Oregon or Bust Iron Butt

When planning an IB, most choose the easiest route. We wanted to make a difficult ride even more of a challenge.

By JD Gore

The high noon sun is heating up the eastern Oregon mountains and the dry July air was building a tremendous thirst in my throat. As Stormy Hiatt and I pulled into a Mt. Vernon gas station to quickly grab some gas, I asked, “Want anything to drink?” She looked at me and pointed to her watch and said, “It’s 11:45, we have about 2 hours left” all with the look of get your ass in gear. We had just under 900 miles behind us and Redmond seemed almost out of reach.

Two years ago, a friend and I went on an Iron Butt 1000 pre-ride. We wanted to check the potential of the route as a viable option for a group of us to attempt an IB. The route started in Eugene and went south to Sacramento. East on hwy 50 to Reno then north on hwy 395 to Burns, OR and finishing in Bend. We needed to alter our course in Redding as the mid day temps were nearing triple digits. We decided to head east through Mt. Lassen and cooler temperatures. With snow on the road side, we and the bikes had a much better ride. The only hitch in that route was when we hit Lakeview at 11pm. All gas stations were closed and none would open before 6am. We decided to just get a room and much needed rest. The next day on our leisure ride to Bend, I had time to think of other routes to avoid towns that close up at night.

I had made up my mind that avoiding not only the closed gas stations needs to be considered, but 100 plus degree temps. I came up with the idea of the challenge of doing the whole 1000 miles in OR would be cool. I met Stormy and she rides a 2005 HD 1200R Sportster. I agreed to go on some rides with her and man can she ride. She has dragged HD’s in Woodburn and clocked 180 plus mph in the quarter. She is a very capable rider and has a wealth of experience. I believe she can outride most guys, me included. I asked her to do an IB with me and she came up with the last leg of the ride, through Eastern OR.

I have to admit there is a problem before I go any further. I ride a 2010 Honda Fury factory chopper. I’ve had some custom work done and have a bit more to go to Americanize my metric. One thing thats still needs to be done is to remove the rev limiter. My top speed is 105. Stormy’s is somewhere between faster then me to way faster. I cant keep up and she knows it, and she plays me like a fish. Not that we go that we go that fast, its just a rumor the difference in speed between the two bikes.

Stormy and I were starting in Bend at the Wildhorse Harley Davidson. They agreed to sign as our starting witness. We are going to basically circle OR. The skies are sunny and temperatures mild. It’s 2:20pm and we pull out of HD with an enthusiasm that matched our desire to succeed. South on hwy 97 with Klamath Falls being our fisrt scheduled stop. We pulled over in Gilchrist to put jackets on as the skys south were growing black. Hwy 97 is a busy two lane highway with a couple passing lanes. Truckers, vacationers and outdoor addicts run the length of 97 from CA to WA. In short, for a small highway, it’s busy.

Fifty miles north of K.Falls, with me in the lead, we get engulfed in black clouds. I was glad that back in Gilchrist we stopped to pull on coats, because now it’s pouring. I mean like the cow on a flat rock type of pour. My skull cap and sunglasses are in no way proper flat rock rain wear, I can hardly see. I am wanting to tap out to the Rain God or cry “uncle” if it would mean I can have my vision back and the sun would come out.

A dozen miles out of K.Falls, the sun breaks out and there is no evidence that it has had any rain in months. Roads were now perfect the rest of the way. We stop to fill up, 140 miles since we started, and Stormy takes less gas. She brings that to my attention. Yeah whatever, lets head west.

We turn west on Hwy 140 and Grants Pass is the next pit stop. Hwy 140 is a beautiful trip over the southern Cascades. Dropping down the west side of the pass, the skies start to darken. But now there is a hint of smoke in the air. It’s the middle of fire season and we hope we don’t get detoured. Last summer we were detoured in WA on our way to the Oyster Run. Navigating through White City, we reach I-5 and head north to Grants Pass.

We pull into a station and both agree that a quick bite wouldn’t hurt. Besides the rain, we are still running on adrenalin and excited about the IB. We pull back on I-5 north, the largest Interstate in OR; two lanes both direction in the south half and three lanes in the northern part of the state. Next stop is Springfield/Eugene, only about a dozen passes away.

As we near Cottage Grove, I notice my gas light came on. I don’t have a gas gauge, just an idiot light. We pass Creswell and I’m keeping an eye on my light as if it might change intensity or something as the gas level drops. I know better. Five or so miles out of Eugene, I lose power and coast to the side of the road. Stormy looks at me concerned until I tell her where the nearest gas station is and where the nearest way back on the highway is located. She agrees and rides off. I am sure under the cover of the night, she is rolling her eyes with a ‘I knew it’ look. The darkness just conceals my embarrassment. It’s over an hour later and Stormy pulls up and she has a new one gal can and some gas. I pour it in and 10 minutes down the road I pull into the gas station. Stormy gives the can to a guy at the station that helped her. I promise to not ignore my idiot light again. Next stop Troutdale, on Hwy 84 east outside Portland.

