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Day 7
June 11th, 2007                                         
Motel 6                                                   
Richland, Washington 

There are days on the road of just riding, experiencing the motorcycle, seeing places, meeting people, and having a good time.  Then you have days like today, where the ride is almost transcendtial, and the witnessed scenes beyond what you can explain to the casual observer.  A day when you have a profound connection to all that is around you.  It is if the world is rolling by and you're in a easy chair only observing.   Your heightened mental state joins your emotional, and you might even feel overwhelmed, but at the same time a relaxing, easy feeling soothes you. 
I had such a ride on this day.  Everything about it stands out.  The weather, the roads, and the awe inspiring scenery.  I felt humbled by my family and friends, some still here with me, and the others that have passed on.  What they taught me, and what many still give me, were with me on this ride.  Riding in the land of Crater Lake will do that to a person, I will do my best in the following to tell what it was like, but I don't see how I can fully accomplish such a task.

Last night I decided to ride south to Heppner, Oregon to pick up the ride Dennis Ryan and I made in 2002 from Pendleton to Crater Lake.  That ride was special, and riding it again would be a good thing.  Since Polson, my thoughts about my lost friend were constantly with me.  Places we rode, stopped, and spent time, were everywhere, and every time I saw one, I felt like I'd been time warped to 2002.

The morning was brilliantly bright.  The sun seemed phosphorous in the way it lit up the sky and land.  The air was cool, and I thought back to hot and humid Alabama, and what might be going on there.  I took I-82 south to connect with I-84.  Traffic was non existent and the 1300 and I were eager for the miles ahead.

                 Home on the Dalles.   I was riding by this farm on 207
                when I spotted these horses out for a morning stroll.

The addiction for the Long Rider is the unknown, the thought of riding to somewhere new just to see what is there, is FUN.
Tracing back to the turn off in Spokane, I'll be riding south all the way to San Diego, about 1500-1800 miles, would not see another drop of rain for the next 11 days.

I crossed the Columbia River at McNary Dam and went into the Dalles region of Oregon.  A land of doll drop hills and wide open spaces and farmland.

                "I slid off the the interstate for the land beyond."

The SR 207 exit appeared and I slid off the the interstate for the land beyond.  The road seemed to be calling me as it fanned out into the far off countryside.  The pavement was excellent with bright markings down the center.

"What a great ride this," I wanted to hold the peacefulness of it, but life is not like that.  Soon this day will be gone, and I will be onto the next, but I will always have this moment, and in my heart can always go back to it anytime I want.

I found this barn and windmill at the crest of a steep hill on

After 3 days of steady winds, the day was calm.  I stopped for a few pictures and a gentle breeze swayed the tops of the high grasses in the fields.  When the photo op was over I was back on the road taking on a few nice curves as they road went south.

                                            SR 207 in the Dalles of Oregon.

In Heppner, a small town surrounded by hills, and desert looking farmland, Main Street gives addresses to the white buildings and shops.  I pushed the flasher to the right of the ST near a con/store/ gas station and came in for a break.

"stopped for a few pictures and a gentle breeze swayed                                                     Old Fashioned phone booth.  Antelope, Oregon
 the tops of the high grasses in the fields."

I took out my sandwich, bought a bag of chips and Mountain Dew, and found a booth near the window.  The old men that normally occupy such places were noticeably absent, and I wondered why.

The Motorola, now fully operational with a new battery had a strong signal so I called my son and spent sometime with him.  I was still kind of sad he was leaving Central Alabama soon, but made no mention of that in our conversation.  I remained up beat because I wanted him focused on what he needed to do on the eve of this great opportunity.  If he is worried about his parents, he can't do that.

A newspaper, sections scattered on a nearby booth and chair was ripe for the taking, so I picked it up to read while I ate.  The big news was a local city worker in Walla Walla with 40+ years of service in the recreation department was retiring.  He was in his 70s.  "Why did he work so long?  What will he do at 73 for fun?"  Were questions that immediately came to me.

A mail carrier brought in the morning mail, and commented on the Honda.  "A great looking motorcycle you have."  She was middle aged, and dressed in street clothes, not a postal uniform, but I think that is the norm for rural carriers.

"I noticed you are from Alabama, you're a long way from home."

"yeah I'm on the way to Crater Lake and then California."

"You're on vacation?"

"yeah sorta"

"How do you sort off go on a vacation?"

"Well I retired a couple of years ago, so I really don't have anything to take a vacation from."

"Well, that makes sense."

