Back in June, we spent two and a half weeks touring around Oregon on a motorcycle. It was our first long motorcycle trip in a year and one that we spent more than a year planning. Before I recount our adventures, let me share a bit of the backstory. One of the best parts of living in San Francisco is having the entire West Coast to explore — Tahoe, Bryce Canyon, Zion, San Diego, the redwood forests and on and on. And the list of places we wanted to explore always included the Pacific Northwest, which seemed like a logical destination for a summertime motorcycle adventure. So we started planning this trip nearly two years ago, thinking we'd set off in June 2013.
Originally we dreamed we'd make it to Alaska, all 3,000 miles (and magically ship the motorcycle home, or something). Then we got a little more realistic and envisioned a trip through British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. We even had a map for what that would look like — we'd go up to coast to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, drive west to Banff and head home via Spokane, just 2,700 miles roundtrip. OK, still a little ambitious if we actually wanted to spend any time in these places. So Washington and British Columbia were out. At some point, we decided to go to southern California last June, pushing this trip back and giving us a whole year to debate our route through Oregon. A month before we left, our route looked like this — a 2,000 mile loop around the state, including often-overlooked eastern Oregon.
One of the highlights of that route would have been Hell's Canyon, an 8,000-foot-deep canyon carved out by the Snake River on the Oregon-Idaho border. Motorcyclists from all over the world come to ride this road, which is the deepest motorcycle road in North America (it's 2,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon). But for the day or two we would have spent exploring this beautiful road, we would have had to spend 5 days driving through dessert on straight, boring roads. We hewed and hawed and made about 15 million spreadsheets to figure out whether it was worth it (15 million is only a slight exaggeration, I count at least 5). Eventually, eastern Oregon was out too.
Two factors ultimately swayed us. First, I calculated our average driving distance on a few past trips. On our first-ever California motorcycle trip to Monterey and Big Sur, we covered only 75 miles per day and that remains one of our favorite trips to date, in part because we had plenty of time to get off the bike and enjoy our surroundings. Then I calculated that for our San Diego-Joshua Tree-Los Angeles trip, we rode 130 miles per day. We wouldn't have planned that trip any differently given the existing constraints, but we both agreed that ideally we would have spent a little less time driving. We consulted our spreadsheets and discovered that our eastern Oregon itinerary involved driving 125 miles per day, roughly the same as our LA trip, while sticking to the western part of the state cut that down to 93 miles per day, which seemed a lot more manageable. The second factor was that Ben was starting a new job (he now works at this awesome company, for anyone who likes sustainable, delicious food) and he didn't want to return from vacation exhausted from driving too much.
In the end, we settled on a trip that looked like this: A drive up the California and Oregon coast to Portland, a few days of urban exploring in Portland, a few days of hiking, sailing, camping and general outdoor adventuring around the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood and a leisurely route home through Bend and Crater Lake. And it turned out to be absolutely perfect.
Now that you know the backstory, our actual triplog starts here. We hope you enjoy following along.