Crater Lake Revisited

Crater Lake Revisited


The Ride Goes On Forever

Along near the first of July of this year I rolled the Virago out for my normal Sunday ride. At the end of View from the top of Capulin Volcano IIIa very enjoyable ride across western Oklahoma and the back roads of the Texas Panhandle I wound up in Raton NM. The next day, Monday, I rode back via Johnson' Meadow (saw a bear up there), Kenton Ok., and back through the Oklahoma Panhandle. While I was doing this I got to thinking and it dawned on me that I have not been doing much traveling this year. Jessica and I had done the two weeks in Cambodia and Bobbe  and I had done Zion but other than a few local trips, not much. When I returned I saw a very information show on PBS about the Geology of North America which featured an unusual rock formation in Kansas I had not visited and I decided it was time for a ride.

As I was traveling solo and this formation was down a dirt road, this would be a GSA ride. So, I changed the oil checked the tire pressure and everything else and headed north. I crossed iDSC02318nto Kansas at Hardtner and made a left on a county road that I thought would take me to Hwy 283 and on to Dodge City. Well, I was wrong about that and made about 40 or so miles on a good gravel road. I wasn't looking for Dodge, but it was on my route. I was heading for Monument Rock, a little south of Grinnell, SE of Oakley, and here it is. This is an outcrop  of the Niobara Chalk that has been weathered. The Niobara is a Cretaceous deposit that is very thick, widespread and loaded with fossils. This outcrop is on private land but a county road runs through it and you are free to look around. If it  has been raining I would not recommend trying to get to this place. It would be tough with a 4wd but on the day I was there it was dry. How I missed this in all of the years I have lived and traveled through Kansas, I have no idea, but it was well worth the ride.

The rocks seen I headed north. Overall, it was a very nice ride. It has been a unusually wet spring and summer and while it was hot, it was nothing serious and everything was green and growing. Along about Rexford I ran into a detour which appeared to be leading me places I didn't want to go. Kansas like most places is surveyed in squares, I deduced that if I found a road I liked the looks of and headed north, I would eventually run into the east west road I was looking for. So, I selected a section line at random and headed north. Again, after a 30 or so miles on dirt roads I intersected Hwy 36, made a right and eventually pulled into OberlinDSC01590. Not much to see there, but I did get a nice meal and a reasonably priced motel and got a good night's sleep.

The next morning I crossed into Nebraska south of McCook. This was a nice little roadside display complete with sod house. While I was there a fellow on a Harley from East Texas, who had until recently been in the oil business, pulled in. He was headed south Concrete rooster, Rooming House, Broadwater, Hwy 26and I was headed north so we had a nice chat and then went our ways. I went through Ogallala and did not see the government contractor's house from Lonesome Dove but I did see this large concrete rooster in Broadwater. Nothing special about it, it was just sitting out in front of a nicely kept rooming house. There is not much in Broadwater, no motels or restaurants so why this  rooming house is there and how much bOelrichs, Hwy 18usiness it does, I have no idea. But, if  you are passing through and need a place to stay, give it a shot.

I gassed up  in Alliance, giving a pass to Carhenge, and crossed into South Dakota south of Oelrichs, which is also not much of a place, but they do have an interesting sculpture. They raise a lot of cows around Oelrichs. The ride was going well, it was not all that hot, the traffic light and scenery nice. I ran into a little road construction, but that is pretty much normal.

I was heading for Hot Springs South Dakota. There is a very interesting site to see there and this is theMammoth Site, Hot Springs, SD link It seems that during the last ice age, probably before humans arrived there was a sinkhole at this location. Think of the La Brea Tar Pits without the tar. Animals, a lot of mammoths, but others as well, found their way into this pit and could not get out. A few years ago while during a construction project the site was uncovered and the rest is history. It is a private site with a modest charge to get it, but it is worth it. Bobbe and I were here several years ago on the trip  where I left her, with a burst appendix, in the Rapid City Hospital. As a side note, I still have not lived that down. Anyway, I went through this place then but didn't take all that much time so I wanted to see it again, and it is interesting, there are a lot of bones there.

Hwy 18That done, I headed west into Wyoming. This is an area where there are a lot of miles and not much else. Also, there was not a lot of traffic. It is important to know that every place has its history, that is one of the reason I seldom pass historical markers without stopping. If you learn nothing about the country you are missing a bunch. Traveling on, the wind kicked up a little, as had the heat, but nothing serious. I picked up I-25 a little east of Douglas and followed it into Casper, checked into the Best Western, went next door for a nice meal and as it had been a fairly long day, called it good. Early morning on the North Platte, SW of Casper

I didn't want to get into the Yellowstone/Teton area as this time of year it would be crawling with people, so not so bright and early I headed SW on Hwy 220 and promptly saw an interesting scene. These birds were sitting in the middle of the Platte, I thought it made a nice photo. Falcon nesting, Hwy 220 SW of Casper

A little further on down the road I saw a pole with a bird sitting on top. Turns out it was some type of Raptor, probably a Falcon, nesting with at least one chick in the nest. I turned around for the photo and could see the chick. However when I stopped the chicThe Wind River Range, Hwy 287k hunkered down and Mama was looking unhappy so  I just grabbed a couple of photos and left.

