This page documents a ride to the 20th annual Great Pacific Northwest Dryside Gather (aka "The Gather" or just the GPNDG) with my friends Brett Parker and Chris Denzler. Since they live in King County (on the wet side of WA) and I live in Spokane County (near the ID border) we agreed to meet in Condon, OR on Monday evening for dinner and to spend the night. We "credit card camped" as our route was to involve as much gravel/dirt roads as possible, and a shower at the end of the day (and an icy adult beverage) is something to look forward to.
Our route took us south through Fossil to Mitchell on nice twisty asphalt roads. Chris and Brett are 20+ year veterans of WMRRA (the Washington Motorcycle Roadracing Association) and were kind enough to wait for me at the highway intersections. I'm more of a dirtbike kinda guy.
From Mitchell we took forest roads and I think maybe a dry creekbed or two, to our overnight stay at the north end of Summer Lake. We hit more pavement for awhile near Brothers, and again near Christmas Valley. I tried to get Google Maps to show our route but couldn't coerce it onto some of the tiny dashed lines on the map we actually rode.
Just 20 miles from Condon I ran across this grain elevator which was so full that it was pouring grain (wheat, I assume) onto the ground nearby. No tarps or containment/protection of any kind — just dumping it on the ground. I'll bet the field mice there are happy!
Here's a photo of my peeps, "Trailer" and "Park". Connoisseurs of the finest $13/bottle bourbon (I think we drank well over a bottle apiece on the 3-day ride). I forget which is Trailer and which is Park, but that's Brett on the left and Chris on the right. Our motto: "Ride hard all day, drink hard all night". I'm not used to staying up 'till Midnight drinking whiskey every night, but I sure slept well and woke up refreshed!
Our first stop for fuel in Mitchell, OR. Also where we left the pavement for most of the rest of the day. Two Suzuki DL650s (aka "Wee Stroms", or what our friend Ken Morton called "Girl's bikes" as there is also a 1000cc V-Strom model) and one BMW F800GS (New! Improved! Now with chain drive!).
They are pretty casual in Mitchell — we kinda just fueled up ourselves, and eventually a guy came out and kept us company until we finished. One of the pumps had a whole pile of coins on it, presumably to make paying via cash easier. They were the old fashioned pumps without a credit card reader. We also stocked up on water and tried to keep hydrated as well as possible. Most of central Oregon is 4,000' in elevation and it was in the high 80's and low 90's fairly often.
Here's Brett at 5,400' an hour or so south of Mitchell in the Ochoco N.F. Very green up there, and noticeably cooler than down below in the sagebrush. This was one of the better gravel roads we took. Nonetheless, I'll bet we didn't encounter more than 1/2 dozen vehicles on the non-paved sections all day.
We rode at about 1/4 mile intervals, with me in the lead on the gravel/dirt roads mostly due to the fact that I had a GPS with a pretty good approximation of the route we wanted, plus my bike had a 21" knobby on the front — a big advantage in the loose stuff. In the interest of simplicity and flat-prevention, we ran standard street air pressures the whole time though there were a few times when dropping to off-road pressures would have been a Big Help™.
Central Oregon is beautiful, hell, all of Oregon is beautiful — there are just so many different types of terrain and vegetation. Here we stopped to check the GPS against the Oregon Gazetteer that Chris brought. I had one too, but mine was a 1991 edition and was noticeably inferior. We also took lots of photos, but when you plan to toss 19 out of 20 of them, you need lots to work with.
Smoke break on a rougher section of road in a Juniper forest. We passed a sign that said something like "Limited Use Area, Proceed at your Own Risk". Later the roadbed became just lots of really big rocks poking out of the dirt like icebergs, and just as immovable. I'm sure that part of it was a creek earlier in the season (when it was much wetter).
Another smoke/water break when we got to the pavement. This road heads straight to Brothers, OR (7 miles straight down that road). My GPS kept wanting to route us off to the left into the sagebrush. The ride to Christmas Valley wasn't very interesting or scenic. But leaving Christmas Valley after refueling and re-hydrating involved a Surprise!
We were cruising along on a bit of pavement when we rode into a swarm of bugs. Big heavy bugs that made machine-gun like sounds as they struck our bikes and helmets. It was a swarm of bees!
