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Old 09-25-2013, 04:47 AM   #1
sloweddy OP
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Location: Corvallis, Oregon
Oddometer: 93
Steens Mountain / Cycle Oregon Tour 2013

1150 miles, ~ 25 gallons of gas, 500lbs of CO2 & 1.5 qts of oil

Much of it without pavement, most of it without traffic, and most of it through "sagebrush country".

The Flickr Fotos for this trip are at :

Day 1: Corvallis > Sisters > Brothers > Burns
Day 2: Burns > Diamond > French Glen > Kiger Gorge Overlook > Steens Mountain East Rim > French Glen Mile Marker 60 Camp
Day 3: French Glen > Fields Station > Denio Junction Nevada > Bog Hot Springs Nevada > White Horse Ranch Hot Springs Oregon
Day 4: White Horse Ranch/Willow Creek Hot Springs > Fields > Alvoord Desert > Mann Lake
Day 5: Mann Lake > Crane >John Day Fossil Beds National Monument> Fossil, OR > Shaniko Ghost Town > Bake Oven Road > Maupin
Day 6: Maupin > the no highway, no traffic, backroads over the Cascades route > Detroit > Mill City > Albany Burgerville > Corvallis

Rode through wide open country where antelope, wild horses, wild burros, coyotes, yellow bellied marmots, bald eagles, an amazing variety of migratory birds, and rattlesnakes roam - but I saw almost no wild life this time. Much of the time I was very focused on the road ahead and more importantly - I didn't have my sweetheart with me. She is an excellent wildlife spotter! (And she is a wonderful woman. We were supposed to do a September trip together - but she needed to help her folks in Gold Beach. I felt conflicted about taking off for vacation w/o her but she told me "Go, explore, enjoy" and she really meant it.)

I did hear the coyotes harmonizing at Mann Lake late one night. I love hearing their voices and wondering about their song sessions. Do they ever feel as mournful as they sometimes sound when they howl together?

Even though I didn't see much wildlife to speak of - I did meet many interesting people along the way. Local folks, especially the good folks in French Glen & Fields really helped make the trip special. And there were some cool travellers I met in Burns, on Steens Mt, at White Horse Ranch and Mann Lake. Perhaps because there are so few people out there, the encounters one does have are more appreciated. Kindnesses and valuble bits information exchanged out in remote areas can be especially appreciated.

Day 0: I was going to leave on Sunday (8 Sept) but decided to take my time with trip prep and do some random stuff (yard & garden) aroung the house. It was nice not to feel rushed at the beginning of the vacation. Packing went ok - but I couldn't find my Thermarest, so I borrowed a friends. It would turn up later : )

Day 1: Corvallis > Sisters > Brothers > Burns

Started this trip (like I do for so many outings) heading east on U.S. 20, America's longest road. The ride over Santiam Pass is always beautiful but despite all the hard work done by ODOT each year some sections of the road are often sketchy - rock fall, sunken grades, the occaional avalanche off of Hogg Rock, etc.

Hogg Rock (which is a "Tuya") picture courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Stopped in Sisters to see my younger sister and some family friends. Had a great visit & lunch in the little park on Elm Street. Thanks for the great lunch
and "road food" care package Sis!

Rode from Sisters to Brothers, which made me smile, but I should have stopped for gas in Bend.

Brothers has a cafe w/ gas pump, but it closes 4:30 & I didn't get there until almost 5. Rode the last 27 miles into Burns/Hines on reserve.

The view from Brothers looking back towards the Three Sisters of the Cascades:

Taxidermy while you wait? The Artistic Taxidermy Antelope Station - Hampton OR

When I rode into Burns I saw that quite a few blocks of Main Street had been blocked off for some event and for a moment I thought "that is very odd on a Monday night". Then it hit me. Cycle Oregon was in town! Burns had even put up some decorations to greet the riders:

I had planned on meeting up with Cycle O (an annual bicycle tour with 2000 riders that I used to do ever year for a decade or so) somewhere along the way - but I thought I would catch up with them later in the week and hadn't expected to run into them my first night out.

Got a room at the City Center Motel (30$!) - not the nicest room I've ever seen but good enough.

I spent some time visiting with the folks who ran the motel and with the young guy who was staying in the room next to mine. He was sort of stuck in Burns for a while. He left Wisconsin planning on moving to Chico, CA - but the engine on his Subaru died (rod bearings) near Burns and he had to have a used engine put in. That used up most of his travel/move money, so he was working in Burns for a while. I liked his attitude and it reminded me of younger days when I was wandering around the country.

