Category Archives: Adventure

Scott’s Big Adventure, Day Fourteen: Boise to Sun Valley

I spent the morning sleeping in and, after waking up, being bummed about the Vespa and considering canceling the rest of the trip. I had had engine trouble with the Vespa twice before, and I was beginning to think that it was a lemon. It happens. I was in a really depressed mood.

Late in the morning, I called the shop which was looking at the scooter to find out if I was going to be staying in Boise for a few more days. But they had good news: The problem was fixed and the bike was ready to pick up. Hurray! It turns out that the vibrations from the long trip had caused a bunch of screws to work loose, including the spark plug. They said that typically came from the factory with the screws not tight enough for our road conditions out west.

Easily fixed. They went over the entire scooter and tightened everything they found. I did lose a few other bits and pieces–one reflector is gone, another is hanging by a thread, a small piece of body molding, and a handful of missing screws–but the Vespa is not back in good health. Now I have something else to add to my routine pre-ride checklist: make sure the spark plug is secure; and check the other nuts and screws for good measure. Probably don’t need to do that every day, but every few days for sure.

By the time I had gotten packed and over to the shop and gotten changed and loaded up and had run a couple of errands, it was getting to be about 2:30 in the afternoon…another late start. Since there was no way I was going to get all the way to the western entrance to Yellowstone today, I decide to split the trip into two days. And based on several recommendations, the rest of this afternoon would be a ride around the Sawtooth Mountains and down into Sun Valley.

There’s not much to tell about this leg of the trip expect that it was spectacular yet again. The Sawtooths are a ridge of very rugged peaks that looks like, well, saw teeth. Coming in from Boise from the SW, you don’t see them for quite a while. They’re hidden by the foothills. The highway takes you to the NE around the northern end of the ridge, and into the Salmon River valley. (Not sure if that’s its actual name.) Then you catch your first real glimpse of the mountains, and it just takes your breath away.

The highway continues on SSE through the valley, with the Sawtooths on your right, looking close enough to touch. The elevation in the valley is about 7000 ft. I stopped at Redfish Lake, so named for the spawning salmon that used to congregate there. I say “used to” because I remember a news report from several years ago that said that with the decimation of the salmon runs further downstream–these fish come up the Columbia from the ocean–there were only a handful of “red fish” making it back to Redfish Lake. Sad.

After the lake, the road continues roughly south in a straight line to the head of the valley, then climbs up over a pass and down into the head of the valley which houses Sun Valley. It was–once again–dark when I got into Ketchum. I’m staying at the Tamarack Lodge on the road to Sun Valley. The town of Ketchum is a typical tourist town. Lots of shops with overpriced merchandise. No franchise businesses such as Denny’s or McDonalds. Everything is expensive. For example, my room at the Tamarack was about $100, but the $60 room at the Comfort Inn was nicer. And these are off-season prices!

The plan for tomorrow, Day Five, is to descend to the Snake River Plain, then head for West Yellowstone for the night. I want to be in Yellowstone park all day Thursday. The weather report says that a storm from is coming and is expected to arrive by the weekend. Need to beat the snow.

Scott’s Big Adventure: Waaay Behind on Videos

I am way behind on editing the videos of my trip. I got a late start out of Pendleton yesterday, which was due to my late start getting out of Portland the day before. I got into Pendleton after dark, so I had to visit all of my old haunts in the morning rather than the afternoon of the first day. So all that put me into Burns after dark.

I spend a couple of hours edit videos of the first day of the trip, but the going is slow. This is my first time using Adobe Premiere Elements, and the interface is unfamiliar. Also, my travel mouse was broken so I didn’t bring it along, but trying to edit video with just the trackpad is not working out very well. I’ll try to pick up a new mouse when I get to Boise. In the mean time, I’m definitely leaving Burns early in the morning, so I should get to Boise by mid-afternoon. Hopefully that will be enough time to get caught up on my blogging and videos.

Scott’s Big Adventure, Days Two & Three: Pendleton to Burns to Boise

Around Pendleton

If I could have left Portland early enough to have gotten into Pendleton by mid-afternoon, then this next bit would have taken place then and I wouldn’t have gotten further off schedule for Day Two. As it was I got into Pendleton late at night, so my tour around my old personal landmarks took place on the morning of Day Two. I stayed the night at a Best Western motel on top of the plateau near my old Jr. High School. (Pendleton sits down in a valley formed by the Umatilla River and McKay Creek, and looking around on top of the plateau, you’d never even know its there.) Here are the places that visited, working my way from one end of town to the other. As you can see, things have changed quite a bit.

