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Discover the Scenic Rides of Central Oregon

Central Oregon is a region of stark contrasts. From the grasslands to the volcanic peaks, you are in for an unforgettable ride if you choose to explore the 82-mile McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway.

Begin your ride on the Sisters and Santiam Pass loop. The Three Sisters, so named for the 10,000-foot peaks, welcome guests with 1800s western style. Follow the loop to Camp Sherman and stop at the vista overlooking Metolius. You’ll spot Mt. Washington, Suttle Lake, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and Lost Lake farther up the Pass.

A ride along the McKenzie River Highway segment of the Byway reveals the inviting waters of the Upper McKenzie River. You can also hike (or bike) along McKenzie River National Recreation Trail and Clear Lake. From the Byway, explore Sahalie Falls and the iridescent “Blue Pool.”

The McKenzie Highway ride is seasonal. You’ll ride 9 miles before coming upon a trail running through forested lava fields and Proxy Falls. The Byway climbs up Deadhorse Grade revealing incredible views of two of the Sisters. Further up the McKenzie Pass, investigate the Lava River National Recreation Trail and The Dee Wright Observatory’s views of the Cascade Peaks. 

Day One: Bend, Oregon to Sisters, Oregon

Okay, that's a little bit of a cheat. Bend and Sisters, Oregon are only about 20 miles apart. But I flew in to Redmond Field Airport today to begin my motorcycle tour around eastern Oregon. Rather than riding off into the distance, I stayed around Bend for the day.

Bend, Oregon was incorporated in 1905, and spent most of the 20th century as a logging town. Something happened in the 1990s. Logging died out, and Bend was discovered by a whole new group of people. Blessed with a mild climate and easy proximity to great skiing, fishing, camping, hiking and rock climbing, Bend became a magnet for a dual-pronged influx of young outdoorsy folk, along with refugees from the California real estate market. The mix worked, and a very cool small city with a population of about 80,000 that supports a symphony orchestra, several theater companies, along with tons of outdoors outfitters, mountain bike rental stands, musical instrument stores and drive-through espresso shacks. Perched on the edge of the Cascade Mountain range, Bend is a beautiful city with a lovely soul.

And what would a beautiful city be without a great Harley-Davidson dealership? I took a shuttle from the airport directly to Cascade Harley-Davidson to pick up my ride - a 2010 Ultra Classic Electra Glide. Good thing, too -- because it was raining in Bend, and the Ultra Classic has great weather protection, and I had an appointment at the Breedlove Guitar Factory.

Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson, two guitar makers who worked in the Taylor Guitars shop in California, founded Breedlove in 1990. With a little boost from Robert Taylor, Breedlove set up shop in Oregon to build their innovative acoustic guitars. Today, Breedlove builds its entry-level guitars in Korea, and its high-end guitars in a new Bend factory. Under the leadership of principle owner Peter Newport, the company is dedicated to responsible use of natural resources, and to the community in which it works. I joined a tour of the factory, where I learned about the different species of tone wood that the company uses, many of which are harvested in Oregon not far from the factory itself. I watched as skilled luthiers (guitar builders) installed binding, sprayed polyurethane coatings on guitar bodies, and inspected and set up instruments. The whole operation is thoroughly modern, yet human in scale, and the resulting instruments are truly works of art. Functional works of art, which I discovered when I got to play a few examples in the very relaxed confines of the Breedlove lobby/employee break room/performance space.

Tours of the Breedlove Guitar Factory are free, and are given on most weekdays at 1:00 pm. Call ahead (877-800-4848) to make a reservation, and to make sure that the factory isn't too busy making guitars that day to accommodate visitors.

After the Breedlove tour, I hopped on the bike and headed north, out of Bend and toward Sisters, where I will spend the night at the Best Western Ponderosa Inn. Nestled in the pines, the Best Western Ponderosa Lodge has one of the best features I've ever encountered in any hotel anywhere -- a herd of llamas! An incredibly friendly group of llamas live in a very generous habitat adjacent to the hotel. I can see them from the balcony of my second-floor room. Guests are welcome to feed the llamas bowls full of llama pellets, which I of course did. The llamas are friendly and expressive, especially when you approach their enclosure with food. I love llamas!

