Eastern Oregon Trip:
An adventure with conspiracy theories, a cult,
the Google Streetview car, screech owls & so much more...
Three days, 685 miles.
Stefan and Jayne's May 2012 motorcycle trip in Eastern Oregon.
went the long way around through Sweet Home, Sisters, Antelope, Shaniko,
Fossil, Condon, Heppner, Ukiah, and back (here's
the route) - Stefan via his Honda Africa Twin and me via my Kawasaki
It was my first camping trip via the KLR - and with my new boots (more on
that later). We chose the weekend before Memorial Day for this trip because
most camp sites would be open, the weather would be good, but the crowds
wouldn't be around yet.
We were on the road by 10 a.m. on Friday, which was essential to get to
where we wanted to be. Riding I5 is never, ever fun, but it had to be done,
so we could get South as quickly as possible. We left the highway just south
of Albany, onto state road 34 for just a bit and then onto USA Hwy 20. We
stopped for a lack-luster lunch somewhere along the way - it's always super
disappointing to eat at a charming roadside café and have the food be really
We continued west through Willamette National Forest. It was, as always,
gorgeous: we learned a bit about America's
First Transcontinental Automobile Race (in 1905), with spectacular
views of Mt. Washington. I did Highway 20 on my Honda Nighthawk two
years ago, and remember being absolutely terrified of the heights and speed.
This time, I enjoyed it much more, though my heart was racing a few times...
We would loved to have gone over McKenzie Pass (242) to Sisters, but we had
a feeling it was closed - I still haven't ridden it! We stopped
at Lost Prairie Campground for a break, and there was still a lot of
snow on the hills that don't see much sun (so much that the campground was
It was unfortunate that we did not have time for me to stop and take a photo
of the hand made sign that said,
We road from Sisters to Redmond, then turned north on US Hwy 97, which has
to be the ugliest, most boring US Highway there is - we have ridden it in
Oregon and Washington, and all we have seen is straight road with not much
scenery - but a highlight of the road was, in Madras, seeing the Google
Streetview car! It was coming from a road on our right, turning left to go
South on US Hwy 97, so we were unable to get a photo. And I don't think it
was filming at that time, so we won't be in a photo, even as a blur. DARN!
turned onto 293, the Antelope Highway, and the scenery turned beautiful
again, the road winding. We came to the teeny tiny town of Antelope, and
stopped at the café, which had an "open" sandwich board sign out near the
road. Note to restaurants: being obviously open, with more than just a
discreet "open" sign in the window, leads to a LOT more business! We went in
and asked where the nearest camping was and the nearest beer was. The very
friendly manager said the nearest camping was the field next door, and the
nearest beer was a convenience store in nearby Shaniko, up
the oh-so-twisty 218. The road did NOT disappoint (see photo at left)!
Shaniko turned out to be an
old-West town that, sadly, is largely abandoned. There's a beautiful
old hotel there, for sale, and a really nice camping spot - looks like it's
also for sale. Lots more interesting buildings as well, most of which look
like businesses that were closed relatively recently. Someone, please, buy
Shaniko! The hotel in particular! I hate to see such beautiful history die -
but big, ugly strip malls and franchised motels survive.
We bought beer and some items for the morning, then headed back down to
Antelope via the lovely, twisty 218.
stopped at the café in Antelope again to make sure we really could camp in
the unmowed field next door, that there really was a bathroom there - she
assured us we could, and told us that the guy that lived there... let's call
him Mark... that Mark would clean out the bathrooms for us. So, we paid her
$10, and road into the field and started unpacking. Mark came out of his
small trailer to greet us and make sure we'd paid at the café. And then he
did, indeed, clean out the bathrooms - which were much better than I was
expecting on the inside, because on the outside, it looks like a shack on
its last days. Maybe I have really low standards for bathrooms, having been
subjected to some really horrible bathrooms all over the world. He put in a
fresh propane tank so we could have warm water (to me, while camping, that's
a HUGE luxury) and spent a long time in both bathrooms cleaning them. He
came out to announce there were no more bugs or frogs inside and they were
ready to use.
