With sunshine on Saturday, I decided last-minute (like literally Saturday morning) to pack up the bike and head east. Didn't get on the road 'til 10am, mainly due to indecision over where I was going to go, last-minute pouring over maps, etc. (And I would've posted looking for company if it wasn't so last-minute).
Anyway, it was a great ride—with some "difficult" moments here and there...and I learned a lot about riding in Central/Eastern Oregon—here were my "lessons:"
1. Get over the mountains the day (or night) before. I spent almost 3hrs getting to Prineville, which was where the ride really started. That sucked.
2. Plan gas stops carefully! (Hardly any of those towns on the map have gas stations, and they all seem to close at 5pm.)
3. Do NOT be put into a position to ride over the mountain passes in the rain—with temps hovering not far above freezing.
Based on recommendations from locals, my original plan was to take 26 from Prineville all the way to John Day; stay the night there, and ride back via Izee Rd. Sunday. My mistake was in planning to do that with the forecast calling for rain Sunday. I got as far as 19 (with a stop at the Painted Hills), then realized I'd be screwed if I continued east to John Day (because I'd have a LONG ride back to Eugene in the rain).
So instead, I turned north on 19, checked out the other John Day Fossil Beds sites, and followed 19 to Fossil, then 218 down through Clarno to Antelope and back to 97. Which was great...except for being so late in the day, and arriving in Fossil at 6:15pm almost on fumes.
The one station in Fossil wasn't open, so I asked where the nearest gas was—they said due north in Condon (he was open 'til 7pm!). So I proceeded to do a 40-mile (round-trip) detour out of my way to Condon to fill the tank. That sort of sucked—19 between Fossil and Condon was pretty bleak.
With a full tank of gas, I headed down 218...and was both psyched and bummed that it was the twistiest road I'd ridden all day by far! I was psyched to actually ride some twisties (and no chance of me getting sleepy on that road!)...but bummed because I ended up riding most of it in the dark. I definitely want to do that one again in daylight—the whole road was great, but the 15 miles between Clarno and Antelope was one of the best twisty roads I've ridden—beautiful pavement, nonstop corners and good sightlines the whole way.
Rolled into Madras around 8:30pm and got a hotel room for the night. I was a bit nervous Sunday morning about riding over Santiam Pass, not knowing whether it would be raining or snowing. It got pretty cold over the pass, but thankfully was just rain. Still, it was a lousy, tense ride over the pass and all the way back down 126 to Eugene in the rain.
Saturday ended up being about a 430-mile day. Longer than I normally like (less time to dawdle), but overall it was a great introductory ride to that part of Oregon. I love the high desert scenery and can't get enough of it...and even though parts of 26 were pretty straight, I never got tired of the excellent scenery! I posted a few of the better pics below.
[above: Rt.26 several miles before Mitchell]
[above: exploring a dirt road at the far end of the Painted Hills]
[above: obligatory shot of the Painted Hills!]
[above: completely random "shoe tree" in the middle of nowhere on Rt.26]
[above: Sheep Rock, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument]
[above: gorgeous scenery, with the Strawberry Range in the distance]
[above: John Day River along Rt.19]
[above: on 218 between Fossil and Antelope—as it was getting dark]
[above: the Palisades at Clarno—you can see my headlight beam by this time]