A writer friend of mine lives in Bend, and he drove up to meet me for dinner at Jen's Garden in Sisters, walking distance from the Best Western. The French-inspired cuisine was amazing, as was the setting. Jen's Garden is in an intimate cottage, with tables arranged in the small parlor and living room. I had Fresh Trout and Lemon-Caper Couscous Salad with Carrot Cream as a first course, and Fresh Alaska Halibut with Mixed Warm Spring Vegetables and a Peppery Watercress Sauce for my main course, followed by a Lemon Stilton Cheesecake Tart with Berry Coulis for dessert. The bar for meals has been set very high, very early on this trip.

Now it's time for bed. My room is gorgeous, with a tasteful western theme, a working fireplace and twig-style furniture. I could invite the llamas in to frolic in the enormous slate-tiled shower, but they seem happy out in their yard.

After a long day of travel, a short day of riding and a wealth of experiences, I'm looking forward to a nice stretch to John Day tomorrow. I hope the weather holds, because I'm eager to see Oregon in the sunshine.

Day two of Jason's Oregon adventure, Sisters to John Day.

Day Two: Sisters, Oregon to John Day, Oregon

Bright rays of sunshine and clear blue skies greeted me when I awoke this morning at the Best Western Ponderosa Lodge. I packed up my gear quickly, and headed for the breakfast room for a quick bite and a cup of hot coffee. And of course I had to make one last visit to my friends the llamas with a bowl of llama treats. General Manager Paul Haggerty greeted me to talk about the Sisters area, and I made him tell me all about the llamas. They live on about 4 acres of the 14-acre property. Several of the animals were actually born and raised right on site. The Lodge has even taken in an abused llama, and nursed him back to health. The herd has slowly accepted the new guy, though he is low man on the totem pole for now. The llamas have a big mound of dirt in their enclosure, and Haggerty told me that they often play "King of the Hill" on it, having great fun pushing each other off of the high point. I'll have to return to see that.

I checked the forecast, and it looked as if the break in the weather was only going to be temporary. I really wanted to see the Head of the Metolius, where the Metolius River emerges from the ground in a bubbling froth. It's just 20 minutes or so from Sisters, but in the opposite direction that I needed to travel today. My friend Leonard Gross, a writer who lives in Bend, had offered to give me a tour of the city, and I would not be able to do both without getting soaked at some point during the day. So, in addition to the llamas, I have another reason to return to Sisters. As if the llamas weren't enough.

I jumped on the Electra Glide, and rode south into Bend. I met Leonard at his home in the hills, and he took me on a great car tour of his town. Downtown is set up for walking, with great shops and restaurants. Beautiful parkland and riverfront paths loop through the area, and the vibe is extremely relaxed and peaceful. The Deschutes River runs through town, and the former mill district has been turned into elegant shopping. The whole town radiates serenity and harmony with nature, with lovely examples of Craftsman style architecture cropping up even in new developments.

We took a short ride along the river to the Deschutes National Forest. Leonard showed me Benham Falls, a beautiful spot on the Deschutes River. The air beside the rapids was the freshest, cleanest air I've breathed in years. I can see why Leonard loves Bend so much.

I had lingered in Bend for a little too long -- the weather was upon me, and it began to drizzle. I saddled up, bid Leonard and Bend farewell, and rode out of town.

By the time I got to Prineville, about 45 minutes away, the light drizzle had turned into sheets of rain. I needed fuel for the Electra Glide, and fuel for myself. I gassed up, and asked the station attendant for a recommendation. He pointed me toward Brothers, a good old-fashioned diner a mile away. Nothing goes with a rainy day like a good omelet, a pot of coffee and the local newspaper. I sat out the rain for an hour or so, until the sheets of rain diminished into a light mist (pillowcases of rain?).

Back on the bike, I headed east on Route 26. I had about 120 miles to go to reach John Day.

I like riding in the rain, especially when I'm properly geared up. The only bummer is that I can't stop and take pictures when I see something beautiful. And this ride was beautiful. The road was gorgeous, snaking through pine forests, green pastures and alongside the John Day River, changing elevation and traversing passes as high as 4,800 feet. It was a great ride, and I pulled in to the parking lot at the Best Western John Day Inn at about 6:00 pm.

I checked in to my room, and when I came out, four guys rode up on their Harleys. They were on an annual vacation ride, which had originated near Yakima in Washington State. We exchanged road tales, comparing notes on the weather and road conditions. Conversation was easy, and I was able to tell them about Best Western Ride Rewards® program, and Rider-Friendly® hotels. The guys hadn't heard of the programs before, so I scored some points by letting them know how they could save some dough.

