Oregon Trail Interpretive Center - Baker City, OR
On Friday we were up early to grab coffee and breakfast before making our way out to the ‘Devils Tail’ and Hells Canyon Dam.
It was rather obvious while eating my scrambled eggs and looking out across the vendor parking lot that there were some hard-living characters who had run wild the night earlier. They weren’t totally burned out, but obviously moving a little slower. It got me to thinking about how Harley like virtually every other motorcycle manufacture, is facing a huge, looming crisis; the ageing of its core clientele. Like every other market they touch Boomers dominate the motorcycle industry, especially for those expensive touring cruisers that generate so much profit for the corporate coffers.
Depending on whose data you reference; AMA states the average age of its members is 48, the American Motorcycle Industry Council’s most recent survey (2008) has the average pegged at 43 years old (up 5 years from 1998) and a JD Power and H-D survey has the average at 49 years old. It would seem that motorcycling is no longer a young man’s sport. Based on my observation this morning I would concur and while I didn’t see anyone trading their favorite ride in on an RV, I did see a lot of interest in the Boss Hog trikes and customers lining up for demo rides. Most were intrigued with how to navigate the parking lot in reverse gear.
Hells Canyon Dam
I’m not sure about you, but I’m the kind of person who gets satisfaction when my mechanical stuff is humming. It puts a smile upon my face and makes me feel glad all over. I felt that way on the ride out to the Hells Canyon Dam. The departure temperature hung in the mid-60’s – cool for eastern Oregon — and looking around the horizon it was clear there was going to be a mix of rain showers and blue sky. Yeah, we were going to be dancing between the rain drops all day long on this ride.
We traveled out on Baker-Copperfield Hwy (Hwy 86) toward Richland, through Halfway with a brief pit stop at the Scotty’s Outdoor Store just prior to Oxbow as we headed back to the bottom of the canyon. Hells Canyon is on the border of Idaho and Oregon, and the ride is deep in the valley alongside the Snake River. Yeah that one — the one where Evel Knievel attempted his X-1 Skycycle jump over the canyon, unsuccessfully, back in 1974. Many people will disagree when you remind them that the Hell’s Canyon is North American’s deepest river gorge at almost 8,000 feet, 2,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon, but it’s true.
Posse On Devil's Tail
And as a bonus it has one of the most famous rides in the area — the Devil’s Tail — a 22 mile route from Oxbow, Oregon to Hell’s Canyon Dam. There are hundreds of S-curves and twisty’s with picturesque views. The Devil’s Tail is not for the novice, and requires attention to riding. Last year we talked to a motorcyclist who misjudge the road and dump his bike. Fortunately they had only minor injuries.
Baker City "Rain Out"
Back in the day this road was used to deliver workers and supplies to the site of the dam construction when it was being built in 1966. Today Idaho Power employees use it to access the dam and outdoor hobbyist use it for recreational access. At the end of the road the dam and water were nearly level with the road. As you drive across the dam we were greeted with a loud “whooshing” sound and at the visitor’s center which is a short, but steep ride below the dam we took pictures of the large volume of water flowing through to make hydro electrical power. It’s a spectacular sight and the close proximity means you literally feel natures power.
Interstate 84 North - Departing HCMR
We reversed directions and headed back to the Sunridge Best Western where we met up with some other riders who arrived late-afternoon.
On Saturday the weather was a mixed bag. The morning started out partly cloudy with the occasional sun burst, but the Whitman National Forest was socked in with storm/rain clouds which is where the posse planned to ride for a ghost town tour. We downed some breakfast and remained optimistic the day would bring something better. It turned out that optimism was sorely misplaced!
Hwy 14 - West of Umatilla
Thinking it would clear later in the day we elected to hang out in the vendor booths in downtown Baker City and wait it out… but, rain is a life metaphor – into every ride a little rain must fall, right? Well it did. I know the Folkestad’s like to state that the HCMR has never been “rained out” and I’m not sure what criteria they use, but it started raining around 1pm with showers at first and then turned to a steady hard rain from 2pm through most of the night. We graced the downtown area refreshment centers and talked shop with the High Desert H-D folks from Meridian, ID. Downtown was jammed and by the time we returned to the motel restaurant/bar it was packed with wet riders who called the day a total bust. Good for Baker City businesses, but it seemed the weather conditions were conspiring against us.
Near Maryhill Winery - Goldendale, WA
On Sunday morning you could smell the cool breath of mother nature as we wiped off the previous night rain soaked seats. Unlike Western Oregon, the majority of the landscape in Eastern Oregon is wide open which allows riders to see the lay of the land and it provides plenty of time to take it all in. For me I enjoy Eastern Oregon because it’s different. The people are different (in a positive/good way), the weather is different, it looks different and the roads are different. It seems that people have a habit of never appreciating a place until you’re about to leave it. I had some regrets that I didn’t get time to explore the ghost towns, but we were about to point the bikes north hoping for a dry day!
We rode out of Baker City on I-84 and encountered cooler temperatures as we traversed the Wallowa Mountains. The sun shined brightly and by the time we stopped to re-fuel in Pendleton is was actually warm. We cut over to Umatilla and rode Hwy 14 on the Washington side of the Columbia River. The pull toward home and returning to “normal” life was getting stronger as the pace quickened back to Portland. We dodged some rain drops near “The Couve” and got home in time to learn that yes, the self-proclaimed “King” — Lebron James — was still not a NBA champion and that my friends means the only place celebrating more than Dallas that night was Cleveland!
In spite of the ‘rain out’ on Saturday the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally was a great experience. If you have not attended it should be something on your bucket list!
Postcard From Hells Canyon – Part 1 HERE.
Photos taken by editor. Previous HCMR posts: 2010 HERE, 2009 HERE
All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
Read Full Post »