Shortly after that, I stopped at a pull-out to check the map as the road and GPS were taking us west when I knew we wanted to go east. While we were stopped, Brett goes "Holy shit, look at that!" as the large swarm of bees passed us headed down the center of the road. Just then Chris rides up, jumps off the bike and starts trying to shake some bees out of his riding gear.
As soon as we'd determined we were on the right track, we took off, only to run into the same swarm a few minutes later. What are the odds? We continued to our overnight at Jack's Lake (north end of Summer Lake) each of us convinced we had a bee or two buzzing or crawling around in our riding gear. We didn't, and none of us were stung, but our imaginations were on overdrive.
The Summer Lake Inn is actually on a pond called Jack's Lake. A very pretty spot. Our "cabin" was a cedar mobile home with a nice deck. The lodge served dinner, and we had booze and ice back at our cabin. Our plan was to ride over that ridge above and work our way down, cross Hwy 140 near Quartz Mt., and continue down to join Hwy 139.
However, due to time constraints, we altered our plans to take the pavement to Lakeview, refuel there and ride a gravel road down the west side of Goose lake. It was here that I discovered the right side mounting bolt for my centerstand had vibrated off and was lost. Fortunately, I carry enough spare parts and tools that I was able to make a crude but usable replacement. I don't recall that the Suzukis had any problems.
This is an un-retouched photo, the only one in this set. Brett and I enjoyed cigars with our bourbon on the deck as we watched the sun go down. Being the "old guy" got me the only bed, while Chris and Brett each got a chair/futon. I slept well, I'm not sure about Trailer and Park...
The west side of Goose Lake was a nice ride, except for one short bit of construction where we had to ride slowly through deep rough gravel behind a Semi. We planned another gravel road which paralleled Hwy 395 to the west, but I think we missed it just where we hit the construction. Last year when I rode by, Goose Lake was almost dry. This year is was back to "normal", which is still a long way from it's original size. 100 years ago the shoreline was probably just 10' from the bikes.
The Gather is a unique event, and many of us carefully pack some of our finest t-shirts for the event. I particularly liked Sandra's. And Flash's, which was a plain white t-shirt with a tiny "Small dick. Big bike." printed above his heart. If not taking yourself too seriously is a virtue, WetLeather has more than its share of Saints.
No WetLeather event is really "official" without Martin and Carol. I think this is a pretty good shot of them. Notice the apron Martin is wearing which was gifted to him by Phil & Debb Kopp who found it in the Southeastern USA somewhere and realized they had to get it for Martin, who has fed us all more times than we can count. Seriously. A few of us have died, but it sure wasn't from Martin & Carol's cooking.
A significant part of WetLeather loves them some guns. [We even have a special mailing list called "WetPowder"]. Ed Hackett (Da BOSS this year) organized a "range" outing. Lots of handguns and shotguns. Here Ed nails the first of two orange clays with his over-and-under 28ga custom-made beauty while Ed Goozman "throws". SSJoanne shot everything in sight, with every firearm we had. Anybody ever seen Joanne without a smile on her face?
Eric Vaillancourt showed up on a brand-new, just released by Yamaha, Super Tenere 1200cc parallel twin. Serious competition for the BMW R1200GS, particularly given its feature set and substantially lower price. I got to ride it. Loved it! Catfish looks on — your Aprilia Caponord is getting a bit long in the tooth, isn't it hoser?
Sadly, WetLeatherite Ken Morton died competing in a long distance rally earlier this summer. As the IBA (Ironbutt Association) has a memorial near Gerlach, NV, and I know an off-pavement route there, I organized a memorial ride to plant Ken's stone and bury some of his ashes. Here's the crew that made the trip including Counselor Steve and Molly who drove chase truck in Jim & Lara's Land Rover and transported Ken (and his Aerostich's) ashes. There is another Webpage documenting that ride.
That's the southern edge of the Black Rock Desert in the photo, with the town of Gerlach, NV just barely visible in the upper right corner. On the far side of the desert, just below those hills, is the western end of the infamous Jungo Road which leads directly to Winnemucca, NV. Another fun dirt road!
My ride home from Eagle Lake, CA was longer and involved a lot more dirt. Phil Kopp and I rode through NE Nevada into SE Oregon to do the Steens Mt. Loop Road and ride through Hells Canyon.
Copyright © 2011, by H. Marc Lewis. All rights reserved.