Baker City, OR to Bend, OR
Approx. 230 miles
This final morning was bittersweet for me. Loading up the bike for the last time I was filled with both dread at the end and gratitude for all I had learned so far. The funniest part was puling out of the hotel in Baker City and realizing that I had not put my gloves on! They were stashed in my tank bag! I pulled over and my two riding buddies behind me looked puzzled like what could possibly be wrong already? We haven’t even gone a block! When I held up my bar hands they both laughed and nodded their heads! On our way into Baker City we had noticed a billboard for a local business with “BELLA” in big words. My bike at home is named Bella and one of my tour mates had her Bella with her, so we backtracked for this photo!
I don’t think I mentioned it, but early in the tour when I said my rental bike needed a name someone suggested ‘faux Bella’ and it stuck for the entire trip! We always said it with affection though and faux Bella was a great bike that I was grateful to have.
This day was another with lots of lovely sweeping curves and little traffic. We had to backtrack one time every so briefly to return to a gas station we had passed just a couple minutes before. It was so easy to miss, just a little place with two pumps and no competition for miles around. Right behind us, several other bikes pulled in and everyone was friendly and patient making conversation while bikes were gassed and bladders were emptied.
We made only a couple of quick stops on this day, one at the John Day Fossil Beds and prior to that an overlook for the Strawberry Mountain Range. We again met lovely people at both stops who were always curious what four women were doing on motorcycles together. Where were we going, where had we been – it was always fun to learn where others where from as well, whether on two wheels or four.
Much of the terrain in this area reminded me of home. I saw some areas that looked a great deal like Grand Junction and a mountain that looked like a twin to the Table Mountains in Golden. As you can see from the photos we had clear blue skies and a wonderful riding day weather wise.
We had picked out a tentative lunch stop, but once we realized we had ridden past it, we improvised and had saddlebag snacks and water instead! One of the things I appreciated most about this group I was with was how flexible they were. Oh, we passed the lunch stop? Oh well, I have trail mix! Anyone need water?
Our final gas stop was planned to be between Redmond and Bend. I had received faux Bella with a full gas tank and wanted to return her in the same way. All of my riding buddies were soon to head out on their own journeys home as well and wanted a full tank when they started.
Just three miles from our hotel in Bend, I had the scariest experience of the entire trip. We were riding along US 97 in the right lane when a gust of wind blew me into the lane next to me. I was so caught off guard that I didn’t have time to worry if there was a car in that lane or not. I was steering and leaning back into my own lane for all I was worth. After I got safely back over a black SUV went slowly past us and my riding buddies all waved in thanks. At that moment I knew that the SUV had indeed been in that lane and I was awfully lucky the driver had been paying attention! It still overwhelms me when I think about what could have happened that day had the driver been distracted by a cell phone or goodness knows what! I was shaking all the way to the hotel at that point and trying to hold it together. The two riders in front of me had also been surprised by the wind gust and were watching behind to ensure the other two of us were safe. They saw me blown into the next lane and said they saw the SUV driver slow immediately. She gave space and waited to be sure I was back in my lane and ok before she proceeded on by us. I’ll never know who she is, but I am eternally grateful for her attention and quick reaction that day!
When we arrived at the hotel and I put the kickstand down for the last time, I said a huge thank you to my riding partners and to my guardian angel for delivering me safely. We rode over 2,000 miles in our days together and I was so happy that everyone arrived happy and well.
After unloading the bikes and making arrangements for faux Bella’s owner to pick her up, we headed in to the salt water soaking pool to relax some sore muscles and then to the hotel patio for a celebratory drink. Our final dinner was that evening and knowing I had an early flight I said goodbye (for now) to all my tour mates at dinner.
What an amazing, empowering and confidence building experience this was! I have no regrets and a ton of respect for every woman who put herself out there during these days on the road. We learned to trust in each other and that is no small accomplishment for a group that was essentially strangers on day 1. I am still in awe of the improvement in my riding skills from the beginning to the end. Now I need to build on that on my own and see how far I can go!