  • John Murray Jr. High School, which is now a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture office building.
  • The old Firestone tire store which my step-father used to own and manage, now a Sherwin-Williams paint store.
  • Main Street looks quite a bit different due to lots of renovations.
  • The Tapadera Inn, the prominent, big hotel in downtown, burned down years ago to be replaced by something unremarkable.
  • Hamley’s, the big Western Saddle maker, has expanded enormously, adding a steakhouse, a coffee shop, a museum, and a much bigger store.
  • The Little League ballpark where I used to play baseball. Looks about the same as it did, maybe a little spruced up.
  • The Pendleton Woolen Mills, looking pretty much the same as it always did.
  • My old church, Peace Lutheran, up on the hill, also looking pretty much the same.
  • Helen McCune Jr. High School, which is now City Hall. The attached gym and auditorium were detached and converted into a public rec center and performing arts center, respectively. The must have build a new junior high or middle school somewhere, but I didn’t bother with it.
  • The Arctic Circle restaurant where I used to go eat lunch during 9th grade, now an insurance agency.
  • The A&W restaurant where I used to go get root beer floats while waiting for my bus–which was always one of the last to arrive–torn down and replaced by something unremarkable.
  • The Round-Up (rodeo) grounds, looking the same as always, but with a nice red and yellow paint job.
  • My old house on Marshall street. We lived there less than a year, and I couldn’t remember exactly which one it was. But the neighborhood in general has gone a bit seedy.
  • The grocery store at the top of Southgate hill, now an RV dealership.
  • Sherwood Elementary, where I did 6th grade. Still there but its been expanded and there are external modular classrooms. Also, it no longer holds 6th grade but stops at 5th.
  • My old house on Jay Street. Still there looking about the same as I remember it. But this neighborhood has also gone to seed somewhat.
  • Andy Peterson’s house around the corner from mine. I knew which one it was, but it didn’t look the way I remembered it.
  • McKay Creek, at the bottom of the hill from my house, which we used to float down on inner-tubes. Still there, of course, but the area around it has built up a bit. I talked to an older guy on the street leading to the creek who’s family had lived there since before I did, who filled me in on a lot of what has happened over the years.
  • Hill Meat Company and surround pastures, gone, replaced by new (to me) houses and a park.
  • The hills behind the Seventh Day Adventist school, where we used to ride dirt bikes (this was before motocross became popular). A bit of it is still there, but its mostly houses now.

In general, things just look a lot more developed, with a lot of familiar franchise locations, which didn’t used to be the case. The thing I found interesting was that while everything seemed to be more developed, the guy I talked to said that the population had only grown by about 1-2 thousand from what it had been in the 70’s, and that no new industries had opened there. So why was there any growth at all? Doesn’t seem to add up.

Day Two: Pendleton to Burns

All of the above sight-seeing obviously took a while, and I didn’t end up leaving until about 1:30 in the afternoon. Late again.

Once you leave Pendleton, you’re back up on the plateau, and all you can see for miles in any directions are rolling tan-colored hills. To the south and east you can see the foothills of the Blue Mountains, also bare and brown. They are about 15-20 miles away, but because there is nothing in-between you and them, they seem to rise up out of nowhere and seem close enough to almost touch. Heading south on Hwy 395, you eventually get up into the Blue Mountains, and the brown landscape turns green as the sparely-spaced pine trees of the Umatilla National Forest start to appear.

About 50 miles south of Pendleton is the little town of Ukiah. I turned off there for a little side trip to Lehman Hot Springs. I used to camp at nearby Frasier campground in the winter, and on the last day we would hike over to Lehman to soak in the hot water. I had been planning on taking a dip there, but since I was running late, I just took some videos before heading back to the main highway.

On the road near Lehman, I encountered a small herd of deer who were grazing along the side of the road. When they heard me coming, they started running through the brush next to the road, then they dashed out in front of me to cross the road. It all happened pretty quickly, but I did manage to catch the dash across the road part on video.

Continuing south from Ukiah, I did some serious hill-climbing. Some of the passes that I went over were better than 5000 feet in altitude. The trees thinned out the further south I went, and the landscape gradually gave way from forest to rangeland. The views were spectacular, if you like western landscapes, almost routinely so. There are only so many times and ways to say “Wow!” before it starts becoming cliche.

As you approach the junction with Hwy 26, you drop down into the John Day River valley, where everything is nice green, irrigated farmland. the town of John Day is to the east at the head of the valley. I gassed up there and was told that there wouldn’t be any more gas stations until I got to Burns. I checked the mileage and figured that I should make it with room to spare.

Heading south from John Day, Hwy 395 immediately enters a very tight, narrow canyon with a small creek at the bottom. You follow this for quite a few miles before the road climbs out into more open “basin and range” type of country. Its really weird riding along at the bottom of a narrow canyon like that. I started thinking that it would be an excellent location for an ambush. Would have made a great place to film a western…maybe it did.