I walked down Main Street to the Outpost Restaurant, and had a delicious steak dinner. Why does steak taste so much better after you've been riding past beautiful pastureland dotted with relaxed cows? I'm not going to examine that one too closely, because I love steak so much.

I'm back in my comfortable room now, using the free wireless internet to plan the day ahead. The weather forecast calls for cloudy skies. Hope I can avoid the rain!

Jason rides from John Day to Pendleton.

Day Three: John Day, Oregon to Pendleton, Oregon

According to everyone I talk to, I've hit unseasonable weather during this trip to Eastern Oregon. What that means is, more rain today.

When I woke up this morning, the rain was falling so heavily that it obscured the view out of my window at the Best Western John Day Inn. I went to the breakfast room for a cup of coffee to consider my options. The fresh hot coffee went down well with a bowl of cereal and a muffin, and I began to feel better about my day right away. Nothing like a free breakfast to lighten your mood.

I've been using a new free app on my iPhone, WeatherBug, which gives highly detailed hourly local weather forecasts, and it looked as if I could expect a break in the rain in an hour or so. So, I delayed my departure from John Day, and explored the town on foot.

Right around the corner from the Inn, I discovered the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site. The building is a part of the Oregon State Parks system, and is a fascinating glimpse into a neglected aspect of the history of the West. Kam Wah Chung & Co. was a Chinese mercantile and herbal medical office that operated in the 19th century, and the site has been preserved and renovated to its original state. Admission is free, and a tour takes about 45 minutes.

When I was done with my tour, the rain had indeed died down -- thanks, Weather Bug! I saddled up on the Electra Glide, and headed east on Route 26. My next stop would be the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Kimberly. Over 2,000 extinct species have been discovered in fossil form in the area. I visited the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, which is a museum and research center. They have an amazing collection of artifacts, displayed in a serpentine room with dioramas and supporting materials. There's a window onto the research center, where paleontologists sift through fossils, seeking more finds. If the weather had been more amenable, I might have joined one of the trail hikes with the scientists, which leave every couple of hours during the day. But after exploring the Center, I decided to move on.

I backtracked to Mt. Vernon, and caught Route 395 North. Even in the rain, this beautiful road delivered a glorious ride over mountain passes as high as 5,000 feet. Perfect ribbons of asphalt weaved their way through dense pines, over hills and dales. The road rose and fell, took banked turns around obstacles, and made elegant switchbacks.

I stopped for a quick lunch in the tiny (and I mean tiny) town of Long Creek at the Mountain Inn Café & Grocery. While I relaxed over a chicken sandwich, a man came in asking where the nearest gas station was. The answer shocked him -- the nearest gas was in John Day, 39 miles away. The man pondered his fate, and the owner of the Café offered him a gallon of gas from his personal stash. Nice.

The rain continued during the rest of my ride to Pendleton, but it did not dampen my spirits. The Electra Glide is remarkably sure-footed, and the roads were in great shape. About 10 miles outside of Pendleton, the skies cleared, and I arrived at the Best Western Pendleton Inn dry and happy. I checked in to the hotel, and went back out to explore the town.

Pendleton, Oregon is a genuine Western town of 17,000. The famous Pendleton Woolen Mills was founded in 1909. The company is still in operation in the same location right in the middle of town, so I went for a visit. I was too late for a factory tour, which is probably a good thing, given my extreme allergy to wool. But I did get to admire the gorgeous blankets and clothing in the factory store, and just seeing the exterior of the building was a great treat.

I rode further downtown and took a gander at the arena that houses the Pendleton Round-Up, an annual event that will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year from September 15 - 18. The arena is undergoing a massive renovation, and it is going to be a great place to see a rodeo. Some 50,000 fans showed up last year, and they're expecting this year to be even bigger. Get your tickets now.

At a public park next to the Round-Up, I blundered across the crew setting up for an antique tractor show. I wandered among twenty or thirty of the most beautiful small farm tractors I've ever seen, and chatted with their owners. It was a real small town event, and I felt privileged to have experienced it.

I returned to the Best Western Pendleton Inn and parked the bike outside. Looking out behind the hotel, I was completely captivated by the view. The Inn sits on a hill just south of Pendleton, and looking back further south, the amazing sky and hills beg to be photographed and painted. In fact, several guests joined me to admire the view, each of us armed with digital cameras. We snapped photos, experimented with exposures and settings, and generally oohed and aahed at the great location. We all agreed that we had selected a nice hotel -- from the neat rooms to the heated pool to the great views and friendly service, it would be a very nice stay.

