Day 9
June 14th, 2006
Columbia Inn                                                         
Astoria, Oregon     


Another rainy morning greeted me in Astoria.  Dark, low flying clouds draped the area, and a steady rain pounded the pavement.  Now I know why the Inn had covered parking- it never stops raining in this town!
Rain clouds roll in off the water, and butt up against the mountains, like those foamy waves you see in sloughs along a lake. Why it always seems to be wet here.

I checked with Heather Tesch on the Weather Channel, and received a radar snapshot.  Rainy this side of the mountains, but the other side looked ok.  She can make the worst weather look good.  A guy on a bicycle went pedaling by so I figured I had no excuses to delay.  With the ST idling, I slipped the key in the drop and got on the road.
​Another wet and gloomy morning greeted me in Astoria
My goal today is Crater Lake, spending the night in south Oregon, either Grants Pass or Medford.  If the weather is good I'll camp somewhere close to the lake.

The Honda took to the wet streets of Astoria.  While waiting out a traffic light I looked around- the river flowed out to the Pacific, a man was walking a white dog on the sidewalk, and a shade went up the 2nd floor at a house across the street.  Astoria reminded me of fishing villages clear across the country in Maine or Massachusetts.  Like I said, just another day in the harbor town, rain or no rain.

I wanted to visit Fort Clatsop but it was just too wet.  I didn't feel like walking around in the rain, and the park didn't open for another 2 hours.  "Not hanging around that long."

The day was dark and overcast, and the lights of the 1300 glistened on the wet road ahead of me.  I moved south down the coast on 101 through a string of coastal towns.  None looked very prosperous.  No high rise condos, elegant dining shops, or goofy golf.  Just rows of old houses, a few rickety beach shops, and run down local motels.  The water is too cold for swimming, and no sun for tanning, so not much to do here.  At least the place is safe during spring break.  I guess I was trying to compare it to the white sand, blue green warm water, and intense sun of the Gulf Coast that I love so well.  Now there's a beach.
​  The Oregon coastal towns kind of depressed me
Oregon was never under European domination, we came about it directly from the Indians.  I learned that in history 101, and for some reason thought of it out here in the rain.

I love the linked brakes and ABS on the 1300, especially on a wet day like this one.  Just one less thing you have to think about.  I'm use to getting smooth braking with just the lever, when I'm too lazy to move my foot to the pedal.  

I picked up views of the coast between breaks in the trees, and could see a few hearty souls strolling the surf.  I guess if you waited for the sun to come out around here, you wouldn't get much done.  
 "I picked up views of the coast between breaks in the trees",
In Wheeler I had a nice conversation with the flag girl while a front end loader pushed gravel around the shoulder.  I was there 10 minutes.

The sections of 101 I rode on this day were not challenging, nothing like the Hotel Coast, but not bad riding.  I was even getting use to the rain.
​Cloudy Coast
Tillamook, a busy seaside town, a few miles off the coast, was in the middle of a work day when I arrived.  I split off in the first con store that looked like it had a table inside, for gas and a sandwich.  I'd been in and out of a steady rain all morning.

I brought my sandwich box inside, snagging a drink, and enjoyed my break.  I'd been thinking about Megan (my niece in Va) and called her.  Meg is the little girl we never had, she's 10 years old.  Baseball and football kept my house covered in boys, so I missed the enjoyment little girls bring.

"No baby I'm in Oregon, that's a long way from Virginia."

"But you're on a trip, and you always come see me when you ride."

"baby, not always, I'm on the other side of the country this trip"

"well, just ride here tomorrow"

"sweetie I CAN'T ride to Virginia in a day, but I'm coming to see you soon"

I was putting notes in the Axim when a young college age boy came over.  His face smooth and boyish looking, he had 10-11 well groomed whiskers, and bangs across his forehead.

A loaded down touring bike with Alabama tags is as good as it gets for conversation starters.  Why I always bring my helmet in with me, to let them know it is MY bike out front.

He asked- "So what brings you to Oregon?"

"nothing really, just seeing the country."

I knew I had him hooked.

His eyes burned with wanderlust and the fever of adventure as I recounted not only this trip, but many of the others.

"god I wish my dad was here to hear this.  He'd give his right arm to do what you do.  He goes on all the time about selling the house, quitting his job, and traveling around the country."

"Well life is about change, things are always changing bro.  Most jokers are too busy living to see life, if that makes any sense to ya."

