Saturday, June 10, 2017

Black Dog 2017

That came fast, I couldn't believe that the Black Dog Dual Sport Rally was here again already.

This year went much smoother than last year. Trains ran on time and stayed on the tracks, allowing us to run up I-5 and I-84 to Hood River and the fairgrounds in Odell where we'd spend the weekend. Polar Bear looped around the fairgrounds looking for a suitable spot to call camp. We drove up past the restrooms, past the bandstand and found the perfect, shady spot in the corner with power for our buddy DJ and his Class C motorhome and trailer. It was away from both busy roads and all the hustle and bustle of the other attendees.

Base camp for the weekend

Home Sweet Home

We unloaded our gear, got our tents set up, then sat and enjoyed a cold beer under the shade of a birch tree while waiting for DJ. It was sure nice to be up there early, claim a spot and relax while everyone else rolled in. About an hour later DJ and his friend Thad rolled in, backed up and leveled the rig in true glamping fashion.

Dinner plans were discussed and the gang went down to the meeting hall for $2 tacos from a local vendor who set up on site. I wasn't up for a token lettuce taco so I stayed and puttered with my jet-boil and prepared a delicious meal of rice and lentils in curry sauce. Just add hot water and stir.

This beats many restaurants  

The guys got back with the news that the night ride was easy gravels roads "C course" so we decided to all go. DJ and Thad brought their dual sport bikes for Saturday's more challenging "A course", and their bigger adventure bikes for Sunday's "B-C course"; and now Friday night's ride. Andy and I unloaded our bikes all the while trying to figure out how to fasten lights to our helmets to read the roll chart.

Course descriptions for our events    Note: this is assuming dry weather conditions.  Inclement weather or fire danger will dictate probably running only B or C courses, so as not to damage trails.  Letter designations are in key with typical AMA enduro class descriptions.
AA: VERY DIFFICULT [extremely advanced] -  sophisticated and complex trails that are only passable by a real dirt bike. Extreme uphills/downhills and trials-like sections, which require lower gearing.  Aggressive knobbies required. 
A: DIFFICULT [advanced] - plenty of challenging trail that requires advanced trail techniques.  Aggressive knobbies highly suggested. 
B: MODERATE [normal] - moderate or mild trail skills required.  Larger single-cylinder or two-up bikes should easily traverse these  sections.  Generally passable by an advanced Jeep/driver combo.  Regular dualsport tires are acceptable.
C: EASY [very easy] - practically no trail.  Mostly gravel road. Passable by large 2-cylinder bikes, two-up,  sidecars or most any 4-wheel drive.  Regular dualsport tires are acceptable.

We wandered down to the hall to pick up the roll chart for the ride and any other information we needed, such as departure time and approximate mileage. Back at camp we loaded our roll charts, taped flashlights and head lamps to our helmets, and waited for dusk before gearing up and heading out.

Thought this was ingenious 

Not being familiar with the area makes the riding fun and full of discovery. The road unfurls before us, revealing beautiful scenery as the sun slowly sets behind a mountain. Again, not being familiar with the area makes the riding in the dark... fun... and full of discovery. Especially for the one of us whose "street legal dirt bike" has less than adequate lighting. Polar Bear, short of stopping to light his gas lit carriage lamp of a headlight couldn't see into the night let alone cut through the dust which hung low like an early morning fog. Me being behind him didn't help, so I passed him to give him a taillight to follow. We had our Senas on so we could at least communicate with each other and it wasn't long before I felt like his seeing eye dog, leading him through "most" of the sharp turns. I commented that his red and white Husqvarna was like a blind man's walking stick, which I don't think he appreciated, but isn't that what are friends are for?

The pace slowed considerably, but we made it back safe and sound. It was late, we had an early day Saturday, so we called it a night and made our way into our respective beds.

The neighborhood rooster woke me up at 4:00 Saturday morning, which is about the time I get up for work anyway. So I quietly gathered up my jet-boil and breakfast fixings to peacefully enjoy the sunrise with a hot cuppa tea. I knew that once everyone woke up, the race would be on and the pace set for the day.

Good morning sunshine

Tick tock, pick up roll charts at 6:00, rider's meeting at 7:00, there's the horn, let's go!
The organizers have us raise our right hand at the meeting and recite "this is not a race".

Rider's meeting "This is not a race"

Andy and I prefer the "B course", also Andy likes to start off slow then taper off from there. DJ and Thad on the other hand were chomping at the bit and were gone on the "A course".

The two of us eased into our gear, rode our bikes down to obstacle course, spanked the monkey, then headed out. Much easier in the daylight.

Saturday's ride was a leisurely tour, much less KTM rhinoceros traffic than last year's shared course. The "A course" and "B course" were split up this year, on opposite sides of the river, in separate States in fact. We rode across the scary bridge into Washington while the "A course" stayed in Oregon.

