1047 mi of Oregon Desert, hot springs, sand, gravel and rocks
It started out cold and windy but the weather predicted was to be warmer and typically fall-like in the high desert of central and eastern Oregon. The published routes available travelling border to border are great and the stories we’ve read describing dead-ends, unmarked tracks, faulty GPS information and general backcountry adventure are very inspiring but we have our own routes and enjoy the familiarity of the tracks without all the map study time. Even though we’ve ridden some of this country for years, it’s always different and always rejuvenating to return. There was sand, rocks, water crossings, some more rocks, 95 mph dirt roads, rocky step-ups, a few short pavement sections, lots of ranch gates, rocks, cattle guards, deep-rutted silt beds, really rocky downhills, large, embedded rocks with loose rocks on top followed by smaller rocks and eventually perfectly smooth desert gravel - with some rocks layin’ around. 3 bikes were fresh and ready to see the sights one last time before the winter sets in, brand new Husky TE610, fairly new KTM 950 S and my 640 with about 11k on it. I had been out this way back in June and wanted to push a bit further east instead of south into Nevada to see some new country. On the advice of IdahoeJoe and Daisy, we decided to use the Owyhee River as our target destination. The maps all suck and none of us are into the GPS thing (yet), but we have the trusty binoculars, know where the big roads are, have some ideas from Joe and our own experiences to guide us through some unbelievable situations. The other fellas will be posting their shots and daily interpretations in the next few days.
You guys got some stunning pics.
Looks good :thumb Any more pics?
Hey, I just returned from an Eastern Oregon tour on my 640Adv as well. Did you guys trailer out or ride? I may have seen you on the road down toward Owyhee.
More to come?
Looking forward to the report!
For the first time probably ever, my bike was ready to go well before midnight and I actually got into bed before midnight. didn’t get to sleep until about 3 am though - got up at 6 and met the fellas in Bend on the south end of town.
Stihlrigg has photos of the first 30 mi or so. I just like to get this out of the way and get into the desert.
Beyond this sign the landscape changes. We’ll leave the big ponderosas behind and get out of the red volcanic stuff.
It had just rained a little bit, not enough to cut the dust, but plenty to leave tracks and allow us to spread way out. I know this section pretty well and you can haul ass through here. Good visability and not many places for Bambi to hide.
It’s unusually cold. I blew the switch on my grip heaters and didn’t replace it. Could’ve just hooked up the wires but figured it’d be warming up soon. This road is a blast on a big bike. Huge sweeping sandy corners in open country that allow you to see the apex. 1st time I rode this was about 15 years ago on a DR350 and that was the day I knew I needed at least a 600.
The Husky still has the stock 3.2 tank on it as we couldn’t find a bigger fuel cell. So TG is stuck packing fuel in his saddle bag and on the 950. Later in the trip, they’ll resort to my camel for gas. Note the 'Tri-hull, Boston Whaler' hair on the Stihlrigg.
We make the sand dunes in good time. It’s really windy and still pretty cold although my hands are warm now. The sand is kinda hardpacked and we all wish we could unload the gear a roost around here for an hour but we need to keep rolling and fuel is a component in our decision to keep on.
The 950 is scary big and sounds like an airplane coming towards you. Stillrigg put the Q pipes on it but it has healthy roar when he’s on it and it he’s on it most of the time.
The first of many wire gates to open and close behind us. Not as many as in the spring though because most guys have brought their cattle down to graze nearer the ranches so there are lots of gates open.
Into this forested area filled with sand. Super fun riding (better without all the gear on the bikes but still fun) through random ponderosa and large juniper trees. Bermed up corners and small airs. The Husky is real happy here.
The 950 is eating the sand and spitting it out the back voraciously. Every time I stop to photograph the thing coming at me I chicken out and take the picture too early. Another half-second and the front wheel was 10” off the ground - bike roaring past the camera.
