White Pine Fever


In July of 2006 my friend Phil Kopp and I rode to Ely, Nevada to assist in putting on a long-distance motorcycle rally called "White Pine Fever". I started in the Spokane Valley, and Phil started from Seattle, WA. We met in Hermiston, OR and began our ride together from there, taking 2-lane roads towards central Nevada.

The Trip Down

We planned our route down so as to be able to stop a the "Pillars of Rome", some unique geological features near Rome, OR in the southeast corner of the state. We were introduced to this interesting bit of geology, which is on private land and isn't a State Park (though maybe it should be), by a woman we met at the Hotel Diamond during another motorcycle trip we made a few months earlier.

My homage to GHOST RIDER, a book by Neil Peart which was recommended to me by Tim Keane. Neil started taking photos of his bike, sans rider, to reinforce the "ghost rider" theme of his story. I like it. Both the photographic trick and the book. Highly recommended.

This may be my favorite shot.

Or this one...

This is quite a remote part of Oregon. From the road at Rome, which is really just a couple gas pumps and a small cafe near the Owyhee river, west of Jordan Valley, there is no sign marking this attraction.

Just north of the Pillars of Rome the Owyhee river becomes a designated "Scenic Waterway". I once had a rafting trip scheduled through there with Row Adventures (when they were still called River Odysseys West). It's supposed to be one of the premier remote whitewater trips in the conterminous US.

White Pine Fever

I didn't shoot many photos of the rally itself, besides, it's really a subject for a different audience — [Besides, Phil was the official photographer and his photos are way better than mine] — Suffice it to say there were a few dozen hard-core long-distance motorcycle endurance riders there who rode their hearts out for 24 hours and had a blast. Another friend, Chuck Hickey, and I were the "Gatekeepers" who signed everyone out at 5am, and witnessed their return early the next morning. It's an acquired taste, even for fairly serious motorcyclists.

The shot above could be titled "When one aux fuel cell just isn't enough". A handful of the riders had roughly 15 gallon gas capacities on their bikes. Serious stuff.

Remember when motorcycles were simple, and you could fix one with a screwdriver and a few wrenches? No more. Looks pretty complicated, doesn't it?

Mormon Crickets

There was a population explosion of Mormon Crickets when we were in Nevada. Phil and I ran into them, literally, on the way there, and saw them pretty often for 250 miles north on the way home. Big, flightless, and very smelly when smashed into the skid plate of a motorcycle and heated by the engine.

These things are about 2-3" long and maybe 1/2" in diameter. I figure there must have been billions of them in Nevada, considering the millions we saw just on the roads.

Wikipedia says: "The Mormon cricket exists in populations of relatively low density throughout most of its range. However at certain times and places population explosions or infestations occur in which large numbers of the cricket form roving bands. These bands may include millions of individuals and have a population density of up to 100 individuals per square meter. These infestations may last years or even decades, and are characterized by a gradual increase and then decrease in population. The factors that trigger these infestations are poorly understood, but are thought to be weather related.

When a large band crosses a road it can cause a safety hazard by causing distracted revulsion on the part of the driver, by covering windshields in sticky splatter or even by causing the road surface to become slick with their fluids."

Also from Wikipedia:

"According to American folklore, the first Mormon settlement in Utah was saved from famine by gulls eating hordes of Mormon crickets that had been destroying their first wheat crop; hence the name of the insect. California Gulls are known to erupt into desert areas to feed on Mormon cricket swarms, although their effectiveness in controlling infestations is thought to be minimal."

Typical stretch of highway with Mormon Crickets. The ones that get squashed by the traffic get eaten by the live ones, which leaves more in the tire tracks to get squished by the next truck to come along. In the corners, it's downright dangerous for motorcycles -- very slippery.

The Trip Home

Phil is a serious semi-pro photographer. Here's a shot of him at the Hells Canyon Overlook off Hwy/Road 39 between Oxbow and Joseph, Oregon with a Nikon digital SLR and a fancy lens that cost more than my first couple motorcycles combined. Oregon 39 is one of my favorite motorcycling roads. It was Phil's first exposure to it, and after riding it he said, with a big smile, "I really need to do some trackdays and work on my cornering skills"...

Hells Canyon of the Snake river. This photo doesn't do it justice. The Hells Canyon National Recreation area is 215,000 acres and includes three designated "wild and scenic" rivers: the Snake, the Imnaha and Rapid rivers. The canyon itself is North America's deepest river gorge, more than a mile deeper than the west rim, and 8,000' below Idaho's Seven Devils mountains.

I'm a sucker for flowers, and love to throw in a few shots of them. Here you are.

Pretty mixed wildflowers along the one-lane overlook road in the middle of July at about 5,600'.

Our Route

Copyright © 2006, by H. Marc Lewis. All rights reserved.