I called Uncle Phil to check something for me.  "Hey bro, check and see what gates are open at Crater Lake."  "Hold on."  He came back, "both gates open, unlimited visibility, but the low tonight is gonna be about 28."  "Dang how'd ya find ALL that out in 30 seconds?"  "Gotta know where to look."  Knowing which gate was open can be the difference in a 80 mile ride around.

On the way out of Heppner I noticed a memorial near a small town park.  On impulse I pulled in to read it.  It commemorated a flash flood that swept through the town in the early 1900s killing almost 300 people.  Half as many as all of Hurricane Katrina.  I found that amazing.  A short but intense storm in the hills filled the small creeks in the area and the water came crashing through the canyons and swept the town away without warning.  Back then there were no cell phones, radio, or TV to give the town a hint of what was coming.  People were going about their business when suddenly a torrent of deep, fast moving water was on them.  A man jumped on a horse and rode hard down stream to the next town, and the residents quickly went to higher ground.  His actions saved hundreds of folks that day.

Many of the victims were never found, I can't remember if their names were listed on the memorial or at City Hall.

The morning was moving quickly as I carved the 1300 on SR 206, home to long sweeping curves the next 50 miles.  Long drop offs were common, any mistake carried a fatal price.  The shoulder was scattered in gravel, and pea sized rocks, and I had to constantly read the road surface.  I took it easy, I was a long way from home and didn't know the nuances of the road or what to expect.

                     Looking down at the road  ahead, I could see cloud
                    shadows gliding across the hills.  Magnificent riding.

According to the GPS, elevation was several thousand feet.  The morning Dennis and I came through was cloudy and somewhat damp, but the skies today were perfect.

ust east of Fossil you find the 45th parallel, and a sign noting you are half way to the equator from the North Pole.  Dennis took my picture that day at the marker, I repeated it as best I could.  

My good friend, and riding partner, Dennis Ryan, took this
picture for me in 2002.  In less then 2 years he would

2007.  Looks like someone trimmed the bushes in the 
background, but nothing else has changed.   The clarity
of the Sony DSC-W100 digital, pales the old fashioned 35
mm throwaway I handed to Dennis that morning.

The road dropped out of the hills as I went past the John Day Memorial on SR 218.  The air was cool and dry, and for a southern boy use to the thick, humid air of the Cotton Belt, quite refreshing.  

 "​When is a ride more than a ride?  When you have a road like this, a great motorcyle,
​and on the way to Crater Lake with all day to get there."

The miles went by fast in the rich riding area of East Oregon.  No one was on the road  as I went through deep canyons.  My first taste of this area came in 2000, in my Prelude.  What a great car that was.  At the time I thought it could answer my need for 2 wheels, and while it was fun, it was NOT the same.  That day was much like this one, sunny and cool, and all I could think that day was, "I wish I had a motorcycle."  Six months later I bought the 1100, and sold the Prelude not long after that.  The rest you know.  Perhaps one day I will buy another car.

For some reason 218 takes a hard turn north at the tiny crossroads hamlet of Antelope.  A place of  3 houses, a closed down store, and a phone booth stuck out in the parking lot.  "So why do they have a phone booth?"  No one was about to ask, so I took 293 and rode to Madras for lunch.
Madras is one of the bigger places this side of Oregon.  After a great morning of riding and scenery, I saw it was 11:20am, and true to my pickle plant days, time for lunch.  When I worked there we took a 45 minute lunch starting at 11:15 and I thought that was good.  Places a guy ahead of the crowds.

I scoured the area, and saw the Subway Dennis and I ate that day, but today I wanted something with a more local flair.  The Burger Shack in the middle of town boasted the "world's best hamburgers," so went over to test the advertising.

At the Burger Shack you place your order at the window and when ready a young lady brings it to your table.  While waiting I put in a few notes and looked over the pictures and video I'd captured earlier in the morning.  "I took some good footage today."

Six yankees in a mini van with Michigan tags, saw my bike out front and came in for lunch.  They were older then middle aged, and one guy spent 15 minutes telling everyone about his new golf swing.

The hamburger was probably not the world's best, but not bad.  "Man I'm eating so bad on this tour, going to take weeks to get back in shape when I get home.  I don't know why my willpower is so lackluster this tour."

A bank was located across the street so I made a quick jog over to pull some cash out of the ATM.  When I got back on the bike, I whipped in a Texaco to top of the tank.  I know how remote Crater is, and wanted to be ready.

Madras to Crater Lake on U.S. 97 is not a good ride.  Nothing much to see, and too many cars, and a run over 100 miles.
But south of Bend you do get a nice view of Mt. Bachelor.