Finally got down to where Cycle Oregon had set up their stage. I could hear it from quite a few blocks away.

Wherever Cycle Oregon sets up camp it is a huge party. Great music, a beer garden, people dancing, people wandering around. Cyclists checking out the town, town folks checking out the cyclists and people getting to know each other.

As I walked up to the stage I saw "Captain Hawk" who is a (now retired) airline pilot I had ridden with for many years. This year he was riding on a tandem with his 16 year old son. I think those two could make a tandem roll pretty fast. He filled me in on which of the "old gang" was riding that year. Most of the "back of the pack" bohemian riff raff I used to hang with aren't doing the tour anymore. There are still lots of really nice folks doing the ride, but I don't see any of the non-conventional attire (tie dye, hawaiian shirts, etc) on the riders anymore - they are almost 100% spandex & cycling jerseys.

The next morning I was able to catch up with the 3 Amigos (Keith, Bill & Ed) who are great guys I've had some excellent times with on past Cycle Oregon's. So good to see them still doing the ride!

Day 2: Burns > Diamond > French Glen > Kiger Gorge Overlook > Steens Mountain East Rim > French Glen Mile Marker 60 Camp

Rode past ~ 2000 bicylists spread out over many miles - and thought about the ADVrider "Bicycles on the Road" thread which is currently at 3429 posts and growing. I gotta believe that the percentage of haters w/ anger management issues in the general population isn't nearly as large as the average internet discussion forum demographic.

I love to see people bicycling. Being a bicycle enthusiast is big part of why I became a motorcycle enthusiast too. This has been repeated in the "Bicycles on the Road" thread repeatedly - but there are good bicyclists & not so good bicyclists, and even the good ones can do dumb things (I know I have often enough) just like there are good motorcyclists and not so good motorcylists. So many people see things as black & white, but we live in a very colorful world.

So I rode (carefully) past the very colorful groups of cyclists until I got to their destination for the next two nights - a big field near Diamond OR.

In September of 2001 I was on Cycle Oregon XIV. This years route was almost identical to that ride.

On 11 September 2001 we rode into Diamond. We had heard the news in the morning at breakfast, and got some updates along the way from the Cycle Oregon staff & volunteers, but didn't see a TV set until we got to the Diamond Hotel. The good folks at the hotel set up a TV outside (and in the lobby and in their "ice house") so that people could see what had happened in NY, DC & Shanksville, PA.

If you ever get the chance this is a great place to spend some time. Really nice folks and great food served family style - so the dinner's are a social event. If you go in May there will be flock of birdwatchers who can tell all you want to know (and maybe more : ) about the birds migrating through the Malheur NWR.

(photo from hotel diamond website)

Here's a shot of the camp this year at Diamond. Not many of the riders have set up their tents yet. The red tents are a special deal - more on that later. Maybe.

This is a picture from another year that shows what it looks like when people start setting up their own tents.
An amazing variety of tents & a good place to go tent shopping. You can see how easy they set up, what features they have and sometimes how they hold up to high winds, rain, etc.

(picture is from

After I checked out Cycle Oregon's campsite - I headed on to French Glen (to be continued...)
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sloweddy screwed with this post 09-28-2013 at 10:47 AM
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Old 09-25-2013, 07:56 PM   #2
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Location: Corvallis, Oregon
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Picture Glitches Overcome - Finally Got Some Loaded

Not sure why some of the picture URLs just don't work when I try to post an image. Tried several things - and found that right clicking a Flickr photo to get the image URL works better than using the URL Flickr provides under "Share Picture" - still had some images that didn't display until I tried selecting the URL for a different image size.
Any other Flickr users out there experienced this?
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Old 09-28-2013, 10:50 AM   #3
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Day 2: Steens Mountain - continued...

Day 2: Burns > Diamond > French Glen > Kiger Gorge Overlook > Steens Mountain East Rim > French Glen Mile Marker 60 Camp

After checking out the Cycle Oregon Diamond camp I headed out to my primary destination for the day: Steens Mountain...

I rode into French Glen & got gas & supplies at the French Glen store - note: French Glen store used to be cash only, now they have a card reader and can accept debit & credit cards! If you stop there it makes sense to spend some money and to be patient and considerate with the folks who run the place - they provide a really valuable service in a remote area. The store seems to be better stocked and doing a bit better than the last time I was through which is very good to see.

