Originally Published in my column for RoadRUNNER Magazine on: 8/21/2014 as Trans America Trail: Denio Junction Goat Gouda!
We awake to a wonderful breakfast at The Griddle; a culinary treat complete with a sassy waitress who will perk you up even more than the coffee. We fuel up knowing that today’s goal is somewhere in Oregon. According to the TAT maps, there’s fuel in Denio, about 100 miles away, but we play it safe and fuel up anyway.
This decision proves to be fortuitous because Denio Junction, just south of Denio, turns out to be not much more than a clubhouse for locals. There is no shortage of whisky or beer, but they are lacking in fuel. Signs show that it was due to arrive several months before our arrival, which is not a good sign. While whisky and beer will not fuel our bikes, they do encourage one local to begin presenting us with his full business plan for a Goat Gouda farm. However, he is easily distracted, and when he notices the sprinkler filling the front seat of his truck through its open window, he laughs and says, “Well, at least my dawg’s clean!” Then he returns to his ham sandwich and apparently forgets about his presentation.
We’re now faced with heading off road, with minimal gas, or making a pavement run for fuel. We decide we’re tired of just making time and need to get off the asphalt. We cross our fingers and take the first left off of pavement leaving Denio. The roads are a mix of dirt truck routes and possible trails. We eventually find an accessible ranch fence and dig into a trail. On our map we find a detour that looks like it will connect with the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge sooner or later. The climbs are rocky with enough loose sand for a beach, but we air down the tires and press forward. The rugged landscape is a result of how rarely rain actually hits the ground here. As we ride summit after summit taking in every inch of the area’s top elevation of 7,200 feet, it’s clear just how vast this land is. Colorado has beautiful mountain ranges but there’s something equally beautiful about the openness and scattered old abandoned homesteads and ranches that are found in this Nevada/Oregon no man’s land.
The climbs have taken a toll on our fuel supplies, so we’re glad when we finally reach pavement. Adel, OR, which reportedly has gas, is less than 40 miles away. We pump up our tires and head out. When we arrive, we discover that the town is basically a café/gas station and a church surrounded by distant ranches. Luke arrives on little more than fumes, and we leave our bikes by the pumps. A sign explains that they must be turned on with a key so we head inside to ask for help. This is obviously a hunter’s zone, and two long-haired adventure riders seem to be of no interest to anyone except for a two-year old celebrating her birthday inside the gas station café. We ask for assistance and are told, “It’ll be a bit” in a drawl that clearly demonstrates that the proprietor and us have different definitions of “a bit.”
Sure enough, “a bit” turns into over half an hour as the owner is also the cook, waiter, custodial engineer, etc. “Borrowing the gas key” is apparently not an option, even if we leave our wallets as a deposit. We finally choose to move on—the next town appears to be about 33 miles away and we agree it’s worth the risk. My KLR can handle these longer stretches, but even with his extended tank, Luke’s bike is more limited in range.
After about an hour of slowly revving up hills and then turning off the engines to coast down, we eventually roll into Lakeview, OR, fuel up, and get a room at the aptly titled, Lakeview Lodge. Friendly owners and ride-up rooms make it an easy choice.
We are hungry, but our plan to head to dinner is foiled when Terry and Mike, two Canadian riders touring the U.S. stop by our room after just finishing dinner. We share some drinks. The story swapping begins and dinner is soon relegated to breakfast.