Tuesday, October 6, 2020: Let’s Get Dirty

Newberry National Volcanic Monument to Antelope Reservoir

Woke up to another cold morning with temps in the mid to low 30s. We were on the road by 8:30 and headed for the shop in Bend to get a new tire. I dropped the bike off with the folks at M-Tech Motorcycles and walked down the street for coffee. In about an hour my wallet was $200 lighter, and my bike had a new Dunlop Trailmax Mission replacing the original Bridgestone Trailwing.

We made a quick stop at REI for some camp food. The Bend REI was built inside the brick shell of an old lumber mill. The walls inside are bare brick, and the mill’s three smokestacks still reside on the roof. I looked for some base layer pants to help keep me warm at night, but could not find any. I got a dehydrated meal and some protein bars instead.

Greg and I then headed east on Highway 20 into the Oregon high desert. Highway 20 climbed through the rugged Oregon Badlands – a vast plain of old basalt lava sparsely covered with juniper trees and grasses. It was a preview of the “magnificent desolation” we would see in southeast Oregon.

Just west of the town of Brothers we turned onto Oregon Highway 27, the Crooked River Highway, to head toward Prineville. From Highway 20, Highway 27 starts off as a straight washboard dirt road that will rattle the fillings out of your mouth. The gravel was a little loose and it took a couple miles for me to find my dirt groove. I thought back to the training the Motorcycle Relief Project gave me in Colorado. I soon remembered to trust the bike and got my dirt groove and a comfortable pace.

After about 17 miles, the dirt turned to pavement as it entered the Crooked River Canyon. The road followed the curves of the Crooked River and gave us amazing views of the river and canyon walls. The volcanic nature of the eastern Oregon landscape was evident in the canyon. The river had carved through millions of years of basalt deposits and hexagonal basalt columns were visible on both sides. They appeared as if they were holding up the land at the top of the canyon.

We grabbed gas and supplies for the night in Prineville and headed east on Oregon Highway 380. As we rode east, we passed the town of Post, which bills itself as the “Center of Oregon.” Sure enough, if you look on a map, you’ll find Post almost dead center in the state.

Just east of Post, we turned onto unpaved Forest Route 17 and climbed into the Maury Mountains to seek our campground. As we rode the 18 miles to our stop, I found myself keeping up with Greg as we rolled through the forest. We climbed to what felt like the top of the mountains and stopped at the Antelope Flat Reservoir Campground. The campground seemed large, but we were one of only three sites that were occupied.

The campground sits in a pine forest above the reservoir. We hiked down to the reservoir to take a swim, but found the water to be dirty and shallow. A couple fisherman came by to chase down their dogs that had ran over to see us. They said the reservoir has been low for a long time, as have many across the state due to hemp farms.

After coming up empty at the reservoir, we returned to camp and washed our clothes at the campground’s well. One thing about motorcycle travel is you don’t have a lot of room for a week’s worth of clothes. Doing laundry, even at a campground in the middle of nowhere, is a necessity – nothing beats a clean pair of socks.

I made the dehydrated meal I had bought earlier at REI and was pleasantly surprised. The AlpineAire chicken jambalaya didn’t taste like it had come from a foil pouch. It actually tasted like jambalaya.

After the sun went down the temperature dropped quickly. The air was dry and we were at 4600 feet elevation. I started a campfire to fight off the cold.

We got another visit from the ISS during the night. That’s three days in a row. The ISS has turned out to be our regular companion during the trip. While watching the station tonight, it crossed overhead almost horizon to horizon before disappearing from sight. We waved at the astronauts aboard the station, but can’t be sure they waved back.

Day’s Mileage: 174.3, Total Mileage: 616.8