Visited the lovely French Glen public restroom which is on the grounds of the Frenchglen Hotel. I thought the lush Hops plant growing over their outhouse was a very nice touch:

I should have asked if anyone is using these hops for brewing. "Outhouse Ale" or "Outhouse IPA" would be a good name for the beer made with them : )

I also went into the hotel to see if they might have a room for the night. Even though I wanted to camp out as much as possible - I thought the big advantage of getting a room was that I would be able to leave most of what I was carrying on the bike in the room and be able to ride the Steens Mt. Loop without all that extra weight. They didn't have any rooms available - but they said I could leave some bags with them while I riding! I was so grateful and it made a big difference on the ride up the mountain.

This section had been on my mind for weeks. I was excited about it but also more than a little apprehensive. I had only been on top of Steens Mt. once before and I had been the passenger in a friend's Ford 150 van. I remembered some sections as very rough. People go up there in passenger cars, but cars aren't prone to tipping over in rough sections like motorcycles can. Here's what the BLM Steens Mt. website says: "We recommend high clearance or 4x4 vehicles for primitive roads, including the steep and rocky portion of the Steens Mountain Loop Road near South Steens Campground. The rest of the Steens Mountain Loop Road can accommodate passenger cars at lower speeds."

The first couple miles out of French Glen were deep, chunky gravel - not my favorite stuff. About as much fun as riding in mud or sand.
But when I got to Page Creek Campground the road changed to an almost ideal surface. Hard packed, not too much loose gravel on top and the bike seemed to float over the washboarded sections really well. It was wonderful.

Beautiful ride up, the road kept climbing but it was deceptive - I really didn't realize until I got to the top how high above French Glen I had climbed. The road goes up above 9500' - not nearly as high as the passes in Colorado, but it is the highest road in Oregon.

Stopped at Kiger Gorge overlook:

I would like to spend some time there with a good pair of binoculars the stands of Aspens down in the gorge are beautiful.
I talked to a really nice couple who made it a habit to come up there several times a year and they told me about how cool it is to see the area through the changing seasons. We talked about road conditions on the loop. They said the "back half" of the Steens Mt. Loop was a bit rougher than the section I had already done. I thought about that as I continued on....

Rode on up to the East Rim Overlook. What a view! Steens Mt. slopes gently down towards the valley French Glen is in on the west - but the east side of the mountain is a nearly vertical 1 mile drop off. Really dramatic and rugged.

I took a series of panoramic shots from the Rim. Here is one of the first of them, looking towards the north, the rest on Flickr:

Here's a shot looking towards the south at the Alvoord Desert:

From the East Rim Overlook you can continue up a short ways to the summit (9733') to where the telecommunication towers are. I decided to save that for my next trip up because I wanted to be able to get back down & set up camp somewhere before dark.

And I took the easy way (the way I had come) going back. I was curious about the back half of the loop but I loved the ride coming up so much that I decided to go for the sure thing that I knew I would enjoy. I figured going to the summit & doing the back half would be a good incentive for doing this ride again.

What a view on the way down! It is like the difference between climbing up Mt. Hood & descending it (but not as scary) - on the way up one is just looking at the climb ahead. On the way back down you realize how high you have climbed and have a bird's eye view of an amazing panorama spread out ahead.

This shot doesn't begin to do it justice but I rode west into the valley below feeling very happy and fairly relaxed:

I got back to French Glen (still hating those last 2 miles of chunky loose gravel) and picked up my gear from the hotel:

image is from this site:

dang! just lost the last section I typed, here goes again:

I talked to John Ross, the proprietor of the French Glen Hotel for the last 22 years. What a great guy! And, not surprisingly, he knows so much about the area. I told him I really didn't want to ride back to Page Creek Campground - and that I was hoping to find someplace witha view on BLM land. He suggested I ride up Catlow Valley Rd (sorry for the bad ADV joke - but this highway is 205 : ) to mile marker 60 and check out one of the dirt roads heading off from there. That was a great suggestion and I don't think I would have been likely to find it on my own, especially that close to sunset.

Here's a a shot of the view from my camp spot looking east across the valley at Steens Mountain: had been an excellent day of riding & I felt fortunate to find a "room with view" to spend the night. The ground was a bit uneven and there wasn't really a good flat spot for tent, but I found a sort of u-shaped dip in the ground that looked like it might be fairly comfortable.
I spread the tarp over it and gave it a test sprawl - not bad! When I pulled out the compression bag that I thought my sleeping bag was in, I was surprised to find my missing thermarest and a lightweight fleece bag liner. Then I remembered, that was what I had packed for the July "Lost Coast" trip I took this year. So, I had 2 thermarests & no real sleeping bag - but except for feeling kinda dumb it wasn't really a problem. I used the motorcycle cover as a windbreaker & when it got cold that night I threw my riding the jacket over the top. Plus I had a down jacket to sleep in. It got fairly cool that night, but I was warm enough.

