Driving in Stunning Circles: A Southern Oregon Motorbike Journey


Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
The early morning solar illuminated my trip by way of southern Oregon’s Rogue River-Siskiyou Nationwide Forest.

There may be simply one thing about southern Oregon. It may be troublesome to decide on between the world’s rolling grasslands, towering evergreens, excessive mountain lakes, quaint villages, and vibrant leisure alternatives. Actually, it’s so laborious to resolve that I didn’t. To pattern the cornucopia of Pacific Northwest treats, I spent just a few early June days on an Oregon bike trip aboard a BMW G 650 X Nation, a scrambler-styled variant of the single-cylinder G 650 platform offered within the late 2000s.

The most important metropolis in southwestern Oregon, Medford, is geographically central to every of the driving loops and leisure alternatives I had deliberate, and my lodging for the two-day exploration was the Compass Hotel by Margaritaville. Whereas a tropically themed resort by Jimmy Buffet could appear incongruous within the Pacific Northwest, it was a great dwelling base – clear, colourful, comfy, and enjoyable.

(See RESOURCES on the finish of the story for hyperlinks to details about areas lined on this trip.)


Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
The Compass Lodge by Margaritaville in Medford was a great place to remain throughout my multi-day go to in southern Oregon.

Oregon Motorbike Journey Day 1: Ashland, a Ghost City, and Shakey Graves

I packed the small tailbag on the BMW with water, my hat, and a few snacks and headed southeast for the brief jaunt to Ashland. Upon getting into the vigorous, park-like metropolis, I took a aspect trip previous the theater compound of the Oregon Shakespeare Competition. Whereas the competition was darkish throughout this journey, I’ve been to a number of nice Shakespearean performances on the OSF. One among these I highlighted for Rider again in 2016 in “Chasing Shakespeare: An Elizabethan Tour of the West.” For those who can coordinate your go to to Ashland with an OSF efficiency, I extremely suggest it.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Competition is likely one of the nation’s premier Elizabethan experiences.

After my roll by way of the spotless little metropolis, the true trip started. I headed out on Lifeless Indian Memorial Highway, which started as one of many first trans-Cascade journey routes in southern Oregon. It connects Ashland and the Rogue River Valley with the Higher Klamath Basin. The somberly named highway begins as a mild sway by way of grasslands earlier than morphing into an evergreen-lined serpentine climb into the Rogue River-Siskiyou Nationwide Forest. The temperature dropped and the highway coiled on the regular climb. Sweeping corners in wide-open grasslands grew to become tighter within the excessive chaparral and hairpins within the tall forest. The sunshine and nimble BMW proved excellent for the tightest of the corners on the route.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
Panoramic vistas provide lovely views of the rolling Oregon panorama.

After I topped out into the dense forest, I took a number of jaunts onto the single-tracks and tight filth roads that finger into the evergreen thickets. Once more, the agile BMW was the right software for the duty. I came across an indication indicating the crossing of the famed Pacific Crest Path, a 2,650-mile climbing and horse path that traverses the very best parts of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada ranges. The PCT was introduced absolutely into the general public lexicon by way of Cheryl Strayed’s self-discovery narrative Wild: From Misplaced to Discovered on the Pacific Crest Path, which was later made right into a Reese Witherspoon film. Just some miles later, the picturesque Howard Prairie Lake started to disclose itself intermittently as strips of deep blue by way of the stately emerald pines. I ended at one of many lake’s boat ramps to absorb the pristine waters fronting the snow-capped peaks within the distance.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
Deep, evergreen-lined hearth and entry roads enticed me for brief forays into the forest.

Extra nice driving led me apart Hyatt Reservoir. Whereas the southwestern forests close to my dwelling in Arizona are considerably monochromatic, consisting of largely one sort of evergreen, the forests on this area provide up a number of hues of inexperienced from a big selection of tree varieties. I turned west onto the Inexperienced Springs Freeway, also called State Route 66, which proved to be a implausible bike highway that winds again into Ashland. The primary of my three Oregon loops was precisely as I had hoped it could be. After a chew of lunch in Ashland’s downtown, it was time for my afternoon loop.

See all of Rider‘s ‘Great Roads West’ touring stories here.

Simply south of Medford, I turned on South Stage Highway, which shortly introduced me to the intersection of Griffin Creek Highway, which turns into Poormans Creek Highway, after which I turned onto Sterling Creek Highway. Sense a theme right here? These creek roads provided up fantastic stretches of entertaining tree-lined sweeping turns, usually flanking – you guessed it – mountain streams.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
The tiny gold-rush ghost city of Buncom provides up a glimpse into the world’s increase interval.

On the intersection of Sterling Creek Highway and Little Applegate Highway, I rolled into the foremost cause I plotted this portion of the trip. The tiny ghost city of Buncom sits instantly on the intersection, and solely three of the unique constructions stay of the once-thriving city that was established when gold was found on Sterling Creek within the mid-1800s. The weathered wood buildings, which include the city submit workplace, a wood bunkhouse, and an outdated cookhouse, hearken again to a time of starry-eyed desires of riches – and sure additionally of dashed hopes. After some moments imbibing the historical past, it was time for the final leg of the day.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
Parallel traces of grape vines on the undulating terrain are an attractive reminder that that is wine nation.

