Steens, OR (& Nevada) 2006

Prior to moving to Oregon, in the fall of 2005, I registered at the ADVRider website (a forum for all matters related to motorcycle adventure riding –  After lurking on the forum for a while, I started asking questions about possible rides in Oregon.  I had not ridden at all during my entire 18 year tenure in Ohio.  Now, moving towards one of the riding meccas of North America, I was already anticipating purchasing a bike and adventuring out in the desert. One guy responded: David Wachs, of Tumalo, OR. After no more than a couple of email correspondences he invited me to join him and his friends on ride to one of the most spectacular riding locations in the Pacific Northwest:  The Steens Mountains in Southeast Oregon.

I was apprehensive.  After such a long hiatus from riding, I was not sure what it would be like to be back on the settle.  Notwithstanding that these guys with whom I was going to ride were all experienced riders.  And I had just purchased my bike, was just back into riding, not at all confident of what I could deliver.  However, I comforted myself, this was not unlike the situations I put myself when I first started riding.  It is something about who I am, I suppose. Going back into ancient history, to make some sense on this, I had bought an XL250R in 1983 and with basically no experience, with only three months of riding under my belt, I registered for an enduro race in my home town of Porto Alegre, Brazil.  The same fears had dominated my thoughts then. But the result was that I not only finished that rally, but I placed 30 out of the 90 entrants. Considering the top finishers were pros and experts, I did very well.  The red Honda XL250 was my ride those days (Photo from 1984) .

So here I am, same situation, 20 years later. I bought the bike in March, and in June I’m already going for my first full blown adventure. Barely trusting my instincts that everything would go well, I packed the bike. Everything looking as new as I don’t even remember they could once had been after this first real ride. And I never saw these bags this clean again.

I rode to Bend, followed the directions to Dave’s farm in Tumalo, and met with him and his gang in the afternoon, as they completed final preparations on their bikes.

The next morning, as early as last night’s beer allowed, we left towards the Steens. The idea was to reach the Steens in one day. A truck would be taking our gear following a different route.  All we needed to carry with us were the tools and the essentials for a day ride in the desert.

We took the China Hat road going south (and some variations on that theme), stopped by the Green Mountain Lookout Tower.

And from there we fueled in Christmas Valley and went south via the Fandango Road.  Let’s pause this story for a second here, as I need to highlight this moment of the ride: This road, my friends, is the road that got me back into the enduro riding mode.  This photo is historical as it is document the moment I got the riding feel back. Up until now, I confess I was trying to figure out what the heck was I doing. But here, this two-track road, gave me the opportunity to crank a notch up on my riding style, bringing me back the memories of what riding is all about.

It is not only about the views.  It is about the connection of man, machine and the road.  What makes to me riding a motorcycle the pleasurable experience I feel it is. Of course, I did not get back immediately to the riding skills and level I had 20 years earlier.  But this road gave me the perspective of what riding once had been to me, and what it could once again be for me.

When we gathered at the first intersection of this road, I was elated. It still was slow going for me, but I was happy, comfortable, and looking for more.  A new riding chapter had started. We continued on, going in a southeast general direction until we hit Hwy 395. We crossed the highway and continued towards Plush where we fueled.  From there we continued east, entering the immense open spaces surrounding Beatys Butte.

After many miles of awesome two-track roads we eventually entered Funnel Canyon from the South as the shadows were growing longer.

We made it to the shore of the Alvord Lake, on the East side of the Steens with day light to spare.  We had managed about 300 miles with not a single problem except for a slow leaking tire in one of the bikes.

Everything went fine. The bike performed flawlessly.  I performed, well. Better saying, reasonably well, all factors considered.  And most importantly, I never took for granted, during the time of the ride and now that I describe form the distance those memories,  what privilege it represented for me to have had that opportunity. I was getting back to riding in style: riding on one of the most spectacular riding terrains on earth, being led by one of the most renowned and  accomplished riders in Oregon and beyond. Something of which I’ll always be thankful.

We rode in the area for a couple of days.  Soaked in the hot springs a few times. On the third morning we lifted camp and rode towards Nevada via Domingo pass.

We reached Soldier Meadows ranch in the afternoon and settled there for a night.

Our group of riders kept growing along the way.

The next morning we left for Gerlach, NV and got a chance to ride in the famous Blackrock desert.  If you don’t know it as the location for the many land speed record attempts, you probably heard of it because of the annual burning man festival. Whichever is your perspective, it is a beautiful but desolate location.

After one fast run across the flat desert floor we gathered in Gerlach for grub…

…and fuel

I said my goodbyes to everyone.  Mostly everyone was staying for a couple of days of more riding. I had to go back to work. One other rider joined me on the ride back to Bend. I arrived back in Eugene at 10:00pm that evening, 380 miles in one push. The advantage of a BMW: having a long distance cruising comfort.

All things considered, I was impressed with this motorcycle capabilities on off-pavement roads, despite of its heavy weight.  And I was happy I could ride it.

Cesar, June 2006

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