Today, September 17th, as I’m finalizing this post, it is raining outside. This is the first real rainfall since June, marking the end of summer in the south Willamette valley. This post describes a motorcycle ride I’ve taken back in June, at the beginning of the summer.
That was a long time ago, so much has happened since then. There is a new-to-me (=old) motorcycle, a 1980 Honda CX500 which I may turn into something else. A tracker? Cafe Racer? Who knows. And then there was the eclipse in “totality” form just north of Eugene. Then we’ve had lots of forest fires, some are still burning as of this morning, let’s hope this rain will end all these fires. It has been an unseasonably hot summer for our region. Then there were several work-related trips. Then there are the unfinished Death Valley reports, which I still plan to complete. And then the summer is over.
Although summer is over, there is plenty more to happen, the riding season is not over. But let’s get back to the present time and complete this post, we can talk about the rest later. Also, please note that I have a video at the end of this post, which matches this ride.
A trip to the coast, June of 2017:
Our local BMW shop, together with its sister shop in Tigard, organized a motorcycle ride to the coast. The announcement mentioned a shrimp boil to be served, free of charge, to all riders at the destination on Fogarty Creek State Park. Free food? I’ll be there! The ride was well organized with four group rides, four options to reach the destination, one street and one adventure route starting from each shop.
I opted for the adventure route and volunteered to assist with the ride starting from the Eugene store. EMCWOR‘s Scott asked me to be a sweeper for the ride. Besides being the sweeper, I was doing my regular self-assigned job as photographer, videographer, drone-operator and story-teller.
The sweeper on a ride is the guy who makes sure no one is left behind, makes sure everyone arrives safely at the destination. It is not an easy job on a motorcycle ride and it gets yet more difficult when it is a dirt ride where there is more chance for things to go wrong, or for people to get lost. The complexity increases yet some more when there is a larger number of riders involved, which was our case, with a group of 13 riders.
Upfront I can report that despite one flat tire, a small crash, and a fumble here and there on my job as a sweep, we all made it to the coast. We were the last of the four groups to arrive at the beach, but we had great fun on the way, it became a real adventure route, that’s what adventure riding is all about, right? On top of that, we rode through some great roads over the coastal range with great views. It was a great selection of roads, Scott!
I was busy with work that week, lots of complex document analyses and report summaries to be completed and which spilled over to the weekend. Determined to make it to this ride, though, I woke up very early Sunday morning to complete my reports and upload my last files. I managed to get the bike ready and made it to the shop as Scott was half-way through the ride briefing.
However, I had a problem. I was not able to upload the route on my GPS, as my Garmin Oregon 400 expired, so I used my street GPS, which cannot upload tracks (I just purchased a Montana 680T, more on that later as well). I did manage to see the route on my computer, I learned about its major intersections, the total distance, but on a dirt road there are many minor intersections. As a sweeper, I should have had a GPS with the track of the route we would be riding on. This, together with a communication problem, would delay us a bit later on.
There were 12 riders at the shop when I arrived, I was number 13. I knew a couple of the riders from seeing them at the shop, but I’d never had a chance to meet them or have a conversation with them, let alone ride with them. Practically all of them were riding BMW GS’s (besides me, there were only two other riders on non-BMW motorcycles).
From a quick observation, however, I noticed most of the bikes had seen their fair share of dirt, they had that wear and tear patina you only see on adventure bikes that have been used properly, you know it when you see one. That was a very good sign, and I hoped this would make my sweeper job easy. It turned out to be the case, even the riders who were on dirt for the first time did an awesome job at it! It was a great group for an adventure ride!
The route was 129 miles long. We left Eugene via River Road and from there we took back roads going past Junction City, to 99W towards Monroe from where we got to Alpine road.
If you are from this area and ride motorcycles, you know Alpine Road. This is a short but great road, especially when it becomes a single-lane road, with great pavement and lots of nice tight curves with mild elevation changes at the east side of the coastal range.
After having some fun on Alpine Road’s tight curves we had our first planned stop at the Alsea Falls, still on Alpine road.
From there we went towards Alsea and got on 34 towards the coast for a short while until we would make a right on a dirt road to start the adventure portion of the route. During these section of 34, however, the group split into two. I’m there, the last man on the line, patiently going at the speed this last group was comfortable riding. This was not a problem at all, I was enjoying the ride and the road at the end of the string of riders.
When we arrived at the Cr-714, also known as Fall Creek road, when we would hit the dirt and gravel roads, the first group had been waiting for us at that cross of roads for a while already and as soon as they saw us coming, and verified we were all there, they took off immediately, and so did everyone on my slower group as well. I had to change a battery on my helmet cam and did not have a chance to tell anyone I had to do it…
It took me what, some 5-10 minutes to do the job, which included removing the helmet, so I rushed to get to the group, but they had already sent someone looking for me because there was a fork on the road in less than a couple of miles already. That was the result of a conflict between being a sweeper and trying to capture video as well, the group had to wait for me.
These roads were great. Well, I love gravel and dirt roads, so I’m biased in thinking very gravel road is good. From Cr-714 we got into SF52, got on the Siuslaw National Forest and started climbing towards Table Mountain. During this climb we got into two situations.