Rather than saddle back up and ride down the hill back into Pendleton, I decided to have a light dinner at a nearby restaurant and call it a night. I have a big ride ahead of me tomorrow, along the Columbia River to Cascade Locks. I'm going to try to leave early, because WeatherBug tells me that the rain will return to Pendleton by late morning. Wish me luck.

Day four of Jason's trip from Pendleton to Cascade Locks

Day Four: Pendleton, Oregon to Cascade Locks, Oregon

Never take a beautiful day for granted. I finally got one, from start to finish today. Temperatures ranging from the low 60s up to the low 80s, clear skies and a light breeze. Perfect motorcycling weather.

I wolfed down a quick breakfast at the Best Western Pendleton Inn, loaded up the Electra Glide and checked out of the hotel. Did I need those biscuits and gravy? Well, at least I skipped the waffles this time.

I rode down the hill into Pendleton's downtown, on my way toward Route 395 and Pilot Rock. But what should appear on Main Street in Pendleton but a car show! The annual June Cruisin and British Invasion is a classic car show that's been held every year since 1995. Four blocks of Main Street are closed off, and classic American and British cars line the streets. I saw some great MGs, Triumphs and Austin-Healeys, along with GTOs, Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes and classic American cars. The quality of restoration and presentation rivaled anything I've seen in big cities, even if the quantity was more manageable. I guess long winters are great for car collectors and restorers.

With visions of muscle cars dancing in my head, I saddled back up and rode south out of town. I had planned a route that would take me into the heart of the state on country roads, rather than the more direct route that would force me to ride on the Interstate, I-84.

The ride today was worth the entire trip. At Pilot Rock I headed west on Route 74, the Heppner Highway. I don't know if economic stimulus monies were responsible for the new asphalt that I traversed, but if so, it was money well spent. Perfect, smooth blacktop greeted me at every turn. The road was perfectly graded and banked, and took beautiful turns around hills and through passes. The high desert landscape was lush and green with late spring foliage, and happy cows grazed in relaxed splendor. For much of the ride, I had the road to myself, with little traffic in either direction. It was absolute motorcycle Nirvana, a route I hope to return to again some day soon.

I stopped for lunch in the tiny hamlet of Condon. I chose Country Flowers, one of three restaurants on Main Street, mostly because they had tables outside, where I could enjoy the glorious weather and watch the world go by while I ate my tuna sandwich.

Back on the bike again, I continued west. A few miles along, I was stunned when I went over a rise and found myself on a high plain. In the distance, like a picture postcard, was Mount Hood. Still snow capped in June, it rose above the plains like a vision. Mount Hood is actually a dormant volcano, and at over 11,000 feet high, it is the highest mountain in Oregon, and the fourth highest in the Cascades. I don't know how far away it was -- but I think it was at least 60 miles in the distance. And it was a vision. I caught more glimpses of it as I rode west, but it never seemed to get closer.

I continued on Route 206 to Wasco, where I met up with Route 97 for a jag to the north. At Biggs, Oregon, I crossed over the Columbia River into Washington State where I picked up Washington Route 14. Route 14 follows the path of the river, high above the water and above the Columbia Gorge. The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon that runs 80 miles long, separating Oregon and Washington. The views are spectacular. The biggest riding challenge was simply keeping my eyes on the road ahead, and not staring off into the distance. The road travels alongside the railroad tracks, snaking across and beside and ducking through tunnels through the hillside. I started to see more and more motorcyclists out on their bikes. It was a beautiful Saturday for a ride, and everybody seemed to be taking advantage.

Finally, I reached the Bridge of the Gods. The Bridge of the Gods is named after an ancient Native American legend about a natural stone bridge that was built by the Gods to help the people cross the river. The modern bridge was built in 1926 and improved in the 1960s. It is a steel cantilever bridge that soars 140 feet above the water, with a length of 1858 feet. It is beautiful and delicate, and crossing its metal grate surface on a motorcycle can be a little hairy. I have learned by experience that a very smooth hand on the throttle along with a light grip on the bars is the best way to deal with the oscillations that the grate can cause. You have to trust your bike, and you'll be fine.

