Scott’s Big Adventure, Day One: Portland to Pendleton

First off, its very late, so I’m not going to post any video tonight. I’ll try to do a double entry tomorrow.

What a day. I wish I could say that everything went smoothly, but it didn’t. Everything was late, late, late. Starting off this morning, I was hoping to leave my apartment at about 9am, have coffee at Java Nation, hit Vespa Portland when they opened at 10am, and be on the road by 10:30am. Not even close.

I woke up early enough, but there were a gazillion little things to do before I could leave: clean out the fridge of everything that was going to spoil over the next month; take the trash to the dumpster; do the dishes; change the sheets (so that I could come home to a fresh bed); add 1 or 2 things to my bags which required reshuffling everything; and so on. I ended up leaving at about 10:30, but then I had a few errands to run: to the post office to stop my mail; to Fred Meyer to buy water and ice; to Java Nation for my caffeine fix.

Then I heard a strange train whistle and remembered seeing traffic control people all over Beaverton, and I surmised that the new Trimet commuter rail train–called WES–was making its first appearance for testing and training. So I had to go check that out, of course. I missed seeing it in motion but I caught it at the Beaverton Transit Center. Man is it big!

I got to the Vespa shop at about 12:30, only to run into the Portland Scooter Club as they were forming up for a group ride up the Gorge. They were all impressed about all of my equipment, so I had to explain what everything was, and where I was going, and when I would be back, and so on. Finally they left and I could get my scoot into the shop. I wanted to have the techs take a look at my shocks because I was experiencing some shimmying (is that how you spell that?) in my front end due to the extra weight of all my baggage and equipment. But just then a big crowd of customers arrived, so I ended up waiting for about an hour before I got out of there.

Just as I was leaving, I remembered that I had forgotten a very important piece of equipment: the remote control for my Sirius satellite radio base station! Because the radio is locked up in a water-tight box and I can’t operate the scroll wheel through the plastic membrane, the only way to perform certain functions is with the remote. So back to Beaverton to get that little gem. By the time I got that taken care of and finally hit the road, it was past 2:30pm and my chances of getting to Pendleton before dark where slipping away.

As I intended, I stopped several times along the way to take pictures and videos of the sights. Trouble was that each stop ended up being longer than I expected. That in itself isn’t a big deal, but since I was already running late, it just made me even later. I ended up skipping a few places I would have liked to stop thinking that since they were close to home, I could always go back another time.

I gassed up in Bingen, across from Hood River, but there I ran into a little snag. I accidentally overfilled the gas tank because the hose wouldn’t shut-off when I let go of the handle. I had to whack it with my hand to get it to stop. But I had been warned that letting gas overflow the tank would cause some filter to get fubar-ed (or something), and sure enough, the scooter wouldn’t start. After about 45-minutes I was able to get it running again, but just barely. I had to keep moving or else the engine would die if I stopped and dropped down to idle.

After about 10 miles, I got to another town and pulled over to see what would happen. Fortunately, the problem had worked itself out and everything was fine from then on. But by this time, it was close to 6pm and I wasn’t even halfway to Pendleton. I resigned myself to the fact that it would be dark by the time I got there, switched my face shield from tinted to clear, and stopped worrying about it. I was glad, however, that I had packed some “after dark” equipment, such as two flashlights and some glow sticks, even though I wasn’t planning on riding at night. But here it was the first day out from home, and I was going to be driving at night. Be prepared.

East of The Dalles, I wanted to stop at Maryhill Museum, but it was closed for the day. A little further on was Maryhill State Park and I stopped there for a rest. Right after leaving there, I saw a sign that said “No Gas 86 Miles.” Great! There was also no gas for 20-30 miles in the opposite direction either. There was gas in Biggs which is right across the Columbia from Maryhill State Park. Problem is the bridge is closed for repairs! I had about 3/4 of a tank, which I estimated would be just barely enough to get me to the next gas station which was at Umatilla.

Speaking of being prepared, I’m carrying a 1-liter bottle of extra gas in my saddlebags, which is good for about an extra 20 miles or so. Out in the middle of that dark stretch to Umatilla, I was thinking that I would need to use that contingency on the first day as well.

Boy is that section of Hwy 14 lonely. From the time I left the park until I got to the junction with Interstate 82, I didn’t encounter a single car or truck going in my direction. I didn’t pass anyone, no one passed me, and I didn’t see any taillights ahead or headlights in my mirrors. Nobody. And cars or trucks–mostly trucks–coming in the opposite direction were a rarity. I would only see one every 10-15 minutes or so. It was easy to see the reason why just by looking across the Columbia…everybody was over on Interstate 84. So here I am thinking that I’m out in the middle of nowhere, its dark, I’m having engine troubles, and I’m almost out of gas. If somethings happens, nobody’s going to find me until morning.

Fortunately, everything was fine and I made it to Umatilla–and a gas station–with no further trouble. I ended up staying about a half-hour at Umatilla: gas, cleaning the bugs off of my faceshield, putting the liner in my riding jacket, stretching, eating some junk food. It was another 45-minutes from there to Pendleton. I gave up on my plan to stay off of the freeways as much as possible. I didn’t want to be riding on some unfamiliar country road after dark. So I got back on I-82 and then I-84 on into Pendleton. Both of them were nearly deserted; I only passed or was passed by about 2-3 cars the whole way in.

Once I got into Pendleton at about 9:30pm, I couldn’t resist driving around a bit. Man, has this placed changed! I lived here in the 70’s, but I could hardly find anything that I could recognize. I’ll do some more exploring in the morning, including visiting my old house and schools. That will be on tomorrow’s video.

I found a motel, had some dinner, and now its after midnight as I’m writing this entry. So no editing and posting a video of this leg of the journey tonight. I’ll do a Day One video tomorrow night along with Day Two, and post them together.

Before I jump in the tub and then into the sack, there’s one thing that happened repeatedly on the ride that was totally unexpected. I’d be cruising along when all of a sudden the air temperature would drop by about 5-degrees for a few seconds or a minute, then it would rise back up again to where it was. In a car, you never notice this happening, even with the windows rolled down. Sometimes I could see a reason for it happening. For example, once it happened when I rode by an orchard–the trees and the ground were probably much moister than the surrounding area, which caused the temperature to dip. But other times, it would just happen for no apparent reason. There would just be this bank of colder air sitting there. Driving through it was like having someone dump cold water on you while you are in the shower. Brrrr.

Tomorrow: An hour or two exploring my old haunts in Pendleton, then south on Hwy 395 to Burns.