Once again into the forest, this time the Malheur National Forest. Once again, spectacular views. Once again, the forest gave way to rangeland. By this time it was getting dark, so I couldn’t see the surrounding area very well. As I approached Burns, I could sense that I had dropped out of the mountains and was in a very wide valley.

There wasn’t much activity in Burns itself. I rode through to the little town right next to Burns called Hines. Hines has a “traditional” franchise ghetto look to it. I found a cheap hotel and stopped for the night. I ended up taking for a while to another rider named Robert who was from Lichtenstein. He lives up near Spokane now, but he still holds his cigarette like a European. We talked shop for a while, then turned in.

I worked on editing my ride videos, but only got part way through Day One. I promised myself that I would hit the road early the next day, getting to my destination early enough in the afternoon to be able to get caught up on my blog entries and videos. But fate had other plans for me.

Day Three: Burns to Boise

For the first time, I actually started out in the morning around the time that I wanted to start everyday, which is about 9am. There is one big problem that I’m finding as I move further away from the coast: no civilized coffee.

The first 20 miles or so east from Burns is straight and flat. Burns is situated in a basin flanked by the Blue Mountains to the north, Steens Mt. to the south, and some other mountain range to the east. Getting up into those eastern mountains, the views were once again spectacular. If you like western landscapes, then this is the place to come to see it. There was no gas stations between Burns and Vale, a distance of about 120 miles. I made it but just barely. I have the sneaking suspicion that I’ll be using that 1-liter spare fuel bottle more than once on this trip.

As you reach the eastern side of this range, the road brings you down into the Malheur River valley, which widens out into a nice green irrigated valley. Vale is a town right in the middle of the valley. Ontario is right on the border with Idaho as the Malheur flows out into the Snake River valley. About 10 miles south of Ontario is the town of Nyssa, also right on the border, which is were I headed since it was on the backroads route into Boise. Nyssa must be the onion capital of the world. I passed field after field of onions, already dug up and lying on the ground waiting to be scooped up and brought to market. Truck after truck after truck full of onions passed me in both directions. It smelled good.

Right as I was leaving Nyssa, going past a big sugar (from beets) plant, the Vespa died. Just stopped running. I pushed it over to the other side of the street where there was a vacant lot with some shade. It was about 88 degrees in the early afternoon when this happened. The Vespa wouldn’t start. I waited a while and kept trying, but no luck. I pulled everything off the bike and got into the engine compartment to check the fuses and relays for the fuel system–which was the culprit last time this happened–but everything seemed okay.

After about an hour, I gave up trying to fix it and called AAA for a tow. I have AAA Plus, which is GREAT for these kinds of circumstances. They will tow you anywhere you want to go within a 100 mile radius. They also helped me locate a Vespa dealer in Boise. I had been trying to Google the same thing on my cell phone, but for some reason it wasn’t working. BTW, the Vespa roadside assistance service is nowhere near as good as AAA. All they do is arrange a tow. They don’t help with anything else, no even in locating a Vespa-certified mechanic. And they only pay for the first $100 of the tow bill. You are responsible for the rest. Definitely get AAA Plus.

So, I rode into Boise in the cab of a tow truck. We dropped the scooter off at Big Twin Cycle, but they had already closed (I had spoken to them on the phone to make arrangements). The tow truck driver then dropped me off a the Comfort Inn by the airport, where I checked in and started contemplating possibly canceling the rest of the trip due to repeated engine problems. I was getting really bummed-out by the situation, so even though I had some free time, I didn’t do any video editing or blogging.

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.

Scott’s Big Adventure: I’m Off!

This is it. All the bags are packed and mounted on the bike. All of the electronic gadgets are charged and the chargers packed. Just need to stop at Fred Meyer for some drinks and ice for the cooler, oh, and stop at Java Nation for one last cappuccino, and I’m out of here.

Next stop: Pendleton.

Drivers License Arrived, (Almost) Ready to Depart

My permanent drivers license just arrived in the mail. This was the last thing that I was waiting for before I could take off. I’ve still got a few more things to take care of that will keep me for a few more hours. By that time, it will be early afternoon–about 2pm or so–before I could leave. I’m tempted to wait one more day and leave Saturday morning, just so that I’m not rushing to get to Pendleton before it gets dark.

Update: Yeah, I think I’m definitely going to wait. I want to have some time to get fully packed, load up the bike, then drive around town for a while to see how everything feels, if the load is balanced right, that sort of thing. I think its better to be able to make those kinds of adjustments here at home rather than along the roadside on Hwy 14. At this point, what’s one more day.

The Oregon DMV is the Bane of my Existence

The new rules that Oregon DMV implemented starting July 1, 2008 are just killing me! What used to take an hour or two with a single visit to a DMV field office now takes weeks, or even months to accomplish.