We moved along north on I-5 and I’m doing the math in my head as to why I couldn’t make it from Grants Pass to Eugene when it’s close to the same from Bend to K.falls. Must be the passes. We pull into Love’s truck stop at midnight. We grab our gas and jump right back on Hwy 84 east to The Dalles. We will now be riding through some of the most scenic region in Oregon, the Gorge, and it’s hidden in the dark. We will have to let the images in our memory run like old school projectors as we pass through the Gorge in the night. We hit The Dalles and its 1am. We planned to be here earlier, but my idiot light episode didn’t help. We reach the Motel 6 and grab a room. I ask the clerk “Can rent it by the hour?” They look at me like its too early for jokes and if I’m not joking, they aren’t that kind of place. We unpack bikes and once in the room I call the desk for a 5am wake up call.

By 6am we are showered and on the road east. The suns starting it’s day and I keep an eye out for deer. I wish we could slow down and eat, something big or good, Granola bars just don’t cut it. Our first stop today to gas up will be Biggs Junction. We gassed up and head east of Biggs. I watch for bighorn sheep, one never gets tired of seeing those. As we head east, the landscape changes quickly as the appearance of the biggest hornswoggle in the Northwest obliterates both sides of the now grotesque Gorge. The frustration you hear is the theft of the tax payer’s money to fund windmills. Not only are they a terrible energy source but they kill countless bald eagles and other so called protected bird species. That allowable harvest by windmills is unbelievable.

After miles, we put the giant guillotines and high prairie behind us and reach Pendleton, the most famous rodeo town in Oregon. Again, another quick pit stop, gas and go. Climbing the steep pass on our way out of Pendleton, I reflect on the diverse topography in Oregon. Starting in the desert, to rain forest to grass land and now ascending Alpine mountains. The climb seems to never surrender. The high elevation brings some welcome cool temps. Reaching the summit, it reminds me of many of the Rocky Mountain States.

Baker City is a welcomed sight. Not only cause we need gas, but a good stretch will feel so good. In Baker City, we will leave the interstate for small Hwy 7 west. We will be changing from cruising to riding curves. A much slower leg of the journey is ahead. The last 400 plus miles has been easy. Now we ride, not that I’m complaining.

Highway 7 is a small route that will tie us in to Hwy 26. We will be riding through the heart of Oregon, history around every corner. From Baker City, we will be passing near or through Ghost towns and old mining towns. This is part of Oregon’s priceless past that many in the west or valley don’t know exist.

We approach John Day and I am on sensory overload, from the sights and smells of the mountains and towns. We stop at a gas station and Stormy says, “Let’s gas up in Mt. Vernon… If you can make it” she quips. We can’t talk much when riding so my pulling out was enough of an answer. She got it and pulls in behind me in Mt.Vernon, we are both excited and thirsty. We’re excited because we have almost 900 miles done of 1000, thirsty because it’s warming up. Stormy reminds me that we are under the clock. Just over two hours left to reach Redmond. And before us are the corners of the Painted Hills Canyon. These are 15 to 20 mph recommended corners. We throw down some water and gas and ride. Dragging exhaust pipes to make the deadline. One of my pleasures of riding with Stormy is I don’t have to worry about her. She is by far better than I am. I am glad I am in the lead, cause she’d be a speck on the horizon.

We reach Prineville and toss gas in the tanks to make sure we, or I make it the last 20 odd miles. I’m not happy I have given her another opportunity to rib me about my metric. Not only am I slower, she gets better mileage. My consolation is that I get compliments from people driving by or just standing on the street.

The 7th Street Grill in Redmond is our final stop. We have one more pit stop for gas in Redmond and that’s to get a receipt to record the date, time and location. We have kept all receipts as part of our travel log. We need a record from beginning to end to prove the 1000 miles traveled within the 24 hours allotted time. Now to the Grill to have a witness sign the completion of the Iron Butt. Stormy and I can finally breathe and not do everything at hyper speed. It feels good to be off the clock.

We were successful with less than 15 minutes to spare. There are a few things I would have done different, but the route has to be the best choice we made. We will be doing it again this summer. We hope we can include others in the 2014 IB ride. Many can jump in when we ride through their city and jump out when they want or whatever suits them. We will be starting in Bend again and anyone interested in joining us can contact me at, jd@ironridertv.com or 541-221-7449.

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