The first was when we had a quick stop to re-group. As we were there chatting, we realized one of the bikes had a flat tire. So here goes a question for you: how many BMW riders does it take to fix a tubeless flat tire? I’ll let you do the count…
Nonetheless we had a great amount of laughs while fixing this tire, plenty of electric tire pumps were made available, for example (each one claimed to be more powerful than the previous). We also got a lesson on using plugs when Scott came to the rescue with the right tools for the job and the right technique to fix it in one try, a fix that lasted the entire ride (as far as I know).
The second issue happened right after we started going again, when the last rider of the group, the rider just ahead of me, lost connection with the rest of the group on one of the many forks on the road.
When I got to this fork he was waiting for me, some 50 yards into one of the roads, and told me he had not seen anyone when he got to the fork. Because I did not have the track on my GPS, I was relying on motorcycle tire tracks to find the right way on these seldom traveled roads. I did not see motorcycle tire tracks on the road he was in, so I told him I was going to “check for tracks” on the other road and turned around, back towards the fork.
In retrospective, I should had been more clear with him. I should had said “wait here, I will check for tire tracks on the other road”. I say this because as I turned around and started going down the road back to the fork I saw him taking off on the other direction, continuing on the road he was in. I wrongly assumed he was going to find a spot to turn around. I got to the other road and very quickly saw the motorcycle tire tracks and knew this was the right road.
I waited for the rider… and nothing. Maybe he is waiting where I saw him last time? So turned around again and went back to tell him what was the right road and… and where was the guy? I couldn’t believe he would continue on his own, and to summarize my reaction to this, when I kept going and not finding him, hill after hill, when I topped a larger hill about half a mile into this other road and there was no sign of him I heard myself exclaiming out loud “puta que o pariu” in Portuguese, which, loosely translating to English, means “oh dear”.
I rode about another mile until I found him stopped at the next intersection. I helped him turn his bike around and we got to the right road just when we encountered someone coming back looking for us. That was a failure on my job as a sweeper. At the same time, one thing that happened a few times on this ride was that riders failed to use the important rule of group rides which is to wait for the following rider, make sure they see you, at all intersections. Well, we were on an adventure route, right? This is what makes a ride interesting, but certainly it is something that can be avoided.
We got back with the group and continued climbing, traveling around the west side of Table Mountain and arrived at a clearing on the northwest side of the mountain, where we had a stop to enjoy the nice vistas.
We could see the Pacific Ocean from there, always a nice and welcome view in my book.
From there we continued our way down towards the coast.
That’s when we had a small incident, when Scott stopped to check something on his bike, one of the riders did not manage to stop on the gravel road. It was a steep descent, and this rider’s bike had street biased tires. The good thing is that it only caused minor material damage, the rider was okay!
After picking the bike up, checking the rider for his well being, certifying that all was good with rider and bike, we continued our way down towards Toledo. At some point we got into some nicer and wider gravel roads, those roads that are perfect for throttle sliding, and we finally hit pavement very close to Toledo.
On the other side of Toledo, instead of traveling to Newport and taking 101 we continued north along the Siletz river, on a road that goes parallel to 101 until the Siletz river turns west toward the Pacific, where we reached 101 a few miles north of the Fogarty Creek park. At this point I considered my job done. I waited for some riders at the entrance of the Fogarty Creek park, and a few other riders were taking a long time to arrive. I figured they knew where to turn. I did check that they arrived.
And that was it, when I got to the parking lot, many riders had already left, going back to Portland or Eugene, or whatever was their home base. The good thing is that, despite being the last group to arrive we had had a great adventure and, most importantly, there was still plenty of food left. Thanks Madelyn!
I didn’t stay long on the beach, soon after eating I got back on my bike and rode home, going south on 101 to Florence and from there taking my old friend, highway 36. About my job as a sweeper, well, what can I say, I would give myself a low grade.
I realized this was my first time taking the Honda to the coast. I will need to take it back there for a more adequate introduction. The bike performed really well on this trip, it did about 260 miles on this loop, it sipped fuel, and it showed it can play with the big guys.
However, no matter how much I like this little Honda, from my experience riding BMW R1200GS’s, from what I saw on this ride, and what I’ve seen on other rides with friends of mine on these bikes on all sorts of terrains (Mengel Pass comes to mind), I can see how these BMW’s do everything very well.
Yes, they are heavy beasts, riders may need some help maneuvering their bikes on tight trail spots, or lifting them from the ground when they drop them. But once they get going, they basically traverse any terrain with ease. They have that strong down low torque offering great tractability at slow speeds, they are engaging on pavement, and they tour well offering great comfort and pack all sorts of riding technology.
My Honda does not try to do all of that, and I have other motorcycles for when power or comfort are required. However, if I had to have only one motorcycle, and it needed to do it all, I have no doubt, it would be a water-cooled BMW R1200GS. It remains top of the heap for touring and adventure riding. In 2020 I may go on a trip to Alaska, a BMW Rallye could be the ideal motorcycle (if it will still be made by then).
Here is a video of this trip to the coast:
Thank you for reading (and viewing the video).