While the triumph of Idaho may have been unexpected, Oregon is truly the best kept secret in sport riding. If it wasn’t the riders in surrounding states warning us of jail time for speeding, it was the lack of route information that almost had us slabbing straight to Northern California. It wasn’t until we started talking to some local sport riders at the gas stations, situated few and far between, that we realized the benefit of having some insider knowledge.
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If you are riding as a tourist, the one road you cannot miss is McKenzie Pass, or as we like to call it – The West Coast Tail of the Dragon. Better known on a map as Highway 242, it is an incredible road that is by far the most technical street ride that we have experienced on the trip. The road is unforgiving for motorcyclists as it is extremely narrow, lined with volcanic lava rock, and enclosed by canyon walls in between stretches of towering trees.
Each corner has less visibility than the last with varying degrees of decreasing radius angles occasionally sprinkled with enough gravel to have the front wheel skip and pucker your ass.
But after a few passes to learn the route and desensitize yourself to the scenery (which resulted in dozens of tourists pulled off to the side of the road), we got into the rhythm that we had been preparing for the entire trip. Linked corners became second nature, and as our speeds came up to a respectable 35mph, we began to enjoy the bank angles and elevation changes that replaced the fear of an unknown pass with smiles of incredible enjoyment.
After riding this remarkable collection of turns you can continue the tourist track on some rides that are strung together by a bit of slab but jaw-dropping nonetheless. Crater Lake is the most spectacular body of fresh water that we have come across in the journey, surrounded by high speed sweepers sprinkled with the occasional technical hairpin.
Mount Hood houses the Timberline Lodge, known to The Shining fans as the main filming location, and features a two lane mountain climb. Good practice for tandem riding. The 101 byway can take you all the way to the majestic coastline, and to the home location of the Richard Donner Classic The Goonies, which was one of the most epic landscapes that we have ridden in the U.S.
The tourist spots in this state are not crowded and have some incredible rides associated with the destination, however, nothing compares to the Oregon we encountered when we hitched up with a local Oregon rider who took us off the highlighted routes and into the hills.
Between the Newburg and Hillsboro areas of Northwestern Oregon and just east of Mount Hood is a web of short distance interconnected roads that contend with some of the best roads in America when strung together. Cut into sections of one- to two-mile racetracks between each intersection, the Oregon back country can give you endless combinations of routes from Point A to Point B. Every turn had changes in elevation with a few switchbacks climbing 30 ft on a 10mph recommended speed. Pavement was fresh and clear, with most turns having a few degrees of embankment for increased turn-in confidence.
At some points the roads slowed into one-lane bridges, and a few hidden turn offs took us to places such as local jump spots for paragliders and private waterfalls. For three days we experienced an exclusive side to Portland and the surrounding towns that typically only life long residents have the good fortune to experience.
Now I realize that if you are going to venture to a place like Oregon, and you are not from a neighboring state, the likelihood that you will forgo planning in lieu of a chance meetup at a local fuel stop is a bit crazy. But maybe you are passing through adventure style without any destination or time restrictions, or are local with a bit of extra time on your hands. Either way, if you plan to ride in Oregon keep a day open as you are bound to interact with the incredibly tight-knit community who will likely show you something that’s not on the map.
Part 10 of the Escape the Apple Series
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Part 2 of the Escape the Apple Series
Part 1 of the Escape the Apple Series