"He tells me I should live his life for a year, and then I'd know what the ballgame is all about."

South out of Tillamook I took SR 22.  I'm good at trip planning.  In order for me to get to Crater Lake and South Oregon,  I knew I was going to have to leave the coast.  I'd seen enough to get a taste for life here, and now it was time to get across the mountains, and into the valley of I-5.  It was not raining to the east, and I was ready to escape the incessant drizzle.

Like a trap door, I went from coastal riding, to slicing through a thick rain forest.  SR 22 leaned me around the trees, and hills as I made my way across the mountains to warmer temps and drier weather.  A mist hung in the woods and I kept a sharp lookout for deer.  The tree line was close to the road.
​SR 22 cuts this swath through the rain forest
At last the rain faded, and the roadway was dry!  Like a canine going out for a walk, the ST bolted upright in anticipation.  I twisted the grip and carved up the road as best I could.

Traffic was absent as I rode to Salem, I shot around a few slow moving cars but nothing else.  It was good to feel like a motorcyclists again.  Wet, rainy roads really limits a Long Rider and what he can do.

The closer I came to Salem the more crowded the road, so I hung back. 

Getting through the city to I-5 was painful.  But I'll say this; after the sad and washed out towns on the coast, it was refreshing to see a vibrancy in the air.

I had my only "close call" of the trip in Salem, and it concerned a bicycle.  I was moving through the city, scanning for trouble and looking for route signs, when a joker on a bicycle, coming off a hill, came through a stop sign trying to swing right.  I saw him out of the corner of my eye, and swerved left.  Not all that close, but startled me.  I don't know where he came from, I checked the road before arriving at the intersection but I guess he was hidden by a car.

At last I made it to the interstate and joined the mayhem south on I-5.  Just think, a guy can ride from Canada, all the way through the Hotel California to Mexico, and never see anything.  Thanks, but no thanks.
The Cascades were off to the east and I could see clouds hanging over them.  Out here on I-5 it was mostly cloudy, but not raining, temp in the low 70s.

I ate a quick lunch at a McDonalds just south of Eugene.  I was on the interstate, and good local places are hard to find.  I ordered the usual.  Two small hamburgers.  I was eating lunch when I came to this conclusion.  " I don't feel like getting wet and cold in the mountains around Crater.  The weather looks bad over there, and even if I make it to the lake, no guarantee I'd be able to see anything.  I've seen the lake in pristine conditions before so not like I'd miss anything.  I'll just ride south on I-5 to Medford and hope for better weather tomorrow going into the Hotel."

The Cascades had pelted to me the last few days, and I was reluctant to go back in if I didn't have to.

I called my son, but delayed calling Debbie.  "If you talk to your momma tell her I'll call her tonight."

Traffic was heavy on I-5, the primary north-south connector in this part of the country.  

A short ride after lunch I was in Rossenburg gassing up, the exit for Crater Lake.  I pulled into the Chevron station and a guy comes over to pump my gas.  (in Oregon they DON'T let you pump your own.  No kidding they have a law)  I made a big mistake when I asked-

"so how long to Crater from here?"

"about 20 minutes."  I knew something was wrong, the map said it was about 80 miles.

"what about the weather?"

"oh its good, I just looked at the radar, nothing going on south or east.

"Well heck, in that case I WILL make a move for Crater,"  I said.

I left I-5 and went to SR 138 with the intent on spending time at Crater.  The lake is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  

Riding east I could see darker skies ahead, "but radar said no rain in the area," so didn't worry about it.

About 15 miles east of Rossenburg the traffic dies out and I settle in for the ride.  The road is good and I can feel it taking me gradually up in elevation.  I'm losing a few degrees every 5 miles or so.

SR 138 bent were the Little Umpqua River bent, and the riding was good.  I met 3 sport bikes in a long right hander, they were leaning hard and unable to wave back at me.

The river next to me was full as it beat its way down over the rocks out of the mountains.  I stopped for several photo ops.  High, rocky bluffs overlooked the water.  Amazing scenery.
​Little Umpqua River
At a construction zone I asked the flagman how much further to Crater.  

"not far, but the north gate is closed, you'll have to go around to the south."

"do what?"

"rim road still not cleared of snow"

"well counting the detour how much further to the lake?"

