Crater Lake, place 91 of 92 is up. This was a time of cold rides, warm fires, helpful friends and a distinct pink coat. Though snowy weather is never something I would ask for on a motorcycle trip, wintry features in this wonderful place only increased its beauty.
Saturday, September 28th, 2019
Winnemucca, Nevada, USA
I’d spent my morning planting my Winnemucca sign along a “dusty Winnemucca road.” It was almost 10am by the time I gassed up and rolled out of town.
Route for the day:
My planned ride was a little ambitious. Not that it was that great of a distance, but that the conditions were foreboding. The temperature began around 50 degrees (10 C), but that would be my high for the day. Less than 20 minutes outside of town I had to stop to put on all my cold weather gear. The wind was whipping out of the NW and Sonic’s legs spun furiously even while we were at rest.
Gas, traffic and cell signal were sparse on this stretch. As I felt myself edging closer to the middle of nowhere, a little drizzle began to fall. I could feel the temperature plunging, but I wasn’t sure exactly how cold it was. But then, to my dismay, the rain changed to sleet.
There was snow falling on me.
If you could just go ahead and read those previous three sentences one more time, I’d appreciate.
The first time I got snowed upon on this trip was in June of 2017 on the Alaska Highway (this post). I was early in the season, but I don’t think I deserved that one.
My delays in South America caused me to get snowed upon for the second time in the Andes of Argentina (this post). That was in June (their December), so I definitely deserved that one.
I guess what I’d really like everyone to acknowledge is that:
Thankfully it didn’t last too long and the pavement still had enough latent heat that it didn’t affect my traction. The dense clouds didn’t last too long and I actually had some sunlight when I reached the Oregon border.
I’d dipped in to Oregon very briefly during Chapter 1 of this trip, but now I was going to be spending a little quality time here. The Beaver State welcomed me with some winding roads and dramatic overlooks. It was definitely not what I expected.
I stopped to warm up in a town called Lakeview and had a bite to eat. The clouds parted and I resumed my westward ride to take advantage of the break. After another hour or so, the clouds on the horizon turned dark and I prepared myself for another pelting.
It’s perhaps notable that despite the conditions, I was still in a great mood. My own personal rainclouds that had followed me during my time in California seemed to have lifted away. Completing Reno and Winnemucca had re-energized me. I was on the homestretch of completing my goal and nothing was going to rain (…or snow, in this case) on my parade. Case in point:
I soon reached the base of the Cascade Mountain Range. As I climbed in elevation, the precipitation changed from a dampish-wintry mix to full on snowflakes.
I entered Crater Lake National Park, where I would hit my peak in elevation for the day. The road I was on eventually climbed to around 6,000 ft. (1,800 m) near the turn off to go to Crater Lake. I was way too late in the day to check it out and knew it was an additional elevation climb to reach there.
23 days prior, I was in the 100+ degree heat of Catalina, Arizona (song place 86 of 92). I took a pretty hard spill while exploring an off road trail. I burned Annie’s clutch and nearly got stranded in the desert (this post). On that day, I pledged to Annie that it would be the final time that she would have to lay on her side. As has been well established by this point, Annie knows better than to take me at my word. Unfortunately for her, I saw a photo-op that was just too good to pass up.
Please forgive me, Annie.
The scenic overlooks were quite a sight as I continued on. Though I knew the snow might complicate my visit to Crater Lake, I couldn’t deny its beauty. Even though it came earlier than I expected, there’s always something magical about the first snowfall of a winter season.
So where was I going? Once again, the ADV Rider community was going to provide me with a gift of immeasurable value. 16 months prior, a guy named Bill reached out to me. He told me that he had an “off the grid” cabin just outside of the National Park. At the time of his invitation, I couldn’t have imagined just how valuable his hospitality would be. With the snow falling and moisture progressively penetrating the layers of my gear, it would have been tough to find any sleep in a tent.
Since there was no cell coverage where he was, we had a slight difficulty making connections. Thankfully, one of Bill’s neighbors came to open the gate and lead me back to his place. The cabin was comfy and situated in a beautiful setting.
I was warmly welcomed, both literally and figuratively, as the wood burning stove blazed away. It was the perfect place to thaw out after a cold ride.
Realtime update: Hey, it’s opening day of Episode IX. I figured a couple of new Han Solo gifs would be appropriate.
Bill doesn’t live in the cabin full-time, but he spends as much time here as he can. With the idyllic setting I could definitely understand why. Bill had invited over some of his neighbors, Mark, Carrie, Brady and Lila, and we had a wonderful supper together.
