1000 miles to Steens Mountain and Alvord Desert
Two DRZ400 motorcycles with supplies + gear
50% of circuit route was off road
James and I both had jobs we hated that allowed us to do things we love, and we both really wanted to get out on motorcycles and get somewhere. We decided to make this trip happen on very short notice. Thursday the 22nd of August, James and I were bullshitting via gChat, talking about how bummed we were about another planned motorcycle trip that fell through. James threw out the idea of a Steens/Alvord trip, but I still had no bike (I had opted to funnel adventurebike-purchasing funds into other avenues when the previously planned trip fell through). James hit up his friend Johnny, who had a DRZ400 just like James'. He agreed to loan it; Friday I picked it up from Johnny, and pounded the concrete for a metal fabrication space, as I had just lost my fab space. My friends at Hold Fast Fabrication offered space and tools, and Saturday I spent the afternoon fabbing a rack and dialing the bike in for the +/-1000 mile journey, before working my other job from 4 PM-midnight. 5 AM Sunday I packed the bike and met James, and we hit the road at 8.
We basically planned and executed the the trip in 3 days of hustling.
Honestly, it was stressful for me. My life had kind of melted down in the beginning of August, and committing time to do even the short 5-1/2 day trip to the Alvord Desert was daunting. James had plenty of stress, as well, with his girlfriend, and job, and taking off for a week; but he knew it would be worth it (as did I). And, as soon as we were out on the road, the stress melted, the city was left behind, and we were just trekking. We spent much time in challenging situations, dealing with broken bikes on the road--including a broken rack weld (on my bike, my hasty/poor work) in the middle of the Paisley Desert, a really, truly, horrible, middle-of-nowhere desert in Oregon that will kill an underprepared traveler.
The Paisley was the most challenging, trying, and--ultimately--rewarding stretch of the trip. James had done some minor research into whether or not it was possible to cross the Paisley on a road called Fandango Canyon, and had found one single adventure rider forum post which read:
User 1: "Is it possible to cross the Paisley on Fandango?"
User 2: "Yes" [photo of motorcycle on Fandango Canyon]
On that, we decided to go for it. 75 miles across a nasty 4x4 trail (that frequently gets washed out), cutting through the middle of a 100+ degree desert with no shade, no water, and no fuel for miles. We later met a adventure rider who told us that Fandango is a bucket list road for many riders, that it's one of those ultimate roads that a rider crosses only when really prepared. We had done it on a whim, on our first ever adventure ride, with no GPS, no map, and no cell reception. In the middle of the crossing, the punishing, pounding terrain snapped a tension weld on my rack and we were forced to improvise our gear transportation. The whole idea of crossing was kind of stupid, kind of brave, and so deeply rewarding.
The trip, for both of us, was really about getting out in the middle of nowhere in Oregon, forgetting the sometimes overwhelming PDX lifestyle, and getting to know a part of the state we had never seen. We rode somewhere in the vicinity of 1000 miles in 5 1/2 days, with around 65% of the riding being off pavement; we met very interesting and truly kind locals in each town we stopped in; we drank whiskey in volcanic hot springs and waxed philosophical about every subject that came to mind; we camped by ourselves in the middle of a dry lake bed in the Alvord desert, with no one else around for miles and miles; we did some pitch-dark riding, back and forth across said desert, lost our camp, and nearly spent the night in the middle of the lakebed, because one cannot find anything in that environment with no reference lights for miles. (We got very lucky and stumbled upon our camp in the darkness after riding in circles for some time.) It was a really inspiring, insightful, and challenging experience. And, it lit a fire under both of asses to spend more time on rides like that and less time fretting about all the bullshit that we tend to get caught up in.