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Posts Tagged ‘Shaniko Fossil Hwy (H-218)’

Highway 97

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.

Clarno Unit -- John Day Fossil Beds

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.

Prairie City

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.

After 400+ miles we arrived at the Best Western Motel and were greeted with smiling employees who got us checked in and on our way to dinner at Arceo’s Family Mexican Restaurant.  It was awesome!

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.

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Antelope, Oregon Garage 

Antelope, Oregon Garage

Near Antelope, OR (Wasco County) there are some beautiful motorcycle roads.  I’ve traveled this county a few times and the route just off the Dalles California Hwy is a peaceful sagebrush filled valley with rolling hills.  The roads are Antelope Hwy (H-293) and the Shaniko Fossil Hwy (H-218).  If you’ve not driven this part of Oregon then I suggest taking some time and add it to your ride list. From Antelope you can start a scenery loop ride to the “painted hills” section of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

Antelope has a sorted history and if you’ve been in the northwest any length of time you’ll remember how the town became famous in the early 1980s as ground zero for Rancho Rajneesh (Big Muddy Ranch) – a self-proclaimed prophet arrives with thousands of enlightened red-robed followers to start a colony with the sex guru – Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.  All wearing a 108-bead mala (necklace) where the color of beads hold significance as it designates each person’s level of sexual inhibitions as they merrily went about their day.  Known as “Rajneeshees” the folks on the inner-circle had a Tantra-esque belief in the power of sex as a door to samadhi’…a vehicle to the last step of enlightenment. 

wasco_countyAs an aside,  the Bhagwan used three Rolls-Royce automobiles as collateral to buy the Martha Washington Hotel in Portland, which they renamed Hotel Rajneesh. The Bhagwan collected many Rolls-Royce’s (93 at one count) and every day, he drove one of the cars into Madras to buy an ice cream soda. Highway 97 became a tourist trap, with people from all over the country stopping to take a look-see at the “Rajneesh show.”  In July 1983 the hotel was bombed and the cult became paranoid.  Equipping the Antelope compound with 150 security guards, semi-automatic weapons, tear gas grenades, riot guns and helicopter recon teams.  There followed a traumatic but semi-successful name change attempt of the town, use of the state’s own laws against itself, a plot to kill the federal prosecutor in Oregon, immigration fraud, several lieutenants convicted of crimes and the departure to Europe with lots of donated money.  The Bhagwan eventually returned to India in 1986 and died of heart disease in Poona on January 19, 1990.

Today Rancho Rajneesh has been converted into a modern Christian Youth Camp.  I believe it’s called “Young Life Ranch.”  The roads (Muddy Creek Road, Burnt Ranch Road, and The Gosner Road) into the place are rough/gravel and not recommended for heavy weight motorcycles.  There are now huge buildings, locked gates with signs posted on every tree and gate.  There is a private 4000 foot aircraft runway along with a super oversized pavilion filled with RV’s.  There is also a large go-cart-track with banks and a graded perimeter.  The youth “compound” is not open to the public.  All road gates are padlocked.

There is a plaque topped by an Antelope at the base of the towns post office dedicated to those who lived through the “Rajneesh Occupation” of 1981-1985.

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