"Don't Tread on Me" flag, I covered the UN flag sticker on the back of
my top box with a shirt, and hoped Mark wouldn't see it. There were no
picnic tables, so we used an old
cable roller for a table and our panniers for chairs. We really wanted
to take that cast iron skillet we found, but it would have been too heavy on
We walked around and took lots of photos of Antelope, which is a mix of old-west
buildings and houses from the turn of the century and trailers. The
little community church is quite pretty. You know you are in a small town
when the city
council meeting minutes are posted outside the firehouse, no last
names are used at all, and one of the items is Status of fixing ceiling
lights in gym - Caroline's nephew or hire an electrician.
On our walking tour of the town, we saw a
flag that commemorated Antelope's 25th Anniversary. But Antelope,
Oregon is more than 100 years old, so the flag confused us - 25th
anniversary of what? Then we stopped at a bulletin board across from the
cafe, and there was a story about Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. CLICK! We didn't
realize Antelope was THAT city! You remember, right? In the 1980s, followers
of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh took over Antelope, Oregon. The cult's followers
were able to take over the city council and change the town's name to
Rajneesh. Once the Bhagwan and his lead collaborators were arrested on
various charges, the cult members went away, and the locals were able to
reclaim their town. There's a
plaque commemorating the resistance to Rajneesh on the flag pole next to
the post office. And the café owner is happy to show you old newspaper
clippings and the bits of red paint still showing in various places in the
cafe, which served as the post office during the "occupation."
I spent the evening giddy over being in Antelope - I love coming
face-to-face with history. I so remember "The Bhagwan", as my mother called
him - her high school class president, Charles, had become a member at some
point - I've never forgotten her talking about it. I cooked a huge meal - so
huge that, for the first time, we didn't finish it. We had enough to feed
two more bikers! I had made Zatarain's rice, and put in half a can of
tomatoes and an entire Hillshire Farms Turkey sausage into it. TOO MUCH
FOOD. It was good though... As the sun set and we stood outside our tent
drinking our beer, Stefan noticed at least one white owl, maybe two, diving
here and there around us.
The sun went down and it started to get COLD, so we retired for the evening
- and froze. SO COLD. Not as cold as Yellowstone
last year, but still cold! At some point in the night, I needed to
pee, so I got out of my sleeping bag and unzipped the tent entrance - and
there on the rain fly was the shadow of a massive, headless person, arms
outstretched, ready to pounce and kill me. At least that's what I thought
for about a second, before realizing it was just the shadow of my KLR
handlebars, perfectly back lit by a light over the bathrooms. I unzipped the
rain fly and headed over to the bathrooms, hoping I wouldn't be greeted by
any frogs or snakes inside. Returning to the tent, I stopped for a moment in
the cold to look up at the beautiful night - so many stars, so very, very
bright. And then I heard a loud, piercing SCREECH and I ran back into the
tent - clearly the Screech Owl is well named.
I did NOT consult my pack list before
the trip, trying to pack from memory - I thought, hey, it's a two night
trip, I don't need to look at the list. I was wrong. Lesson learned...
again. So many things forgotten. I tend to not be as meticulous when I pack
for short trips, and I always end up forgetting things I really want/need.
Like the charger for my cell phone. Hence why I tweeted
during the trip only on Friday.
Mark came out to greet us in the morning and to tell us so many things:
about how the solar eclipse on Sunday would bring solar flares that would
burn up all electronics as well as universal peace and harmony, how "the
bankers" would be arrested in the coming weeks and tried at the Hague, how
we need to be very afraid of Agenda
21, and how he invented the Internet in the 1960s but, sadly, didn't
promote the idea well enough, and a different system than what he created is
now used. He has at least three web sites that detail all this and much more
- contact me and I'll be happy to send you the URLs.
We had a breakfast of very watery scrambled eggs - we had forgotten to buy
milk the night before. We also discovered that we had brought decaffeinated
instant coffee. And there was much sadness...
We gathered ourselves as best we could, packed up and said goodbye to
oh-so-charming Antelope. We continued on 218 to the West, passing John
Day Fossil Beds - Clarno Unit - there's no visitor's center there, but
the scenery is dramatic and beautiful. Although the rock formation did
remind me of that creepy movie Picnic at Hanging Rock, where the
school girls go into those rocks and disappear... both our time crunch and
the movie made me reluctant to hike any closer.