                                           Mt. Bachelor as seen from U.S. 97, south of Bend, Oregon

I kept my speed down but still managed to pass slower traffic without much problem.

As I approached Crater Lake my thoughts seemed to focus more on the area and its beauty than anything else..  The weather was perfect, and I was looking forward to my arrival.

I stopped at the same rest area from 2002 just to walk around and relax a little.  I had a good signal and called Debbie.  "Yeah I'll be at the Lake soon, I might not have a signal later and wanted to call ya, so if you don't hear anything else today, know I'm ok, and having fun."

At last the turnoff for the Park came and I left U.S. 97 on SR 139.  Last year I made a run for the lake but cold and rain beat me away.  I made a vow that day to return, and I was living up to it today.  I asked the lady ranger at the booth if the campground was open.  "No not yet."  "Well dang, I'll hafta to find someplace else I reckon."

What a contrast in last year and now.  That day in 2006 found me near this gate in cold, cloudy conditions, with a stinging sleet falling, but today the sky so blue it looked artificial.

 SR 139 is a long straight shot to the entrance, and rises several thousand feet in elevation.

Because I was on a motorcycle entrance fee was only 5 dollars.  The best money a guy will ever spend.  The park road makes makes a long gradual climb to the rim, rising a thousand feet about every 1.5 miles.  At 3500 feet I started to see snow, and by the time I neared the rim at 6000 feet, the snow pretty much covered everything.

                                           I rode past snowfields on my way to the rim.

The temp plummeted to 31 degrees and the unlined leather gloves I had on were lacking.  The area around Crater Lake is on of America's great snowfields.  The road was free and clear but white stuff still knee deep in the woods.

After a 20 mile ride I was at the rim and looking breathlessly out over Crater Lake.  It moved me to a point I was numb in the cold, thin air.  It is a view unlike any other.  The lake has the bluest water, and I could see it rippling far below in the soft wind.  I first saw the lake in 2002 with Dennis and ever since it has been burned in my mind.  It is so beautiful, so quiet, so majestic it draws me for reasons I don't know.  I sat on the wall for a 30 minutes, just gazing out on it.  A few cars slowed as if wanting to stop, but after seeing me, kept going, I guess I was so peaceful looking they found it impossible to disturb me.

The lake is a couple miles across and almost 3 in some
places.  At its deepest point it is over 1 mile in depth.
The deepest lake in North America.   Because it is a closed
system, no native fish are found, though a handful were 
placed in the lake in the 1930s.

The air was so clean and fresh it made my nostrils tingle.

I thought about many things that afternoon at Crater Lake.  I was never more in touch with my surroundings and life.   Many things are connected in the weave of threads called life.  How fortunate I am to have so many good friends, a few going all the way back to Jr. High, one of the great things about living in one place for 40+ years.

I spent some time thinking how much my life has changed in just the last few years.  I lost my mother in 2005 and presently it is just my brother, sister and me.  We are a small family now, each of us had a single child-a boy.  On Debbie's side I have a few more nieces and nephews to balance things out, but on the Boutin side the numbers are low.  My mother came from a family of 10 brothers and sisters, 4 of them recently died in a span of 16 months, now only 3 remain, and none of them are doing well.  One day the unthinkable will happen, and all will be gone.  When I was young, I never thought that day would happen.  "One of them will always be here",  just how it was suppose to be.

I lost 2 of my best friends, Dennis Ryan in 2003 from my riding circle, and Ray Holder in 05 from my coaching and child rearing days, a man who highlighted that life chapter brightly.  They are irreplaceable.

Here at 7,000 feet, I sat in deep thought about all that, but I did not despair.  My life is good and my family and friends are a good reason.

                                                         Wizard Island

The things that matter most I have plenty off, and while at Crater Lake I was reminded of that.

I left the turnout and followed the rim road all the way to the lodge.  Most National Park lodges were built in the 1930s, a result of the National Works Program to combat the depression, and what a treasure they are.  I took more pictures of the lake, then strolled through the lodge.  A huge fireplace had a fire going, and several patrons were gathering in the dining room for supper.  A gentleman relaxed with a book in the lobby in front of the huge windows that offered a panoramic view of the lake.  Been me, I would've sat outside on the deck, but that area was in shadows and cold.

I checked into spending the night at the lodge while planning this tour, but was taken at aback at the 300 dollar a night price tag.  Only way I spend that kind of money, I have Debbie with me.  But what a great place.