I rode right by my turnoff, the only one within 50 miles, and was 10 miles past it by the time it dawned on me. So, with a little backtracking I got back on the right road. As  mentioned, there are lots of miles out here and lots of scenic pull outs for lots of scenic views. At this one to the right, there was a family of four from the Tulsa area on their summer vacation. We chatted for a bit, all agreeing that it was a fantastic view and then went our way.

At Alpine I stopped for a map check and got to talking with a trucker who was also taking a break. He was traveling with his wife and son. One of his questions was how could someone sit for hours on a bike. I pointed out it was not much different that him sitting for hours behind the wheel of his truck, just takes a little getting used to.

Down the road a bit I crossed into Idaho. Geologically this is an interesting area. There are a lot of lava flows, geologically fairly recent. Below the lava are some obviously very good aquifers as they were doing a lot of irrigation and growing a lot of wheat, alfalfa and flocks of other crops. Heading west towards Idaho Falls things dried up and the further west the drier it got. Due to the lack of towns and not wanting to ride at night I stopped in Arco and checked into a unique but clean motel, followed the owner's directions to a good meal and that was that. As a note, Arco was the first city to be electrically powered by atomic energy. Also, there is a town named Atomic City a little east of Arco.

After a good night's sleep I hit the road towards Oregon. As mentioned, there are lots of volcanics in this area. Just past Arco is the Craters of the Moon National Monument. I rode thru this area first in 1977 and again with Jessica around 1999 and again with Bobbe in 2007 (?) so I didn't poke around much.

Vale, Hwy 26I hit the Oregon border at Fruitland and as I wanted an Oregon map I pulled into the visitor's center. There a very nice lady pointed out that if I went the way I was thinking I would run into a bunch of traffic. She pointed out another route and I decided to give in a try and who wouldn't like to ride through Christmas Valley. In Vale I came across the Bates Motel. Now, I know that movie was a long time ago but still, I think I would change the name. The lady had pointed out that there were not a lot of anything in the area I was heading so I gassed up at Riley even though with the GSA I was pretty sure I would be fine. Turned out I would have been, but I have learned over the years that pushing is not a lot of fun. This area of Oregon is in the rain shadow of the Cascade Range and as such, does not get a lot of moisture. It reminded me a lot of parts of Texas and New Mexico. Around Christmas Valley they do quite a bit of irrigation but, if I was guessing, based on the abandoned irrigation equipment, the aquifer is about dry. Eventually I got back into the piney woods and stopped for the night in Chemult. I stayed in an interesting old hotel that has been refurbished and it did the job. Crater Lake, should be on everyone's bucket list

So far it had been a fairly cool ride, especially in the mornings and the next morning was the coolest. However, just the jacket and gloves did the trick and I headed for Crater Lake. This was my third visit to Crater Lake. Jessica got us here first and then Bobbe and I visited in on our trip out to Oregon. It is one of those few places that I like to go back to. It is fairly safe to say there are very few places on this planet like it, no others in the US for sure. Photos Crater Lake, this little fellow likes itdon't do it justice. It is a crater (duh) left over from the eruption of Mt. Manzama in the fairly recent geologic past. It would have make St. Helen's look like a burp. There is very little outflow and over the years it has filled with rain and snow. It is about 1900 feet deep and there are still active volcanic vents at the bottom so the lake does not ice over. The first two times I was here the road around the carter was not open due to snow, but this year it was and it is a very nice ride. This little fellow was at one of the pull outs and seemed to be enjoying the view.

After a coffee at the visitor's area I picked up the Redwood highway leading to Grants Pass and points to The Burl House, Kerby, Hwy 199the SW. At the start the highway is very nice but it quickly drops in elevation and becomes warm and the traffic get congested so this was not one of my favorite parts.  I was heading for the Burl House a place Jessica and I ran across on our visit. Back in the late 60s a self determined California Hippie came to the town of Kerby, after a he bit found out he had to earn a living. He started making things out of the redwood burls which at that time were lying around for the taking. One thing led  to another and a profit making business was born. I was impressed by the woodworking skill and I still am. If you like handmade furniture and have several thousand dollars you can  live without, come on by and if they don't have anything you like, I am sure they can make it.

