Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Massive Lava Field

I decide to take a scenic route west out of Sisters Oregon. Highway 126 just out of town is a beautiful narrow road through lush forest lands which suddenly give way to vast, stark, inhospitable lava fields. So inhospitable that no vegetation has grown in the fields for centuries. It's solid rocks.
The first picture doesn't show depth too well, but the field extends way back to and beyond the sharp peak in the middle. You can also see an 'island' to the left around which the molten lava flowed. The 'untouched' island is able to host tree and other plant growth.

The second picture gives some idea of the texture of the field. The average size of a rock is pretty large, probably a few feet across.

Coming down from the mountain range I had to make a decision about the trip. The weather is uncharacteristically good and the Oregon Coast is said to be in for a nice warm clear day tomorrow. I have a feeling though that it's time to start heading home. I decide to do that. As good a chance as a warm Coast is, it's also as well to leave something to look forward to on a future trip. There aren't that many areas of the western states that I have not been. Yes, let's leave that. I'm back over the California border now and will be home tomorrow...

signing off !

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Eastern Oregon

I spent a great day traversing North Eastern Oregon. Down U.S. 395 and West along U.S. 26. U.S. 395 undulates and alternates between ranches in the valleys and Forest Parks in the mountains. A good part of U.S.26 follows a river which allows cultivation of the lands along those parts of the highway.
I made a stop in Dayville along U.S.26 (not as in night and day, but rather named after an early explorer/expeditiary John Day. There's also a city 'John Day', various 'John Day' Rivers, etc).
Quite noticeable was the nice decor in the Men's Room at the city park. It was spotlessly clean and even had fresh flowers (see photo). Very refreshing. A place like that would probably not last a day (so to speak) in a medium to large city. Much has been written over centuries about the differences between city and country life. I have nothing original to add...

I make it to Brineville as the day ends. Poking around the net I see that there is an advanced Ballet class in town that started at 6pm. I'm too late to give it a try. I'm beginning to miss city life !

Monday, September 26, 2011

Back on the Road, Go East Young Man...

It's time to head out of Seattle. Ironically, the rain is worse today as compared to yesterday by far. I have to decide: South or East ? If I go South the ride will be wet all day but promises to hold fewer dangers being relatively flat. If I go East the ride will be wet for a few intense hours then warm and dry the rest of the day. The Eastern tradeoff is that I will have to go over stormy mountain passes along a major interstate truck route I-90. Within a few minutes of getting on I-5 going south I have to make up my mind. East it is.. but not so fast.. yipes, it's a traffic jam of people wanting to get to Bellevue from Seattle, at 10 am ! All thoughts that I may have had about living in Seattle start to fade as I sit out in the rain inching along towards my storm drenched fate.
The ride through the rainy Cascades was riveting. I forgot to put in my earplugs so I was getting the full sensory treatment. Wind, Cold, Wet, Noisy. I'm thankful that all of the Truckers that passed me were behaving like professional drivers else it could have been a very harrowing ride. Finally deep into the rain shadow the dry promised land arrived and I could enjoy the cruise. Things are relaxed enough that I can listen to my podcast queue again while the scenery rolls on by. It's getting near time to stop for the day.

Now here's a pop quiz: Given a choice of 2 destinations in which to put down for the night which would you choose:
1. Pendelton, Oregon
2. Walla Walla, Wa

No contest ! It's 40 extra miles away, but how can one resist staying in Walla Walla Wa ?

After setting down I check for dance studios in beautiful Walla Walla. I have enough left over for a class if I can find one. There seem to be 2 studios in town: one a Ballet studio, the other studio offering jazz and tap dancing.. sigh, but neither has any suitable classes on Monday night. It's another night of doing my static balances in a motel room...