Bill’s neighbors all had such wonderful things to say about him. They told me how lucky I was to be his guest and to get to know him. Their praise was very effusive, almost suspiciously so. I decided that either he was actually a really good guy, or he was the kind of guy that gives people $5 to say nice things about him. (Indeed, the vast majority of glowing comments posted on this quality publication come from people who have received $5 from me.) Whether it was a new friendship or some extra gas money, I knew I would receive something of value from my time with Bill. 🙂
I dozed off by the fire, ending one of the wildest days of my trip.
Sunday, September 29th
Bill made me a great breakfast. Everything tastes better when cooked on a wood burning stove.
We discussed our options, as we tried to make a plan for the day. There was hardly any snow around the cabin, but we both knew that the conditions at Crater Lake would be different. We would have to climb about 4,000 feet higher to get a view of the lake. There was also snow in the forecast for the afternoon. It appeared that this morning would be our only potential window of opportunity for a Crater Lake photo.
We eventually decided to both take our bikes and see how far we could get. Bill had brought his BMW 650, the medium weight option of the trio in his stable. We wound around the muddy roads out of Bill’s neighborhood, then began our ascent into the National Park.
What happened next was magical. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the phrase “winter wonderland” so accurately presented to my eyes. The way the snow was piled on the branches of the evergreens…there was just something about it I can’t quite explain. It was like each happy little tree had been lovingly placed by a stroke from Bob Ross’ paintbrush.
Better in HD:
As we climbed higher, the snow eventually began to accumulate on the road. A pity, as this drew my eyes from the wonders around me to wondering whether the pavement beneath me was going to be slick. I’ve ridden a decent amount (read: more than I should) on slushy and snowy streets, so I was familiar with how Annie handles in these conditions. I figured there was still enough heat in the pavement to keep it from icing over. Still, we were right to take our time and proceeded very cautiously.
I really appreciated having Bill along too. In terms of appetite for risk, we seemed to have a similar taste. It was nice to hear his thoughts on the conditions as we stopped along the way. He has an intimate knowledge about the area.
Before proceeding with the story, I’d like to talk a little about what makes this place so special. In terms of the song, in it the only location mentioned which is not a city, state or country. The other “lakes” mentioned in the song (Spirit Lake, Iowa; Grand Lake, Colorado and Devil’s Lake, North Dakota) are all cities in addition to being bodies of water.
Though Crater Lake might not look impressive in size, there’s more below the surface than meets the eye. Measured by maximum depth, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the 9th deepest in the world. It plunges to a depth of almost 2,000 ft (600 m). For comparison, Lake Superior, the biggest lake in the Western Hemisphere by both area and volume; only has a maximum depth of 1,300 ft. (400 m). This fact blew my mind.
About 7,000 years ago, a huge volcanic eruption created a massive caldera (a crater left by a collapsed volcano). As it cooled it eventually filled with water, completely by precipitation. There are no rivers or streams which flow into or out of the lake.
Notable partisans of this quality publication will remember that this is actually the third lake that I’ve visited which formed in a volcanic crater. The other two were Lake Atitlan in Guatemala (this post):
…and Lake Quilotoa in Ecuador (this post):
A little map of the Crater Lake region for reference:
When we reached the entrance station, the ranger seemed surprised to see us. Would you believe we were the first motorcycles he had seen all day? We asked about conditions and he told us that the rim road, the one that goes around the entire lake, was closed. It likely would not be open for a few days.
It was always in my plan to ride around the lake, carefully selecting the place to get the perfect picture of Annie and myself. On this day, the road was only open to the Rim Overlook. We climbed around 1,000 more feet before reaching the Visitor’s Center. The higher we got, the colder it got. Bill’s bike had developed some interesting icicles on its tires…
…and had a windshield that was completely frosted over.
We stayed here for awhile, debating all of our options. We talked with the helpful staff, examined the weather forecast and performed a brief mental health self-screen to determine if we were crazy to even consider going on. The road had become more slushy as we climbed. Though we only had about three more miles to the top, we would be adding around 1,000 more feet up a switchback road. Both of us felt that we were close to the point where the surface would change from wet to slick.
Ultimately, I decided that I couldn’t be this close and not make a run at it. Thankfully, Bill was up for it too. We crept through the slush winding our way closer and closer to the rim.
Thankfully, it wasn’t quite cold enough to get slick. We made it to the top and I got my first breathtaking view of Crater Lake.
Yeah, yeah, it’s beautiful and stuff, but I was a little too preoccupied to fully enjoy it. How exactly was I going to get a picture of Annie and myself here? There were lots of people around and rangers driving by periodically. I couldn’t get Annie up to the edge, so I would need a very high vantage point to get any appreciable view of the lake.
I thought that I could maybe briefly stop on the bend in the road that was closest to the overlook. I would just need someone crazy enough to stand in the snow bank on the opposite side of the street and raise my tripod, with phone mounted, at full extension. Thankfully, I had someone just that crazy with me. 🙂
We did some test shots together to set everything up. Bill would have to start the ten second timer, raise the phone into the air, blindly aim it at where he thought I was, then wait to hear the click. Easy right? I left my new friend standing in the snow bank and went to retrieve Annie.
