“Ugh…so sore…”

Day 3 started slowly, as every fiber of muscle tissue in my legs and upper back pleaded for me to not get up, even though I’d slept for nearly 10 hours!  Yesterday was a fun day of riding, but totally wiped me out.  I finally managed to get up and get to the shower (though my shuffling looked remarkably similar to some old Tim Conway skit).

I packed up the bike and checked out of the no name hotel after an exceptionally long and hot muscle relaxing shower –(one of the benefits of this poor economy is the nearly empty hotels when you travel, meaning more hot water for you!)-  I ran the bike a couple blocks over to the Sumpter Junction Restaurant for breakfast.  This is your usual greasy spoon fare except this restaurant has an electric train that circles through the building as you eat.  It circles through many times, with fun little clickity-clackity train track noises as it goes.  Over and over.  Every minute or so. Around and around. Yes, about every minute and 15 seconds.  Here to there and everywhere the little train would go.  Clickity-clackity goes the little train.  Over and over.  Every minute or so.  Around and around, clickity-clackity, until by the time you’re done with your omelet, you’re ready to take your butter knife and jam it in the nearest electrical outlet in the hopes of popping the circuit breaker and putting a stop to the incessant clattering, though the thought of electrocution doesn’t sound so bad either.  Luckily they hadn’t provided me with a butter knife, so I managed to leave just in time to keep my sanity.  Ten minutes out of Baker City I stop and snap a picture at an overpass at about 9:30am, Monday August 15th:

It’s a calm morning with no wind, and temperatures already in the mid-60’s.  Off to the north I can see the signs of the coming weather system, and recall rain was predicted for the valley tonight.  I wondered if that meant the gorge would be windy, as my plan was to possibly head all the way home today unless I find someplace interesting to stay around Grass Valley. That decision is still a bit off though so I get back on I-84 and continue heading north.  More boring highway riding, and I find myself steadily doing about 15 over the speed limit.  The FJR is really comfortable cruising at about 80 or 85MPH, and it takes effort to keep it under that.  Luckily I’ve had exceptional luck thus far in my riding career and have avoided getting any tickets.  I’m sure at some point I will have to pay the piper, and when that happens I’ll understand that it’s the price of admission to play.  (Though I’m sure I’ll still bitch and moan about it) 😉  I think I’ve looped once through my iPod now and I’m hearing songs from just 2 days ago again.  The monotony drags on and I start to get achy and fidgety.  My muscles are still tense and sore from yesterday and I start looking for spot to pull off for a break.  About 10 minutes later I’m cresting this hill and the sky darkens into a roiling cauldron of clouds that look like they could open up and dump rain any minute.  There’s a viewpoint area here at the top of the hill, so I stop and and snap this panorama just outside Meacham, Oregon:

No rain falls as I continue up I-84 reaching Hermiston, Oregon around noon.  I stop in and visit with my aunt Phylis for a while.  I tell her how I’m going to Grass Valley and she looks at me like I’m lost:  “Why would you go there?  It’s barely even a town”.  I explain how a couple years ago they opened this race track out near there called  “Oregon Raceway Park”, and since I’m out here I wanted to stop in and check it out, and I might even stay in a hotel there or in Moro.  She shakes her head and tells me she doesn’t think there’s anything in either town, but she’d like to see pictures of this raceway.  After a bit more catching up I take off and continue on I-84 towards Rufus.

More boring highway riding, though a few miles before Arlington these 2 trainer jets came flying into the gorge from behind me, streaking alongside over the Columbia River and for a split second I’m Tom Cruise in Top Gun racing the jets!  -And after that split second the jets are up and over the Washington side of the gorge and out of sight-  (Sometimes it doesn’t take much to amuse me)  I turn off at Rufus and cruise out Scott Canyon Road to Hwy 97.  Its fun to be back in some twisties again, though the weather is getting pretty hot, and I’m starting to feel it.

As I pass through Moro I note what looks eerily similar to the Bates Motel (but is in fact The Tall Winds Motel, and the only motel near the track it seems).  I actually rode right through Grass Valley without realizing I had ridden through the whole town.  The turn off for ORP should have been here somewhere according to my maps.  I turn around and stop at the gas station in Grass Valley and fill up the tank and talk to the attendant.  She pointed out that there’s a little sign up the street by the school that says “Welcome Racers” and that’s the road to turn off on.  After a bit of water, another Luna bar and about 15 minutes of a break I’m ready to get back to the road.  I find the 2 foot high sign that could just as easily have said “Girl Scout Bake Sale”, and turn off in the hopes that this really is the right road, as it leads me out to the middle of nowhere.  After a few minutes I crest a hill and notice off to my left the beautiful black track of ORP.  I then promptly find myself holding up over 600 pounds of motorcycle as I nearly eat shit, having pulled into the deepest gravel that I’ve ever seen!  “Gah!”

(My heart is pounding and my muscles screaming as I keep the bike from falling over and get it straightened up). “Crap, I can’t turn around in this stuff…I have to try and get through it…up past the gate it doesn’t look so bad maybe”  About 4 or 5 minutes of fighting the clutch and loose deep gravel, and I make it the 50 or so feet to the gate attendant who remarks “Deep gravel huh?”

The only response that I could muster seemed to sum it up for me at that point:  “Jesus Christ!”

“It’s not so bad up past the gate here.” he says “Just stay in the car tracks”.

It was better up past the gate, and I managed to get the beast up onto the paved parking lot, and took a nice long break to recover my wits and snapped some cool pics of the Porsches that were at the track on this day:

Having had the 7 or 8 minutes of practice I now knew the trick was to keep my speed up in the deep gravel so that my front tire wouldn’t sink and dig in.  This of course meant that if something did happen, it would be a glorious fall in gravel.  Luckily, my glory was not to be found this day, and I made it out of ORP intact and crash free.  It really does look like an amazing track and some day when I can coordinate trailering a bike out and staying in a motel or something overnight, I think doing a couple track days on it would be incredible.  I’ve done a few track days at PIR now, where you pay a fee and an organization hosts a trackday at the racetrack so you can go out and really let loose:  have fun, practice technique, and improve your skill set.  PIR is a fun track, but it’s fairly open with long front and back straights, and virtually no elevation changes.  ORP on the other hand looks much more technical and some day I look forward to experiencing the difference.  (Though for today I’m happy to have just survived the gravel entrance).

I was feeling pretty beat and not up for staying a night in the Bates motel (I mean Tall Winds Motel), so I settled in for the long ride home and was thankful that the gorge wind was not that bad this time through.  I stopped in Portland at about 5pm and visited with my Mom for a bit while I waited for rush hour to get over, and told her about my trip.  She was of course excited to hear about my travels, though having grown up in Prineville, couldn’t imagine any sort of draw to traveling through Central/Eastern Oregon.  I keep thinking one of these days I’ll get her on the back of the bike for a little trip, but it hasn’t happened yet.

I finally got home around 8pm, totally wiped out.  My mind and body were done and while it had been an amazing trip, the heat and intensity of the miles caught up with me and I promptly fell asleep…

“…Clickity-clackity, clickity-clack, clickity-clackity”

“ARGHHHH!”