B-C-Courses-BD-2017 from Thom Niemela on Vimeo.

We took our time and ambled along as we had all day. Took a few pictures and stopped for snacks, pee breaks, and more often than not, to stretch our butt muscles.

Andy the Polar Bear on his Husky

Overlooking the Columbia River Gorge

With so much rain this year, neither one of us had been out riding motorcycles or mountain bikes, let alone any training for longer rides. I'm in pretty good shape for a guy not in very good shape.

Saturday's ride

Pulling back in the fairgrounds for the day, we were met with a little riding challenge for points. We had to ride up to a mailbox on our left side, reach in and grab a poker chip without dabbing (putting a foot down). This is much harder than it sounds as the left side doesn't allow you to use your clutch, thus causing my bike to stall and me to dab. Andy had better luck by staying on the throttle a bit and dragging the rear brake. Must be a trials riding technique. My neighbors are going to wonder what the hell I'm doing practicing at home riding up to my mailbox trying to grab a poker chip.

We were whooped, so we headed back to camp for a cold beer and converse about our day. It wasn't long before bed as we had to be up early again for Sunday's ride.

Cock-a-doodle-doo went the alarm at 4:00, and again I enjoyed the peaceful sunrise over a cuppa while packing up my sleeping bag and camping gear.
Grab the roll charts, load our holders, gear up, spank the monkey, and we're off. All the rider's shared Sunday's ride so we were wary of the KTM rhinoceroses. And sure enough they didn't disappoint.

We had to be back by 2:00 so the pace was a lot quicker, with fewer stops and much fewer photos.

Had to stop for the covered bridge photo

The route and roads were awesome, we crossed the scary bridge and made our way up to Gifford Pinchot National Forest for a quick loop through the woods and past the Ice Caves, too cold to stop. Then it was back down to Trout Lake and up the other side toward Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, wish we had time to visit. Sunday's route was fantastic, but the pace was way too fast. It does give me an excuse to go back with Trobairitz and enjoy it at our leisure.

There's a mountain back there somewhere...

We did find time to stop and assist a KTM rider with a broken hub, more console him than assist as there was nothing we could really do. He called the event organizer to have a truck come pick him up. And we talked to a 70 year old gentleman that rode the entire B course, both days on his Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster. He said it was lighter than his BMW R1200GS and he could touch the ground.

Back at the fairgrounds we enjoyed another  challenge for more points, touching the top of 4 traffic cones lined up in a row without dabbing. Again, much harder than it looks, I nearly lost control of my bike and fell. I tapped two out of four, and something else I'm going to have to practice.

We rode back to camp, loaded up just in time to attend the awards ceremony. I didn't earn enough points to warrant a prize, but I wasn't there for the points, all I wanted was to ride.

It was an uneventful drive home, it was great just to sit and relax.

"Thanks for driving Andy!"

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." 
—African proverb


  1. Sounds like a terrible way to spend a weekend!

    You lucky so and so's!

    1. It was a terrible weekend, I don't recommend it to anyone, nor do the nearly 200 other riders in attendance. ;)

  2. This trail is not what I'd have in mind when riding my Sportster... The area looks like you could spend a week, and not get bored.

    1. The event is in its 26th year, so yes there are a lot of roads to be explored. I came home and our latest issue of Road Runner magazine featured their Shamrock Tour in that very same area. We'll definitely be going back on our own.

      C'mon Sonja, you're almost there with your Sportster and scrambler seat.

  3. Cool write-up of the event. I like the Sportster rider's attitude. And the Hood River area looks fantastic.

    1. Thanks. The Sportster rider was pretty cool, great guy to talk to, he may have won an award but can't remember for what. Hood River is a great area, reminds me of the Okanagan, but you have to like wind.

  4. 1) Great spot for your headlight--I bet it looks pretty damn freaky after nightfall;
    2) More power to the Sportster rider--in the dirt, those can ride like old tractors with no seat springs; and
    3) I was really, really hesitant to click your "spanked the monkey" link, but I'm glad I finally did. :D :D :D

    1. The headlamp worked great for reading the roll chart, I may have to use it more often for night rides. The Sportster rider said it was great for going slow and climbing hills with all that low end torque. Never hesitate at the opportunity to spank the monkey, you might like it.

  5. What a great way to spend a weekend! I'm envious!

  6. Sounds like a great fun event, though with a sidecar rig, I'd be sticking with the C trails. Might try the B trails with a couple of other rigs in support of each other plus recovery gear when we got stuck! Great writeup, thanks.


Comments are more than welcome, however, thanks to an increase in anonymous spammers of late, you now must be a registered user to comment.

Thank you spammers!