Sans helmet or sense, I rode Annie to the bend in the road where Bill was waiting. Like a cornered Revolutionary War soldier, he fired blind shot after shot, painstakingly reloading after each salvo. With both bullets and pictures, you really only need to be on the mark once. Bill was able to score a couple of direct hits. Without further ado I give you, place 91 of 92, Crater Lake:
Bill had a slight look of frustration while taking these pictures. On review, I learned that it was due to the lady in the pink coat being oblivious that she was in the frame for a historic picture. This piece of outerwear has now been immortalized. Yes, the pink coat shall abide.
Long after it has been donated or discarded and its physical form no longer remains, the pink coat shall abide.
This lady will scarcely remember her fashion choice on her visit to Crater Lake, the pink coat shall abide.
Justin Bieber’s political subterfuge has lead to the formerly independent nation of Canada to be annexed as the USA’s 51st state. While I’m interviewing be the newly elected President Bieber’s Secretary of Transportation, he asks me to show him visual proof of my considerable travels. A flash of color will catch his eye, the pink coat shall abide.
As I draw my final breath, I pray that God will show me anyone in my life whom I still need to forgive. The lady at Crater Lake will come to the forefront of my mind, the pink coat shall abide.
The Earth had long been abandoned and the sun sits as a lifeless white dwarf. Having enjoyed the second movement of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto engraved on the golden record contained in the primitive Voyager probe, an advanced species journeys to our decrepit, cold planted to investigate the origin. Finding only ruin and decay, they are disappointed. Still they perform some excavation in the area that we know as the Great Plains. A primitive little storage chip is found fossilized within a strange mixture of coffee and egg. It contains 64GB of images and videos from this once vibrant planet. One image in particular catches their attention. The contrast of colors is so outrageous that they can scarcely avert their eyes. Across the galaxy and across millennia, the pink coat shall abide.
Cautiously, but victoriously, we headed back down. I would have loved to stay longer and bask in the beauty of the area, but we didn’t know for sure when the next storm was going to roll through. The best idea was to get down while we still could.
We stopped for some pictures at the sign for Crater Lake. It is at lower elevation, so a lot of the snow had melted by the time we got there.
(Thanks for the nice photos, Bill. They were a good addition to this update.)
Back at the cabin, Bill gave me a wood chopping lesson. He prefaced it with, “Just remember, the nearest hospital is thirty minutes away.” Despite using an axe made in Sweden, I just couldn’t get the hang of it. I do have a video, but it is too embarrassing to post. I have to maintain my street-cred.
Bill cooked me some more great food and I really enjoyed getting to know him better. Though I was only there a short time. This little cabin really started to feel like home.
Monday, September 30th
After another nice breakfast, it was time for me to pack up and get back on the road.
We took a little stroll along the Rouge River which is basically in Bill’s backyard.
I understand the appeal of the Pacific Northwest. I will always be a man of The Plains, panoramic horizons are always comforting to me, but there is something cozy about being surrounded by towering evergreens. They’re like a sleeping bag for the soul.
Bill shared a valve stem cover with me as well as some gas. Don’t worry, this unquantifiable amount was not enough to wreak havoc on my fuel consumption spreadsheet.
A special moment occurred when it was time for Bill to cross Crater Lake from my sign. After not having seen the sun for a couple of days, a few stray rays cut through to illuminate the significant occasion.
This was an important moment even beyond marking the completion of Verse 2. Only Nebraska, my home state, was unchecked on my sign. By this time, I’d also received some additional information about Ombabika, the only place that was questionable whether I had actually found. Though I was still planning to revisit it to locate the cemetery, it was safe to say that I had in fact been there.
At this moment, I could honestly make the claim: “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man.”
My adventure to get to Crater Lake was brief but very eventful. Once again, it was the help of a new friend that made my visit there both memorable and successful. Since I’ve said so many nice things about Bill, I should probably close this post by answering the question that is on everyone’s mind:
He did not give me $5.
1 to go!
Abide like the pink coat, everybody
Realtime update: I have a fun little announcement to make: I have just accepted an invitation to be a presenter at the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Virginia (link here). The event will take place from April 23rd to April 26th in 2020. Horizons Unlimited is a community of motorcycle travelers, sort of like ADV Rider.
I’ve thought that giving presentations might be something that I would enjoy doing in my post-trip life. This will be a good opportunity to tell my story and see if I enjoy doing so. I anticipate that I will spend around five minutes talking about my trip before devolving into a nonsensical rant about a pink coat for the balance of my time. Still, it should be a good learning experience. 🙂