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Posts Tagged ‘Wallowa’

HellsCanyonOR_mapAfter what seemed like an endless night of chatting voices and the occasional AC/DC rocking through the school ground all was quiet and I settled into the two-man tent and mummy style sleeping bag.  With the rain showers and 45 degree temperatures everything was slimed with dew even with a rain fly.

I know my way around the outdoors, but I’m in no way a boy scout or survivalist camper.  Motorcycle camping is much more comparable to bicycle camping than car camping due to the limited storage capacity.  Often the same equipment as backpackers is used because of lighter weights and compact dimensions associated with the backpacking equipment.  I had one saddle bag allocated to tent, rain fly, mat, sleeping bag, torso air-mat, mini-chair and compression pillow.  The magic is called stuff sacks!

HalfwayMy plan was to be just comfortable enough and since I had previously purchased most of the items for other activities it wouldn’t be expensive to pull together this camping gig. I wasn’t traversing Mt. Everest, or hiking the 3 Sisters Trail and food/stove/cookware were left at home because in my simple world… coffee and food was picked up along the way. Because in the Northwest it tends to rain, a good tent is important. A sleeping bag that is comfortable below freezing is important too. However, the mummy bag was like a restraint.  I kept thinking would a sleeping bag that weighs 2 pounds vs. 3 really have mattered?  No!  Space was the key and I could have fit a square bag.  The old school Therm-a-rest air pad provided some comfort, but not nearly as cushy as the oversized Outdoor Research thick air mats.  The good news is that in today’s compression sack world everything is about twice as small as a few years ago.

Rick Meigs Accident

Rick Meigs Accident

Note to Steve and the HCMR planners… make sure next year there is coffee in the high school gym.  They could have paid for 3 teachers salary had they set up a coffee stand even with 3-day old donuts from Safeway!  Nothing worse than a karaoke hangover and no coffee for miles!  Okay enough on the camping adventure.

We broke camp, re-packed the bikes (interestingly after everything gets wet it doesn’t compress as well – go figure!) and headed toward the McCafe’ and official event booths at the Best Western.  Our plan was a casual ride on the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway and overnight in LaGrande.  The ride follows Hwy 86 a national designated scenic byway. The route circles the Wallowa Mountains by way of Halfway and Joseph then north through the small towns of Enterprise, Lostine, and Wallowa.  There were thousands of curves and plenty of motorcycle traffic.

Hells Canyon Lookout

Hells Canyon Lookout

Between Hole-in-the-Wall-Slide and Richland there were two motorcycle accidents within a quarter mile of each other.  Neither of them related, but both made everyone take a moment of pause.  The first was a lady that failed to negotiate a curve and rode off the road and down into the ditch.  Not life threatening, but she was taken away by ambulance.  The second and much more serious was Rick Meigs getting clipped by a vehicle that “crossed the center line.”  It was a hit and run. He was taken by ambulance to Baker City where they performed emergency surgery to stabilize him then he was flown by Life Flight to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise Idaho, where he is now, in critical condition. I don’t know Rick and researched this accident on the web after coming up on the scene.  Nonetheless, send your prayers and/or follow updates on his progress HERE.

"Posse" at Hells Canyon Lookout

"Posse" at Hells Canyon Lookout

Beyond Halfway, the road becomes a paved Forest Service stretch as it climbs over a pass toward Joseph. This road has a lot of switchbacks and ‘over-the-cliff’ moments so you’ll want to be most alert through the area.  We took a break at the Hells Canyon Overlook, but was unable to pick out the Seven Devils on the horizon due to the approaching rain storm.  Within 15 minutes there was solid rain so, we moved on and continue toward Joseph in full rain gear.  It was wet and slow going in the canyons.  The big corner preceding Joseph is one of those turns you typically never forget as The Wallowas come into view behind Joseph like a movie scene out of the Swiss Alps.  We stopped for lunch and to dry out a bit.  After Joseph there is a great stretch of motorcycle road through the Wallowa Valley and the mountain towns of Enterprise, Lostine, and Wallowa. We finish the loop on I-84 in La Grande, Or., as the Historic Baker City bars were no longer calling our name.  Neither were the tents!  We checked into a motel and proceeded directly to the hot tub to warm up.

Hells Canyon Rally Wrap Up – Day 1 HERE and Day 3 HERE.

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Imagine for a moment you’re on a motorcycle trip during a beautiful August week through the Wallowa Valley.  It’s a broad corridor of grass, framed by big mountains and dotted with various ranches.  As the road climbs into the Wallowa Mountains you pass old growth forest and clear-running rivers then finally arrive at Hells Canyon.  You return home after the weeklong trip to find in your mail box a number of police photo tickets.  Huh?  At first you think it’s a joke, but then realize that Elgin, OR on Hwy 82 was the start of your Hells Canyon tour and you vaguely remember a police department, city hall and movie theater all being housed in a 1912 brick opera building.  You review the photos/information:

  1. Ticket #1: While entering Elgin rolling over a tread measuring system it was determined your motorcycle tires had insufficient tread depth.  $160 fine.
  2. Ticket #2: You stopped for lunch, utilizing the street side parking.  The automated parking meter photographed your 10min overstay.  $45 fine.
  3. Ticket #3: After lunch you make a note of the rough engine idle at this altitude.  The automated tailpipe emissions systems profiled the excessive CO2 via air sniffing microphones.  $210 fine.
  4. Ticket #4: As you departed town you may have rolled on the throttle and the automated noise camera recorded a 10 second video clip from a set of microphones and determined you offended the town’s tranquility level.  $377 fine.

You laugh and think that this level of government intrusion intervention is not possible?  Well think again.  It’s not if it will happen, but when.  For example in Germany, ProContour’s tread analysis system is being deployed and the European Union regulations authorize fines up to $160 if insufficient tread depth.  In Australia, Acoustic Research Labs have deployed the NGARA real time sound acquisition systems and excessive noise tickets are being mailed as you read this!  How long until an aggressive city government decides to roll-out these new revenue generating systems in a city near you?

Is this the price of technological progress or the ultimate “Nanny State?” Throw in a little city government enthusiasm to profit from the increased monitoring and….?  While we’re at it could we get a “bling” camera…I don’t know about you, but I get distracted when the sun catches all those spinner-wheels wrong.  It blinds me as I’m driving.

Maybe it’s time that I park my excessive carbon emitting loud tailpipes and balding tires at home and just invest in hearing impaired products?

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