"about 40 miles"

The third bad piece of info I received.  The first being 20 minutes, the second no rain, and now this joker and his 40 miles.  When it was all said and done it was close to 100.

I went through Steamboat, which was nothing more than a collection of cabins and trailers.  

Crater Lake.  Klamath braves use to climb to the rim and bathe in the icy waters to cleanse their spirit.  The area is quite remote, as the Honda and I continued on to "cleanse our spirits."

Riding the now lonely road through the thick evergreens, I thought about a lot of things-like home.  A spitting rain was beginning to fall, and the temp kept dropping.  I was only at 3000 feet, and I knew Crater is at 6 so it was going to get colder with perhaps snow.  "But who knows, the sky could clear when I go over the peaks."  Wishful thinking.

I thought about home, and how at this very moment it was 90+ degrees with a stifling humidity.  Boys were getting ready for their evening baseball games, with parents in shorts and t shirts, sitting in lawn chairs.
And here I am in these dark and eerie looking woods, trying to get to a place that didn't want to be found.  The forest was surreal, as a cold rain began to fall.  Droplets gathered on the Honda's screen, and fewer and fewer cars were coming at me from the opposite direction, telling me every one had left Crater that was going to get out.

SR 138 to Crater is very deceiving.  Instead of taking you 4000 thousand feet in 10 miles, it takes 50.  At times you don't feel like you're moving up, but the temp gauge on the ST kept telling me otherwise- 55, 51, 48, 46 and bottomed out at 41.

At Diamond Lake it was cold, and the surrounding mountains were heavy in snow.  It snows here as much as anywhere in the country, 400-500 inches a year.   The area is rugged and remote, but fantastically beautiful.  I was cold in only sweatshirt and leather gloves, and pulled over to add the insulated vest to go under the Roadcrafter and switch to lined gloves.  It made a big difference and knocked off the chill.

I was on the shoulder of the road and noticed how quiet it was.  The scene could be a dead of winter snapshot for most any area of the country.  Dark skies, snowy mountains, what daylight there was quickly slipping away.  I could see fog in the summits.  "Man, I'm not gonna be able to see a thing at Crater, gonna be just like St. Helens."

A fine sleet swirled around me, sticking to the Arai, but quickly melting on the Honda as warm engine air drifted up.  It was nasty, and at the same time beautiful.

"you ok?"

"yes, just putting some warmer clothes on"

Keeping the Honda near the speed limit was hard.  At times the tree line was 30 yards from the highway, that combined with an excellent surface made for a fast tempo.  I sped through the countryside looking for the turnoff.  No one on the road but me. 

At last I made it to the south entrance, the sign reads,  "Crater Lake 26 miles."  Dennis and I came this way in 2002.  What a difference in that day and this one.  It was sunny and gorgeous that day, and visibility on the lake was unlimited.  I remembered how the sun light shimmered in the blue water.  It was amazing.  But none of that today, and the thing is I knew I was within a few days of the exact date.  Weather in these mountains can be so fickle.

Click here for the ride story and pics of that day.

With the 1300 idling, I gazed at the road ahead.  I remembered it as a straight shot to the rim, if I take it will be 60 miles to get back here- 23 miles to the rim, another 10 checking it out, then doubling back.  In all, over 60 miles, returning to this spot at dusk.  From here another 60 through the forest to Medford.  Not going to be able to camp in the area, too cold and rainy.

Going in translates a long, dark ride through a deer infested forest to Medford.  I thought it over.  The pay off was not worth the risk I reasoned.  I've seen the lake, and all I'm going to see today is fog and mist.  I thought about the long dark ride with moose, and deer prowling the road-and folded.  "I can't do it, too risky."  If I had never seen the lake, I might go, but even then I might find a place to hold up and try for it the next day.  After Larry Grodsky (a well known safety expert about motorcycling) was killed by a deer in Texas, on a dark road on the prairie, I KNEW I had no business at night on a thickly forested road in Oregon.  I owe it to my family not to be foolish, including my wife, son, nieces and nephews.  I had sobering thoughts about them receiving a phone call I was hurt in Oregon.  (I'd NEVER ride so fast at night to get taken out fully by a deer, but a broke leg still ain't fun).

I looked down at the gas tank, then back up to the sign in the stinging sleet,  "Crater Lake 23 miles."  I smiled when I dropped into gear, and pointed the Honda at SR 230 and Medford.  "You got me today, but I'll be back."  I left the turnoff and worked the gears back up to cruising speed.

