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Archive for the ‘Forest Fires’ Category

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 9.10.26 AMThe Pacific Northwest…bounded on one side by the pacific ocean and the other side is the mountainous Rocky’s.

It’s perfect for finding a two-lane crowd-free by-way and rolling past acres of lush forest.  Those acres can turn into meandering hours of riding the countryside on a motorcycle.   In fact, the Pacific Northwest HOG rally will be hosted in the picture-esq Northwest (Portland) in a couple of weeks where we will deliver the aesthetic vision of why we ride!

Welcoming the 1000’s of riders to the adventure will be hot and dry weather.  Not only will they encounter the best weather temps, but they will also have to deal with wildfires.  Yes, the west could be described as being on fire!

Wildfires In Oregon and Washington State

Wildfires In Oregon and Washington State

The fires across the region have forced evacuation, burned down structures and created breathing issues for some.  Twenty minutes outside the Portland metro area the air is thick with particulate and smoke permeates the sky for miles across the region.  In Washington state over a 1000 people have been evacuated in Chelan county.  The Warm Springs fire (Countyline 2 fire) in Oregon has exploded into the largest fire at 36K acres.  U.S. 26 is closed at Oregon 126.

According to NatGeo, on average more than 100K wildfires clear 4-5 million acres each year in the U.S.  In 2014, some 1.2 million acres burned in Oregon and Washington and sadly this year it’s looking like a repeat.

Wildfires In Canada, BC

Wildfires In Canada, BC

In scanning the reports I got to thinking about the last time I’ve taken a motorcycle trip during the summer that wasn’t marred with a wildfire.  Of course it depends on how many miles I’ve traveled, but in a typical week long ride during the summer I realized that it’s been a fair number of years where I didn’t pass near or through a burning wildfire during a ride.  I’ve had multiple trips to Sturgis.  Through Yellowstone Park, through Glacier National Park – both with fires on multiple trips.  There was U.S. Route 550 or the “million dollar highway” that had a San Jan National Forest fire.  There was Beartooth Highway (U.S. Hwy 212) and a lingering wildfire.  I’ve taken a couple extended trips up north to British Columbia Canada and the land of lumberjacks was on fire both times.  In most all cases we were not close enough to see flames, but dark smoke and particles filled the sky for many miles as we navigated across the country.

In Washington and Oregon there are now 31 major wildfires currently burning.  See the map.  In Canada BC, there are even more.

In addition to the economic woes that these fires cause it does makes one wonder whether motorcyclists should even consider traveling the west during the height of the summer fire season.

But, life is for living and I’m not talking about the thrill of a car ride snaking through the marquee Going-to-the-Sun-Road in Glacier.  It’s about feeling small in a very big world and how that is a great thing on a motorcycle.  So, I’ll continue to plan motorcycle trips to ride the west – wildfires and all!  Sure some of my photos will be filled with smoke obscuring the mountain views but, just know that I’ll have a big smile underneath that slightly wetted down dew rag covering my face!

Photos courtesy of the Oregonian and NWCC.

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OR31On the first day of fall the saddlebags were loaded and ready for another motorcycle trip.  This time the posse pointed our motorcycles south and headed toward some promised fun in the Nevada desert. Street Vibrations was the destination, but our journey through country roads and byway’s was the largest part of the reason that we ride.

The northwest weather provided a late summer blast of heat which was much different than previous years where the threat of rain was always looming.  There were two groups rolling and I was in the second group who departed at noon.   With a solid six hours of riding ahead of us until we reached our overnight destination we didn’t have a lot of down time.  It was gas-n-go and personal refection time would be experienced while we looked at the dramatic views of high Cascade peaks.  Our route was I-5 then connect with Santiam Pass Highway (US 20).  This is a well traveled route as we viewed the Cascade peaks which is made more striking by the contrast between black lava and white snow.  Traffic was light with few commercial trucks and we made our way to Sisters in record time.  Prior to reaching the summit we picked up forest fire smoke from the Tumblebug complex.  A 10,000-acre fire near Oakridge and the wind filled the cascades with smoke.

Arm_OR31We intersected with Oregon Route 31 south of La Pine and headed east.  The highway is a 2-lane, rural road for its entire length.  I never tire of the thrill of leaning into a corner and twisting the throttle out — straightening up the bike until you lean back upright and roll into the straightaway — it’s as much fun now as it was back in the early days of dirt bikes.

OR 31 is part of the Outback Scenic Byway and goes between La Pine and just past Lakeview at the California border. It passes multiple natural attractions like Fort Rock State ParkHole-in-the-Ground and Summer Lake.  This ~150 mile route starts in the Deschutes National Forest, through stands of lodgepole and ponderosa.  As you continue south the landscape has a lot to offer; including high elevation subalpine vegetation, colorful lichen encrusted rimrocks, lush meadows, deeply shaded mixed conifer old growth stands, and sagebrush/juniper covered rolling hills. There are seasonal wildflowers and the views are stunning throughout the route.  The air is filled with bugs.  So many in fact it was difficult to view the road from certain areas of the windshield.

OR31_RestWe arrived at the Best Western motel in Lakeview with time to watch the last of the sunset and clear the windshield free of our heavy bug collection.   Dinner was at a terrific restaurant called the El Aguila Real Mexican Food and we enjoyed post dinner refreshments with a few rounds of pool at the Eagles Nest Lounge…a local “elk-hunter” bar with a number of locals playing lotto slots and explaining how they are trapped in a go nowhere town.  Interesting group to say the least.

