There was fun, sun, cerveza’s and of course a dash of rain. Mixed in along the way was some imperfect weather, but what can a person expect living in the northwest in June?! It’s an imperfect world and besides, many riders revel in the glory of making it through adversity. Not me… I like perfect weather versus keeping track of the number times I had to dawn on rain gear. But that’s me.
At any rate, the opening sentence pretty much describes the high level summary of the ride situation to Baker City for the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally (HCMR), but if you’re the kind of person who reads the manual, ferrets out all the details and amazes friends with all your product knowledge then read on…
The posse started this ride on Interstate 84 to pick up a buddy in “Googleville” (aka The Dalles) then at Biggs Junction we rode south on Hwy 97 to Wasco. From there we traversed Hwy 206(Wasco-Heppner Hwy) to Condon. This stretch of road offers up a lot of sweepers and depending on which type of bike you ride it could be fast or a mental exercise to stay alert. You’ll never get lonely on this stretch of road, not because of the number of RVs or automobiles – there are none – but because squirrels frequently run out across the road to challenge your dodging skills and if you’re real lucky you’ll get the occasional mule deer to snap you back to reality.
From Condon we rode Hwy 19 to Fossil where we took a detour on Hwy 218 to the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds. The Clarno Unit is located 18 miles west of Fossil and is just under a couple thousand acres in size. It’s a remote area and Hwy 218 is a real joy to ride. There is nothing which explains the exhilaration of roaring out of tight corners and setting up for the next hairpin. There is an odd trend in this area of marking an entire set of 6+ curves with one single sign marked with the speed of the slowest and tightest of the entire bunch of curves. The first 5 corners are truly 45MPH then the last one is a 20MPH right angle with gravel on the apex. Good to see the state saving money on road signs! The views of Central Oregon’s near-desert environment are astounding and this highway was nearly empty of anything other than a variety of grasses, sagebrush and juniper. The cliffs of the Palisades are the most prominent landform in the Clarno Unit and the trip wouldn’t have be complete without a photo op.
We back tracked the 18 miles to the junction of Washington Street and Seventh Street (Hwy 19)… street names in Fossil make it seem like a big town – it’s not. We then proceeded south to Service Creek then to Mitchell and picked up Hwy 26 east (essentially follows the Oregon Trail) to John Day, Prairie City and then we veered off at Bates onto Hwy 7 (Whitney Tipton Hwy) toward Sumpter.
Along this area we unfortunately came upon a motorcycle accident between Sumpter and Baker City just after Philips Lake. The rider failed to negotiate a sweeper and laid the bike down. The footboard and engine guard made deep grooves into the asphalt as the motorcycle and rider slid off the right shoulder of the road down an embankment onto some soft brush. The rider narrowly missed hitting a guard rail and survived with only minor injuries. Very fortunate. The motorcycle was towed away. Traveling this route was basically going from one mountain pass to another separated by valleys, small towns and river valleys. The passes were over 5000’ and the changes in temperature were notable until we arrived in Baker City.
And speaking earlier of accidents… the following day (Friday) we learned and responded to voicemail’s from people who were concerned about a motorcycle accident on I-84 which happened around noon and whether it involved other members of the posse who were in route to the rally. It didn’t, but sadly a 63-year-old Albany man was killed and a 50-year-old Lebanon man was seriously injured about four miles east of Troutdale. The two were part of a group of 12 people, aboard 10 motorcycles, heading for the HCMR rally. Michael Pamplin, 63, was riding a H-D in the middle of the group when he lost control and crashed to the pavement. Even worse was the fact that he was run over by another motorcyclist in the group, 50-year-old Keith Corbett, and died at the scene. Corbett was taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center with serious injuries. It’s unclear what was the main precursor to causing this wreck…
Postcard From Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally – Part 2 HERE.
Photos taken by editor.