Hwy 48 between O Brian and Happy Camp: Great MC RoadOn the map the nice lady back in Fruitland gave me was a road from Obrien Oregon to Happy Camp California. It looked interesting, it was and it is, being without a doubt the best road of the trip. It is fairly well paved narrow, scenic and a not much traveled back road. This is the view from one of the pull outs and it is  spectacular. As mentioned, there was very little traffic and no need to hurry. However, if you are so inclined you can also enjoy the curves with little worry from Officer Friendly, but there is animal life  to consider. Bigfoot, Happy Camp

Eventually I came to Happy Camp California which is an interesting city, especially along the way in. There are a lot of redneck looking trailers of every type along the road and from reading the signs, they are not welcoming visitors. Also, I didn't see a lot of utilities leading in so I am thinking a lot  of these folks are living off the grid. Overall, there did not seem to be a whole lot going on in Happy  Camp. This fellow was standing at the crossroads and there were all sorts of things in town named Bigfoot such and such.

Mt Shasta from I-5I was now on the way home, and from Happy Camp I headed east on Hwy 96 following the river down the valley towards I-5. This is the nice part (in my opinion) of California. I am not a fan of most of the state, way too many people. I was heading for Susanville and after a short time on I-5 I pulled off on Hwy 44 which was fairly lightly  traveled and scenic. While on I-5 I did get this nice shot of  Mt. Shasta. With the passage of time I pulled into Susanville and checked into a motel with a nice restaurant next door.

The next day was a problem. I wanted to go to Salt Lake City to visit the Blue Iguana and from where I DSC02382was there are not too many ways to get there. The maps indicated some very questionable roads through Gerlach (The Fly Geyser Tour with Mick) but that is across the Black Rock Desert which makes Labrador seem crowded. So it was that I headed southeast to Reno and jumped on the big road and made the miles. Thankfully it was not near as hot as it can be and I did find one interesting item. As I rode past Imlay, a little west of Winnemucca, I saw this along the south side of the road.  No signs before the exit or anything about it, just, there it is. I turned around and rode back to the exit, no way was I passing this. It is Thunder Mountain Indian Monument and according to the sign it is a State of Nevada Restoration Project, here is a website,

The story is that a fellow came out here and built this as a monument to how the indians had been treated and while I can admire what he was trying to do, he was in all probability more than a little nuts. He and the fellow from Lucas Kansas probably had a lot in common but the guy from Lucas was a better concrete worker. Lots of photos from both site are on my Facebook page and this website with the Kansas photos.

After looking around it was back on the big road heading for SLC. If you have been down this part of I-80 you know it is not all that scenic, and it has not improved that I detected. On the plus side, traffic was not heavy and the visibility was excellent. Also, talk about government rules and contractors: why do we need fences along I-80 crossing the salt flats? There is nothing living out there that is going to get on the highway, but there are high dollar fences on both side and sometimes in the median.

After a not very thrilling, but thankfully not hot, ride across the salt flats I pulled into SLC, checked into a motel and headed out for a good meal. For those of you who don't know, in SLC there is a Blue and a Red Iguana, both owned by the same folks,Ute Veteran's Monument, Ft. Duchesne, Hwy 40 one down town and one towards the airport. I knew the Blue was good but wanted to try the Red however, there was a line getting into the Red, and lines, especially for food are not my thing, so I hit the Blue, no line, and the seafood enchiladas were excellent as was the Bohemia and well worth the ride across Nevada on I-80.

The next morning I rode up I-80 and picked up Hwy 40 heading for Vernal, Dinosaur National Monument and points east. Just after Roosevelt and past Ft. Duchesne there along the side of the road, again with no signs, was the Ute Indian Tribe Veterans Monument. As it was early on a Sunday morning the place was locked up. It appeared to be well done and well taken care of, however, from the grass growing in the asphalt, it is not heavily visited. Try a sign or two, it might help.

Dinosaur National Monument, Hwy 40Then it was back on the road with a stop at Dinosaur. By now it was approaching mid-day and the place was crowded. I have been here before so I just gave it a short look over and went on. I had already decided that I was not going through Denver. As it was Sunday I knew from experience that in the afternoon every road leading into Denver would be bumper to bumper. I had not been over Independence Pass in some time so I thought that would be nice, and it was, sort of. I made it to Glenwood Springs and headed towards Aspen and Independence Pass and was I surprised. Traffic out the wazoo the whole way. The road over the pass is a narrow two lane and while not bumper to bumper, it was close, and very few would use the pull outs to let the traffic behind them go on. So, it was mostly 25-30 mph all the way. On the east side on 24 and 285 the traffic was heavy until I was south of Hwy 50 and then it was pretty much gone. South of Poncha Springs I picked up Hwy 17, AKAJack Dempsey home and statue, Manassas "The Gun Barrel" and called it good in Alamosa and had a very good meal in Cavillo's, try it the next time you are there.

The next morning I decided to head south to Manassa and get a photo of the Manassa Mauler, Jack Dempsey. He was born there and that is about all they have so they make the most of it.  From there is was south to Questa and then east through Red River and Eagle Nest. Once I was out on the flat lands it seemed like I was about there. I have been down these roads many many times. I made it to OKC with no problems and so ended another fine ride.