This year our annual pilgrimage to the Western ST Owners Club (WeSTOC) gathering started a bit differently. Since Becci's auto accident in February of 1998, she has been unable to travel by motorcycle, so we bought a two bike Wells Cargo covered trailer [PHOTO] and loaded Becci, Rick, our two German Shorthaired Pointers Volt and Max, and I into our Georgie Boy motorhome [PHOTO], and our two ST1100's into the trailer and headed for "the ranch" in Oregon. After arriving in Grant's Pass, Rick and I made our preparations for the Bend Rally. On the day before the rally started, Jeff Bertrand and Hal Rumenapp rode up from Southern California. We all sat down to a barbecued steak dinner and later roasted marshmallows over the fire in our fire pit overlooking the Rogue River Valley and watched the beautiful night sky chock full of stars. With four fully rally prepped STs in the garage waiting to be unleashed at first light, we all hit the sack and dreamt of the excellent adventure that awaited us in the fabulous Northwest over the next week or so.
At the crack of dawn all riders were up'n attum getting their bodies ready for the days ride. Everyone was well rested and anticipating a great ride. I had plotted the route to Bend on Street Atlas 6 and programed the Street Pilot GPS for the most scenic course. First stop for the four STs was in the town of Merlin, OR at the Frosty Burger for breakfast. Despite its unappetizing name, it is a very good place for breakfast. Biskets and gravy are one of their specialties...YUMMMMM!! After thoroughly engorging ourselves with Frosty's fare, we were on the road to Bend via some of the best and most scenic roads in the Northwest. After traveling backroads to Hugo, OR, we hopped on the I-5 for a fast but gorgeous ride through 58 miles of old growth pine, fur and madrone with a generous dose of high speed sweepers to keep our "fun factor" in the upper range. Upon reaching Roseburg, OR, we turned off I-5 onto state scenic byway 138. This lightly traveled road follows the North Fork of the Umpqua River through heavily forested mountains. If one stays on hwy 138 it will eventually connect with hwy 97, the main corridor of central Oregon. This is the "quick route", but we weren't into quick this day so we turned north just before Lake Creek Camp on NFD 2810, a nice wide forest road paved with chip'n seal. Somehow, after about 5 miles of great twisty mountain roads, we missed a turn near Lake Lemolo Inlet Campground. We wound up on NFD 999 (or was it really 666????) What started out as a wide well graded gravel road gradually deteriorated into a narrow single track, then a trail, and finally a super-dusty cow trail with a radical crown. If one wasn't intensely vigilant, one end or the other of the ST would start sliding off the crown toward the ditch that defined the side of this path. After 30 miles of trail, over the snow covered Windigo Pass and the Pacific National Scenic Trail, then past the dusty shores of Crescent Lake we finally arrived at Crescent Junction and the first paved road in over an hour....hwy 58. We turned right and hauled ass down 58 for about 3 miles. Yeeeeehawwwww.....it was like riding on a sheet of glass. The pavement was sooooo smooth compared to what we were on for the last 30 miles. At the Crescent Creek Cutoff we started on one of the West's best motorcycle roads, CR 46, the Cascade Lakes Hwy Scenic Loop. This 70 miles was almost devoid of other vehicles this time of year and it runs through old growth forests of fir and pine, past innumerable lakes and streams, volcanic valleys, alpine meadows, and mountain ski resorts. CR 46 follows the Deschutes river upstream to its source at Little Lava Lake. Along this little stream are many prime fly fishing spots that will definitely require future exploration on my part. Looking at this humble little stream it is hard to imagine that 50 + miles of winding and mingling with estuaries downstream it will form into the mighty Deschutes River, one of the largest rivers in central Oregon. The Deschutes finally ends its twisting at the Columbia River, east of The Dalles. After 40 or so miles of motorcycle nirvana and eye candy we stopped our little group at Elk Lake for lunch at the lodge there. We all sat outside on the deck overlooking this high mountain lake surrounded by conifers and enjoyed the crystal clear water and air while scarfing down some tasty sandwiches. After lunch we continued on Cascade Lakes Hwy past Sparks Lake and through several high alpine valleys at the foot of Mount Bachelor. Mt. Bachelor (9065') is one of the Northwest's prime ski/recreational areas. About 4 p.m. we pulled into the Best Western Entrada Inn on the outskirts of Bend, OR. There we found some STOCers including several of the Dis-organizing Committee. Victor Pritzker, the official WeSTOC 2000 chef, was there protecting his Haggis with his life. After checking into our room Rick and I hung around the parking lot kicking tires with liSTers and wannabes alike until dinner time. After a great dinner in town with Clay Gradis, Michelle Tenebruso, Jeff Jones, Hal Rumenapp, Jeff Bertrand, and several others, Rick and I hit the sack in anticipation of the 'morrows great adventure.