My decision left me 2 good hours of daylight to get out the mountains, and into Medford for the Motel 6 I know to be there.  Still, I was scared of deer. The environment is too good for then not to flourish.  Daylight means I can see them better, doesn't immunize me from a ambush,  but increases my odds of having of a good outcome.  The only defense you have in a deer encounter, is seeing him before he sees you.

I'll never forget this ride in and around Crater Lake.  The atmosphere was so dream like.

Down out of the mountains I came, temp gauge quickly moving up, and boy did it feel good.

I passed the campground in Union Center, the one Dennis and I overnighted in 2002.  If the weather had been better, I would've stop again.
​SR 230 near Crater Lake.  Deer Alley.  No way was I doing
it in the dark.

A red SUV came up behind me, I had an idea.  I slowed, moved to the right and let him by.  "You take the point, and I'll follow."  I put a gap between us that would make it all but impossible for a bambi take me.  

With my front door a little more secure my speed settled in at 65, and soon I was at a auto parts store parking lot in White City, calling Motel 6.  A hunch told me they were going to be busy tonight, so I booked ahead.

The streets of Medford welcomed me about thirty minutes before dark.  The 800 operator told me the Motel 6 was located on I-5 so I followed the signs to the interstate, and found the unit without much problem.

I finished the day with 432 miles, but it seemed like more.

The lobby was crowded when I walked in removing my helmet.  I moved in line and waited my turn. 

"yes, I see you have a reservation, you just got my last downstairs room."

I looked at the 2 middle age ladies standing behind me, and said, "M'am I'd feel foolish taking that room, with these 2 ladies behind me, just give me an upstairs, I think I can manage it."

"are you sure"


One of the ladies said, "thank you sir, we have a lot of luggage, I'm glad to see manners are still in fashion in Alabama."

My travels take me everywhere, and I'm diligent about being a good ambassador for Alabama, and Long Riders.  I want to leave people a positive impression.  To be honest, I look for ways to convey that.

I toted my stuff upstairs and settled in room 212.  I like Motel 6.  Mostly clean, and orderly, but lately getting pricey. 

It was getting dark so cleaned off the 1300 with Plexus and went upstairs to shower.

I called Don and advised I was on schedule and would be in Eureka as planned.  The local weather guy said things would be better in the morning and most of the clouds would be gone by lunch.  Hooray!  No rain in the forecast!  He was a lot harder on the eyes then Heather on Weather Channel though.

Don told me Alan Tryhorn and Ray Antasek were also coming.  Both are friends from  STOC.  I was looking forward to it.

A long walk followed to a restaurant called Elmer's, where I had grilled salmon and rice.  No secret I like to rev up the waitresses, and this girl was pretty, but would NOT shut up.  I needed to make notes, edit photo and video, and call home, but she would NOT give me a minutes peace.  "Oh my god I created a monster, this girl is NOT going to leave me alone."  I wished Uncle Phil was here.  I'd go right out to one of those river bags, get out his duct tape, (he carries everything) and tape her mouth.

"yeah baby that's good but I gotta get goin"

"oh stay around and chat, we're not busy tonight, I like to hear you talk"

I didn't know how that could be, because she never gave me a chance to get a word in. 

"Here let me get you some more diet Pepsi, but you know diet coke is good to, and but I mostly drink water because of blah, blah, blah.

"My boss is blah blah blah blah, I live in blah, blah, blah, I bet you've seen some yakity yak things, but I went to New Mexico one time and saw blah, blah, blah, and the next year we went to LA and yakity, yak yak yakity."
I tried to get on the phone thinking it would keep her away.  "Oh put that up, and let me tell you the best places go in Medford."  

"no need baby, I had long ride today, I'm going back to the room and crash."

"My boyfriend takes me to blah, blah, blah, all the time, because we like the blah, blah, blah there, and its close to blah, blah, blah, but yanno so and so is good to, lemme tell ya how to get there yak, yak, yak.

"Get me outta here God and I'll never rev up a waitress again."

I bolted out and ran back to the Motel 6.  I was afraid I'd left things behind.

In the room I relished in the peace and quiet.  I made a PB and J sandwich for in the morning and looked over the atlas.  Tomorrow will be a short ride, but it will be good.

After clicking channels for an hour, I drifted off to sleep, looking forward to finally getting to California.