We stopped in the small town of Fossil for real coffee and an early, light
lunch, sharing a chicken nugget basket, and meeting a lot of other
motorcyclists - a man and a woman (on her own bike!) from Bend, two women on
their own bikes from Canada, and a guy from Portland. Stefan joked that we
really should receive a commission for all the business we bring restaurants
- we park out front, and within 30 minutes, more bikers start showing up.
Then we headed North on state road 19 to Condon (which Stefan kept calling
"condom" - I'm sure that joke never gets old among the school kids there),
and stopped at the Twist & Shake Drive In for shakes. A hand-made sign
was posted that said, "No chicken strips today. Bill messed up." There was a
group of bikers from Canada inside, and they could NOT stop giving Bill a
hard time. Hilarious. After the shakes (yum), we went into downtown Condon
for gas, and met the most interesting gas station worker EVER - he'd been to
Norway, all over Europe and Australia, worked on a Kibbutz in Israel... why
can't we have him as a neighbor?!
We pushed on to Heppner via 206, then took Willow Creek Road to National
Forest Road 53 through the Umatilla National Forest. Fantastic road -
smooth, lovely scenery, just patches of snow here and there on the side of
the road. We pushed on to Ukiah, and stopped at Granny's Country Store for
some milk and beer, and the cashier noted that they had free maps of the
best motorcycle routes in Eastern, Oregon. The
maps are fantastic! The map also notes where to camp (though it
doesn't note the camping site in Antelope). In addition to this one for
Eastern Oregon, there is also one for Central Idaho and one for North Idaho
& Eastern Washington that includes part of Western Montana (we'll be
ordering those soon!).
We turned around and went back to Highway 395 and headed South, to the Ukiah-Dale
Forest State Scenic Corridor campground, an Oregon State Park, to camp
for the night.
Oregon State Parks and Washington State Parks are great places for
motorcyclists to camp, but beware of fee-based parks - those that
charge a fee just to visit (as opposed to charging to camp): such parks
require fee payment per vehicle, meaning a van full of 10 people pays less
than two people on two motorcyclists. Take every opportunity to complain
about this fee policy directly to Oregon State Parks and Washington State
Parks and any other state park that does this, via their web sites and via
any comment cards you find at a state park. I would love to support state
parks in Oregon and Washington with a year-long pass, and I would happily
pay that entrance fee, but I will not do so until they change this STUPID
We pitched our tent and were about to cook dinner, when the camp host came
over and said there were three guys in "super cars" who had been asking if
National Forest Road 53 was open, and how the road conditions were. So we
headed over to their camp to tell them. And there they were: three guys in
super cars, taking the weekend to race through Eastern Oregon, making
constant jokes, and teasing one of their members they had nicknamed "Captain
Slow." Okay, so they weren't the guys from Top Gear, but they were
big fans of the show. One of them turned out to be a motorcycle rider we had
seen featured in a video we saw in our second week in Oregon - such a small
world! They offered us part of their dinner - steak and potatoes cooked in
onions - and we couldn't say no, it smelled too wonderful. It was a terrific
evening of talking and joking and laughing - it's so rare that we meet other
campers like that. So many are in RVs and aren't interested in socializing.
next day, we needed to make good time back to Portland, but we really didn't
want to take 84 the whole way. So after consulting our new map, we headed
North on 395, which is boring until the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway - that's
awesome! Then we headed West on 74 to Heppner, which we took two years ago
on our way back from Yellowstone.
The road is oh-so-twisty and is a huge favorite of motorcyclists. Then over
to Condon for lunch, and then up a new road for us, with just a bit of rain,
to Wasco, which turned out to be quite a cute little town - the Just-Us
Inn looks adorable. The most surreal moment of our stop there was
hearing a guy talking loudly in some African language - did not expect that
in Wasco. The rain had stopped by then, thankfully.