Great pics. :thumb
OK - I finally figured out the multiple image thing - thanks GB.
So we leave the soft surfaces and prepare for what I remember as 30 miles of tortuous rocks and lava flow.
The route sometimes goes north in order to go east. Lots of zig-zagging through this area. It took me quite awhile to figure this out but it’s so worth it.
Totally obscure tracks through fairly remote desert here. The only time it rained us (except at night) was this area. It even hailed pretty hard later in the day but not enough to make a big difference.
There are these little mini-playas between the pure rocks sections. 950 making dust way back there, TE comin’ atcha.
The payoff for getting through all the stones is this bitchin’ sand road with beautiful corners. Almost like riding a street bike through here with all the nice mini-berms and perfect lanes through the sage.
Stihlrigg charging the 950 up on Wagontire Mt.. Rain and hail chasing us towards lunch.
The wind is howling and that squall is threatening to become a real storm. We’re close to lunch and our fuel stop now though and we’ll get there without a soaking because we can really fly on these sandy roads to Wagontire.
Stihlrigg has better photos of Wagontire but it’s a ‘motel’- cafe - gas - pump situation on hwy 395 about 35 miles south of hwy 20. They used to be open all the time and it was pretty nice but the guy shut’er down and split the county. The new guy, ‘Hoss’ is the real deal - old cowboy from Oregon who’s running the show now. He didn’t have gas in his pumps but drove up to Riley the day before and had 10 gallons for us. He also cooked us up a really great burger. During lunch, the weather blew over and it warmed up considerably. 2 years ago, we spent the night here and had planned on making a guest ranch in Nevada the next day. We got all juiced up 'cause it was raining pretty steady and the report was for nice, fall weather. We awoke to 5 inches of snow which changed everything and immediately doubled our hangovers.
Cool ride! Get some more pics up there.
What tires are you running on your 640? My 908s are looking pretty thin.
I'm running Pirelli MT 21 with the 140 on the rear. Fairly good all-round tire, seems to NOT flat so easily, big blocks, keep it under 75 mph and it'll last about 1500 mi on the rear and maybe 2500 on the front.
Fueling up Oregon Country style. Leave the rust in the Jerry can and let’s head out!
After Wagontire, the route becomes quite remote. This area still confuses me from trip to trip but we always get through it.
The weather has lightened up a bit although it’s still windy which is working in our favor. You can really spread out and still see the other guys’ plume.
SO, I blow a turn and we ride about 2 miles of rock to a stock pond dead end. There was a fire up there a few years back and it all looks differnt. No worries, we know that the road we’re on goes somewhere and so it does.
TE on the way. Real nice desert gravel 2-track, almost no dust.
Had to stop at the ‘Rock House’ (I’m sure the other guys have shots of the structure). We are about an hour and a half from our first nights’ camp and the light out here is spectacular.
One year and a half ago, solo, I hit mud (more like a foot of oatmeal) crossing this ‘dry’ lake bed. So freaky to get the bike turned around and push it in second gear, rapped out with giant mud bell bottoms on my legs. Not this day though. We are almost to camp and the bottle of tequila in my saddlebag.
We are only about 10 miles from camp on the left side of this butte.
Day one was great. 247 mi of really fun riding and all the bikes are running perfect. No flats and we are SO out of town it’s not funny. With every mile and each hour passing, the 'importance' of work diminishes. I have no cell phone, no laptop, my little family is happy and healthy back at home. With any luck I'll pull up back at the farm in 6 days to see my hay cut, ready to be baled, the lawn still green, my funny dogs barking at me like they don't know who I am and my beautiful wife smiling. Which bag is that tequila in?!?!?
Great stuff :thumb
Would you consider doing an annual ride/get-together out there at some point? That riding looks ideal and I like that you guys don't use GPS, just maps, compasses and hope. I bet there would be plenty of interest from guys in the Northwest, let alone the rest of the country.
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