I just needed a motorcycle endorsement. In the old days, this would have taken at most a couple of hours all in a single day. You’d go into the office, take the written test, take the drive test, wait a little while, they’d hand you your new license and you’d be on your way. But not any more. I had to wait 6 weeks between my written test and my drive test because they don’t have enough examiners to conduct all of the motorcycle drive tests that are in demand due to the increase in gas prices. And then I had to drive to Eugene to take the test because they were the closest office that had an opening. That’s a 230-mile round trip from Portland.

It gets better. I passed the test easily. But then they wouldn’t accept either of my birth certificates as valid! I’m talking about the actual pieces of paper given to my parents, one by the hospital and one by the county, when I was born. They were good enough to let me play Little League. They were good enough to get me into Oregon State Univ. But are they good enough to let me renew my drivers license. Nope! Pinheads.

By the way, did you know that in Oregon you now need to provide your birth certificate AND original social security card to the DMV in order to get your drivers license renewed? You do now. Doesn’t matter if you’ve had one for over 30 years, like me, or not. If you don’t show your papers to the government, you don’t drive.

So, I pay just under a $100 in expediting fees and overnight delivery charges to get a fresh, new, certified birth certificate from the State of Wisconsin sent to me so that I can get on with my vacation. It arrived Monday morning via FedEx thanks to the nice lady in the Department of Records at the Outagamie County Courthouse in Appleton Wisconsin. So I cruise over to the Beaverton DMV office thinking that I’ll be in and out in about 10 minutes with my newly endorsed drivers license. They’ll probably just give me a sticker to put on it like when I changed my address recently.

Nope, guess again. This time, all of my papers were in order. I was expecting to receive either a sticker for my current license, or a new one, both of which they used to be able to produce right there in the office while you wait. But now, it takes 3-5 business days to receive your new license–which apparently everybody gets now when you change something–in the mail! They are produced at some “undisclosed location” in Salem.

From what I gathered, your picture is digitized and compared via face-recognition software with some database of “undesirables” that the government has put together without telling anybody. Can you say “Fascist”? In the mean time, they give you a cheesy-looking, flimsy paper “Interim License” which expires in 30 days. This thing is so fake-looking that my own bank rejected it today as valid ID! And they even knew what it was. Imagine what a merchant or police officer in Utah or Arizona would think of it.

So now I’m faced with the decision of either taking off on my trip with a fake looking drivers license that will expire before I get back and which no one will accept as valid, or waiting another week until my real license shows up in the mail. Oh, and since I’m leaving for a month, I was going to put a hold on my mail. But if I do that, then the post office has been instructed to return my license to Salem where it will be destroyed. Then when I get back, I’d have to go through the whole process all over again.

If I happen to run into either Mark Hass (my state representative) or Ryan Decker (my state senator), they’d better be prepared to explain what they were smoking when they voted for this train-wreck legislation. And then they’d better duck.

Scott’s Big Adventure

I bought a Vespa this past July. A GTS 250ie. Red. Dragon Red. I bought a whole bunch of accessories for it as well: GPS, satellite radio, hard case, saddle bags, and so on. I was ready, but ready for what?

With all this stuff, I figured that I now needed to actually go somewhere on it. At first it was going to be a weekend trip to the coast. Then it was a trip up to Seattle to visit my Dad. (I live in Portland, Oregon, BTW.) Somehow, it morphed from that into a month-long tour of the West. Go figure.

So here’s the general plan: Head east from Portland over to Yellowstone; south to Eastern Utah and Arches NP, Monument Valley, Four Corners and such; south some more to Painted Desert, Meteor Crater; Petrified Forest and a corner in Winslow Arizona; still further south to Tombstone along the Mexican border; back west to London Bridge; east along Route 66 (going “backwards”) to Flagstaff; north to the Grand Canyon; north still past Lake Powell and over to Bryce NP and Zion NP in SW Utah; out into the middle of Nevada to Area 51 to see if anything interesting flies over; down to Vegas and Hoover Dam; back west to Death Valley; north to Mammoth Lakes and the back side of Yosemite; through Yosemite then southwest to the California coast near SLO (that’s San Luis Obispo); up Highway 1 to Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay and on into San Francisco; then north again up the coast, through the Redwoods; back into Oregon coming north on 101 up to Astoria; then back east to Longview and home again to Portland; That’s the plan anyway. Subject to change.

I figure that it will take about a month to do. I’m planning on leaving in late September and being back some time before Halloween. I had wanted to leave earlier, but various things have delayed me. I’m going to try to post a blog entry every day so that anyone is interested can follow along if they want. I’m going to be taking lots of video and pictures along the way, and I’ll post those to YouTube and Flickr respectively, with links from these blog entries.

See you when I get back.