It was beautiful as the dusk turned to dark and the stars began to fill the sky. The last 3 September trips I took were really good - but I didn't see much in the way of stars for most of the nights, because of fires burning throughout the PNW. This night was fantastic. The sky was crystal clear and the stars were brilliant! I love seeing the Milky Way spreading out across the sky and watching the stars moving (very, very slowly) across the sky. I like to find the North Star before the Big Dipper sets (that's the only way I know to find Polaris) and try to visualize the rotation of the planet I'm laying on. Really thankful for nights that don't require a tent, even though it is sort of weird to know that a coyote or other critter could come up and sniff my face if they were so inclined. I'm a pretty sound sleeper though and I probably wouldn't even notice : )
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sloweddy screwed with this post 10-04-2013 at 06:18 AM
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Old 09-29-2013, 10:16 PM   #4
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Thumb Nice report

I haven't been to the Steens since the 90s ... I love the smell of sage, the wide open expanse of that part of the state, and the dazzling stars piercing the night sky. Thanks for the "revisit" even if only from my couch, eh?
"All the problems we face in the US today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian." Pat Paulsen
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Old 09-29-2013, 11:27 PM   #5
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Thanks Mr Fixit. I am almost to the part with the "the dazzling stars piercing the night sky" - that is a great description.
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Old 09-29-2013, 11:33 PM   #6
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gaspipe [the original]

Hair of the dog that bit me, Lloyd...
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Old 10-04-2013, 04:57 AM   #7
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Day 3: French Glen > Fields Station > Denio Junction Nevada > Bog Hot Springs Nevada > White Horse Ranch Hot Springs Oregon

Woke up and made some coffee. Then I walked around a bit. Found an old rusty can dump that looked liked the remnants of a miner's or hunter's camp. Should have taken some pictures - it was odd. Lots and lots of old cans scattered under some trees. Didn't look like the trash heaps you see when someone dumps a load of house trash in the sticks, maybe it was from a sheep camp or some rancher who would camp there.

Packed up and took a quick shot of the divot I had slept in - it was much more comfortable than it looks:

Rode back into French Glen expecting to see hundreds of cyclists blasting down the twisty hill and hanging around the hotel & store - but I found out they got turned around before the fun downhill section because of a cattle drive on 205/Catlow Valley Rd. It would have been interesting to mix a herd of bicyclists with a big herd of cows - but the ride organizers decided that wouldn't be a good idea. I did talk to one cyclist who had started out early and rode down to French Glen anyway.

I did a quick oil top off - the KLR uses enough (especially on long fast sections) that it is a daily ritual, and I reinflated my tires. I had let some air out of them yesterday for better traction on the Steens Mt. Loop. I don't think French Glen has a compressor for public use, but I had my little electric Slime (tm) compressor along - and small footpump as a back up device.

Next stop was Fields Station. I had been through there, but hadn't stopped for their famous burger & shake. It is really worth stopping for! The food was delicious and the people who run the place are really nice - a little more upbeat than the last place I had stopped and just as appreciated for providing an oasis & much needed supplies in remote country.

Sitting at their lunch counter is a great way to meet some fellow travellers. One of the people I talked to was Tim Blount who keeps the computers running for the Harney County School District. Really nice guy, who loves his job. He puts in a whole bunch of miles travelling between the schools in Oregon's largest county. He could use some help with getting parts to keep those computers running though. He said he has to do some creative scrounging & sourcing to get power supplies, keyboards, monitors, etc.

I forgot to grab a picture - so here is a shot I borrowed from Eric Hovmiller's Flickr site - his description said there were owls nesting across the street, and he has a cute picture of one:

here's the link to his Flickr site:
and here is the owl shot he took - very nice:

When we were in Fields around Memorial Day a year or two ago there were bird watchers in the street wandering around with binoculars looking at some kind of feathered creatures. We were on our way to Whitehorse Ranch and didn't stop to ask them what species they were observing.
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sloweddy screwed with this post 10-04-2013 at 06:16 AM
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Old 10-04-2013, 06:30 AM   #8
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Great report so far...looking forward to the rest of it!
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Old 10-15-2013, 12:55 PM   #9
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looking to ride this area next year .... great report !

so no gas at Burns Jnctn eh ... but some not too far away ? ..
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Old 10-15-2013, 01:14 PM   #10
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There's gas in Rome but you might have to get the cook in the diner to unlock the pump.
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