Walking back toward the hotel talk turned to nutrition — don’t ask me why — maybe the enchiladas and bean burrito overload at 9pm set it off.  Maybe it was being denied a maple bar at the just closed donut shop and our eyes turned toward the grocery cart return which glistened under the moon light.  It made for the perfect impromptu athletic competition.  No one in town seemed to mind the multiple grunts in the early misty morning.  As a result we now have a new “chin-up” champ.  Sure fatigue prevented a Lakeview world record, but in the off season and with enough high-frequency chin-up reps that record is set to fall next year, right Steve?!

Road Trippn’ to Street Vibrations 2009 — Part 2 HERE

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Canadian Rockies

Canadian Rockies

If you’re into snow-capped peaks, breathtaking mountain passes and twisty roads mixed with the occasional waterfall… riding to the northern Rockies by way of Rogers Pass and the Canadian Glacier National Park should be on your short list.

It was a warm morning departure for our 8 day adventure of ~2000miles.  We rushed an obligatory breakfast at Elmer’s and set out leaving the city by way of the Lewis and Clark highway.

Maryville Winery

Maryville Winery

We headed east on Washington State Hwy14 (SR14) and enjoyed the sweeping views of the Columbia River before heading north on Route 97 (US97). US97 is a 322-mile route through Washington state which traverses from the Oregon state line at the northern end of the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge in Maryhill, north to the Canadian border in Okanogan County near Oroville.

Wenatchee By Moonlight

Wenatchee By Moonlight

We tried to stay cool traversing the major cities of Goldendale, Yakima, and Ellensburg through a northwest heat advisory.  Our arrival in Wenatchee was greeted with short gasps to get air as the sweltering heat set an all-time high of 107 degrees!  The day also recorded Seattle’s hottest day (103) in its history.  We’d had enough of the triple digits and elected to cool off before continuing. Note: I had the FXRG Perforated Leather Jacket on all day, but once the temp hit 97 degrees I stripped clothing to a t-shirt.  I’ll provide more on how the jacket faired during this trip in another post.

The next morning our early departure was met with temperatures already in the mid-70s.  We wanted to get some miles under our feet before high temps set in for the day.  We headed north on 97A which runs right along the west side of the Columbia river and then rejoined US97 at Lake Chelan.

VLBA Radio-Telescope

VLBA Radio-Telescope

Between Brewster and Monse, WA I was reminded of the movie Contact starring Jodie Foster.  Remember the scene where she is sitting atop her car hood under the Very Large Array of satellite antenna’s listening to space?   Well on the west side of the river dotted with farm tractors is a Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) station.  It looks like a secret “military” base, but is really part of a ten radio-telescope antenna system, each with a dish 82 feet in diameter and weighing 240 tons.

Canada Border Crossing

Canada Border Crossing

Others are located from Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The VLBA provides astronomers with the sharpest vision of space compared to any telescope via radio waves!  It’s funded by The National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education.  In fiscal year (FY) 2009, the NSF budget is $9.5 billion, which includes $3.0 billion provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  A list of “shovel ready” ARRA funded projects at NSF is located HERE if you’d like more info on how the $$ are being spent.  But I’ve digressed…

FXRG Jacket Testing

FXRG Jacket Testing

By the time we rolled through Oroville the temps were again in the high 90’s and the air was hazy with smoke.  Before heading towards the Alaska Highway at the Yukon border which is known as British Columbia Highway 97 (BC97) we were “processed” by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers.  After a long wait due to a large number of RV’s we were subjected to several difficult questions meant to trip up any unsuspecting armed terrorist… “Where you from?”, “Where you going?”, “How Long you gonna be here?”… you get the drill.  After a hour long process I couldn’t help but think that if the CBSA ran Apple Computer we’d all be running Apple II’s, having to insert an identity card every time we booted up and required to surf at dial-up speed  — yeah, it was that painful!

Kelowna, BC - Bridge

Kelowna, BC - Bridge

After the “land of poutine” passed us through the international border crossing we made our way through Oliver, Penticton and along the western shore of magnificent Okanagan Lake for many kilometers to finally arrive in Kelowna, BC.  A thick haze filled the air as a reminder of the tinder-box conditions of the province and the hundreds of fires.  The local newspaper proclaimed “Wildfires Scorch BC” with thousands of evacuee’s and sad tales. In fact, seeing across the street was a challenge and breathing reminiscent of sitting around a camp fire about to extinguish itself.

After  a couple of days riding we enjoyed refreshments and some Montana Cookhouse baby-back ribs then headed down to the marina to take in some of the local nightlife and Okanagan Lake experience.

The 107 to 47 Journey – Part Two HERE; Part Three HERE; Part Four HERE

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From Lolo Pass we headed to Philipsburg, MT. It lies in Southwestern Montana gold country. You take the Pintler Scenic Loop which is a 63 mile drive that takes you from Anaconda to Drummond. This is an alternate route to I-90. The road follows Flint Creek as it takes you by snow capped mountains, sage covered hills, pristine lakes, and open meadows.

Unknow at the time, but we arrived just hours from Montana receiving a Presidential Disaster Declaration due to all the fires. The road in to Philipsburg, voted one of the “Prettiest Painted Places” in America may be Montana’s best kept secret, but we had to deal with smoke.

We stayed at the Broadway Hotel. Terrific place with theme rooms.

That day we had a bike go on the trailer due to a rear tire flat. Gave us a chance to try out all those expensive tools we’d purchased. Got it fixed and George was happy! We celebrated with drinks, pool and some local news with regulars at the White Front Bar.

The next morning we grabbed some caffeine and grub from the Daily Grind Coffee House and headed out.

Unfortunately smoke from wildfire activity and the unhealthy air quality across much of western Montana was something we had to deal with.

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