From Little Applegate Highway, I turned onto Medford-Provolt Freeway and rolled by way of farmland and thriving vineyards on the way in which to Jacksonville, which is a bit like a mini-Ashland with its historic brick buildings and homey environment. Additionally it is on the coronary heart of Oregon’s prolific wine business, so nice native and regional examples can be found in every single place. It was right here that one other spotlight of the journey was deliberate.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
The quaint village of Jacksonville is within the coronary heart of southern Oregon’s wine nation.

Jacksonville is dwelling to the Britt Competition Pavilion, an attractive, intimate out of doors music venue. The nonprofit amphitheater, which hosts a number of big-name acts all year long, is called for Peter Britt, who opened Oregon’s first official vineyard within the late 1800s. The attraction for me was a present by Shakey Graves, an creative artist within the loosely outlined Americana style from Austin, Texas. Because the solar set over the Jacksonville horizon, I sat within the grass, sipped a little bit pink wine, and loved the wonderful present. It was the right fruits of a implausible day of driving. After the present, it was a brief trip again to Medford for some relaxation.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
Jacksonville’s Britt Theater is an attractive live performance venue providing up implausible musical acts.

Oregon Motorbike Journey Day 2: A Longer Loop and Crater Lake

Having gotten my toes moist with some nice driving on the primary day, the subsequent day was for including miles. In southern Oregon, meaning extra miles of spectacular surroundings. A brief jaunt out of Medford on State Route 62 obtained me to a portion of the highway fittingly named the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway. The highway sweeps by way of all kinds of terrains, lakes, and rivers. Most notably, the tarmac clings to the financial institution of the Rogue River for lengthy stretches.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
It could be unimaginable to take a foul photograph of Oregon’s Crater Lake.

Simply after the northernmost crest of this loop, I obtained in line to pay the charge for my first go to to the world-famous Crater Lake. Whereas the early June snowpack nonetheless rendered a lot of the nationwide park’s roadway closed, I obtained to pattern the spectacular trip as much as the lake and a number of other completely different views. I’ve seen among the most iconic pure landforms this nation has to supply, and Crater Lake is a singularly jaw-dropping place. It’s the deepest lake in the US, and the water beneath these sheer volcanic cliffs is as strikingly blue as I’ve ever seen. The clouds mirrored on the floor of that glasslike, frigid water makes for a surreal magnificence, whereas the mysteries of its 2,000-foot depth add a splash of intrigue.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
Even in June, snow was piled excessive across the customer middle at Crater Lake Nationwide Park.

Large melting snowdrifts nonetheless lined the roadway and made icy inclines to many roofs within the park on the time of my tour. Runoff made driving vigilance of utmost significance as mini rivers crossed the park’s roads and water and particles have been intermittently a part of my rolling journey. These highway situations and the abundance of wildlife make the “head on a swivel” idiom vital for extra than simply taking within the surroundings.

After driving out of the nationwide park, I continued my loop trip on Crater Lake Freeway to the southeast. Simply after Fort Klamath, I made a westward flip and continued on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Freeway. Because the freeway took a southern flip, the acute number of the pure palate continued in spades. Expansive grasslands, towering bushes, and rugged mountains took turns delighting my senses as I rolled towards Medford.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
The view over Howard Prairie Lake, with Mount McLoughlin within the background, is beautiful.

I motored previous Higher Klamath Lake, which has the biggest floor space of any freshwater lake in Oregon. In distinction to Crater Lake, Higher Klamath is shallow. On the ultimate stretch of this loop, I rode by way of extra majestic pines on the return to Medford. On State Route 140, I once more crossed the trail of the Pacific Crest Path the place it winds towards the bottom of the spectacular Mount McLoughlin.

Only a month earlier, a lot of this trip would have been prohibitively chilly and snowy. Even in June there have been locations, like parts of Crater Lake Nationwide Park, which have been impassible. Nonetheless, the combo of climate and topography was wonderful on my three loops. I like to recommend this tour, or some variation of it, to any nature-loving moto-tourist. Excessive temperature variations are to be anticipated and needs to be mirrored in what’s packed in your panniers.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
I’m unsure the BMW could be any match for the tank, however its operator had seen higher days.

I rolled again to the Compass Lodge in Medford with a sore tail and a thoughts brimming with recollections. My days in southern Oregon have been wonderful. A whole lot of miles on that BMW 650 proved to be a way more uncooked and visceral expertise than it could have been on my larger touring bike. Extra vibration? Sure. Extra wind? Sure. And extra recollections? For positive.


Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride Tim Kessel

With 50 years of motorcycling and 30 years of instructing English below his belt, Tim Kessel has melded these two passions right into a gig as a motojournalist. Perhaps that’s why there’s all the time a everlasting, glad smile below his full-face helmet.


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