocette MAC that I rode all too briefly at PIR, rode his '99? Aprilla Falco.  Tom's Guzzi was the only drum braked bike of the bunch and Brett's the only kickstart one.
We gassed up, then went maybe 10 miles south on I-5 and exited on US 26 east.  This took us through Sandy, ZigZag and Govt. Camp to the base of Mt. Hood where we stopped at a rest area.  I was enjoying the GPz; it was comfortable with great ergonomics and a good seat, and had decent power, brakes and handling.  Courtney was concerned about it because it the spring it had an ignition issue with two cyl.s dropping out.  The stator or pick-ups had been replaced and it was vastly better.  But, he had experience a couple of very subtle glitches on a subsequent ride and wondered if it was really fixed.  After we got on Rt. 216 and stopped in Maupin for gas and drinks, I reported to Courtney that I had experienced a couple of very minor hiccups, but didn't think it was a big deal.  We decided though, that maybe he and I should switch bikes so he could evaluate it.
Me taking over the Suzuki 400 Bandit in Maupin 
Before we got to Shaniko on Bakeoven Rd. (very appropriate as the temp was in the high 90's),  Courtney pulled over and said the GPz was getting worse and he felt it made sense for him to head back home, get his 2002 Honda 919, and meet us in Heppner in the evening.  Tom and Brett had gone on ahead and Gary and I found them waiting in Antelope, where we notice a fairly dead Honda CB450 at a yard sale.  At this point Gary peeled off to head for his home in Medford, Or. via Bend and around Crater Lake.  Tom, Brett and I headed to Fossil for a late lunch.
Brett Edward's '78 Triumph, Tom Bright's '73 Moto Guzzi V7 Sport and the Suzuki 400 Bandit.
From Fossil we headed to Heppner where we got a drink and waited for Courtney to arrive from his superslab burn-up.  When he arrived, we decided we couldn't get to Ukiah before the restaurant closed, so we decided to have dinner and stay in Heppner.  We camped by a stream in a little campground run by the local motel.
The next morning, we had a leisurely breakfast at the bowling alley and waited for the next member of our party to arrive.  Tim Webb, who works for a security company and another member of the SFRC, arrived on his 1987 VFR 700 around 10a from Milwaukie, just south of Portland.
I was assigned Courtney's 2002 Honda 919 to replace the balky GPz.  We gassed up and headed to Ukiah, got gas again in Granite and stopped for lunch at the Elkhorn Saloon in Sumpter.  The 919 was a bit of a revelation.  A 'Naked bike', it handled very well, had great brakes, an excellent seat and gobs of torque.  Forget about shifting.  Through just about the tightest hairpin, I left it in 6th and just rolled on.  This was a type of riding I'd never done before: fast.  Speed is relative and I certainly had ridden fast on narrow, bumpy back roads in New England or crowded, bumpy urban expressways.  But, now we were on superb, smooth, empty roads with excellent traction, that varied from high speed sweepers to tight switchbacks.  Perhaps most of our riding matched MPH for degrees temperature with a few forays over the ton.  But, it didn't feel hairball to me at all.  All of our group were excellent riders and everyone went at their own pace.  I, for the most part, didn't know the roads or where we were going, but I was encouraged to take the lead from time to time, being on the newest and most powerful of the bikes, and I'd just wait at the next intersection.  It was never a long wait and it was impressive how well a '73 Moto Guzzi or a 400cc Suzuki kept up.  One did have to stay alert for deer and cattle, but that was mostly an evening problem, and we did very little riding in the evening.  And, depending on the type of shoulder, one did have to pay attention to gravel in the switchbacks that the damn cages kick onto the road hanging their inner wheels over the edge of pavement.  Eastern Oregon is motorcycling heaven with terrain varying from high prairie to steep woodlands.  And, did I mention empty roads with excellent surface?
After lunch, we met up with the last member of our party, Mike Wantanabe, proprietor of Union Motorcycle Classics in Nampa, Id.  He rode from there on his beautiful Ducati 900SS (which he had extensively modified after bending the frame in a crash) and met us in Salisbury, as far east as we got on the trip.  We stopped at Unity Lake S.P. and several expressed interest in going for a swim but the water was deemed to cold/funky and I was easily talked out of it.  Brett had a small problem with his bike he wanted to deal with and Mike, Tom, and Tim decided to just chill there with him then head back to Sumpter.  Courtney and I were up for more riding.

Mike,  Brett, and Tom at Unity Lake

We headed to Bates to gas up, but found the station was closed Tues. and Wed., so we left a note for the other four and went 17 miles down the road to Prairie City.  Gassed up,  it was back to Bates and up Rt. 7 for maybe a mile, then off northeast on this fabulous little County road 20 that Courtney knew.  It was getting late, so we turned around just short of US 395 and started back.  The cattle that had been grazing by the side of the road were now in the road and the young ones seemed to want to race a bit before finally getting off.  In the last stretch before Sumpter it was dusk and we did see a few deer, but none did anything stupid.  Dinner and a beer at the Elkhorn, then camping out right in the empty lot between it and the laundromat .

The bikes in front of the Elkhorn.
The next morning after breakfast, we headed back:  Mike heading east to Idaho, and the rest of us west towards Portland.  Back through Granite and Ukiah, Tom and Brett decided to go the shorter way we had come to Heppner, while Tim, Courtney and I went the hard way via Rt. 74, another great road.  We gassed up and had lunch in Heppner and Brett and our waitress got to compare notes on their identical avulsed right index fingers (he: car fan belt; she: corn cobber).
On to Condon where Tom decided to split off as he needed to get back.  Tim, Brett, Courtney and I headed first to Fossil to get fuel, then on to Antelope to the yard sale with the dead CL 450.  I picked up a couple of nice wrenches (one of which TSA confiscated at the airport because it was over 7" long).  The CL 450 was a bit intriguing as it had one high pipe on each side rather than both on one side.  None of us recognized that, including Tim who knew 450 Hondas well having roadraced one for years.  Evidently, after they got home, Brett and Tim researched it and found it was a rare dealer installed option and they and Courtney decided to buy it together and Brett drove back a few days later and picked it up.
The rare CL450D at the yard sale in Antelope
It was getting late and we had a ways to go, so we jammed pretty hard to The Dalles.  While it was impressive how well Courtney kept up on the 400 Bandit, it did suck the fuel as it was constantly over 10K rpm.  It easily got the worse fuel mileage of all the bikes.  The 919 indicated about 40mpg, but it's speedo/odo were quite optimistic.  Courtney got a little nervous about making it to The Dalles and we did some drafting to make it.  After gassing up, we got on I-84 for a ways, then one last side trip up some switchbacks on US 30 to the Rowena overlook for a spectacular view of the Columbia River Gorge.
The road up to the Rowena overlook
 Courtney and I said good bye to Brett and Tim there and jammed back to Portland on I-84.  It was a bit of a slog into a headwind, but we did get a peek at Mulhomah Falls on the way.  I grabbed my stuff and Courtney drove me to the airport to catch the redeye back to JFK. 
About 1000 miles and 26 gallons of gas over the three days.  Fantastic roads, scenery, bikes, but most of all, a great bunch of guys. I look forward to doing it again.
More photos by Mike and Brett at:


  1. Looks like a good visit Dave. The roads in that FLICKR set look amazing. Thanks for the story.

  2. Terrific, engaging narrative of an as-it-goes-so-you-go excursion thru Oregon highways/byways with enriching details. Also, like 'fettle' as a verb. Thanks for all. h