I'm posting 2 low resolution snapshot stills taken off of my on board Helmet Camera:
One on the wet I-90 through the Cascades, the other near where the Snake River empties into the Columbia River. The I-90 snap should be viewed with deep relentless menacing music while the Columbia River one goes with slow solo harp music played in a major key.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pacific Northwest Ballet

At times over the last few days I questioned just what in the world I was doing. Voluntarily getting baked mid-day, ending the days with the body enveloped with fatigue. I am sure to be spending at least one day getting soaked with the approaching rain front. I could have just hopped a plane midday and arrived in Seattle fresh as a daisy in time for dinner. The All Wheeldon Program by Pacific Northwest Ballet this evening put all such doubts to rest. The dancing was superb, the choreography was innovative and beautiful. Now that I've been a Ballet hobbyist for a few years the genius and freshness of Wheeldon's work is very clear to me. What treat to have a complete program devoted to his work.

The weather forecast speaks of rain AND wind coming tomorrow. Rain I can handle, but rain AND wind I will pass on. The combination of the two makes for some very un-carefree riding. Add to that the other drivers on the road, dome of whom demonstrate no awareness of the increased hazard posed by such conditions and it's just not worth the risk. To me the confluence of these 3 conditions are one of the few times that riding a motorcycle sucks.

Instead I'll have a nice relaxed day hanging in Seattle tomorrow :-)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Almost perfect day

There's nothing like a clear, sunny, cool morning and a motorcycle far from home. It was a perfect morning for a ride and I savored every moment. The afternoon got a bit hot. On a motorcycle you feel more. As the temperatures climbed I could feel the air cool with the altitude gains crossing the passes to give way to hot climes again. At 90 degrees F and above, the air no longer cools you and you have to take countermeasures on the longer rides or pay the consequences of heat fatigue and dehydration (ask me how I know this :-( ). At 100 degrees F and above the wind feels like a hair dryer blowing in your face and the faceshield goes down to keep it away.

So the latter part of the day was a bit hot and tiring.

I made it to Salem, Oregon at about 5 pm.

I soooooo..... wanted to take the 6pm Adult Ballet class that I found on the net at a dance studio in Salem 'Starr Studios', but I was really too beat from the heat of the afternoon and opted to pass on it. My highest priority is to be 100% tomorrow for the Pacific Northwest Ballet program.

The weather is changing and it looks like the North is going to get wet starting Sunday... if so, I'm shelving any ideas about going north to British Columbia and will probably head East to escape the rain. I don't really mind riding in the rain if I have to, but it's not really fun

Thursday, September 22, 2011

And I'm off !

I haven't had a 'real' vacation in about 2 years (the odd 3-4 day weekends not counted). I'm long overdue, so here I am on day one of a week with nowhere to be at no particular time except for Seattle this coming Saturday night where I've got a ticket to a nice seat at Pacific Northwest Ballet's All Wheeldon performance. Spending the week getting around by motorcycle I decided to splurge (by my modest standards) and book a hotel room that is a block or two from the Performance Hall. So all I have to do is rollup late Saturday afternoon, checkin and take it all in :-).

I'm doing this trip on the smallest motorcycle I've ever had. Honda's new for this year CBR250R. I've been wanting a small 250cc sized street bike for a while and until this model year the only real choice has been the evergreen been around forever Kawasaki 250. Honda's release of it's 250 put me over the edge. An msrp of $3999, ride ready weight of only 360 lbs and real world gas mileage in the 60-80 mpg range and a newly designed engine with many innovations, I was ready. The engine has only a single piston. I like the idea of the single piston's up and down motion being mapped onto every inch of the road throughout this trip. The bike makes just enough power to be suitable for a trip like this. It's peak output in the low 20's of horsepower happens at just beyond reasonable freeway speeds. Riding this bike means using ALL of it's potential. Contrast this to my Triumph Speed Triple 1050cc bike for which 20+ horsepower is the engine just getting started at the lower end of it's usable range !
The 250 is just enough. As a corollary it consumes just enough. Good gas mileage, oil changes that require LESS than 2 quarts of oil (really !), the tires, chain and sprockets are likely to have very long service lives because of the low power being transmitted through them.

I like it.