And then we had to get on 84 West. Ugh. I was dreading it. But it turned out
to be the best ride we've had on 84 in our almost-three years here: very
little traffic, very little wind, and no rain. It would have been great to
jump off it and take Historic Highway 30 and various backroads back home,
but the idea of getting home just after 5 p.m. was too tempting, so we
pushed on, stopping at a rest stop with only TWO working bathrooms and then
turning onto 205 South and, as is our tradition, stopping at the Oregon City
falls overlook for one last we're-on-a-road-trip moment. While there, a
Triumph motorcycle club went by on 99E, and I was reminded yet again of just
how diverse the motorcycle riding folks of Oregon are when it comes to what
they ride. I love that.
And then home to a very happy, content Albi, who didn't seem at all stressed
that we had left her for the weekend with her dog sitter - but did seem VERY
happy we were home.
Next trip? Burning
Moto Man! It's on the last full weekend of June 2012, June
22-24. It's 40 miles east of Eugene on the Middle Fork of the Willamette
River. Free camping and no fees - but bring your own food and drink. It's
for people who have traveled in other countries by motorcycle - or want to.
It will be our third year to attend. Here's a complete list
of our 2012 motorcycle travel plans (as well as trips we've done to
Several places were open range regarding cattle. I understand people love
going fast on roads, but on blind corners, you could encounter deer or cows.
And that's deadly for the both of you. And it's a myth that deer are out
only in the morning and evening - we saw some just after lunch on Sunday
running near the road.
We usually stop a LOT more on trips, and thus do far less miles a day.
Anytime we spend 200 miles or more a day riding, we're pretty much just
riding - no sight-seeing, no hiking, etc. Usually, I hate that kind of
travel - it makes me cranky. But this trip was really nice - I needed more
practice on the KLR, and the ride really was lovely - it didn't feel like
long days of hard riding at all. You truly are enjoying the ride, not just
getting from point A to point B.
There are a LOT of different kinds of motorcycle boots out there. Some are
mostly about fashion and not about protection for a crash. Some are mostly
about foot protection rather than fashion, and of these, some are laced up
boots, some use Velcro (or something similar), and some use zippers.
Motorcycle instructors and various books emphasize the importance of having
a strong boot that fits over your ankle, and that actually fits. I made the
choice to wear work boots instead of motorcycle boots, for a variety of
reasons: any motorcycle boots I've tried on in a store don't fit me (many
have actually been painful to wear), I'm not willing to buy and return the
dozen or so motorcycle boots online that I would need in order to possibly
find a pair that would fit properly , and work boots not only provide the
protection I need, but also are VERY comfortable (something I need as I walk
a lot during motorcycle trips) and there's a much, much larger selection to
try on and choose from offline, in stores. After trying on a lot of boots, I
went with Irish
Setter work boots, size 8 for men (extra wide). An added bonus: they
give me more height for my motorcycle, which makes riding (especially
stopping) even more safe for me. For this choice, I got a firm
dressing down on a women's motorcycle forum, so condescending that I no
longer contribute to the forum. Never a peep out of them if a woman
chooses to wear a leather jacket with no body armor, but heavens, my boots
will kill me. That kind of nastiness is usually the domain of ADVRider!
On another, happier note: it was awesome to see so many women motorcycle
riders this weekend on such a variety of bikes. I have nothing at all
against women who ride as passengers - I still love sitting behind Stefan -
but seeing so many women riding makes me SO happy, because I know just how
much they are enjoying it.
Tips for Women: Getting Started as a
Motorcycle Rider (just to ride, not necessarily to travel as well)
Return to the broads abroad home page
For Women Who Travel By Motorcycle
(or want to)
Advice for Women
Motorcycle Travelers: Packing
Advice for Women Motorcycle
Travelers: Transportation and Accommodations Choices
Advice for Women Motorcycle
Travelers: Suggested Books and Web Sites
From Oregon to the "Lost Coast" of
Northern California (Horizons Unlimited 2010 California meeting) -
Oh, Canada...Two-Week Canada/USA Tour by
Motorcycles (Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alberta,
Montana, Idaho) - September 2010
Oregon, Idaho, Yellowstone, &
More - June 2011
Lake, Oregon 2011 (photos only)
Any activity incurs risk. The author assumes no responsibility for the use
of information contained within this document.
A Broad Abroad | contact me
The art work and content of this
page is by by Jayne Cravens, 2006-2012, all rights reserved