As dawn advanced Rick, Jeff Bertrand, Hal Rumenapp, and I could be found in the parking lot loading our ST's and making last minute preparations for the day's ride..."The Klickitat" a loop up Hwy 97 to Hwy 197 and on to The Dalles and across the Columbia River to Washington. In Washington the route turns onto hwy 142 at Lyle, WA. Here the road twists and turns as it follows the Klickitat River through deep canyons, across wide fertile valleys, and fur and pine forests. First through the towns of Klickitat and Wahkiacus, then after leaving the Klickitat River we turn off of 142 onto Glenwood Rd. Glenwood Rd. heads out through fertile farmland until it drops back down into the Klickitat River gorge and continues into the Yakima Indian Reservation, toward the town of Glenwood, with Mt. Rainier in the background. At Glenwood we turn off onto the BZ-Glenwood Rd for windy, scenic ride to BZ Corners and Hwy 141. The 141 follows the White Salmon River as it meanders down to the Columbia River at Underwood. The route then crosses the Columbia on the Hood River Bridge, through the town of Hood River, and onto Hwy 35 which roams through gorges, valleys, and conifer forests on its way to Hwy 26. After turning south on the 26 the road turns into a wide high speed track across the Warm Springs Indian Reservation to Madras. At Madras the route re-joins Hwy 97 back to Bend. A total of 367 miles.
Once everyone was suited up, we headed out. Our first stop was for breakfast in Redmond. After gorging ourselves with the local fare of B&G, we were off for Washington. The route to the Columbia is mostly hot desert terrain that drops into and out of several river gorges on its way to The Dalles. In one of those gorge crossings our little group came up on an unloaded logging truck hauling his tag-a-long wheels. He was moving pretty rapidly, obviously he knew the road well, but we wanted to see the road ahead un-spoiled by his truck, so at the earliest clear spot we all pass one-by-one. He apparently wasn't used to anyone passing him on HIS road and floored it sending up twin black columns of smoke from his twin exhaust stacks as he took it up to 80+ mph trying to keep up with those impertinent damn murdersickles. That just wasn't enough to keep up with STs and he quickly faded into nothingness in our rearview mirrors; never to be seen again by us. Upon reaching The Dalles, we stopped for some cold drinks as it was well into the 100's that time of day. After our brief respite we were back on the road and quickly across the Dalles Bridge, riding up the great Columbia Gorge toward our turnoff at Lyle, WA. The Gorge is famous world wide for its excellent windsurfing conditions (i.e.: WINDY). Today was no exception. After turning onto hwy 142 toward Klickitat, we enjoyed miles of smiles. Twenty-four miles of motorcycle heaven...twisties that follow the Klickitat River as it snakes through the canyon. There was much peg scraping, and not a tire had "chicken stripes" by its end. It was much cooler (in the 80's) as we climbed out of the Columbia drainage and into the foothills at the base of Mt. Rainier. We wound our way through the cooler, alpine-like, country side; our senses saturated by the quaint farm houses, rolling meadows, pastures and fertile fields. This was what riding was meant to be! As we turned south at Glenwood and watched Mt. Rainier fade in our rearview mirrors, we were suddenly infused with a sense of both remorse and euphoria. It was sad that we were leaving this gorgeous example of Heaven on Earth, but we were heartened by our knowledge that such a place exists and can be enjoyed on two wheels. We worked our way down hwy 141 reveling in the invigorating sweepers as the road traced the White Salmon River as it carved its way to the Great Columbia. As we left the river and entered the outskirts of civilization at Bingen, WA we were shocked back into reality as the V-1's squawked and screeched the presence of "John Law" parked at the side of the road scanning for victims in the 30 mph zone. TGIV1 !!!! We lunched at McD's in Bingden just 'cuz we were too lazy to look for something good to eat...isn't that the real reason everyone eats there? ;-] As we sat there choking down our Big Macs and watching the other patrons and their kids, we were struck by the fact that these folks were just like those we had seen in countless other Golden Arches the world over. Maybe there is more common ground between people of all races and nationalities after all....or maybe the folks that are drawn to the world of Ronald McDonald are of a common ilk, like the sameness of the foodstuffs to be procured therein ....hummmm.
