The start at Hermiston Plaza has plenty of parking. The only thing open before 6am, however, will be the Shari's restaurant (24 hrs). The route heads initially out on US-395, which will be quiet so early on a weekend morning and has a wide shoulder most of the way. After the junction with I-84 it gets really quiet as we drop down into Echo and begins the scenic trip along the Umatilla River canyon to Pendleton. The road through the canyon is twisty and lumpy in places. There's been some needed road maintenance in the last year or so but there's still a good chance of gravel and holes, so keep your head up.
Pendleton is the first open control. If you're in a hurry, a quick stop at Safeway (on the right after swooping down off the rail bridge) is probably the easiest option (restrooms on the right, just inside).
For the next stage we rejoin US-395 and climb up and away from Pendleton and into the NE Oregon hills. This is an exposed stretch of gradual and not so gradual climbing, and if we're unlucky the wind might make things interesting here. Console yourself with views of some massive basaltic rock walls. Last services for a loooong way (ok, about 50 miles or so) are at Pilot Rock, so stock up on provisions if necessary.
Eventually we'll turn off 395 and onto OR-74 which will take us to a summit and the highest point of the ride at about 2680 ft. Pretty wild views into two or three different valleys from up here and nothing to hear but the wind and your breath. Next is a fast and curvy rolling descent to the next junction, where we leave 74 and join Butter Creek road. This is a small, local, pretty, remote farm road. It's quite empty except for widely spaced farms. Very little if any traffic. Cattle and cowboy country. The road is rolling, but more down than up. It's surfaced, but there's holes and gravel because the winter out here is unkind to roads. Stay awake. There's also several cattle guards at various points, a couple of which ambush you after a bend or cresting a hill. Please slow down and be cautious riding over them, especially so if it's wet!
Picture by Susan
Butter Creek eventually joins OR-207, the Lexington-Echo highway, for a long, straight gradual descent through industrial-scale farms back to Hermiston. With luck you might have a tailwind. Now's a good time to refuel and resupply (back at your vehicle!) because there's plenty left to do and no services until Pendleton (56 miles).
We're spat out of suburban Hermiston on Diagonal Road, pick up busy OR-730 beside the Columbia, briefly, but soon climb away from the river on OR-37. This will be a rolling, twisting ride across deep valleys on a quiet road past farms and ranches, intriguing ruins and tranquil settlements that were obviously once larger than they are today. The further we go the more rolling it gets, until near the high point (1820 ft) and the turn onto OR-335 it's a real roller-coaster.
After the turn it's a descent with good views of the Blue Mountains, down to busy OR-11, which we'll only be on a couple of miles before turning south for a little detour to Mission (if you're quick enough, you'll get to Mission Market before it closes). Then it's a quick dash back into Pendleton and dinner (or second dinner or third lunch?).
Finally, take the canyon road and 395 back to Hermiston the way you came first thing this morning (but likely this time in the dark, so try to stay awake) and you're done.
Organizer: Norm Carr
Ride date: Saturday, 21st March, 2015
Sign in from: 05:30 Sat
Start at: 06:00 Sat
Finish by: 02:00 Sun
Fee (cash only, at the ride start): $10
Hermiston Plaza, Highway 395, Hermiston, OR
Oak Tree Inn, 4th St.
Rodeway Inn, Hwy 395
This is an unsupported ride with long distances (sometimes more than 50 miles/80 Kms) between services. Please prepare accordingly and carry sufficient clothes, tools and spares, and food and drink for your needs.
There will be riding in the dark. Lights and reflective gear that satisfy RUSA rules must be used.
Much of this route follows rural roads that serve working farms, so there can sometimes be muck, mud, gravel and other debris on the road surface. Please keep your head up and take care, especially if it's wet.
Be advised that outside of Hermiston and Pendleton and anywhere away from major highways (most of this route, in other words) it is very unlikely that you will receive a cell phone signal.
There will be information controls - please have a pen.
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Route Cue Sheet
Map / GPS download