I paid the fifty-cent toll on the Oregon side, and glided in to the parking lot at the Best Western Columbia River Inn, which sits in the shadow of the Bridge of the Gods. The nice woman at the front desk welcomed me and my motorcycle. She pointed out the Inn's dedicated bike parking, but told me that I was welcome to park the Electra Glide in any space. I chose a convenient spot right near the front entrance, where the Electra Glide looked particularly fetching. My room overlooks the river, and I have a beautiful view of the bridge as I sit here writing. What a glorious spot for a hotel.

My friend Jeff Zurschmiede, a writer and Corvette expert, drove over from Portland to join me for dinner. Portland is about 45 minutes west of Cascade Locks along Interstate 84. We went back across the Bridge of the Gods into Washington to the restaurant in a nearby lodge in Stevenson. I had a fantastic pork tenderloin, and Jeff had a cioppino. Since Jeff was driving, I indulged in a draught pint of Full Sail Ale, Mt. Hood's local brew. I couldn't help but be a little smug when we left the fancy-pants lodge, knowing that a river view room at the Best Western Columbia River Inn costs over $150 a night less, and the view is at least 150 times better.

Jeff and I drove down to look at the Cascade Locks, remnants of the actual river locks built in 1896. The locks were built to help steamboats bypass the rapids on the river, but were made obsolete when the Bonneville Dam was built during the WPA projects of the 1930s. The locks are now a popular fishing site and public park.

Back at the hotel, I bade Jeff farewell and sent him back to Portland. I have to plan my final day of riding for this trip, back to Bend to return the Electra Glide. The forecast calls for rain again, but maybe I'll get lucky.

The final leg of Jason's ride - Cascade Locks to Prineville

Day Five: Cascade Locks to Prineville, Oregon and home again

I looked out of my window at the Best Western Columbia River Inn this morning, and you'll never guess what I saw: Rain. How'd you guess? I huddled in the breakfast room over my coffee and maps, trying to figure out what my best alternatives would be. I had to be in Bend, Oregon by 3:00 pm to return the Electra Glide, so I didn't have time to linger too long waiting for the weather to clear. My trusty iPhone app, WeatherBug, didn't hold out too much hope, anyway. So, I resigned myself to a wet, foggy ride.

I wish I could have spent more time in the Columbia River Gorge area. It really does seem like a fantastic place. There's world-class wind surfing, which I've always wanted to try. There's great salmon fishing, and fly-fishing nearby. There is hiking, mountain biking and camping up at Mt. Hood to the south, or exciting volcano watching to the north at Mt. St. Helens. The Mount Hood Railroad runs excursion trains with guides giving history tours. There are several museums, including the Two Rivers Heritage Museum in Washougal, Washington, the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum in Stevenson, Washington and the Maryhill Museum of Art, each with world-class collections of art, artifacts and historical materials. It would take weeks to explore the Gorge, but all I could do was ride through in the rain.

I did make time for one stop -- at the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River, Oregon. And wow, what a stop! WAAAM has only been open for about three years, but they have put together a collection of over 60 classic aircraft, 100 classic automobiles and 17 classic motorcycles, all displayed in two adjoining airplane hangers. This museum is totally volunteer-run, and is a must for any gearhead. I'm not an airplane buff, but I was fascinated by the gorgeous aircraft, engines and parts on display. The Wright Brothers' flight over Kitty Hawk was barely a century ago, but there is rich history in aviation. Looking at classic planes, you can really see the human touch in the wooden propellers, the carefully skinned wings and fuselages, and the hand-painted details. The car collection isn't too shabby, either, and the select motorcycles are also cool. The cars, bikes and planes are all displayed together, with some interesting juxtapositions of vehicles from similar eras. I could have spent all day at WAAAM, but I had a mountain to get around, and it was raining.

Back on the Electra Glide, I carefully zipped all of the vents on my FXRG jacket closed. I would be climbing back up close to 5,000 feet, and I knew that the rain would bring the temperature down even more than the elevation. I took Route 35 south toward Mt. Hood for one of the hairiest rides of my life. The rain came down hard, accompanied by thick fog that obscured my view of the road. I had to keep riding at or close to the speed limit so that I wouldn't become an obstruction to traffic, and I clung to the wake of a big RV to make sure that I'd be visible to anybody coming up fast behind me. Even though conditions were dangerous, some drivers still sped through at 20 mph over the limit, which seemed crazy to me.

