The GenieBra!

You know you’re on a wondrous motorcycle trip when you’ve just spent the last hour mesmerized by a GenieBra infomercial in your Best Western hotel room at 4 in the morning.

I managed to fall back asleep for a bit, and got up in time to find myself disappointed by the “continental breakfast”.  Let’s see:  Coffee, fake creamers, bagels and Eggos with those little fake butter pats and Log Cabin syrup with mini Sunny Delight bottles for the kids.  Really?  I had to Wiki what a continental breakfast should be…holy crap…fruit?  Sliced meats? And cheeses? Brioche? (I don’t even know what the hell that is, but it sounds way better than Eggo).

So I skipped the “Breakfast”, checked out, loaded up and was on the road by 9am, August the 14th.  It was a nice morning, with a dry cool breeze, the sun was already up and behind some overcast skies that hinted at the heat to come.

My route out of Prineville was to take me east up Hwy 26 until I turned north at Mitchell and continued on 207 to 19 for a gas stop in Spray.  Comfortably cruising, just me and my tunes in an almost Zen like state something barely registered, like a far off whisper:  “…painted hills….”

“Wait did I just pass a sign?”

“Did it say the painted hills?”

“My Aunt said I should check out the Painted Hills, but I thought they were over by John Day, and I haven’t even reached Mitchell yet…”

“Shit, I better turn around and check.”

So making a u-turn on a fully loaded touring bike, running a car tire, on an old 2 lane highway with a rock face on one side and a cliff on the other is tricky business.  You try to think back to all the little tricks you learned in BRT and from the internet:

-Turn your head full around behind you

-Counter weight the bike to the outside peg

-Mind the clutch for speed modulation

-Drag the rear brake just a little

-No!  Don’t look at the gravel, look at the lane, you’ll make it

I made it, but just barely.  I think I’ve heard of some of the big touring bikes having an electric reverse, which would be an awesome cheat option.  So far I’ve been lucky not to drop this big FJR.  It’s got some scratches up the right side already from the prior owner, and I’m certain it’s just a matter of time before I add my own.  But 1 mile back from where I came, and there we are!  Painted hills this way, 6 miles.

Now what they don’t tell you is that it’s 2 miles of ok road, followed by 2 miles of questionable road, wrapping up with 2 miles of seat puckering rutted, humped, holed, and wallowed gravel!  Holy crap, this was the worst decision ever!  (Remember how I was talking about the impending dump of this big fully loaded touring bike just a minute ago?  Well it didn’t happen here, but damn it could have!)  I’ve ridden gravel on the SV before and it wasn’t so bad.  You just have to be mindful, and let the rear float around a bit and be really gentle with any front brake, and in this case favor the rear brake.  But this road, and this bike were like oil and water.  I came so close to either dumping it, or taking it off into the sand, it was crazy.  I have to imagine it was a combination of the poor road, and the car tire on the back.  I’ve been really surprised by how easy it is to manage with the car tire, and how excellent it performs in general, it’s only ever a bit wonky under 15MPH or so, where there’s not enough force to let it really have a “middle”.  At these slow speeds it tends to “waddle” back and forth, as the flat rear tire fights with the rounded front tire to agree on a “line”.  I have to imagine this was playing a significant role in my battle with this 2 miles of Gravel road today, and was it worth it?  Well, I’m hard to impress. It was a beautiful day, and I’m glad I saw it, but the hills themselves were:  “Meh”.  (I’m thinking of officially changing my middle name from “Kyle” to “Meh”…. “Matthew Meh Clark”, it has a ring to it).

After taking a break to eat a bar, drink some water, and clean out my pants, I headed back through the 2 miles of hell, followed by 2 miles of pain, followed by 2 miles of “bet you won’t do that again”, and got back on 26 to Mitchell.  I rode through Mitchell, which is to say, I turned off the highway at a sign that read Mitchell, and turned around noting that of the 3 buildings in town none was an open gas station.  So I headed up 207, getting back in the groove with some nice sweepers and good music.  I stop for a bush bound bathroom break when the road T’s at 19 and snap a pic of a cool outcropping against the desert blue sky.

I continue on 19, stopping in Spray to get gas, then continue on 402 which winds you up through the trees.  I really don’t know what is so different about desert sky from western valley sky, but it can be amazing, and I stop to grab a couple more pics before I get into the technical riding:

It’s a short jog from 402 up 395 to turn off on Upper Middle Fork Road or (County Road 20).  What looks like 40 miles of bliss filled twisties turns out to be this old wagon road that follows the flow of the creek, and while yes it is amazingly filled with corners, there are lots of tar snakes warmed and gooey in the 90 degree heat, cattle grates in the middle of corners, and plenty of unmarked corner speeds where you have to use your best judgment.  Suffice it to say that out here in the middle of nowhere, on your own with a fully loaded bike, it’s not the time to pretend you’re Colin Edwards.

 

After about 10 miles of the heat and the rhythm of the back-to-back turns, I started to think about how riding a new and unfamiliar road was a lot like having sex with a new woman:

-You’ve got to be in control at all times, but let go just enough to have fun with it

-You have to get a feel for the curves, and learn what points work well with her, and which don’t

-You have to be firm yet gentle with the controls, and let her be assured you know where you’re going

-You have to be able to read her feedback and make sure that what you’re doing is on the right line for both of you

-Every once in a while take a break from the intense focus, and enjoy the view of what you’re riding on

-You have to keep all your actions smooth and maintain a good rhythm and enjoyable pace for both of you

-You’ll  find you need to slow it down just a bit, especially when everything in your body starts screaming “Faster, FASTER!”

-Finally, make sure the rubber stays where it is supposed to be, or she’ll get pissed and you’ll be on your ass and all alone before you know it!

 

I had to stop for a break twice (not to rub one out as you might think…though I do still have fond memories of that GenieBra infomercial), but just because the heat and the road were pretty intense and at times I could tell I was getting sloppy with my turns.  Ultimately, County Road 20 took about an hour to complete and I picked up Hwy 7 just past Bates, and cruised sweepers into Baker City where I grabbed a room at some no-name motel for the night, and slept the hardest I’ve slept in a long time!  It was a good day!

 

-Continue to:  August 2011 Oregon Trip – Day 3