                                           Beauty that can't be measured.

The sun was moving around to the west and it was time to bring to close my visit to this special place.  While here, the absence of Dennis was especially profound.  I fired the 1300 up and made my way down the mountain to the south entrance, and got on SR 62.  

I could see why the campground at Mazana was still closed-covered in snow.  "I'll ride down to Union Center and find the campground from 2002.  It doesn't have a shower, but I'll make do."  
The ride down from Crater was good. The trees were thick and tall, and I met several Gold Wing and Electra Glide riders on their way up.  The temp climbed into the 60s as the elevation moved to 3,000 feet.

The federal campground was easy to find, and after a brief chat with the host I was sitting up camp near the creek, same spot as 2002.  Only 1 other camper was in the area and he was far down the line. 
I camped next to a nice river, and under tall Evergreens, a great spot.  Dennis found the campground that day in 2002, and was really excited about sleeping here.  He could get that with the most simple of things.

I love sleeping in my tent when the weather is good and 
I have a spot like this.  Some just don't know what their 
missing.  No motel room is as quiet, neat, clean or as comfortable.
You'll never find one with a view like this for 10 dollars.

After setting up camp I went to Becky's for supper, located about a mile on SR 62.  Another scene from my 2002 tour.
The parking lot was empty when I eased in.  It was late afternoon, and supper time, "I have the place to myself?" I was thinking.
Becky's is a small cafe, about 7 or 8 booths, and 4 tables. Long ago it was a gas station of some kind, but only a restaurant now.  The food was good in 2002 so I came back, but there was nothing else close anyway.

I took a seat at a table because it allowed me see out front to the highway.  I hate rooms with small or no windows.   The owner/waitress/hostess brought a menu and I said-

"look here baby, I'm gonna be good for business, when folks see my bike my out front they're gonna swarm in."
"ya think?"

"yeah, people are strange, they DON'T wanna be the only jokers in a place, especially a local one,  I dunno why, but how it is, when they see that won't be the case, they'll come. One of my theories on that is they don't wanna be under the scrutiny of the locals. They can be the ONLY folks in a Applebees, but in a place like yours?  Noway. Besides, folks believe Long Riders know where all the best places are, so my bike is gonna pack them in."

"Hope your right."

Not 10 minutes after my arrival at least 4 cars had stopped and the place was half full, and before I left there was a line.
I was eating when I saw from my vantage point a 40 something lady leave the small motel across the highway and come in for something to eat.  She was seated in the table next to me in the now crowded cafe.  She looked uncomfortable, and kind of lonely.  Not one to be shy, I spoke out to her after she ordered-   

"Hey how ya doin?" I asked.

"I'm good, and you?"

"Couldn't be better, so what brings you this way, the lake?" 
"yes, I'm going there in the morning.  It will be my first visit."

"It was beautiful there today, it will knock your socks off with its beauty.  Where are you from?"

"California, I take a trip like this each summer."

"Good for you."

"You are staying at the motel?"

"no baby, campground up the road"

About that time, my food arrived and I invited her to sit at my table.

"Look here, why don't ya sit here, that way I ain't gotta turn sideways to talk, I'm harmless, just ask my wife.  What's ya name?

We chatted about things over supper.  It was good to have company over a meal for the first time in days.

"Your wife doesn't mind you being gone for weeks at a time?"

"well most of the time no, I mean she misses me and I miss her, but I have to ride"

"you've been to so many places, I dunno if I'll get the chance to go all the way east, harder for a lady alone."

Denise had been divorced a long time and her children were grown.  

"I just want to see a few things, but all this is new to me"

"the more trips you take the better it will get.  Look here I gotta get back to my tent, and besides its too cold in here to sit much longer."
The waitress brought my ticket over, and said, "well you were right."

Denise said to me, "about what?"

"Just a side bet I had with her, about my bike outside being good for business."

"Well I did notice it on my way in."

"There ya go, have a safe trip, perhaps paths will cross again?"

I went to the register to pay my tab, and asked the lady, "why ya keep it so cold in here?"  "You're cold?"  "YES."  Well it was hot in here".  "I don't see how ya get that, but ok."

It was almost dark when I made it back to the tent.  I missed not having a shower or shave.  I felt like Jeremiah Johnson. 
Not sleepy I broke out my DVD player and watched Hostel.  What a WEIRD movie.  The soothing noise of the nearby river was hypnotic and I drifted off to sleep the natural way.   I remember thinking, I'm gonna put this day in the Hall of Fame of rides.  It had been a great day.