Finally, I reached the turnoff for Route 26, and rode through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The road became much less challenging (and less interesting), but I'm not complaining. Much of the Reservation looks more like the classic high desert that I was expecting -- fewer trees, more scrub and low vegetation, and rolling hills with mountains in the distance.

I stopped in the town of Madras, population 6,600. In need of some sustenance, I chose the Black Bear Diner, part of a Northwestern chain of diners. I'm pretty firmly against chain restaurants when I'm on a motorcycle trip, but the Black Bear caught my eye, promising great food and a relaxed atmosphere. I was not disappointed. I sat out the rain for about a half an hour while I ate my lunch and read the Warm Springs Indian Reservation's weekly newspaper, Spilay Tymoo. On the "Letters to the Editor" page, local residents published apologies. Individuals who had broken tribal laws wrote letters explaining their transgressions, and apologizing to the community for their bad acts. They promised not to break tribal law again. Though the crimes were minor and in some cases embarrassing, I was quite taken with the concept of public apology. I wonder if it actually promotes more accountability and better future actions? I hope so.

A brief break in the rain gave me a chance to hop back on the Electra Glide for the final push into Bend, still about 45 minutes away. The closer I got to Bend and Cascade Harley-Davidson, the more I wished I could keep on riding. Sure, I needed to get home. But Oregon had so much more to show me, and WeatherBug told me that the rain was about to go away.

I dropped off the Electra Glide, dropped a few dollars in the Motor Clothes area of the dealership (if you don't get a pin and a hat, did the trip really happen?), and repacked my gear into my suitcase, which I had left behind on the first day of my trip.

Troy Clark, General Manager of the Best Western Prineville Inn, was kind enough to pick me up at the Harley dealer so that I could stay at his inn for the night. Troy's wife Rachel, and Prineville Assistant General Manager Jennifer Dunn rode along, too, keeping Troy company and welcoming me to the area. I felt like a king. I can't promise such elegant treatment for every guest at the Best Western Prineville Inn, but I can guarantee that the staff will make you feel welcome and cared-for. On the way to Prineville, I learned that the Clark family and the Dunns are big dirt bikers, and that there is BLM (Bureau of Land Management) property with great trails and rides right near Prineville. There's also a track for practicing, and a supportive dirt biking community in the area. Some riders make Prineville a destination, using the Best Western Prineville Inn as home base for their off-road adventures. Sounds like a blast.

For fishing and boating, there's the Prineville Reservoir, an Oregon State Park that's about 14 miles southeast of town. Formed by the damming of the Crooked River, the Prineville Reservoir supports trout, bass, catfish, crappie, and crayfish, and can be fished year-round, including ice fishing.

Smith Rock State Park is another Oregon State Park with great views, hiking, mountain biking trails and rock climbing areas. Athletes come from all over to experience the world-class climbing and beautiful scenery.

For the less outdoorsy, it's fun to explore Elkins Gem Stones on Prineville's Main Street. They sell everything from raw agates to fully polished quartz stones, and the chance to make a discovery is part of the adventure.

I checked in to the Best Western Prineville Inn, joined by my old pal, the rain. My comfortable room had a Jacuzzi tub in the corner, the perfect antidote to five days on a motorcycle. I filled it up with hot water, climbed in and let the jets soothe my weary bones while I watched Sports Center on the television. Simple pleasures are the best.

When it came time for dinner, I walked down 3rd Street to Club Pioneer, an old-fashioned western steak house a few hundred yards away from the Best Western. I settled in to a booth, where I was treated to a delicious, medium-rare porterhouse steak that completely satisfied my hunger. I saved some room to sample the delicious berry cobbler desert, before waddling back to my room at the hotel. I spent a few minutes organizing my gear, and preparing to leave tomorrow. Troy Clark is giving me a ride to the airport in Redmond, where I have an early flight. I'll be back at my desk before noon, with memories of Oregon to sustain me until my next ride.

Thinking back over my trip, it's not the rain that I'll remember. It's the scenery, and it's the clean air, and the limitless potential that I felt in Oregon. The spirit of the West really does live in Oregon, where I felt closer to the cowboy myth than I have anywhere else, even in Texas. I never felt rushed or pressured for one minute in the state, and I always felt welcome. I could have explored any one of my stops (Sisters, John Day, Pendleton, Cascade Locks and Prineville) for a week each, and only scratched the surface. I will definitely return to Oregon, but I'll give it more time, and I'll really explore.

But now, it's time to start thinking about my next new ride.