After lunch it was off to our next challenge...."THE BRIDGE". The Hood River Bridge, unlike the Dalles Bridge we crossed north over the Columbia, is of the "open grate" design. That is, in essence, one can see the water 100' below while crossing over it. Of greater concern to two wheelers, however, is the fact that the material of which the roadway (driving surface) is constructed is METAL!!!! Now mix this open grate metal roadway with a two wheeler and wet misty high wind conditions, and you will be in for an "E-ticket" ride that makes base jumping off of Angel Falls appear like WEB surfing in comparison. The trick was NOT TO LOOK DOWN. If one was able to avoid that pitfall, then one only had to lean their 700+ lb Honda ST1100 into the 30 mph crosswind that was trying to blow rider and bike into the oncoming cars and trucks passing within inches, and apply just enough throttle to keep forward momentum and not so much to cause the tires to loose traction on the wet metal grate. What a rush!! After "The Bridge" the rest of the ride was pretty tame as we wound our way south on hwy 35 up out of the Columbia River Gorge and out across the high plain farmlands of north central Oregon's Hood River drainage. Particularly breathtaking was the ride along the base of Mt. Hood with its magnificent Glaciers sparkling in the afternoon sun. The road, though dotted with the odd RV, was a combination of high speed sweepers and rolling hills through pine and fur forests, scrub oak, Junipers, and sagebrush. After leaving hwy 35 for hwy 26 at Government Camp, OR, the scenery changed from lush to conspicuously "moonscape" sparse. With the V-1's passive ECM providing some semblance of invulnerability, the group tested their mounts for "ST Nominal". Along a particularly deserted and straight section of hwy 26 in the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, with 5 miles of unobstructed visibility in all directions and no other vehicles on the road, a radio transmission over the FRS radios could be heard: "Blue leader...this is Red Rover...we are going for ST Nominal...over".... " Red Rover...Blue leader...go for it ...over" .... " Blue leader...roger" ... "110 indicated.....120 indicated....125 indicated...130 indicated...135 indicated...140 indicated... 142 indicated, 132 on the GPS...over" .... "Roger Red Rover ...verify 142 indicated, 132 on the GPS...over" ..."Roger Blue leader...verified...over".
We pulled into base camp at the Entrada mid afternoon to the wonderful (?) aroma (odor?) of Haggis simmering on Victor's parking lot kitchen. Rick notified me that his (Becci's) 94 wasn't charging. The Ron Major VDO voltmeter was indicating 11.5 vdc at 2000 rpm. Definitely not copus operendi!!! At the same time Jeff Bertrand voiced his concern that his beloved SThennia was handling bizarrely, and was worried that the front wheel bearings may be suspect. After a little impromptu parking lot diagnostics I concurred with his preliminary diagnoses and pronounced said front wheel bearings "TOAST". The next step was figuring where to procure replacement wheel bearings and the specialized tools with which to install them. Not necessarily an easy proposition this time of day in this small town, to say the least. Rick and I followed Jeff to the local snow blower, snowmobile, generator, ATV and Honda motorcycle dealer to make sure the toasted bearings would make it. Yes...they were that bad!!! ST Nominal on toasted front wheel bearings??????? you ask? "No Comment". After purchasing a set of "rare" Chinese (wheelbarrow) bearings that the STealer said would fit Jeff's bike ..we left in search of a few "special tools" for the R&R. We left Jeff at the local Home Depot to gather said tools as Rick and I headed back to home base to troubleshoot his charging problems. On the way back, Rick and I got caught in the worst downpour we have ever seen. The sky opened up and dropped "buckets" of H2O on us and the surrounding Bend terrain. After only about 10 minutes of this, the roads were flooded from curb to curb and all traffic was in gridlock. Rick and I, soaked to the bone in our sweat shirts and jeans, skillfully made our way back to the Entrada. We arrived in the parking lot to see Victor and a small entourage skillfully preparing our barbecue supper. We plaintively announced to everyone that there was the "Mother of all Storms" on its way, and they should take cover (Noah would surely be frantically building his Ark by now). We rode to the other end of the parking lot to begin disassembly of Rick's ST for diagnosis of his charging problem with the sound of scoffers chanting, "we don't worry about a little rain here in Oregon." About 15 minutes later, Rick and I and a