I wake up early, and head to the breakfast room in the BEST WESTERN Inn & Suites of Bend. I have my iPhone with me, as I do on most trips. While I eat breakfast, I read a series of emails that promise to put a bit of a crimp in my trip. Someone has hacked my American Express account, and has tried to buy a bunch of software downloads from a major retailer. Both Amex and the retailer flagged the attempted purchase as fraudulent, which is good. What’s bad is that Amex has frozen my card. I spend the next hour on the phone cancelling my card, confirming some charges and figuring out what to do next. Luckily, I always travel with a backup card — in this case, a Visa — so I’ll be able to continue my trip without interruption. I’ll have to deal with other consequences and inconveniences of this fraud when I get home, but for now, it’s handled. Thanks to a good, free internet connection at the BEST WESTERN Inn & Suites of Bend, I’m able to resolve some issues and get on the road again.
I don’t ride out of Bend right away. I ride around some more, exploring and experiencing the town. It’s easy to see why Bend has become a magnet for active retirees. The mild high desert climate means that there’s only 12 inches of precipitation per year, yet the mountains are close enough for winter day trips for skiing and summer day trips for hiking. Mt. Bachelor looms over the city from the edge of the Cascades Mountain range to the west, begging to be explored.
The Deschutes River runs right through town, so water sports and fishing are also easily accessible. St. Charles Medical Center is the town’s largest employer, and is noted for its superb health care, with an amazingly favorable patient to physician ratio. There are 37 public parks in Bend, lending a great green feel to the whole town, a feeling that’s not likely to change in the face of continued development. In addition to the usual big box retailers clustered along the highway, Bend’s downtown is still populated with small independent stores, restaurants and coffee houses. And, of course, the beer. Bend is a great beer town, and if you’re going to retire, you want access to great, local beer.
After exploring for a while, it’s time to get on the road. I’m heading south, so I get on US-97 toward Klamath Falls. None of the roads in this part of Oregon are particularly big, not like the freeways or interstates that feed other parts of the state. I ride down US-97, and the scenery quickly changes from civilization to suburbia to tree-lined road, as I follow the road into the Deschutes National Forest.
The High Desert Museum is just five miles south of Bend. According to the museum’s website, “The High Desert Museum is nationally acclaimed for inspiring stewardship of the natural and cultural resources of the High Desert. It offers close-up wildlife encounters, living history performances, Native American and Western art, nature trails, tours and educational programs for all ages. An independent, nonprofit educational institution, it is on 135 forested acres.” I pass by the museum’s welcome sign, vowing to return for a visit soon.
The Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a fascinating geological region directly south of Bend. It is actually a 17 square mile caldera at the summit of a 500 square mile seismically and geothermally active volcano. A caldera is the crater that is left following a volcanic eruption — which is a little intimidating. This eruption happened many eons ago, but the volcano is still considered active. The Newberry Volcanic Monument, which was created in 1990, contains the Lava Lands, Paulina Peak (7,985 ft) and Lava River Cave. It’s a very rich, unique park full of natural beauty and great wonders. I ride directly past the Monument entrances without stopping to explore — the temperatures today are already above 90 degrees, and I’m not dressed for a summer hike in my motorcycle gear. Just one day into my trip, and I’m already finding places that I must return to in the future. That’s a good omen.
Thirty miles south of Bend on US-97, I reach the town of La Pine, where I turn left onto Oregon Route 31. I’ve gone from a four-lane road down to a two-lane road. My Electra Glide purrs as it chews up the miles. I follow the gentle curves of OR-31, relishing the cooling breeze. Even in 93 degrees, it’s pleasant to cruise along on my Harley-Davidson. I’m an ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) guy, so I’m wearing my full-face helmet, a Harley-Davidson FXRG Perforated Leather Jacket, Cordura and Kevlar riding pants, FXRG Motorcycle Boots and leather riding gloves. Underneath it all, I wear CoolMax riding shorts, a CoolMax t-shirt and CoolMax socks, a high-tech layer that does a great job of wicking away moisture from my skin. I’m comfortable and safe in the heat. I just have to listen to my body, and make sure that I stop frequently for water to rehydrate. Heat is insidious when you’re on a bike. You get hot, you sweat, and because you’re moving through the wind, your sweat evaporates quickly. Since you’re still hot, you sweat more. Before you realize it, dehydration and heat exhaustion set in, and the first thing that’s affected is your brain. You get a little light headed and lose concentration. That’s bad when you’re driving a car; it’s worse when you’re riding a bike. So, to fend off heat exhaustion, I drink a lot of water at every break, and the hotter it is, the more breaks I take.
I arrive in Lakeview a little ahead of schedule. I ride through town until I spot the Tall Town Cafe and Bakery, a small restaurant in a bungalow on the main drag of Lakeview. I have a sandwich and some pie, enjoying the air conditioning and observing the interactions in the cozy establishment. It seems like the waitress knows every customer by name, and the customers all know each other. I’m the odd man out, a fly on the wall watching small town life. Cool.
I check in to my room at the BEST WESTERN Skyline Motor Lodge, which is directly in the center of Lakeview. The helpful young woman at the front desk suggests a few places to explore in town, but laments the fact that I’m here on a Monday night. There are more than a few restaurants and pubs in Lakeview, but the best ones are closed on Mondays. Most of the local social activities are dark on Monday as well, including the historic Alger movie theater downtown. Despite the heat, I set out to experience Lakeview on foot. I grab my camera, and go looking around downtown for interesting sights.
Lakeview is known by the nickname “Tall Town” because it is situated at an elevation of 4,808 ft, making it the “Tallest” town in Oregon. A giant illustration of a tall, thin cowboy stands as the town mascot, adorning a sign on Main Street. Lakeview was founded in 1888, and many of the buildings in the tiny downtown are from the late 19th and very early 20th centuries. Lakeview is loaded with authentic charm, and I have a great time photographing its treasures.
Once the sun finally goes down, it’s time for dinner. I’ve worked up an appetite walking around town, so I decide to fill my belly at El Aguila Real, the Mexican restaurant next door to the BEST WESTERN. The food is old fashioned, stick to your ribs Mexican, and I eat until I’m full.
Miles Ridden: 180.6
NEXT: Central Oregon Motorcycle Trip, Day Three: Lakeview to Medford