The Kindness of Strangers.

Sometimes a GPS navigation just isn’t a good thing. Determined to sharpen my off-road skills I carefully study an analog map and set my sights on a few dirt roads that would take me to Oakridge on the eastern side of The Sisters. I carefully punched in a route into the GPS, setting my road preferences accordingly and establishing waypoints and key milestones along the way. This, I thought, assured me that I’d achieve my goal.

The first clue should have hit me when I was directed down a forestry road that accordingly to my calculations was about 15 miles too soon. But hey, this is adventure. I took the road. After nearly a mile of gravel and dirt, pass a small lake and up a short hill I cam to a trail head and 4 large rocks. Hmmm. Perhaps there’s an aversion to motor vehicles here. Sure, I could easily make my way between those rocks. But this is adventure, right.

I did a U turn.

Earlier today I rode with the same off-road determination as noted above except I wanted to ride in front of the eastern side of The Sisters. My map showed me these great snowmobile roads that seemed to be tame enough. I find the ride and again, after a half-mile or so of this rut riddled road I noticed a white Mercedes SUV bumping down the road. I slow, pull to the side and gesture to the driver that I want to talk. THe woman, Katherine if my memory serves me correctly, is a fellow BMW rider. Actually, her husband have a BMW touring bike. She’s happy I haven’t had to use my BMWoA Anonymous Directory and suggests that this road might not be a good idea to take to the town of Sisters. “It could take you all day,” she warns me, “and with that load I’m not sure it will be fun.”

Now Katherine is the second person who cautioned me about taking this road. At the turn out where the road was still paved a rugged cowboy-type in a F-350 simply shook his head. “I wouldn’t go on it.” I thought I’d see for myself. But after my second inquiry, it was time to cut bait. I went up the road a tad more.

Then I did a U-turn.

I was surprised to see Katherine when I got back to the beginning of the dirt road. On foot she flagged me down.

“Would you like to do some laundry and stay with my husband and I tonight?” My mind raced. What an offer. But I’d already spent two days in Bend and I needed to make some progress. Even if I was searching for dirt roads. “You’ll get a home cooked meal and good company.”

It pained me to turn down the offer. She made me promise the next time I was in Bend to look them up.

Later in the day I rode the glorious route 242 that crosses McKenszie Summit. Through fields of spewed lava rock up to nearly 6,000 feet, I once again gaze at the majestic maternal peaks of the Sisters and their snowcapped Cascade brethren. And descending into the Willamette National Forest the temperature cools and the landscape transforms to lush green with towering pines and rich lush ferns. I felt I was traveling through a rain forest. The dramatic change from desolate landscapes of sharp, shiny black lava rock to this a lush utopian forest made my day almost as much as Katherine’s offer to stay in Bend.

It was amidst this rich pastoral forest where I my GPS threw me for a loop. Or was that a U-turn? Ironically enough as I made my way back to 242 I glimpsed another motorcyclist. The shiny yellow bike fluttered between the tall pines. I made the turn and tried to catch up.

Just as I thought. Another BMW F650GS. I followed the rider for nearly twenty miles. Watched him carefully and methodically set up his line and dip gracefully through the winding curves. Never flinching when encountering a patch of gravel or fallen rocks on the road.

At the stop sign I asked him about the dirt road I wanted to take on this side of The Sisters. He suggested we meet at a coffee shop in the tiny settlement of McKenzie Bridge. When I reached for my wallet he said, “No, you’re the guest. I’m buying.” We poured over his maps of the region, talked about our past businesses and BMW’s. He just ordered a new 1200GS. A fit man that looked 10-15 years younger than his admitted 67, Richard moved to Sisters nine years ago. He rides that 242 every day. From Sisters to McKenzie Bridge or elsewhere on the West Cascade side of The Sisters — and then back. “I’ve got to get my ride in every day.”

Once again, next time I’m in Sisters, I have a place to stay and buddy to ride with.

This is the club, community or family you belong to when you’re a motorcyclist. Doors open and hospitality offered. And as I sit in my tent with the pitter patter of rainfall, I must admit that I feel lonely. But as Richard and Katherine showed to me today, I’m never too far from friends. And as the mantra of my more than three year old blog, The Digital Tavern, dictates: There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met.

Only a couple weeks on the road and I’m the only person in this campground along the Willamette River. The roar of the creek would drown out anything that I might perceive of danger. And it’s raining. But hey, this is adventure. To be sure, it’s the first time on the journey that I pulled the camping gear off the bike. And while I’ve been cursing my Thermarest for its 20 inch width that just doesn’t fit in my dry bag and makes for a challenge when loading and unloading the bike, I’m happy to sit and lie down on its cushy body.

“What’s that?” I hear something. A bit freaky. But nothing. Noises in the night. Get used to it Allan. There’s not a soul for miles. The last car I saw when riding this road was hours ago. Haven’t heard one since.

Good night.

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