few lookie lou's were deep into working out his ST's electrical gremlins when the sky opened up and dumped on the Entrada parking lot festival just as it had done to Rick and I earlier downtown. In short order, Victor's kitchen resembled its counterpart on the Titanic. Steam rose for feet into the air, Victor looked like the proverbial "drowned rat" (his Haggis actually seemed to have improved with the added rainwater dilution), and all of the "brave ducks" ...Oregonians were safely under the shelter of the nearest overhang. Its great to be right...Bwahahahahaha ;-] Rick and I continued to troubleshoot the charging problem while Jeff and a growing crowd of well wishers and kibitzers worked to install his new Chinaman bearings. Glancing over from our work, we noticed the flurry of activity surrounding SThennia. The front wheel was raised off the ground with the aid of a rather "large" gentleman (Heineken in hand) putting weight on the rear end while others stuffed soggy phone books, rocks, and pine cones under the engine to raise the front wheel off the ground to facilitate removal for service. Quite a sight. We thought of adding our expertise but were far to ensconced in our own problems. Besides, as we observed Jeff wielding the special wheel bearing tools he had procured from Home Depot, we were sure he had everything under control. After some deep investigation, Rick and I determined that the problem was with the alternator stator. This is a fairly common occurrence in pre-96 STs with the 28 amp, oil cooled alternator. I had, in fact, replace the one in my 93 the summer before. Fortunately, it appeared that at least one of the three windings was putting out juice. We pulled the fuse from the high beam circuit so that he could ride during the daylight with the headlights off. This would eventually allow Rick to ride mostly anywhere during daylight hours and still keep up with the charging needs, i.e.: 13.5 vdc. Jeff and friends, managed to R&R the front wheel bearings before dark. Meanwhile the rest of us partook in some of the most scrumptious barbecue in the Northwest. Except, NO HAGGIS!!!! Apparently, Victor had entrusted Clay Gradis with the Haggis for security reasons. Somehow, said Epicurean delight disappeared during a lapse in Clay's vigilance. The investigation is on-going....
The next day dawned with our group taking different tracks. Jeff and Hal took off on the Crater Lake Loop. Others took loops to the Oregon Coast or the Eastern Oregon forests. Rick and I decided to stay close to base due to his charging problems. For starters, we took the ski lift to the summit of Mt. Bachelor. I can unequivocally recommend this trip. From the summit, one can take a short hike to the four precipices and view most of central Oregon. We were able to view Crater Lake to the south and Mount Rainier, WA to the north. After lunch at the Mt. Bachelor Lodge, Rick and I took a short but magnificently beautiful ride south on the Cascades Lake Hwy to NFD 40 into the town of Sunriver, OR. We then traveled north on NFD 41 (conkiln rd) back to Cascades Lake Hwy at Mt. Bachelor. The entire ride was virtually devoid of any other traffic and traveled through some of the best scenery in Oregon. The roads were a bit rough, and sand covered a few of the turns, but if taken cautiously with some common sense, they were a real treat.
Upon return that afternoon, Rick and I took the opportunity to partake in some of the Entrada Inn's attractions and soaked our sore bu**$ in the spa until dinner. For dinner we joined a small but enthusiastic crowd at the local pizza joint to view some bikecam videos shot earlier that day by Steve Beckley on his group's ride over McKenzie Pass. Very interesting images. Especially his pass 'n poke technique for "punishing" Oregon road hog cage drivers. Later, we all attended the traditional WeSTOC "awards ceremony" hosted by the venerable WeSTOC Dis-organizing Committee. After the usual prank awards for accomplishments emeritus, the "Committee" announced the location of WeSTOC V, otherwise to be known as WeSTOC 2000. Steve Beckley spoke briefly encouraging all to join him next year in Durango, Colorado for, in his words, "the best WeSTOC ever." After saying goodby to our many friends for another year, Rick and I retired to our room.
The next morning Rick and I rose and packed or gear aboard our STs and, after breakfast at a great little pancake house in Bend, headed south on hwy 97 to hwy 138 and onto Crater Lake Hwy then into Grants Pass. The ride through the Crater Lake area inspired us to realize that even after riding all over the Pacific Northwest, the greatest roads and scenery were right there close to home in Southern Oregon.